Lara Scott


World Vision

A group of youngsters in Michigan devise a creative method of raising funds and helping those in need through World Vision's Gift Catalog. (INTERACTIVE)

December 2007

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." — Acts 20:35 (NIV)
When architect Ed Zwyghuizen designed and built a new swimming pool at his home in Zeeland, Mich., his family members hoped it would be a blessing to others as well as themselves.

Ed's three children already had taken an avid interest in the problems of the developing world by purchasing items from World Vision's Gift Catalog to provide practical assistance to poor rural families.

The catalog, which contains more than 100 unique items not found in shopping malls or department stores, enables users to honor loved ones by sending gifts in their name to children and families in need around the world. The items include everything from animals for nourishment to educational support and even an orphan and widows fund.

Setting Goals to Help Others
Christian, 10, concentrated on buying goats. Greta, 8, specialized in chickens, while Gabe, 12, set himself the ambitious goal of providing a whole farmyard of animals. Each child raised money to buy the items from the catalog by undertaking household chores. Christian even set up a roadside stand selling gourds and pumpkins to raise money for the goats.

When the swimming pool was installed, the family began to turn their attention to the problem of access to water — a major cause of poverty in many parts of the world.

The children were especially inspired by treadle pumps. A farmer using a treadle pump depresses two levers with his feet to power the pump, which extracts water from a borehole. These pumps save farmers long treks carrying buckets to and from distant water sources to irrigate their crops. They are relatively cheap, require no fuel to run, and the additional water they provide helps extend the growing season.

Gabe hit on the idea of a water-treading marathon to raise money for treadle pumps for farmers in Burundi, Africa — a tiny, impoverished country in the central part of the continent where access to fresh water is an ongoing concern. Participants sought sponsors for the number of hours they were prepared to spend treading water in the Zwyghuizens' pool.

Ed says the idea was to have at least one person in the pool treading water for a 12-hour period. That meant taking a lunch break was not an option for some — they munched pizza while they kept on treading. Others challenged themselves to do extra long stints. Christian took breaks during the day, but still clocked up six hours in the water.

'Creating a Deeper Understanding'
Altogether, there were more than 50 participants who raised $3,135 — enough for eight pumps to change the lives of some poor farmers in Burundi.

Ed says that in addition to those who participated, many more came to cheer on the water-treaders.

"It was a good time for conversation and to share about what other people around the world just don't have.

"Creating a deeper understanding is a good way of putting it," he says.