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Entries in child sponsorship (7)

Thursday
Sep252014

Meeting Colliard

Just over a month ago, my family of five returned from a life changing trip to Lusaka, Zambia with Arise Africa.  While I could write pages and pages about our amazing expedition, I was asked to condense my words for this post and focus solely on meeting the child we sponsor through Arise Africa’s child sponsorship program.   This is like asking someone who’s been to Disneyworld to report on just one ride in the park.  Seriously?  But because I’ll hear from Alissa if I don’t follow the rules, I will do my best to stay on task.

A little over a year ago, My husband and I decided to sponsor a child through Arise Africa.  I wish I could say it was a decision that came from the heart, but it was honestly because Alissa point blank sent me an email with a picture of a sweet little boy asking if I would sponsor him.   How could I say no to that?  Or to Alissa?  Don’t get me wrong, I was NOT guilted into doing it.  It was just not something that was on my radar at the time.  Because, well, life.

When we agreed to sponsor our child, Colliard, I had no idea I would eventually be in his home one day or that my children would be playing soccer (futbol) with him in his ‘front yard’.    What a difference a year makes.

Our first introduction to Colliard, 13, was a hand written letter and a 4x6 photograph sent to us from Arise Africa.  We tacked the letter and photograph to a bulletin board in our laundry room as a reminder to pray for him each time we saw his face. 

Even though I knew what we were doing was a good thing, it was hard to make a heart connection simply from a picture.  I couldn’t hear his voice. I couldn’t see him smile.   I didn’t know if he was shy.  I didn’t know if he had a sense of humor.   I just trusted that somehow we were making a difference by ‘sponsoring’ him.  What did that even mean?

 

Fast forward 365 days and my family was on a plane (or four) to Zambia.  We were told we would be able to meet Colliard once we arrived at his ‘compound’ (similar to a neighborhood, but not at all.)  When we drove up the dusty road to the compound and parked the car, my youngest said, ‘There’s Colliard!”  I think I laughed out loud because I assumed he didn’t have the first clue when it came to identifying one specific African child in a literal sea of African children.  (It turns out, however, there’s a reason he’s in TAG and I was not.)  It WAS Colliard!  Of all of the (what seemed like 10,000) children that were swarming our car, he was standing right in front of us.  And my kids recognized him from a 4x6. 

There’s something so surreal about going from praying for a child who you’ve only known from a photographic image to actually meeting him in person.  No description I write could ever do it justice.  I could literally see my children’s brains connecting the dots that THIS is the child who we are helping.  This is the child who’s handwriting is on that notebook paper in our laundry room.  This is the child for whom we have been praying.  My heart almost couldn’t take it. 

We brought Colliard an FC Dallas jersey as a gift from our family.  We wanted something that represented our city, but also something to which he could relate. 

(Have you ever noticed that soccer somehow speaks the universal language?)  He immediately put it on as we awkwardly hugged him one by one.  I say awkwardly only because my husband and 2 of my children have personal space issues and to hug them is akin to embracing a porcupine.  And really, because what is not awkward about 5 white people whom you’ve never met jumping out of a vehicle excitedly greeting you as if you’ve just reconnected after years of absence.  It was like a scene from a high school reunion gone wrong.   

 

After recouping from the overly anxious meet and greet, we accompanied Colliard back to his ‘house’ where we met his younger sister, Vida, and his older brother, Gift.   We were struck by the visual images that filled our minds on that journey.  There were kids everywhere.  And kids holding kids.  And more kids. 

 

It was unbelievable.  I’ve never seen so many beautiful little faces in such a small space.  As we approached his modest cinder block home, we were pleased to find a small garden of vegetables that his family had planted.  (Of course my kids had no idea what THOSE were, so I just told them they are a delicacy only grown and eaten in Africa.) 

