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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Clean Water Flows at Trees of Glory in Ethiopia!

We just received two exciting updates from Ethiopia, from our Trees of Glory CarePoint.  Nearly 150 orphaned and destitute kids attend the CarePoint for meals, school and medical care.   Currently water is carried to the CarePoint in jugs on the back of a donkey from the village spigot or a nearby river.  There is just enough water to use for drinking, cooking and washing hands.  Bathing and washing clothes are a luxury that these kids have not experienced with any regularity.

Drilling started at the end of January on a clean water well at Trees of Glory that will not only serve the CarePoint (and enable them to expand to serve even more children!) but will also serve the community.  When I was in Ethiopia in November, Simret, the CarePoint director, explained that she plans to designate one day each week where the kids will be able to shower and wash their clothes!

When we work with the kids and visit their homes, the lack of water is very evident.  Water is scarce and they walk 45-60 minutes to fill a jug and carry it home - and then it is only used for cooking and drinking.  There is none to spare for washing clothes or for bathing.

That is all about to change at Trees of Glory!  The well has been drilled and now phase 2 is underway.  The pump that will bring the water to the surface and the pipework that will deliver it to faucets at the care-point are under construction now.  The kids and staff are looking forward to the day that water flows abundantly at Trees of Glory.

A trench was dug by hand (with shovels and hard work) 
to bury the pipe that will bring water to the faucets at the CarePoint. 

A water delivery station for washing clothes is constructed. 

The building under construction in the background is part of the new poultry farm!

Another exciting project that is underway at TOG, is the construction of a poultry farm.  To develop a poultry farm, consistent access to fresh, clean water is needed.  The building is under construction now - and the vision at Trees of Glory is to develop a chicken farm that will supply the CarePoint with eggs and meat (protein!) for the kids - and that can also be sold at the local market to generate funds that will help the CarePoint become more self-sufficient.

The big-picture vision for the poultry farm is to train older children to care for and raise chickens - and to also teach local families how to raise chickens in their own backyards.  The farm will also raise and sell chicks to local families to help them start mini-enterprises of their own that can provide food and funds for each family.  Eventually, the team at Trees of Glory envisions this project benefitting up to 1000 families within the surrounding communities and villages, as well as the CarePoint!

The funds for the poultry farm were provided by Buffalo Covenant Church in Minnesota during their Advent fundraiser.  Right after my trip to Ethiopia in November, several members from our volunteer team (Stacy Uecker, Wendy Ling and me) shared about Trees of Glory and Kind Hearts and the poultry farm project.  Before Christmas,  Buffalo Covenant Church raised ALL of the funds to completely provide for this project!

Between the fresh-water well and the poultry farm at Trees of Glory, the staff and kids at Trees of Glory are THANKFUL and amazed at the commitment and outpouring of support.  Because of YOUR ongoing support, prayers and provision, the lives of nearly 150 kids have been dramatically changed and the CarePoint is enrolling more children right now.

As these projects progress and near completion, I will update here with a report and more photos.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New School Uniforms Needed for Kind Hearts Kids

The kids at Kind Hearts CarePoint in Ethiopia are in need of new school uniforms.  If you look closely, you'll see torn zippers on the pants and sweaters, along with ripped pockets.  For the kids that have been attending Kind Hearts for over 2 years, we last purchased uniforms for them in May 2010 (almost 2 years ago).  Those uniforms are still being worn every day to school, unless they have fallen apart or been handed down to a younger child.

In May 2011, we purchased uniforms for the new kids that had just enrolled (about 1 year ago) and those uniforms are still being worn to school every day!

For the newest kids that enrolled in September at the new school year, we could pick them out easily because they don't yet have a school uniform unless they inherited one from an older sibling.

A school uniform includes pants for the boys and pants or a skirt for the girls - along with a long-sleeve white button down shirt and a light blue sweater. The children are each measured and then the uniforms are sewn by a local uniform maker.  The uniforms are designed to fit each child - but with cuffs and longer hems so the child has room to grow and can wear the uniform as long as possible.

