New shoes= Healthy, Happy Feet!

Shoe Distribution to Minneapolis Elementary Schools

Father & son

World Vision distributed new canvas tennis shoes to more than 600 elementary children with the help of Women of Vision.

The first shoe distribution was to Nellie Stone Johnson Elementary. Volunteers in orange World Vision T-shirts set up shoe stands by size in the school gymnasium. The after-school program youth came through, all smiles—first to find out their shoe size by Women of Vision volunteers, and then to find their new pair of shoes.

“Some kids come from big families, and their little feet grow quickly, making new shoes a must!” said Debbie, Senior Project Manager at World Vision Twin Cities. 

Many children put their new shoes on right away, eager to have shoes that matched their friends.

The second shoe distribution had a surprise team-bonding experience at Jordan Park, otherwise known as Hmong International Elementary. The semi-truck was too big for backing into the school parking lot. So students formed a block-long line to carry the new shipment of shoes into the building, organizing the shoes by size—giving the future volunteers a nice break!

Not only had the students shown great team spirit, but the shipment built suspense for kids, since the shoes would not be distributed until a few weeks later at the “end-of-the-year” school picnic.

Not only had kids carried in boxes for the distribution itself, but a few helped break down boxes and pick up shoe-box scraps as well—the day wrapped up well for both the volunteers and all the happy feet.

Volunteers at second shoe distribution

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Meet Chris!

Name: Chris Brooks

Role: Executive Director, since January 2010

Why did you choose to work at World Vision? I love the Twin Cities, I love Jesus, and I am passionate about justice for children and families.

This job empowers me to live out my faith while producing results.

What is something that makes any work day better? Getting in an hour or 2 before the rest of the Team, to think and pray.

What are some of your hobbies? Reading, Wii with my kids, dreaming of a better Jamaica.

What is your favorite verse/life verse? Psalm 116

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Timeline: YEP events leading up to Washington D.C. trip!

 February 10, 2011: Launch 1st YEP Program for World Vision Twin Cities!



February 28:Youth and Adult Partnerships become a favorite event with the YEP youth. Ann Wanchena of World Vision Twin Cities, Marque Jensen & Norman Harrington from Sanctuary CDC, and Paulita Toddhunter from Minnehaha Academy form small groups, act out skits with YEP youth, and teach about youth and adult partnerships.

March 10-12: Siblings of Virginia Tech-shooting victims visit YEP youth with the Mayors Against Illegal Guns semi-truck that displays the number of shooting-related deaths since  the Tucson incident. Stories and a mission for better gun control were shared and the youth open-up about their own experiences. Mary Johnson and other mothers from “Two Mothers” of “From Death to Life”  share and support youth about their losses. This begins their partnership with YEP.


March 26: Youth hop in a van to tour Minneapolis and St. Paul cities, learning more about foreclosures and community challenges, while sharing different thoughts and feeling evoked by different city settings. They take pictures for the media project DVD which will share their stories– they will share the 12 minute DVD with supporters and Legislators, as well as with their families and communities.


May: YEP youth survey more than 200 people and interview 4 community organizations, growing their passion for which policies and changes they want to advocate for.

May 2: City Council member Don Samuels and “Elder of St.Paul,” Bobby Hickman, tell YEP youth about the history and present state of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

May 14: YEP youth join with Love Minneapolis, a program of Sanctuary CDC, to serve Minneapolis residents through yard work at the home next to the May 11 Minneapolis shooting. Youth interview Marque Jensen of Sanctuary CDC and begin developing ideas for policy recommendations.

May 18: Lissette and Merci speak with From Death-to-Life board members about World Vision and YEP as well as ways for the two groups to partner. Lissette is now serving in leadership roles with the board and ministry.

May 19: YEP youth visit Youth Link, a drop in center for homeless youth, to learn more about the resources they provide and how they impact youth violence in the Twin Cities.

 June: YEP Youth participate in a prayer walk and memorial wall at a resource fair put on by MADDADS and From Death to Life. They honor lost friends on a memorial wall in remembrance of loved ones lost to shootings.

June 13: YEP youth practice their policy presentation for Don Samuels.




June 16: Youth spend a Day at the MN State Capitol advocating for support of youth initiatives and stronger gun policies to three different representatives.