Colliard invited us in by pulling back a piece of fabric that acted as a door.  I was struck by the darkness of this tiny dwelling, and it took my eyes awhile to adjust to the lack of light.   Once inside, the five of us sat on whatever furniture we could find.  Colliard’s brother, sister and cousin all joined us along with two Arise Africa staff members for translation.  We asked several questions and learned more about this precious family that was quickly starting to feel like our own.   It was then that I heard Colliard’s voice.  It was then that I saw him smile.  It was then that I learned he is shy.  And it was then that I learned he does have a great sense of humor.   In those moments, he went from being an image on my bulletin board to being a part of my family.

After a natural break in conversation, my children asked Colliard if he would like to play soccer outside.   We then watched as they quickly integrated with the other children in the compound and played various games with the soccer ball.    We were also able to go visit his classroom that day, as well as feed he and his classmates a nutritious lunch.  It was by far one of my favorite days on our trip and one I will never forget.

 

We also were able to write in and leave a Bible for Colliard.

What does sponsorship mean?  It means so much more than writing a letter and sending a check each month.  It means touching the life of a child who is in need of education, spiritual guidance, food and hope for a future where the cycle of poverty is broken.  The Arise Africa staff has a personal relationship with each child it sponsors.   These kids are followed and cared for by loving people doing the work of the Lord in Zambia.   I saw it first hand, and pray that this post urges you to consider helping just one child.   You may never have the opportunity to meet this child, but I promise you have the ability to change them forever.   

 

- Jamie Kraus

Saturday
Aug032013

Faith

Yesterday morning at 1AM I received a phone call from our Zambian team informing me that one of the children in our child sponsorship program, Faith, had died suddenly.  My stomach dropped. 

 

You might remember Faith, I blogged about her just a few short weeks ago.  She was 13 and had AIDS.  She had only been in our program since April and had started receiving her AIDS medicine in December of 2012. Although she was gaining weight with us and we were aggressively feeding her and monitoring her medicine, her body was too beat down.  It was too late to help her.

We were shocked at her death because she was making great progress we thought.  Brenda, her child sponsorship officer had spent every afternoon since April at Faith's home taking extra food for dinners and talking to Faith's mom about her illness.  Brenda went to Faith when she was too ill to come to school and brought her food and the protein milkshakes we had for her.  And Brenda prayed with her, everyday. Brenda is remarkable at remembering the most important things in a time like that. 

On Thursday Faith was not at school, which sometimes happened when she didn't feel she had the energy to go to school.  This wasn't unusual.  Brenda went to Faith's home in the afternoon as she always did.  She fed Faith and sat with the her and her mom for a while.  Faith was concerned about missing school and her work, Brenda promised to bring her schoolwork on Friday.  Brenda prayed with Faith and left Thursday afternoon.   Just a few hours later that night Brenda received a phone call from Faith's mom that Faith had died.  They had tried rushing her to the hospital and during that time Faith was yelling out that she wanted Brenda to come and pray for her.  Unfortunately Faith didn't make it long enough for Brenda to arrive.

It is brutal isn't it?  There is no way around this story other than this is the truth and this is what the AIDS virus can do to someone.   I have sat and contemplated if we did enough. Should we have changed medicines or clinics?  What about the food, was it enough or too much?  Faith was putting on weight and had more energy after she started eating with us.  But what did I miss? I have kicked myself for sitting in Faith's home just three weeks ago telling her and her mother she would be OK, we will take care of her. Why did I say that?!

As much as I want to control this and take it into my own hands, I cannot.  Arise Africa did everything we could to help Faith when she came to us in April.  This isn't my child to control or cure, this is God's child.  I was reminded by a friend that God doesn't make mistakes.  We are called to love and help these kids the best we can for as long as we have them on earth.  And God took her home. I kept telling my friend Chris that I was so angry I had told the family that Faith would be OK.  And now she had died.  And Chris politely reminded me, "Faith is OK now."  She is in a place we can't even fathom.  She isn't tired or in pain.  She is FINALLY being a 13 year old girl she deserves to be! 

