Change Makers

Change agents help children around the world

Both the young and old are helping families living in poverty around the world — becoming change agents.

Both the young and old are using the gifts God gave them to help families living in poverty around the world — becoming change agents in their families, churches, and communities. Read their stories:

Change agent: Elizabeth Johnson

Group fundraising helped Elizabeth Johnson raise money for Haiti earthquake relief and World Vision Gift Catalog animals.
Elizabeth Johnson, right, and her friends raised money for disaster relief and Gift Catalog animals. (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Johnson)

Hometown: Ithaca, New York
Program: Gift Catalog, disaster relief
Published Nov. 15, 2015

Shortly after Elizabeth Johnson turned 13 in 2009, the World Vision Gift Catalog arrived at her house in Ithaca, New York, and she started leafing through it. Her father suggested she and her friends pool their money and purchase some items.

“I brought the catalog to church and said, ‘If you have a few dollars or your allowance to help out, that would be great,’” Elizabeth says. “I was not expecting to collect $136, but we did.”

With the funds, they bought a goat, two chickens, a mosquito net, and three ducks. Elizabeth says the livestock caught her eye first. “The farm animals can multiply,” she says. “It’s a good investment for the family because it will help them for years.”

After the group’s success, she thought they could make it an annual tradition.

But just a few weeks later, the massive 2010 earthquake rocked Haiti. Elizabeth and her friends dedicated themselves to raising relief funds. They held a bake sale and raised $550. Then at a yard sale that summer they raised more than $1,000.

At that point, Elizabeth knew they were on to something.

Since then, she and about 15 friends, ranging in age from 8 to 17, have held bake sales and yard sales each year, along with other fundraisers. “We encourage each other to keep doing it,” she says. Collectively, they’ve raised $7,000 for disaster relief and World Vision Gift Catalog items.

“I’ve learned to trust in [God], however the fundraising efforts go,” she says. “He knows where the money is going. Whenever we make a donation, we’re just trusting in him for the money to be used to the maximum it can be and [that] everything will fall into place when we’re organizing the events.”

Now 17 and about to start her senior year, Elizabeth is looking at colleges and anticipating that her fundraising experience will apply when she studies accounting. Before she goes, she plans to pass the torch to her three younger siblings and the kids at her church, encouraging all young people to get involved.

“Any amount makes a difference,” she says. “You don’t have to work alone. You can work as a team, and that’s one thing that’s really helped us. Don’t get discouraged, even if you don’t meet your goal on a specific fundraising event, because you’re still making a difference with every single penny you raise.”


Change agent: Nathan VanHoudnos

Because Nathan’s team worked in remote locations across Nepal, they hiked with their equipment to sites not reachable by road. (©2002 photo courtesy of Nathan VanHoudnos)

Hometown: Evanston, Illinois
Program: Fundraise for Nepal
Published June 15, 2015

In 2002, Nathan VanHoudnos was a physics major at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign when he packed his bags and flew to Nepal. Hired as a research assistant to a geology professor, Nathan and a group of American and Nepali scientists spent three months installing seismometers — devices that measure tremors across the earthquake-prone country.

As his team worked with farmers to place equipment on their land, “I got to see a lot of Nepal that people don’t normally get to see — the more rural areas, where people are doing their best to be farmers and live,” says Nathan, 32, who returned to the country in 2004 for another three months. “It was a transformative experience for me, because I’d never really met someone who was living in a-dollar-a-day kind of poverty.”

Nathan’s team members played soccer with local children outside of Hetauda, Nepal. (©2002 photo courtesy of Nathan VanHoudnos)

When the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal in April, Nathan, now a statistician at Northwestern University, knew he wanted to help. “My first reaction was, ‘Oh no, this is going to be terrible,’ and my second reaction was, ‘Let’s pray and let’s help.’”

After a bit of research, Nathan and his wife, Kara, decided to donate to World Vision’s earthquake response in Nepal. They’d given to World Vision in the past, and “it was good to know that [World Vision] has a long-standing presence in Nepal,” says Nathan. “The day of the quake 200 people were already on the ground. To me, that means a lot.”

Nepali porters helped the team carry equipment to one of the remote stations near the Tibet border. (©2002 photo courtesy of Nathan VanHoudnos)

But he wanted to do more. “The easiest way for me to give more and have more impact was to do the [peer-to-peer] fundraising,” says Nathan. He created a page with his story at and shared it with friends and family. To date, he’s raised more than $1,300 of his $5,000 goal.