July 11-16, 2011: Youth attend the Youth Empowerment Summit Event in Washington D.C.!

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Minneapolis, Post Tornado

One tornado victim, a retired chef and Minneapolis resident, points to the intersection a block from her home: “That’s where a tree impaled the windshield and killed the man during the tornado.” Tall uprooted trees, debris, and someone’s roof clutter the sidewalks and yards behind her, nearby dumpsters overflow. She lives near Sanctuary Church’s Community Development Corporation (CDC), one of World Vision Twin Cities’ members.

“It costs more to restore than to demolish the lot and rebuild a new home,” the tornado victim explains, leading us past cracked garages and shattered glass, pointing to each house, “and to bulldoze the lot alone costs over 20,000 dollars.”

Due to the damage, every home on the block behind Sanctuary CDC has been “condemned.” This tornado victim can no longer afford to live in herMinneapolis family home of 81 years.

Yet she is optimistic: “I know God wants me to do something, and I’m ready to do it. My house may not be ready, but I’m ready.” Her eyes moisten as she describes the generosity and help from her neighbors. Red Robin gave her a free meal, and her credit card bill was cut in half.  She takes daily trips to the CDC for meals and essentials, while donating sheets and dishes in the process of downsizing. “It’s the little things that make all the difference,” she says.

More than 29 pallets of product including personal care & hygiene packs, coolers, blankets, cleaning supplies, new clothes and toys from World Vision Twin Cities warehouse have been passed through 12 North Minneapolis Organizations and three satellite organizations to reach neighborhoods, schools, families, and children most affected by the recent tornado.

“World Vision has greatly enhanced our ability to serve our community,” says Marque Jensen, program coordinator of Sanctuary CDC. Since the tornado, Sanctuary CDC served free meals for five days following the disaster, feeding more than 300 people a day. They gave away emergency hygiene packs, clothing and other items from World Vision’s TC warehouse both from their center and door to door in their community.

“We wholly appreciate all the help we receive from World Vision,” says Dr. Alvine, executive director for African Health Action Center (AHA) inMinneapolis. AHA distributed clothing, hygiene kits, and cleaning supplies from World Vision Twin City Warehouse.

“Each challenge has been faced with great courage, wisdom and unity,” says Sheila Ford, Community Engagement Specialist of World Vision Twin Cities, of staff and members of World Vision. “[We are] Resolving and building an even stronger community, one relationship at a time.”

This article was featured in the July newsletter.

by Annie Faye | World Vision, Twin Cities | Communication Specialist

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Meet Merci!

Merci Rocha

Name: Merci Rocha

Role: Youth Development Associate. I’ve been with WV since I was the communication intern starting July 2010.

Why World Vision? I have loved World Vision’s work since I became a Christian in high school and started sponsoring kids. I had no idea they did work in the U.S. and was ecstatic when I found out they were in my own backyard. It has been a long time dream to work for such a great organization.

I fully believe in the mission and values that World Vision has and am honored to work alongside people who also value children and youth so much.

Something that makes any workday better? Hanging out with amazing youth! And Dove chocolate.   : )

Hobbies include: Biking, writing, singing, dancing, softball, trying out new things, and traveling.

What is your favorite life verse? Just one favorite?! That’s hard…  The one that gets me through everyday: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.”  Isaiah 26:3

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A Gift of Dignity

No tool for development is more effective than the empowerment of women.

–Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General

Hygiene kits could not have come at a better time for St. Anne’s Place, an emergency shelter for women and children in Minneapolis. The night before we arrived, the two-story shelter for 16 families had a turnover: eight new families arrived. The hallways were crowded with bags. Some contain donations waiting to be sorted, others: a family’s entire set of belongings. Outside the tight living quarters, two adorable smiling children and a few adults are enjoying the sun and fresh air.

St. Anne’s guests help carry the sixteen boxes of hygiene kits that we packed. “We” are the Women of Vision, a team passionate about empowering women and children in our community. This is a new chapter for World Vision in the Twin Cities, a group of women volunteers desiring impoverished women and children to experience God’s love in tangible ways.