As a staff we are deeply saddened.  Brenda and Susan had worked so hard with Faith and did an amazing job.  That child wasn't starving the last three months of her life.  She smiled and was loving school because she didn't have to worry about her school fees being paid for.  She loved her new sweatshirt we had given her when the weather got cold.  I saw her and talked to her and she was a sweet kid.  She also had accepted Christ and KNEW the Lord because of Brenda and Susan's hard work.  As sad as it is that Faith was calling out for Brenda when she was dying, it also shows what an impact we had on her short life. I don't say that to brag about Brenda or Arise Africa, but to remind myself that we are making a difference, even in circumstances like this.  And that difference we are making is showing these kids the Lord and the gospel. It is about HIM, not us. 

We are now helping plan and pay for Faith's funeral.  The family doesn't have the funds for this and we want Faith to be buried with respect. This is an opportunity for us to alleviate a financial burden on Faith's family.

This is not a fun part of my job.  I don't like getting text messages telling me how much a coffin is for a child.  I hate being on the speakerphone and hearing Brenda, Susan, and Megan crying in sadness over Faith.  I don't like knowing I won't see Faith when I visit Zambia again.

I don't understand why this happens and I probably never will on this side of the earth. But I do know I am so thankful for the opportunity to love on and care for these kids even if it is short. I am thankful to serve with brothers and sisters in Christ who want to work everyday for these kids and for them to know the Lord.  I am thankful for donors who when I call and tell them their child has died in the sponsorship program immediately ask "What can I do to help her family?"  There is no judgement or condemnation. 

I thought about not writing this blog post because the insecure side of me was concerned people would read this and think we aren't helping enough. Trust me it has gone through my mind in this situation!  But everyone needs to know exactly what we are up against. This is a fight and Arise Africa is in the middle of it.  We have to FIGHT for these kids and their salvation.  This isn't pretty, this isn't easy. 

But everyone needs to be reminded this is all in God's hands.  (I need to be reminded that about ten times a day!) I don't care what I try to do to help these kids and what our staff is capable of achieveing, He ultimately has the control.  Everyone needs that reminder that life is so short.  We all need to be reminded that thing at work or that paper for school that isn't finished, aren't that big of a deal in the whole picture.  Let's remember to have grace and patience with others, because we are here on earth too short of a time to be rude.  We need to be reminded to quit focusing on us. Let's focus on what is important.  And that is Him. 

- Alissa

 

 

Monday
Jul222013

Child Sponsorship

Alissa and I got back yesterday afternoon, barely. At the ticketing counter in the Lusaka International Airport, the situation didn’t look very positive. Then again in during our 30-minute, terminal-transferring, go-through-security-again layover in Amsterdam. We’re working in the office this morning, but don’t be too impressed – we’ve already decided that doing accounting when the jetlag hits this afternoon is a bad idea, so we’re calling it an early day after lunch.

One of the coolest things I saw was getting to see our child sponsorship officers in action. Their job title, “child sponsorship officer”, doesn’t fully convey what these five people are actually doing in schools every single day. They’re heroes. Stability in an unstable world. Sometimes the only consistent love these kids get. Shepherds and disciplers. Tutors. Chefs, servers, and cleaners. Champions for every single child’s faith, education, and growth. They show up to school every single day, and the Zambian school year runs year-round. Then they’ll stop by the Arise Home on their way home (which really is an hour-long detour, maybe a couple bus transfers, and a lot of walking) to play a quick game of soccer with the kids. They’re awesome.

Susan and Brenda work at Destiny Community School. Susan is eight months pregnant and is already talking about strapping baby Kemule (pronounced Camille!) to her back as soon as she’s born so she can get back to work. Brenda is our most tenured staff member and takes care of all our Americans.

The way child sponsorship works is each of the officers start with a batch of children and work their way up to 30 children (more on that later!). For every child, they pay school fees, make sure their uniformed which is on going since uniforms tend to get worn ragged quickly, cook them one hot meal every school day, know everything about their family situation, disciple them, make sure they’re doing well in school, write a report back to America once every three months.

