Saturday, February 27, 2010

School Uniforms Needed for Kind Hearts Kids!


The kids at Kind Hearts could really use school uniforms. They cannot afford them on their own - and this is something we can step in and directly help with. Only $19 will provide a uniform (and a much-needed change of clothes) to a child at Kind Hearts.

I was asked why uniforms are so important for the kids. Now that the children are getting nutrititious meals every day, and their basic needs are being met because of their sponsors, these are the types of projects we can focus on to make things just a little bit easier and a little bit better for these kids.

In the Ethiopian culture, all children attending school wear uniforms. In the mornings, the streets are filled with children walking to school, all of them wearing matching uniforms to signify the school they attend. From our balcony high above the street, we could easily see where the children were heading based on their uniforms, as their classmates clustered around the school entrance in matching uniforms. A school uniform represents that that child is a "student" - an honored and respected title "student". And that that child is enrolled in a government approved education center.

Going to school is a privilege in Ethiopia, and families pay a monthly fee in order to enroll their child or children. They need to purchase a uniform, books and specific notebooks. Of course if a child is an orphan or destitute - they cannot afford the monthly fees and they don't get an education. A sad cycle of events because education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. The Ethiopian government has made good strides in recent years, as they strive to identify orphaned and needy children and provide the opportunity for an education.

That is the opportunity 68 kids have at Kind Hearts. The government has provided the land and building to the Kind Hearts organization - and the sponsor families are providing the teacher salaries as well as food, clothing, medical care and Christian discipleship. It is an opportunity that none of the kids take lightly. Before we had sponsors for the kids, they were coming to school every day with empty tummies, weak with hunger - trying to concentrate and learn - in their filthy, stained clothes that many of them wear every day, and sleep in at night.

$19 will provide a school uniform (shirt, pants and jacket in a quality fabric) for one child at Kind Hearts. That uniform will not only provide a much-needed change of clothes - but I can promise, each child will treasure it and wear it with pride because they have the honor and privilege of going to school!

There are only 68 kids at Kind Hearts right now and we are half-way to our goal of raising enough funds to provide uniforms for ALL the kids. If you would like to help with a school uniform - please go to the Hopechest website at http://www.hopechest.org/, click on "GIVE", specify $19 and clearly specify "ET2110 UNIFORMS" in the "child reference/notes" area. It is very important to specify ET2110 UNIFORMS so the funds go directly to the Kind Hearts school uniforms fund.

I will post again when we meet our goal - AND when we have pictures of the Kind Hearts kids proudly wearing their new school uniforms!!


In the photos below, this is an example of children in Ethiopia (in Kombolcha) with their school uniforms.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kind Hearts Kids to get NEW SHOES!!

I take shoes for granted. Most of us have several pairs (if not several dozen pairs) in our closet. But imagine not having shoes ... or not having shoes that fit ... and walking to school every day through mud, and dust and dirt, sharp stones, broken glass and thorny bushes.






Our kids at Kind Hearts in Ethiopia know what it is like to not have shoes. To them ... shoes are a luxury!

Their clothing too, is tattered and torn, dirty and stained. The pictures we get of our kids show them wearing the same clothing day after day. Most likely, the clothes they are wearing ... are the only clothes they have. When they go home after school ... they don't change into their "play clothes". They don't get to take a bath and then change into their pajamas for bedtime. Most of them fall asleep on a dirt floor in the same clothing they wore all day.


The dirt and the stains we see? Water too is a luxury ... and must be used for important things like drinking and cooking, not for baths or washing clothes. So if their clothes get too dirty, they can rinse them in a puddle ... but not in the nearby river because it is polluted with toxic and poisonous chemicals.

My friend, Kari Gibson, recently partnered with Hopechest to raise funds with her "Shirts for Shoes" Valentine's Day campaign. Her "Simply Love Africa" shirts are super-cute and I was happy to buy one knowing they were for a great cause. For every t-shirt purchased, an orphan in Ethiopia would get a pair of shoes and a shirt! Many of our Kind Hearts sponsors bought t-shirts as well. Never realizing that the shirts we bought would DIRECTLY benefit our Kind Hearts kids!!!!

Our Kind Hearts kids are being measured for shoes next week. Not a flimsy pair of plastic or rubber shoes that hardly last a month in the rugged terrain of Ethiopia. But a sturdy pair of leather shoes with nice, thick soles and laces. Ahhhhhh - what luxury! And they will get a new shirt as well. A clean, new shirt. Can you imagine their joy and excitement???? I can imagine it ... I've seen them cry tears of joy over a pencil and notebook! They will be so proud and so happy to have NEW SHOES!!!!