“There’s no way my wife and I could have given that gift out of our pockets,” he says. “So the idea that we could do this sort of fundraising in this way has been a very positive thing. There’s no way we could have had this impact otherwise.”

Nathan’s time in Nepal had a lasting effect, helping him realize how blessed and comparatively wealthy he and most Americans are. He says, “A little bit of our material wealth can make a big difference in places where people are poor.”


Change agents: Salina and Michael Dayton

Michael and Salina Dayton began with two sponsored children and created a domino effect that has touched the lives of children around the world. (©2015 photo courtesy of Salina and Michael Dayton)

Home: Raleigh, North Carolina
Program: Child Ambassadors 
Published May 15, 2015

When Michael and Salina Dayton began sponsoring two children with World Vision in 2009, it triggered a domino effect. A year later, when their first daughter was born in December, they sponsored another child born the same month, in part so they had a way to teach their daughter about poverty as she and their sponsored girls grew older.

In 2014, Salina met a World Vision Child Ambassador who spoke passionately about not just sponsoring children but engaging with them. Wanting to build a stronger relationship with her sponsored children, Salina went to and read The Hole in Our Gospel to learn more. In the process, a photo of another little girl captured her heart, and they sponsored this child as well.

The family now writes bi-monthly letters, and Salina is equipped to share more about their sponsored children with her own children. Her two daughters already ask for donations at birthday parties, sell artwork to buy goats, and share their allowance money to provide chickens.

We talk about money not in terms of actual dollars but in terms of how much support we could provide for our ‘World Vision girls.—Salina Dayton

“We talk about money not in terms of actual dollars but in terms of how much support we could provide for our ‘World Vision girls’ — instead of buying that one toy,” Salina says.

As her passion for sponsorship grew, Salina began sharing her enthusiasm for sponsorship on social media and soon volunteered as a child ambassador to encourage others to sponsor children. In this role, Salina says she’s able to “help sponsors experience the joy of truly making a difference in the life of one child at a time.”

Among those Salina’s message has reached is Joelle Howland, who also sponsored a child. “What intrigued me most was [World Vision’s] approach in supporting communities as a whole and helping them sustain and become self-sufficient,” Joelle says.

Now, during the holidays, Joelle and her husband, Craig, use the World Vision Gift Catalog to talk with their daughters about poverty. Together, they select items from the catalog to further help children living in poverty.

Joelle says, “It’s been very rewarding for them to see that they’ve had the ability to make a difference, and their commitment to giving continues to grow.”


Change agents: Villers family

Tracy, Mackenzie, and Jeff Villers. (©2015 photo courtesy of the Villers family)

Hometown: Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Program: Gift Catalog
Published Oct. 15, 2015

Tracy Villers has a heart for giving. “My husband, Jeff, often chides me that I would give away the kitchen sink if he let me, and he might be right,” she says.

The couple sponsored their first child through World Vision in 2009. Since then, their family of sponsored children has grown to include two girls, from Bolivia and Honduras, and two boys — one in Zambia and another in Mali, “who shares a birthday and a love of soccer” with their 8-year-old daughter, Mackenzie.

Last Christmas, the Villers decided to give in an even bigger way than usual. The women in their extended family traditionally exchange small gifts on Christmas Day, and “every year, I would inwardly groan at the prospect of having to add this task to my to-do list, because I didn’t feel that the gifts expressed what they were originally intended to express,” says Tracy.

At Thanksgiving, she proposed an alternative: Instead of giving among themselves, the women would use their time and money to give to others through the World Vision Gift Catalog.

They collected $851, several times what Tracy expected. After sharing the news with family on Christmas Day, other family members also contributed to the total.

Together they purchased the “Dairy Trio” from the Gift Catalog — a goat, a cow, and a sheep. “It was especially meaningful to us because we are a farm family,” says Tracy. “Grandma and Grandpa’s dairy farm still stands, even though they have passed on. It’s a blessing to know that somewhere, another family’s life will be changed because of the Lord’s generosity in our own family.”