That’s just everything I knew they were doing before I came to Zambia…it didn’t occur to me until I actually visited the schools that there is so much more. I don’t think I can find the words to describe exactly how much time is being invested into each child, so I can only say what I saw in the short time I was there. One of our new kiddos is really sick; she had TB on top of being HIV positive and wasn’t getting the nutrition necessary for her medication to work. Susan and Brenda noticed she needed help, got her into the program, and are now supplementing her food with expensive nutrition drinks and working with the child’s mother to make sure she is getting food at home. It’s a lot of extra work, but Susan and Brenda pushed us to get her more help. On a more day-to-day basis, there are kids that need tutoring after school, kids that did well last term but are struggling this term, kids that live with their cousin yet still call her “mom”, and so much more. Our child sponsorship officers know it all, and keep everything straight.

And then there’s the nshima! One of the major skills that Alissa and I definitely don’t have is serving food. There is a special technique to spooning out nshima that we don’t have. It has to be the right size, be rolled/shaped properly, consistent, and fast. It’s the most basic child sponsorship officer skill and Alissa and I don’t make the cut.

Solomon, Kochelani, and Florence (not pictured because she was at her school going to class for a teaching certificate) work at Grace Community School. They’re awesome and were a great team during camp.

Solomon and Kochelani just bumped up to having 30 children each, which means we have a new batch of children that need your help. If you’re interested, please email Alissa at alissa@ariseafrica.org. Child sponsorship is one of the most impactful ways to help change a life. It’s incredible to see these kids’ desire to go to school every day, and to stay in school despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that get in their way every day. Here are three of the many kiddos that are new to the child sponsorship program and need sponsors:

Grace Tembo

Olipa Nkhoma

Mackson Zimba

- Camille

Friday
Jul052013

4th of July Madness

Happy Fourth of July America!

We barley had time to celebrate the fourth over here in Zambia but don't worry we did!  

I have been in Zambia for about three weeks now and hit the ground running.  Camille, our Arise Africa intern has been with me the entire time and has been more than a lifesaver.  As you have seen she is updating the blog and doing many many more tasks.  She has jumped into the madness of Africa quite well.  I have loved watching her Type A personality who is incredibly organized and has everything planned out adapt to the craziness of our lives over here. She is coping with the chaos and lack of structure in a third world country.  The first few days she asked questions like, "why do they just put road humps anywhere they want?" or "so the traffic lights never work?! Why do they have them?." I put Camille on the task of handling the guy who makes our Americans their gifts and it is quite extensive. It requires him knowing names of Americans and he carves these wooden plaques for them.  I literally laugh out loud as Camille talks to Tom on the phone.  I can hear her saying things like, "Tom tell me the TRUTH how many do you really have done?"  or "Tom there is no way you have that many done last week you only did five!" or the best was  "Tom I am not giving you more money for supplies you are fine and deal with it!"

     Another great Camille moment was when she was planning her trip to Victoria Falls.  Steve Vanderheide, an incredible videographer from the USA has been working with us this past week shooting tons of video and our friend William was here helping him.  Camille, Steve, and William decided to head to Victoria Falls this weekend for a little break before the boys head back to the states on Monday.  They decided to take the bus down to the falls which is an experience in itself.  It is a 6 hour ride (if it goes well) and you get to see Zambia and the rural villages.  We gave Camille the phone number to the bus station so she could call and figure out when the bus left.  Camille called the bus station last weekend asking for the schedule for Friday the 5th of July.  The guy quickly told her she can only call two days before to know the times of when busses left or if there was even going to be a bus.  I heard Camille go, "TWO DAYS before?! How do I plan?  I already have hotel reservations!  You don't know until the day before if a bus is even going or when it leaves?!"  I was laughing hysterically as I listened to Camille struggle to accept the fact that she will not be able to plan anything until two days before.  Luckily the bus worked out and they are at the Falls right now.  Let's hope there is a bus back tomorrow! 

     Another skill that Camille has learned which I think will be very helpful on her resume in America is that she now has some experience patrolling monkeys.  Greenhill School, where we had our kids Bible camp with American families has a "pet" monkey, Jacque, who is an absolute pain.  This thing gets into everything you have.  Try running a kids Bible camp with food, (they got bananas for snack everyday!) crayons, people's backpacks, flags, and all other items all over the place.  Jacque would come flying from any tree around and swoop down and steal sandwiches out of kids hands and fly back up in the tree and taunt us with it shaking it around.  Camille was very good on monkey patrol and did her best to defend the poor kids and adults in our camp.

