Ewert Combats Poverty, Hunger on a Global Scale

Phil Ewert (G98) with wife Melanie, daughter Abyala, and twins Ahsa and Everest.

Phil Ewert with wife Melanie, daughter Abyala, and twins Ahsa and Everest.

Phil Ewert (G98) is making an impact on the lives of thousands around the world, both in his vocation and as a personal passion.  

His work has put him in the middle of some of the most trying circumstances possible, including last year’s devastating earthquake in Nepal that killed more than 8,800 and injured another 21,000. This April, Ewert moved to Mongolia, where he is now helping people deal with the aftereffects of extreme weather that killed life-sustaining livestock, leaving thousands in need of help.

A former premed biology major at George Fox, Ewert helps provide access to nutrition, hygiene and sanitation needs through his role as country operations director with World Vision International.

“We are striving to change unjust systems, protect children, provide medical services and be a light in the darkness,” says Ewert of the life work he and wife Melanie have undertaken.

Ewert’s interest in international work started as a student at George Fox. When a chapel speaker discussed her work in Calcutta, it provided a spark for his calling. “I felt God asking me to do it – to bring help spiritually and physically,” he recalls. “That set the course for my life, for my career.”

Ewert began his international work with Samaritan’s Purse as director of medical projects in Afghanistan. He later worked as program manager in South Sudan, then country director in Zimbabwe before returning to South Sudan in 2008 for two years as country director. He joined World Vision in 2010, working as operations director in Albania then moving to Nepal in the same role in 2013.  In all, he’s traveled and worked in more than 40 countries.  

In Nepal, the April 25, 2015, earthquake, which measured 7.8 on the Richter scale, was the country’s worst natural disaster. Villages flattened, leaving thousands homeless and forcing more than 700,000 into poverty. “It was our whole focus for a considerable time,” he says. “It was awful. It was a rolling feeling. We ran outside, people were screaming, walls collapsed; I was holding a rail with my daughter.” His family slept outside while strong aftershocks continued for days.

World Vision still is assisting with quake recovery in Nepal, but another crisis created the need for Ewert to relocate once again. In Mongolia, Ewert will serve as national director, helping provide thousands with food after the death of more than 900,000 livestock due to extreme weather, while at the same time working on sanitation, facilities, reducing poverty, and job creation. The focus of World Vision Mongolia is on disaster relief and preparedness, economic development, child protection, health and education, with the goal of contributing to the sustained well-being of the 864,000 children in the country.

The move to Mongolia will also allow the Ewerts to expand the reach of their personal endeavor, Trade for Freedom, to a new country. The effort, launched in 2014, partners with ethical businesses – those that offer fair wages, safe working conditions and health care benefits – to provide dignified work with Christian discipleship.

Supported by a group of volunteers who receive no compensation, Trade for Freedom acts as a marketing agency, offering handmade items like scarves, jewelry and tote bags for sale. Each purchase helps sustain the employment of someone in need. Ewert notes that a majority of those helped are women, many of whom are at risk of becoming one of millions forced into labor or sex slavery due to extreme poverty.

“We’re passionate about this,” Ewert says of Trade for Freedom, which recently generated sales of $60,000, helping to employ and provide childcare for 10 women. “It’s on and in our hearts.”