Change agents: Ferretti family

A New York City family uses profits from their hot sauce business, Hot Sauce 4 Good, to provide microloans to entrepreneurs in developing countries.
The Ferretti family in their garden, where they grow their hot sauce ingredients. (Photo courtesy of the Ferretti family)

Home: New York City
Program: Economic empowerment
Published August 18, 2014

When it comes to creative fundraising, the Ferretti family has discovered a sizzling commodity. Eight years ago, the New York City family made three bottles of hot sauce from a kit their sons, Andrew and Luke, received as a gift. The next year, they grew enough hot peppers to make 12 bottles. The tiny business continued to grow, and Hot Sauce 4 Good produced more than 1,000 bottles in 2013.

Bob was elated as his homemade sauce grew in popularity, but he had no intention of keeping the profits. He and his wife, Laurie, sponsor two children through World Vision, so they decided to use the funds to also support budding entrepreneurs in developing countries.

World Vision provides start-up funds to people in impoverished communities who have business ideas but no access to loans to follow through on their dreams. As borrowers repay their loans, the funds are recycled to help other business owners.

Bob’s family, which has supported eight entrepreneurs, prefers to find people with agriculture or pepper-growing ideas. “My wife and I have been blessed in our life, and we find the greatest joy when we have the opportunity to do something good for others,” Bob says. “In a small way, this is our faith in action.”



Change agents: Shaw family

Hannah, Andrew, and Jonathan Shaw all help raise money to support their family’s sponsored children. (©2014 photo courtesy of the Shaw family)

Home: Muncie, Indiana
Program: Child sponsorship
Published April 24, 2014

When Jonathan Shaw was 4, he was saddened as he watched news of the 2010 Haitian earthquake. For days, Jonathan asked his mother, Sarah, who would help people in need.

Seeing his deep concern, Sarah and Jonathan’s dad, Brian, sponsored a Haitian boy Jonathan’s age. But because Brian was out of work at the time, they also searched for a way Jonathan could raise the sponsorship support.

Sarah thought the family could use her pottery experience to make and sell coffee cups — and soon Cups for Kids was born. In four years, the family has sold several hundred cups at local events and online.

Today, 9-year-old Jonathan says of his sponsored child, “I like being a friend to him.” Sarah says the family has learned from this experience. “Often you think, ‘I can’t do anything.’ Whether you’re a little kid or an adult, everyone can contribute in some way.”

Now Jonathan’s younger siblings, Hannah, 7, and Andrew, 5, also are involved, and Hannah is sponsoring a girl in India. Brian says, “It makes me feel good that we can pull together as a family and make an effort out there in the world.”


Change agent: Rev. Jim Adams

Rev. Jim Adams visits with Maasai people in East Africa. (©2014 photo courtesy of Jim Adams)

Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina
Program: Gift Catalog
Publish Jan. 10, 2014

When the Rev. Jim Adams gives a wedding gift, he writes on the card, “You may get two toasters, or you might get two sets of candlesticks, but you won’t get two pigs.”

As a minister, he isn’t obligated to give presents when he officiates weddings, but about 10 years ago, he performed a wedding for a couple he knew well, so he felt a gift was appropriate. Jim didn’t want to simply buy another registry item — so he gave livestock instead.

Today, because he thinks highly of World Vision’s work and accountability, he always chooses a wedding gift of a pig, sheep, or goat from the World Vision Gift Catalog. The couples appreciate the unique present and have even sent him notes thanking him for helping them see beyond themselves.

“It enlarges your heart to give like that, and it has the potential to do that for the other person as well,” Jim says of his gift giving. “What someone gives you for a gift tells you what they think of you.

“There’s some kind of respect that comes when you give someone something from the World Vision Gift Catalog. You’re saying, ‘I think you’re the type of person who would appreciate this.’”


Change agents: Knobloch family

The Knobloch family raised $400 to help families in need around the world through World Vision’s Gift Catalog. (©2013 photo courtesy of the Knobloch family)

Home: Normal, Illinois
Program: Gift Catalog
Published Oct. 16, 2013

As Christmas approached last year, Matt and Summer Knobloch wanted to teach their children — Charlotte, Clive, and Cora — the true spirit of Christmas. Even though family finances were tight, they started a “servant’s jar.” When Matt or Summer “caught” the children serving someone, they put loose change in the jar. The couple planned, on Christmas Eve, to match whatever the children earned, and the family agreed to spend the funds on items in the World Vision Gift Catalog. When Dec. 24 arrived, the change and match totaled $26, but they couldn’t decide on a gift.