Yea he looks all sweet and nice right?!

This is Jacque biting Camille's hand off trying to escape, yep all week she dealt with this. 

Clearly I have great monkey patrol skills as well:

    I also realized that Camille has adapted to African life rather well when she was beyond excited when an American family left behind some Zip Loc bags for us.  She was giddy with excitement as she explained to me that we would have a bag for everyday of camp next week to put our sandwiches in and she didn't have to keep using the same one and washing it out!  It was like Christmas Day for Camille. As she explained this to me with a huge smile on her face I knew she had been in Africa long enough to enjoy the simple things in life, like a zip loc bag.  Meanwhile I was thinking to myself, why was she washing the bag out everyday last week at camp?  Just use it over and over again for the sandwiches! 

      Camille has jumped into working with our staff and the kids in the Arise Home.  She is so patient and calm when the kids want to read books with her.  She let's them listen to music on her phone.  She has helped them cook, and plays soccer outside with the boys. In fact I saw her do a victory dance when she scored a goal against Andrew, one of our best soccer players.  She loves everyone so well and has been so caring.  Megan and I would be a mess without her over here right now.  She helps both of us out so so much!

   Steve and William have been so great to have around this past week after our American families left.  They have been shooting video nonstop and doing interviews with our staff, Arise Home kids, and community school partners we work with.  William is an expert at sound now.  We are excited to see the video produced from this past week. 

    The other day we went to Destiny School and had a meeting with the parents and guardians of the children in our child sponsorship program.  They had been asking for a while to meet me, since they always see and know the headmasters of Destiny.  They wanted to thank me for helping their kids so much. I must admit I feel a bit like a crook because I am the face they see, however it is the sponsors who pay for these kids, not me.  I wish every child's sponsor could have been in this meeting, it was so touching and special to experience.  One mother stood up and her child Faith is new to our program.  Faith is HIV positive and started receiving her meal a day through us about two months ago.  The mother began to talk and said to the entire room, "As you know my child has been very sick."  Then she put her head in her hands and started to cry.  It was really hard to see and I felt this mom's pain for her child.  She went on to compose herself and explain that she is alone in this battle, the husband died a few years ago.  She takes her daughter to the hospital and they struggle to have any food at home.  To take your HIV medicine on an empty stomach is a very bad situation.  She thanked Arise Africa for the meal that Faith eats everyday at school and how that is helping her fight her illness.  Just a simple meal a day is what this mother was so thankful for.  We had the mom stay after the meeting and we explained to her that we want to help them as much as possible and that she is not fighting alone now, we will be in the fight with her.  I struggle sometimes with thinking we aren't doing enough. I was laying in bed that night asking God what else should we do. 

Here is a photo of Faith, she always wears a cap to hide her hair falling out due to the virus and being in poor health: 

Please help us pray for Faith. 

     The parents and guardians of our kids in the child sponsorship program also brought gifts for me.  I must admit I was concerned, I have been forced to eat things that aren't so great before and my weak stomach isn't a very good sport about it.  I went into this fully thinking I would be spending the rest of the day in the bathroom.  I was pleasantly surprised at the crackers, coke, and cake that was passed around!  The biggest gift I got was a VILLAGE chicken!  Let me explain this to you, a village chicken is MUCH bigger, and it is a very special occasion to eat a village chicken.  Let me also explain to you that the VILLAGE chicken was given to me alive.   

Brenda, myself, and Susan (Destiny Child Sponsorship officers) with the chicken.

    After our meeting we put the (live) chicken in our car and shot some video around Destiny School with Steve.  We went to visit two of our kids homes that are in our child sponsorship program, Vainess and James Mapita.  I didn't know off the top of my head who their sponsors were but quickly remembered when we walked in their home and they have every letter and photo their sponsors have ever sent taped to their walls. 

Steve and William have spent days in the compounds shooting video, they are an awesome team!

