I've long felt that my ability to communicate should be used in a way that will inform and inspire others to make a positive difference in the world. And so, because I find that I'm frequently uplifted by the initiatives of World Vision and their advocates, I have tried to use my writing to promote their work as much as possible.
I visited the town of Mbarara, Uganda in 2008 with a group from my local church back in the UK. We were only there for around ten days but it was long enough for my eyes to be opened, my life to be changed, and for the children of Africa to plant themselves firmly in my heart.
When I came home I spent the next eight months working on my university dissertation, which was centred around issues that have had a detrimental effect on Africa's people, including AIDs, child labour, and human trafficking.
Three years after my graduation, now working for Challenge Weekly Christian newspaper in Auckland, I still find myself gravitating towards stories which have an African focus. So, as you can imagine, when I was asked to write about the situation in the Sahel region, I took on the project with keen interest.
Since then I have covered the Kiwi angle of the crisis both through World Vision and through other organisations such as Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand and TEAR Fund NZ.
I was probably most affected by an exhibition I went to see in the middle of July, put on by photographer and judge for New Zealand's Next Top Model, Chris Sisarich, on behalf of World Vision.
Mr Sisarich had visited Mali and Niger, two of the countries greatly impacted by the food crisis, to take photographs of the need that he saw. However, on meeting the local people and seeing the juxtaposition between the people's bright clothing and attitude compared with the barren and broken earth around them, he began his own project around that idea.
What struck me most about his photos was the desolation of the land, as I remember Uganda being quite green. I understand that Mali has a completely different climate but it highlighted to me that the need I had seen in Uganda was merely a fraction of the crisis being faced elsewhere in Africa. Mr Sisarich said he wanted to use his work to "bring attention to the situation, to get people thinking about it in a new way". Well that certainly happened for me, and no doubt for many others too.
This exhibition, combined with the numerous other efforts of World Vision New Zealand, has touched the hearts of the Kiwi people and moved them to respond.
New Zealanders are known as one of the most generous peoples in the world per head of population, so it comes as no surprise that this little nation had, by the end of July, raised $896k. This figure is put into perspective when we consider that $36 can provide a family of six with emergency medical treatment, $60 will feed a malnourished child for four months, and $122 can provide clean, safe water for ten households.
What I know from personal experience, and what I am reminded of through the work of humanitarian organisations both in New Zealand and overseas, is that we really can make a difference. Whether it's with our finances, time, or talents our contributions count, no matter how large or small.
I'd like to finish by quoting from my all time favourite TV show, Sports Night, which ran for a couple of years in the late 90s. During one of the episodes sports anchor Dan Rydell is trying to decide which charity to donate money to. He seeks some advice from a character called Natalie, who tells him, "There's really no end to what we can do. You know what the trick is? Get in the game."
Gemma Margerison is an aspiring author from the North of England. She currently works as the chief reporter for Challenge Weekly Christian newspaper in Auckland, New Zealand.