Thursday, December 1, 2011

IT'S THE LETTER AND PHOTOS THEY TREASURE THE MOST!

Over the next several days, weeks and months, I have A LOT of blog posts coming about our recent trip to Ethiopia.  This is an annual trip (every November) when I lead a team of volunteers to work with the kids at our two Children's HopeChest CarePoints - "Kind Hearts" and "Trees of Glory".  During this annual trip, our volunteer team invests time and love in each child as we spend 3 full days at each CarePoint teaching, mentoring and showering each child with as much love and attention as we can.

Two years ago, I first visited "Kind Hearts" and the 68 kids that were enrolled at the time.  At that time, the CarePoint was barely staying afloat - funding had slowly withered, the teaching staff had gone unpaid and they could only afford to provide a meal of rice for the kids one day each week.  HopeChest was leading a vision team of possible coordinators to Ethiopia to visit possible CarePoints and had told the staff ... hold on just a little bit longer if you can.  The kids were thin and lethargic, the teaching staff felt hopeless - but I could see the potential in this location, the kids and the staff.

While we were in Ethiopia, we purchased enough rice and beans to feed the kids for a month - and I went home worrying about the promise I had made to the staff and kids at Kind Hearts and how to find a sponsor family for all 68 kids.  (I will never forget the director saying to me ... "Please don't forget about us!")  Within 22 days - amazingly - ALL kids were sponsored - and the feeding program was in full-swing, classes were in session, the teachers and kids had hope and energy, and the HopeChest staff was sharing the love and hope of Christ with the kids weekly!

Two years is not that long ago ... and almost all of the original 68 kids are still there and advancing quickly through the grades.  Since then - we have drilled a fresh-water well at Kind Hearts, provided shoes and uniforms and textbooks, built a new kitchen and added playground equipment.  We have also enrolled more children and are currently serving about 145 kids!!!  We will need to build more classrooms if we are to enroll more kids for the new schoolyear in September 2012.

One of the highlights of our trip, is when we deliver a care-package to each child from their sponsor family.  Each child already knows their sponsor family from letters and photos they receive during the year.  And many of the kids had those photos in their pockets when we first arrived.  "Do you know my family in America?" they asked me as the photos were pulled from their pockets!

We set up 4 stations, with 3 chairs at each station.  The child sits in the middle, with a volunteer and a translator on each side.  I watched as each child wiggled with anticpation as they finally got to sit in the chair and their care-package was unveiled!! 

And this is what I noticed right away ... as the shirt was unrolled and all of the little goodies were revealed ... almost every child pushed the gifts aside and went straight for the photos - and each photo was examined carefully and lovingly, looking for the faces they recognize.  They wanted the names read to them and wanted to know who was who in each picture.  Then they listened attentively as the letter was read to them - all the while gazing at the photos.

This is Yehenew who has been enrolled at Kind Hearts for 2 years. 
He is sponsored by my brother and his family.

Sarah is patiently examining each photo with him, pointing to faces and naming names. 





 My daughters, Emme and Maea, sat down with Yehenew to explain that they are
related to his sponsor family and to point out themselves in some of the photos.

 And I nearly missed this shot as Yehenew stood to gather his gifts and then
this shy little boy gave Maea a spontaneous and heart-felt hug!


They love the gifts that are sent - the toothbrush and pencils are important, the underwear even more important, the mtachbox car gets some excitement, the shirt is immediately put on and then worn to school the next day ... but it is the letter and the photos that they treasure the most.

And I couldn't help but contrast that with my own kids ... who I am guessing would probably go for the gifts first and the photos later.  And that's not a negative reflection on my kids or any other kids - but it is the reality of our culture and our American lifestyle that places value on "things" and "stuff". 

It's different for the kids in Ethiopia who are quick to share one of their precious pencils with a child that didn't get one.  For them - the value is on the people and the relationships.  They know and love their sponsor family and they treasure your letters and your photos the most! 

Here are just a few photos from CarePackage day at Kind Hearts.  I will share photos from Trees of Glory CarePoint in my next posts.  And to each sponsor family - please be patient with me as I process through the many thousands of photos I have - I promise to send each of you a personal email with the photos of your sponsor child!! :)  - and be sure to "friend" me on facebook as I post photos there as well.
















If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please contact me at kjwistrom@yahoo.com.  Sponsorship is $34 per month and provides nutritious food, clean water, clothing, medical care, education and Christian discipleship for one child at Kind Hearts or Trees of Glory CarePoint in Ethiopia.  You can write letters during the year, and I travel each November with a team of volunteers to work with the kids.  I can match you with a child right away and you can begin writing letters immediately.  We now have over 270 orphaned or destitute children enrolled at our two CarePoints.  All children are sponsored except for the 30 new children that just enrolled  - and we got to meet and spend time with the newest kids while we were in Ethiopia in November.


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