Right now, there are 68 kids at Kind Hearts in Ethiopia. ALL of our kids are sponsored and are feeling the impact of the love, financial support and prayers of their sponsors. More children will begin attending Kind Hearts soon ... if you are interested in sponsoring a child ($34/month provides food, clothing, education, medical care and Christian discipleship), please contact me at kjwistrom@yahoo.com.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Kind Hearts Update!!

One of our sponsors was in Ethiopia recently and was able to visit Kind Hearts and spend time with the children. Here are a few photos she took last month at Kind Hearts in Ethiopia. As a sponsor, it's so rewarding to get photos and updates, and to actually see the child you are sponsoring as they benefit from healthy meals and a nurturing environment!!





This is Becky Burk with her sponsor child, Meskerem. I hope every Kind Hearts sponsor gets the amazing experience of meeting their sponsor child someday!!






There are 68 children attending Kind Hearts care-point and school and they are ALL matched with sponsors. Each sponsor family has committed to contributing $34/month to cover all of their basic needs. These kids are now able to rely on daily meals as well as education, clothing, medical care and Christian discipleship. Each child at Kind Hearts knows that there is a family in the United States that cares for them, prays for them and writes letters to them - and they treasure that relationship!
Both of our teachers at Kind Hearts are sponsored as well - so that we can ensure that they get a monthly salary and are able to devote their love and attention to each of the kids without worrying about an occassional missed paycheck because of short funds.
In the months ahead, more children will begin attending Kind Hearts (there are currently 68 children but they have capacity for 110). If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please email me at kjwistrom@yahoo.com and I will contact you as soon as more children arrive at Kind Hearts.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Oceans of Justice!!!

When I was in Ethiopia 2 months ago, Tom Davis (president of Children's Hopechest) shared something powerful with us as we ate a quick breakfast. It was the morning after we had driven 11 harrowing hours through mud and fog and narrow mountain passes to visit a care-point in Komblacha that serves over 400 children - 180 of them orphans.

These children were gaunt and thin. Tattered and stained clothing that covered skin stretched across bone. Eating grass when they thought we weren't looking. Some had lice, some had sores that weren't healing. All of them were hungry. All of them were longing for the reassuring, loving and protective arms of a mommy or daddy.

Every one of us went to bed that night with the question on our lips and hearts ... why? These innocent children, through no fault of their own, are left to fend for themselves. Hungry, scared, sick ... and alone, with no one in the world to love them, to soothe their fears, to stroke their forehead when they are sick and feverish, to kiss them goodnight. Why? It's so unfair.
And like a child, my mind shouted ... IT'S NOT FAIR!!!
That morning, Tom read from Amos, 5:21-24 (The Message).



"I can't stand your religious meetings.
I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretensious slogans and goals.
I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making.
I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?


D
o you know what I want?
I want justice - oceans of it.
I want fairness - rivers of it.
That's what I want. That's all I want."




I realized when he finished speaking that I was holding my breath - I think we all were. God's Word was speaking so clearly - about the oppressed, the poor, the hungry, the lonely, the sick ... and the orphaned children we were about to visit again that day.
Later in the week, as we visited another orphange with about 50 children and 3 babies (the babies had been left at the gate by desperate family members unable to care for them). I noticed a piece of paper taped to the wall, with a child's hand-writing. It said "I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you." John 14:18.




I have to admit, my first thought was .."how can these kids actually have the faith to believe that? With all they have been through, where is the evidence? They have seen mothers and fathers die. Many have been abused, enslaved, raped and left homeless and hungry. Many have died. How can they take comfort in that verse in the midst of what their reality is right now?"

A
s I glanced up at the sign again after emerging from the baby room - with my arms still feeling the weight and warmth of the tiny fragile baby I had been holding. It dawned on me ... If WE are to be the hands and feet of Jesus .... then He does not leave them as orphans. He comes to them through me ... and you.

Our 68 kids at Kind Hearts are absolutely seeing and feeling the difference in their lives. Sponsor families love them without having ever met them. How can that be? And they are praying for them by name.
I am looking forward to the day when our first group of sponsors visits Kind Hearts this year, and demonstrates what the love of a father or mother feels like - and in that, the kids can get a glimpse of the love of their heavenly Father.