Humanitarian organization World Help is launching a drive to deliver emergency aid to families in the U.S. while simultaneously meeting the needs of people who live in impoverished communities across the world and are also experiencing the harsh economic side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Working through local churches in New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Georgia, World Help is providing emergency food and hygiene kits to thousands of American families who are struggling to make ends meet. And thanks to a $235,000 matching gift, each dollar given multiplies into another dollar for humanitarian relief for people in countries such as Guatemala, Uganda, India and Nepal.
To date, World Help has provided more than 16,000 hygiene kits to American families. The kits contain hand sanitizers, soaps, bacterial wipes and other virus-preventative items that have been depleted from most stores.
We are honored to be able to catch up with World Help's Noel Yeatts for this exclusive interview.
Q: Thanks for doing this interview with us. Why don't we start by you telling us a little about what World Help is about?
World Help is a Christian humanitarian organization serving the physical and spiritual needs of impoverished communities around the globe. Since 1991, our donors have impacted more than 84 million people in 71 countries around the globe. We operate by working with in-country partners rather than sending in staff from the U.S.
We believe this is the most effective way to help communities because these local ministries know what their communities need best and already have the trust of their neighbors. Working with these national partners, we support a variety of global programs including child sponsorship in over 20 countries, clean water initiatives, refugee relief, Bible distribution, church planting, assistance for women trapped in the sex industry, and more. We also ship containers full of aid such as food, clothing, hygiene kits, and medical equipment to some of the world's neediest communities. Last year alone, we shipped 44 containers to 14 different countries. Those containers carried more than 600,000 meals and lifesaving aid for 360,000 people.
World Help's philosophy is Help for today ... Hope for tomorrow. We've always believed that true change can only happened when people's physical needs are met alongside with their spiritual needs. We seek to meet people's most urgent needs - feeding starving children, providing clean water for families in poverty, etc. That's the help for today. But at the same time, we also are always looking for opportunities to tell people about the eternal hope found in Jesus Christ. That's the hope for tomorrow.
During this coronavirus pandemic, people have been especially receptive to the Gospel. Our partners tell us that their local communities are shocked by the kindness of Christians who do something as simple as give them a face mask, and that has opened the door for groundbreaking spiritual conversations. It's happening here in the U.S. to as local churches distribute the hygiene kits we're providing to the homeless and seniors in nursing homes.
Q: Give us a quick history recap, how did World Help begin?
My dad, Vernon Brewer, founded World Help in 1991. But the story of World Help really starts before that. It starts with his battle with cancer. In 1985, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. He underwent 18 different surgeries and 18 months of chemotherapy. Many times, the doctors didn't think that he was going to live, but God spared his life. In that moment, my dad said he knew that God had something he wanted him to do. He developed a vision and a passion to help the people around the world and to point them toward Jesus Christ. A few years later, World Help began. Our office was tiny. There was only a handful of staff members. But that didn't keep us from having God-sized ambition. In fact, our first goal was to distribute Russian New Testaments throughout post-Soviet Moscow.
While visiting Russia, my dad learned of a cancer hospital that was operating without even the most basic equipment. It was so bad that the hospital staff was having to wash the same few pairs of latex gloves every night because they didn't have any new ones. Then, on his next trip, my dad met someone who knew of a person willing to donate an entire warehouse full of medical equipment to the hospital. Only a few hours later, another miracle happened! My dad bumped into two U.S. senators who were visiting Russia and who told him they could get him the funding to ship the medical equipment to the hospital. That was the very first container of aid we ever shipped, but it certainly wasn't the last. God has worked so many miracles since then, and so many generous people have come alongside this mission. As a result, hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved.
Q: Let's talk about your ministry overseas first, how is World Help assisting those affected by the coronavirus now? And what countries is World Help reaching out to now?
When the coronavirus outbreak first began in China earlier this year, our focus was there, distributing masks and food in the nucleus of the crisis. Now that this is a worldwide pandemic, though, we are focusing on equipping each of our national partners with the increasing needs that the coronavirus has brought about.