A few days later, Charlotte, then 6, decided she would make and sell bookmarks for 25 cents each to financially help the family. Touched, Summer suggested Charlotte instead put the money toward their still-undecided World Vision gift for a family in need. Through a boost from Summer’s Facebook friends, Charlotte’s sales brought the combined fundraising to $200.

But God still wasn’t done. In the last week of sales, a local business owner matched this new amount — bringing the total up to $400. Summer says, “We are so amazed to look back at the hand of God in all of this. There are no limits to what God can do!”


Change agents: Ignite F.C.

Both the young and old are helping families living in poverty around the world — becoming change agents. Read their stories!
Ignite F.C. in Bothell, Wash. (©2013 photo courtesy of Xander Wood)

Home: Bothell, Washington
Occupation: Soccer
Program: Gift Catalog
Published April 24, 2013

The boys who play for Ignite F.C. have a special reason to celebrate every time they score a goal. Each time they do, supporters pass a can among their fans to solicit a contribution to the players’ favorite charities. The initials F.C. actually stand for “For Christ,” rather than the traditional “Football Club.”

Last season, Ignite F.C. scored 24 goals, which helped team members raise $219 to purchase Bibles, chickens, and soccer balls through the World Vision Gift Catalog. The items were sent to help families in developing countries. Sweeper Xander Wood, 11, nominated World Vision after his family began sponsoring Keketso Khopho, a child who lives in Lesotho in southern Africa. Xander considers Keketso part of his family and prays for him every night.


Change agent: Jean Estep

Jean Estep. (©2012 Genesis Photo Agency/photo by Gabriel Tait)

Home: Printer, Kentucky
Occupation: Retired
Program: Gift Planning
Published Oct. 24, 2012

Back in 1984, Jean heard about the devastating famine in Ethiopia. She wanted to help but did not know how — until her church connected her with World Vision. It was the start of a relationship that has lasted almost 30 years.Currently, she sponsors 14-year-old Salissou Issoufa in Niger, another country currently experiencing serious food shortages. She says the Lord has blessed her, and this compels her to give — even beyond her own lifetime. Jean has included a charitable bequest in her will so that when she passes away, her house will be sold and the proceeds donated to the work of World Vision. She says the Lord gave the house to her, and it’s fitting that she can give it back to him.

Currently she sponsors 14-year-old Salissou Issoufa in Niger, another country currently experiencing serious food shortages. She says the Lord has blessed her, and this compels her to give — even beyond her own lifetime. Jean has included a charitable bequest in her will so that when she passes away, her house will be sold and the proceeds donated to the work of World Vision. She says the Lord gave the house to her, and it’s fitting that she can give it back to him.


Change agents: Davis family

Rhonda Davis and her three sons. (©2012 photo courtesy of Rhonda Davis)

Home: Joplin, Missouri
Church: Pentecostal church of God
Program: Malaria Sunday
Published Aug. 21, 2012

Children dying of malaria left a sour taste in the mouths of Daniel and Rhonda Davis and their sons, 7-year-old Evan and 6-year-old Gideon.

During their church’s Malaria Sunday, the family learned how malaria kills a child about every 60 seconds. Inspired by the fact that just $6 would purchase a net to protect two children living in remote communities from malaria-carrying mosquitoes, the boys dug into their piggy banks.

But that wasn’t enough for Evan, who resolved to raise more money by selling lemonade. With the help of their church and Messenger College students, the family soon launched “Lemonade for Life,” a lemonade-stand fundraiser that to date has raised enough to purchase more than 400 mosquito nets. World Vision will soon deliver these nets to families in need around the world.



Contributors: James Addis, Elizabeth Hendley, Nathalie Moberg, and Kristy J. O’Hara, World Vision staff

Charitable Giving

View All Stories
Father's Day gift ideas - tools, seeds and training for farmers
Change Makers

Father’s Day gift ideas that pay it forward

Ezekiel and his mom Rachael race to the finish line in a 5K color dash in Saint Peter, Minnesota, in June, 2013. The event was organized by “Livestock,” a non-profit music festival, founded by Jill and Alex Hass, to provide animals through World Vision’s Gift Catalog. “This was our first color dash,” says Rachel. “The picture captures his attitude toward life.” She added that “Loving others and helping them is central to our goal to further Christ's Kingdom by showing love. Running the race, and donating money toward World Vision and other charities is important to us because it helps us think outside of ourselves.”
Change Makers

10 fun family activities to play it forward