Eugene Cho

We can’t do everything but we have to do something. Why I’m in the Horn of Africa.

Dear Friends, Supporters, Readers, and Encouragers:

I hope you’re doing well.

I’m writing to you from Kenya. Yes, you read that correctly. Kenya as in Kenya, Africa.

I just recently arrived and depending on circumstances, may also visit Somalia and South Sudan. Over the next week or so, I’m privileged to be a guest of World Concern (one of our main partners). We’re also joined by a representative from  ONE. Together, we’ll have the opportunity to personally assess the progress and the arduous work ahead. Just this week, I read reports that the current situation in Somalia – while it improved last year – may be entering into another dire situation.

The Context

In 2011, the Horn of Africa experienced the worst drought in its region in 60 years. This drought in combination with rising food prices, extreme insecurity, and violence led to famine conditions that affected over 13 million people in the Horn of Africa. The Horn of Africa is the “horn” shaped portion of northeastern Africa that includes the countries of Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.

In fact, the UN declared famine in six regions in Somalia. Tragically, hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes in search of food, water, and safety. Many of them walked for weeks, trying to reach refugee camps in Kenya. And sadly, many died along the way, including more than 30,000 children.

When tragedy strikes – whether it be in Aurora, Colorado or through a famine or drought in the Horn of Africa (and another current one in the Sahel region of Africa)…we are reminded of our finitude. 

We can’t do everything…

As much as we want, we can’t fix everything.

We can’t change everything. We can’t make everything better but…

We can’t do nothing. We have do something.

We have to act.

This is part of why we started One Day’s Wages in 2009 – to enable and empower ‘the everyday person’ to do something. We can pray. We can raise awareness. We can contact our legislators and civic leaders. We can educate ourselves.

We can also gather resources to partner with organizations that are vetted, respected, and have a strategic plan for both short term relief and long term solutions – not just in response to crises but the ongoing fight to eradicate extreme poverty. It’s for these reasons that we partnered with World Concern, Adeso, and Concern Worldwide. In addition, we’ve been trying to plant 200,000 trees in Ethiopia with Eden Reforestation.

And you responded.

In fact, many responded and acted. From around the world. Many gave a few dollars. Some their one day’s wages. Numerous gave up their birthdays for the Horn of Africa Fund.  Couple churches partnered with us. Several companies partnered with us. There were benefits and parties. Some cycled. Some ran. And umm, some cut their hair.

One of the more amazing stories was a woman named Anji who decided to shave her head…and raised over $18,000!

$171,347.87

In total (thus far), we’ve raised $171,347.87. Amazing.

How have these funds been used?

Food, water, and food vouchers. Providing essential resources like cooking pots, blankets, spoons, sleeping mats, and mosquito nets for those that have left their homes with practically nothing; Rainwater catchment systems (see picture below), latrines, and training. And the list goes on.

Thank you.

Thank you for doing your part. When a crisis impact over 13 million people, it doesn’t just require a village, it requires the entire world.

We covet your thoughts and prayers. 

In fact, we’ve had to change our itinerary recently as two churches were recently bombed and attacked nearby the Dadaab refugee camp we were intended to visit. These attacks killed 15 people and wounded 40.  In addition, 4 relief workers were recently kidnapped. Thankfully, all have since been freed.

In short, safety is the most important priority so we’ll have to altogether avoid some places in our initial itinerary.

I’m humbled and grateful for your support and prayers. I want you to know that I’m not here to be a part of “Humanitarian Tourism.” ODW is committed to the fight against extreme poverty for the long haul. Thus far, we’ve raised over $1.25 million dollars and 100% (minus credit card fees) are invested in projects around the world.

I’m humbled by your support, trust, and partnership. You’re still welcome to give the Horn of Africa Relief Fund because the need is still real and I also hope that you’ll consider donating your upcoming birthday to support the ODW project of your choosing.

Here, there, or everywhere, may we all be convicted to love God and love our neighbors. Amen.

*As I’m not able to have regular internet access, I’ll likely not be able to blog frequently. I’ll try to stay connected with micro-updates on my Twitter account or my FB page.

* Long term solution – ‘water catchment’ – implemented by World Concern through the support of ODW.

* These Somali refugees are lined up to be registered at the world’s largest refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya — “home” to more than 400,000 people.

* This Somali refugee walked with her family for one month to escape the famine.

All photos courtesy of World Concern.

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13 Responses

  1. Dennis says:

    Thanks for this, Eugene. We believe in you and appreciate your leadership. Be safe!

  2. […] blog from one of my amazing team members. Blessed to work with and learn from people such as him. https://eugenecho.com/2012/07/21/we-cant-do-everything-but-we-have-to-do-something-why-im-in-the-horn… This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Kelly. Bookmark the […]

  3. Julianna says:

    Thanks for your inspiring words. Will be praying for your safe travels!

  4. daniel so says:

    Eugene — Thank you, even after the headlines have “moved on,” for your steadfast compassion and leadership. May we not allow the overwhelming brokenness of the world to paralyze us. As you said, we can’t do everything but we can each do *something*.

    Praying for you and your team.

  5. Jason says:

    Wow, stories worth hearing. Thanks for the update.

  6. matrixlajon says:

    Praying….

