Isaiah is the son of Adele and Kevin LaCombe, members of World Vision's National Leadership Council. This is his story.
I am Isaiah LaCombe.
I'm a fourteen-year-old, which means I'm a part of generation Z, and I live in the great state of Washington. Lots of people say where they live is the best place on earth, but when I say it I mean it. Washington isn't great because of the landmarks, or the culture, or even the amazing views. Sure, those things don't hurt, but what truly makes Washington so great is that life never gets all that tough. That's not to say there aren’t people here who struggle, because there are. But no matter who you are, living here never gets too tough.
Because I live in such a great place I’ve never truly understood what it means to be the poorest of the poor.
I’ve been given so many opportunities in my life to reach out and grasp what it's like but I never have—not because I didn't want to, but because I just wasn't listening hard enough. In fact, my whole life I’ve seen these extreme levels of poverty and, more importantly, what's being done about it.
Since I can remember I’ve been involved with World Vision, whether it was through their wonderful child sponsorship program, where I’ve been given letters from a multitude of children from all over the world, or hearing and seeing the incredible inspirational stories of World Vision workers I’m close with, through the relationship of my mom. She has gone to the Middle East with World Vision multiple times, as well as to Kenya. But the problem for me with all these stories is that you can hear about the horrors people live with their whole lives, but you’ll never truly understand until you see it for yourself.
This is why my partnership with World Vision didn't really start until a few months ago when I went to the World Vision National Conference. Going to this conference was one of the best experiences of my life not only because of the knowledge I gained but the opportunities it has given me.
Seeing It For Myself
The conference started out with us gathering in groups to meet new faces as well as familiar ones, who are some of the biggest supporters of World Vision you could possibly imagine.
|Isaiah with Rich Stearns at the World Vision Conference.|
As much as you might think it would be boring for a fourteen-year-old to listen to a bunch of adults talk about themselves for hours, this was actually an extremely interesting part—though this may be due to the fact that my group had Margo Day in it, which is really the most anyone could ask for! Throughout these multiple meetups I learned the amazing stories of these people with great means who most people would put off as selfish if they knew nothing about them at all. Because once you get to meet them you realize everyone at this event has been to the most run-down countries on earth and are doing the absolute most they possibly can with all of their assets. I heard a lot of great stories from all these folks but the thing I heard from every single one of them in their personal stories was: you don't know World Vision until you’ve been on a Vision Trip. And even though I have never been on one, I agree fully because, as I stated, you can't understand poverty unless you see it with your own eyes.
This point in the conference was when I decided I wanted to go on a Vision Trip.
|Safari art painted by Isaiah.|
Quite unexpectedly I found myself going a Vision Trip the very next day. Sort of. This was what might have been the most interesting portion of the conference. We were sent into the ballroom area of the hotel where we found ourselves watching a virtual reality sort of Vision Trip. In that “virtual” experience we met a family who was now thriving in Honduras because of the economic work World Vision had done for them. They were coffee manufacturers who had quite literally started from the bottom and risen to own a very sizable business. We were taken through their whole process of how they made their coffee, and how all of this was possible because of the work World Vision does teaching entrepreneurship and providing knowledge and loans. After the video of this trip ended, we were introduced to the real couple from Honduras who flew out to tell us about their story personally! To help us remember, they gave us some of their coffee to drink along with a hand-carved mug which I currently have sitting right next to me on my desk.
Near the end of the conference, we had the option of four different meetings with panel discussions. Each would have a conversation about the different parts of what World Vision does that help with battling poverty. Weirdly enough I wasn't supposed to go to the water panel, but I ended up going anyway.
This ended up being one of the best decisions of my life.
I enjoyed it so much because what I learned was that WASH—or Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene—is the stepping stone for any family trying to raise themselves out of poverty. You may be wondering, “How is it that water cures poverty?” This thinking is reasonable! But to access the things that actually bring in income, like an education or business skills, you have to have clean drinking water. Without it, you’re spending six hours a day fetching dirty bacteria-filled water, which ultimately leads to a person's demise. In fact, every 90 seconds a child dies of a water-related disease. But once they get the water, they have the freedom to create a business and employ people which, in turn, transforms not only their lives but their villages.
|A younger Isaiah holding a letter he wrote to World Vision where he talks about a challenge set by his grandmother to give $50 to someone in need. After reading the book "A Long Walk to Water", he decided to give the money to World Vision to provide clean water for life for one child.|
The best part about World Vision WASH program—aside from their amazing partnership with Sesame Street—is that although giving every person in the world water sounds impossible, it’s not. The main reasons are that the core idea is simply to get these people water. The biggest reason clean water for everyone is a realistic goal is because it only costs $50 to give a person clean water for life. This is what really inspired me and made me decide to choose a Vision Trip in Africa to see the work of the WASH program up close. I want to see the smiling faces of children having their first taste of clean water in their lives, and it’s why I have decided to try and raise $25,000 to construct a well in one village.
Overall, my experience at the conference and with World Vision has shaped me into the person I am—in the way I think, but also the way I act. I would recommend it to anyone who has the ability to invest their time into this event. And if you know a teenager, invite them to go on a Vision Trip with you! It might change their life the way it is changing mine.
Know a young adult that might be interested in joining Isaiah’s 2019 WASH Vision Trip? Contact your Rep or the NLC Helpdesk for more information.