      Later that day I gave the village chicken to our Zambian housekeeper/mom, Susan.  She was so excited she couldn't stand it.  Susan lives in a house right behind our's.  My instructions to her were that I didn't want to know what happened to the chicken, I didn't want to hear it dying, and I didn't want to be woken up to it crowing.  She quickly said she would handle it and I never had to ask about it again.  That plan worked well until a day later when the chocolate lab puppy came running in the house and threw up a stomach full of black chicken feathers.  hmmm... I am choosing not to ask and pretend like it didn't happen. 

     We celebrated the fourth of July very casually over here in Zambia.  We were invited to the US Embassy for a celebration party.  We had fun hanging out with embassy staff and the US Marines that guard the Embassy.  I would show you photos but you aren't allowed to take photos of our Embassy!  After the embassy party we had Zambian and American friends over to our house for some burgers, apple pie and other treats.  It was fun to go around the table and her Americans from all over the USA talk about their family's fourth of July traditions.  There is some weird stuff people do!  I also realized not every state appreciates fireworks as much as Texans do.  It was cool to hear the Zambian's take on things as well.  We had tons of lefotver food that everyone got to take home. I accidentally pulled out the Zip Loc bags to send food home with folks and Camille quickly reminded me that we need to ration our plastic bags and not waste them on our guests!

    I am enjoying a weekend of quiet as we prepare for this next week. We have another full week of American college students from PCPC church coming in on Monday to run a kids Bible camp. We are excited and know the Lord will use their time here in a great way. 

In Him,

Alissa

 

 

Monday
Dec032012

Helping Build Communities - Post by Brenda Ngosa

This blog post is by Brenda Ngosa, a child-sponsorship officer at Destiny Community School.

It is always a great joy working in communities around Lusaka.  It’s a life that most people will never have a chance to experience.  The vulnerable people will always be glad to receive help that will improve their communities. Arise Africa’s line of work is helping different communities improve their well-being. Since 2010 we have worked on a number of projects that have been of great help to the communities. One of the communities Arise Africa works in is N’gombe, At our partnering school called Grace Christian Community School there has been a number of projects taking place to improve the livelihood of the children that go to this school and the community that they live in. Arise Africa started a feeding program a few months ago and it has been doing great, thanks to the help of our partners. A feeding structure has been built which means there are no worries when the rain season comes because feeding will continue and the children will not go hungry during lunch break.

They will have their delicious meal and be able concentrate in class. That is not all the happenings with Africa Africa’s partnering schools and their communities. Lusaka has been hit with water problems. Grace community school was highly affected, but the problem is soon to be sorted out. Grace community school working with Arise Africa and other partners has contracted a drilling company to put in a well and a water tank. They came on site drilled about 50 meters going down and water could not be found.   They drilled 60 meters in another place and still could not find water.  The drilling company left and come back after a week only to find both holes had water to the top. It is a double blessing for Grace Christian Community School. When the pipes and the tank are installed, not only Grace community school will benefit but also the community at large.

Destiny Community School is Arise Africa’s other Community School partnership. Recently the school put up a water tank of about 2500 liters for water storage. It happened that one day the whole community had no water for a day, and most of the people in the community flocked to Destiny Community School to get water. Some people had more than three buckets to fill.  By the time the school realized that people were getting water from the tank, the water had completely drained.   This tank is not on a well, but on city water.  Once it was empty, there would not be any more water until the city fixed the problem with the water line.  The good part about it is that the community did not go thirsty for that day.

Finally, clean water supply is an educational exercise.  The rainy season is rapidly approaching and it comes with lots of diseases; Cholera, Typhoid, Diarrhea, Malaria just to name a few.  Arise Africa staff conducted a healthy campaign on prevention of Cholera.  We talked about the causes and how it can be prevented, we did a skit and had a time for questions and answers.

 

It was fun to share with the community.  The good part is that the children learned something and they all were washing their hands with soap after using the toilet and before eating. Our hope after this exercise is that the children will go home and teach their family and friends about water safety and hygiene.  In the end our prayer is that the community will be cholera free this rainy season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Brenda Ngosa