  7. silver account says:

    While Getting Better does not reconstruct development, its realistically grounded optimism provides what I see as a potential foundation for a productive rethinking of efforts to help the global poor. Kenny chooses to begin from a realistic grounding, where Chapters 2 and 3 of the book present us with the bad news (global incomes are diverging) and the worse news (nobody is really sure how to raise growth rates). But, Kenny answers these challenges in three chapters that illustrate ways in which things have been improving over the past several decades, from sticking a fork in the often-overused idea of poverty traps to the recognition that quality of life measures appear to be converging globally. This is more than a counterweight to the literature of failure – this book is a counterweight to the literature of development that all-too-blindly worships growth as its engine. In this book, Kenny clearly argues that growth-centric approaches to development don’t seem to be having the intended results, and growth itself is extraordinarily difficult to stimulate . . . and despite these facts, things are improving in many, many places around the world. This opens the door to question the directionality of causality in the development and growth relationship: is growth the cause of development, or its effect?

  8. […] had intended to write my reflections from my Horn of Africa assessment trip immediately after I […]

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One Day’s Wages

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People often ask, "How does one stand all that rain in Seattle?" Actually, it doesn't rain that much. I like the rain. Keeps everything "evergreen" and clean. Keeps our air fresh. What's challenging is the gray weather. Give me a few more sunny days. 99 more days to be specific. 
Regardless, still love this city. Checking out Canada in case I need to move up North after the presidential election. Just saying, eh.

Downtown Toronto. Fascinating architecture. Amazed by the diversity of this city. We desperately want our children to not just be captivated by the beauty of creation...but more importantly, to the actual Creator of all that is good and beautiful.

Actually, we want and need this truth for our souls, too. What a privilege. This isn't possible without all those who give, pray, and support the work of @onedayswages. This week, I signed and mailed grants to three partner organizations totaling over $170,000. These grants will empower people by supporting maternal health care, refugee relief efforts, access to clean water, provide education, etc.

Sometimes, the brokenness of the world feel so overwhelming but let's keep running the race with endurance. Let's keep pursuing justice, mercy, and humility. Let's be faithful and may we be spurred on to keep working for God's Kingdom...on earth as it is in heaven.

Again, thank you so much for your support for @onedayswages! My wife, Minhee, and I stand on the shoulders of praying mothers. I'd like to take a moment to honor my mother-in-law. It's hard to put words together to embody her life but she is a very special, anointed person. I'm so blessed to have her as a mother in my life.

She was a devoted wife until she lost her husband to cancer, mother to three daughters, and later became a pastor. She became a follower of Christ as an adult and as such, led her her family to Christ. In her late 50s, she obeyed God's calling to go to seminary and be a leader in the church. She graduated #1 in her class and reminded us that it's never too late to follow a new dream or calling.

As she'll soon celebrate her 80th birthday, I'm especially grateful for the ways that she poured into and prayed over Minhee and her other children.  Even though she's officially retired, I'm inspired that the concept of retirement is not in her vocabulary.  She continues to serve the local church, evangelize and bear witness to Christ, and goes to the early morning prayer meeting at 5am everyday to pray for our family, our church, and for others. 
Jangmonim, we love and honor you. 어머니, 사랑합니다.

Someday, I hope that when my kids speak of Minhee and I...above all, they would say with integrity that their parents prayed for them and kept pointing them to Christ. On this Mother's Day, I want to take a few words to honor mother.

There’s a moment from a few years ago that will stick with me until the day I die. It’s regarding Sung Wha, my mother.

Minhee and I were at a point of transition, between working at an ethnic Korean church in the northern suburbs of Seattle called Lynnwood and launching Quest in urban Seattle. As I shared earlier, I was in desperate need of a job. I had a mortgage to pay. A pregnant wife. A kid at home. 
Then, praise God, after months without work, I finally landed a job.

My mom was in between jobs at this point in her life. She was in her late fifties, but she had such bad knees and degenerative hips that it was, and is, difficult for her to walk. My mom is like a human barometer—when a storm is coming and when it rains, her hips throb. Although my parents lived in San Francisco, she was visiting us in Seattle to encourage us in this difficult season.

As I prepared to go to work one early morning, I walked downstairs to put on my jacket and shoes, and forgot that my mother woke up early every morning to pray. In fact, she had been praying for months that I would find a job. “Eugene, where are you going?” she said when she saw me.

I hadn’t told my mother the news that I had just recently been hired for the janitorial gig at Barnes and Noble. I chose not to because I thought she and my father would be devastated. I didn’t want them to think that after laboring, sacrificing, and doing so much for us over all those years that their son had failed them.

But I couldn’t lie to her, so eventually I told my mom that I got a job and was going to work. “Great! What job? What are you doing?” “Um, I’m working at Barnes and Noble as their custodian,” I said finally.

Without asking another question, my mother got up from the dining table where she had been reading her Bible and praying. She slowly walked slowly toward me.

She approached me, then walked past me without saying a word, and I realized she was headed toward the closet. She opened the closet door, put on her jacket, turned around and said to me (in Korean), “Eugene, let’s go together. I will help you.” This is my mother.

my tweets

  • It's been years since Seattle Sonics "became" the OKC Thunder. Still stings. Seattle deserves a team before OKC gets a title. That is all. || 7 hours ago
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  • The best part of wanting to change the world...is being humbled, learning you're not the savior of the world & being changed in the process. || 19 hours ago
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