NASHVILLE (BP) -- Labby cried loudly as her parents left her on the first day of preschool. The 3-year-old was overly thin. Her brittle hair and small, black teeth were signs of poor health and poor hygiene.
At lunch, Labby and her friends devoured everything on their plates. The day was full of firsts: nutritious food, clean water, a tooth brush, washing hands -- and the first toilet Labby had ever seen.
Nearly a year later, Labby looks healthier and is doing well in her class. She has become an expert in washing her hands before eating, brushing her teeth and using the toilet. She and her friends are getting the nutrition they need to be healthy, and the life skills they need to live abundant lives.
Labby and her friends are just a few of more than 1.3 million people in need worldwide who received help from Southern Baptists during 2013 through Baptist Global Response.
"Every day we are faced with a new challenge: hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa, poverty in mega-cities, typhoons in the Philippines, a refugee crisis in Syria or Sudan," Jeff Palmer, BGR executive director, said. "It is easy to lose sight that these challenges represent people and not just statistics. For example, more than 9 million people have been driven from their homes in Syria. These are all individuals with needs, fears and struggles. And most of them are women and children who are wondering how they will get through the day.
"Keeping focused on the names and faces of the people being helped reminds us that we're not here to assist people in general," Palmer said. "We're talking about the love of God transforming the lives of specific individuals."
The 1,385,030 individuals helped in 2013 lived in 4,359 communities in 53 countries, according to BGR's annual report, "Immersed in their stories," which was released April 17. The organization's 297 projects addressed issues of clean water, hunger relief, disaster response, livelihood training, health care, and assistance for widows and orphans, among other things.
In the first five years since it launched in 2008, BGR saw a 381 percent increase in direct donations for hunger and relief. A full 93 percent of donations in 2013 went directly to program services -- a remarkably high percentage among humanitarian organizations, some of which keep more than 40 percent of receipts to cover administrative expenses.
"The world today is immersed in great need," Palmer said. "From typhoons ravaging Asia to armed conflict in the Middle East to chronic hunger in Africa, people struggle to find the basic needs for life such as food, water and shelter.
"Thanks to the partnership of Southern Baptists who care about people in need, we are able to provide simple housing, health care, food and hope to people who are suffering."
Baptist Global Response provides regular updates on new and ongoing projects at its website, www.gobgr.org
-- including a new monthly video report from Palmer on developments in Southern Baptist human needs work overseas. The 2013 BGR annual report may be found at www.gobgr.org/annual
BGR is one of seven national partners in the Southern Baptist anti-hunger campaign called Global Hunger Relief (formerly World Hunger Fund), which directs 100 percent of donations to service projects. Global Hunger Relief will be formally launched at this year's Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Baltimore, Md.
Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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