This visit to St. Anne’s was the highlight of our first event: the PACK (Personal Care Assortment Kit) drive. We assembled 300 PACKs containing shampoo, conditioner, lotion, razors, mouthwash, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, deodorant, tampons, and Chapstick—with the help of friends, teens from the Youth Empowerment program, and snacks, in just one hour.

“Hygiene is something we take for granted, until we haven’t had it for a week or two,” says Julianna, the Community Relations Coordinator at St. Anne’s, “then it becomes something we really appreciate.” While the shelter provides the basics such as shampoo, toothpaste, and a bar of soap, they are often short on essentials like razors, conditioner, and deodorant.

Hygiene gives dignity and improves self worth. It is a basic element of respect, and “something that every person deserves,” Julianna says. She is thankful the kits were pre-organized. “Now we can focus on important stuff, like building relationships instead of running around looking for another bottle of shampoo.” She adds that store-brand items (such as Gillette, Crest, Suave and Tampax) are a nice personal touch. They give the message that “somebody wants me to be comfortable.”

The goal of St. Anne’s Place is to prepare women and women-led families without homes for permanent, independent living through customized goal plans. Providing three meals a day, daycare, tutoring, and personalized emotional support for 16 women and 25 to 35 children is no walk in the park—especially when quarters are cramped. Volunteers are essential to maintaining a stable environment so that women and children may focus on exploring options for their futures.

Volunteers can help St. Anne’s Place sporadically or long-term. Long-term volunteers commit to tutoring children once a week for six months, or providing child care during a life skills group for three to six months. Sporadic volunteer opportunities include playing with kids on the playground, sorting donations, or grouping with 4-5 others to cook a meal. Needed items such as sheets, towels, blankets, diapers, pacifiers, and seasonal children clothing or financial contributions are always welcome.

While St. Anne’s Place does not claim to destroy all the barriers causing the cycle of poverty, they do offer women tools for tackling these obstacles—such as physical necessities and emotional support. Similar to St. Anne’s Place in moving families toward stability are Ascension Place and Next Step Housing.

Women of Vision with St. Anne's Place

by Annie Faye | World Vision, Twin Cities | Communication Specialist | Women of Vision Partner

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YEP Youth Spend a Day at the State Capitol

Before the Summit: Twin Cities YEP Youth Advocate at State Capitol

by Annie Faye | World Vision, Twin Cities | Communication Specialist

Eight youth on World Vision’s Twin Cities Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) team have collectively lost 34 friends and acquaintances to youth violence. Anger, despair, and vulnerability are common reactions to such loss, but these youth plead for more than just sympathy—they plead for change in government policies, and for safety.

Six out of eight of this year’s YEP delegates brought their fervor for nonviolence to the Capitol of Minnesota on June 16. The youth are passionate for programs supporting youth-initiative programs, violence prevention, and gun safety.

The six young people took turns speaking to three representatives about youth violence, which is a major issue of concern in the Twin Cities. According to the City of Minneapolis, approximately 80 Minneapolis residents between the ages of 15 and 24 died as a result of homicide from 2003 to 2006. Seventeen Minneapolis residents younger than 24 have died from homicide since January 2011.

Standing Against Violence

The 2011 YEP team’s policy proposals focus on violence and crime, which grew out of some delegates’ personal experience. Lissette Amezquita, now 17, was in a gang at age 13. Borisha Perkins has lost so many friends and peers to gang violence and she feels she could be next.

After examining their experiences living in the community and researching the issue of youth violence, the YEP team members concluded that the Twin Cities lack adequate support, guidance, and opportunity for local young people—all which fuel youth violence.

The youth also recommended fixing problems with local and state background check systems and that the gun show loophole close with the passage of The Fix Gun Check Act of 2011.

“It should be much more difficult for those who should not have guns to get them by making sure more sales are accompanied by proof of identity and a quality background check,”  said Axl Amezquita.

Creating Safe Streets

The youth were encouraged by Rep. Rena Moran’s support: “It is really important to keep doing what you’re doing.” As a mother of seven, it was clear the topic of youth safety was important to her: “We need to create safe streets, and who can do that better than you?”

For the YEP delegates, this was a good taste of what was to come when the YEP team traveled to Washington D.C. to advocate before respective federal lawmakers.

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