The biggest need of all has been food. Food is running low, and what little food is available is often too expensive for many families living in poverty. These families don't have savings like you and I. They live hand-to-mouth every day, often searching for daily labor in their communities. Since many countries are now on lockdown, that isn't an option anymore. Parents have no way to feed their kids. Our partner in Honduras said people are even scavenging through the local garbage dumps to find something to eat. They're literally wading through trash and even medical waste looking for food. Security guards have been posted to try to stop them, but people are so desperate they're still sneaking in. All of our partners right now are operating food programs, and we're doing what we can to help them.
We're also continuing to make sure our child sponsorship programs have what they need. Some of the programs are children's homes, but others are schools and community centers that are no longer able to meet because of "social distancing." Our partners are still making sure the children have what they need, though, checking in individually with families and providing them with food and other necessities.
Q: You have also extended your ministry now domestically. Tell us about your ministry now in the US.
World Help has always primarily been an international humanitarian organization. There have been times - like during devastating hurricanes - that we have responded in the U.S. But for the most part our work is all overseas. Now that we're seeing our own nation hurting so much, though, we had to do something to get involved domestically.
We've partnered with local churches around New York City, Baltimore, Atlanta as well as in California and here in Virginia to give food to families who are now jobless because of the virus. We've also shipped hygiene kits filled with hard-to-find items like hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, soap, and more to these churches. They've been distributing these to the most at-risk people in their communities such as senior citizens, those with weakened immune systems, and the homeless. There's been such a tremendous response to these hygiene kits. We shipped 20,000 in less than five business days, and people are already asking for more. We could really use the help of anyone who is willing to give to help keep up with this demand.
It's been great working with these churches. Many of them are ones that we've worked with throughout the years on projects around the world. They've raised money to transform villages in places like Guatemala and have sponsored kids around the globe though World Help, and it's been a blessing to be able to give back and help them serve their own local communities now.
Q: You have also partnered with local churches. How can local churches be involved?
The biggest thing we're asking from churches is prayer. We understand that a lot of churches are feeling the effects of the coronavirus themselves. Tithing is down nationwide, so we know some churches aren't able to get involved financially. But we could desperately use your prayers.
Because of the coronavirus, all of World Help's spring fundraising events, including our biggest event of the year, have been canceled. The Children of the World International Children's Choir is no longer touring and recruiting new child sponsors, and that's left us $2.3 million behind where we expected to be financially. What that means practically is that we may not be able to keep supporting all of our vital global programs that need help now more than ever. Refugees may not be able to receive medical care. Starving children may not have access to enough food. Impoverished communities may not be able to get clean water, which is so important during a health crisis like this.
But we've seen God work miracles in World Help's past and know He is capable of doing it again. So we would definitely appreciate your prayers because prayer is powerful!
Q: How can individuals be involved? And what kind of help are you looking for?
The easiest way for individuals to get involved is by going to woldhelp.net/coronavirus. There you can give a gift that will help in three powerful ways:
1. You will provide emergency food for out-of-work families here in the U.S.
2. You will provide hygiene kits for seniors and our most at-risk neighbors
3. You will help World Help erase our budget shortfall and make sure our global programs can keep serving families in need during this pandemic.
It takes as little as $8 to provide critical aid for one person in need. And our World Help board members have come together to provide a matching gift up to $235,000, so your gifts double.
Q: In this age of anxiety and stress caused by the coronavirus pandemic, what words of encouragement do you have for our readers?
It's obviously a scary time for all of us. There's no doubt about that. But the verse that I keep coming back to and that I think is so powerful right now is Joshua 1:9: "Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." The coronavirus didn't come as a surprise to God. He is still in control, and He is still with us. And I just can't help but think perhaps this is an opportunity for us to help others and to share Jesus with them.
I love the quote from Mr. Rogers where he says that when he would see scary things on the news as a boy his mother would always tell him to "look for the helpers." What would it look like if each of one us as a global church committed to be those helpers? Then, when the world is looking for a break from all the bad news of the coronavirus, they would see Jesus reflected and would hear the best news of all.
To give to World Help's coronavirus emergency fund, visit https://worldhelp.net/gift/coronavirus-emergency-fund/.