In Ethiopia, a school uniform is required for most schools.  The kids attending Kind Hearts were never able to afford uniforms and there were many proud, excited smiles when they first received their new uniforms.  A uniform is not only a welcome and much-needed change of clothes, but they signify that a child is getting a valuable education and they belong at KIND HEARTS!

$20 will provide a new uniform for a single child.  We now have 141 children attending Kind Hearts, so $2,820 needs to be raised to outfit all of the kids with a new uniform. 

Will you help provide funds for a school uniform for the kids at Kind Hearts? 

To see our progress on this fund or to make a donation, please click on this link

As soon as the funds are raised, the children will be measured for new school uniforms and I will post pictures here when they are delivered and given to the kids!

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Joey Austin and her team of volunteers have returned home and she has shared photos and details of their trip.  (For all the families that sent a care-package, I will email you photos as soon as possible.)

The team did a fund-raiser before the trip and raised enough funds to provide shoes for ALL of the kids at Kind Hearts CarePoint.  The kids were measured for shoes before the team arrived, and the shoes were delivered just in time for the team to give them to each child with their care-package.

Here is an update from Joey about their trip!

Almost seven totes full of care packages from around the US made their journey from Kansas City, Missouri all the way to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last week. Lovingly packed bags full of goodies, candies, toys and love notes for sponsor children were all waiting for the day to be opened up and shared. What a privilege to be able to do just that last week!

If you’ve never had the opportunity to personally share a care package with a child at Kind Hearts or Trees of Glory, PLEASE consider doing it at least once in your life! It truly is a moment you will never forget. Traveling that far to love on children who long to just hold your hand, sing songs with you, dance and listen to a note from a land far away is priceless.

The kids knew that morning that something special was coming. They had been measured for new shoes a few weeks before, and as we piled the new shiny pair on top of another...they could hardly contain their excitement. Then, when we started piling the care packages out of the toes...again, one of top of another...they knew today was going to be an extra special day!

The caregivers and teachers had the children sit under a large tree in the shade as they were called, one by one, to the shoe table/care package area. They patiently waited in line as a volunteer in our group and a translator read their sponsor note to them, then went through their goodie bag with them.

I can’t tell you how many times one of our volunteers would start to read a note, then begin to cry. Just reading out loud to these children how much they were loved, over and over again, was sweetly overwhelming and moving. Many times a child would point to the picture with an excited look and tell the translator, “They know me!” or “I remember them!” They loved having a special moment all to themselves with their package.

This was no 20-30 minute feat. It took HOURS...almost four to be exact. And every time I looked over at the quiet group sitting under the large shade tree, patiently waiting their turn for a new pair of shoes and to see if they had a care package, it was enough to bring tears to my eyes. They would have probably waited all day for that moment. In fact, I know they would have. These packages mean more to them than I can ever explain in words to you. Your words that say “You are are loved...we are praying for you...JESUS LOVES YOU!” are words they might never hear from anyone else.

Thank you to all who sent a care package. We did have some children not receive a personal package, but through extra items sent through different families, each child received something! I encourage you--next time there is an opportunity to send something personal to your child, PLEASE do it! It is a highlight that can’t be put into words, both for the volunteer and the child.
Joey Austin with her sponsor child, Hyder.
Our team was truly blessed that day, both at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory. Both experiences were almost identical...children waiting in line, glancing at their packages in earnest excitement and wonder...waiting patiently for their turn with a volunteer and translator. Christmas morning came in March to these precious African children. What a joy for us to be the “hands and feet of Jesus” to deliver them!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Care Packages Delivered to Ethiopia!!

My friend Joey Austin from St Joseph, MO is returning home now with her team of volunteers after spending time with the kids at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory in Ethiopia.  Joey's team generously volunteered to deliver a care-package to each child from their sponsor family (nearly 300 packages for 300 kids!!!) and we will be getting photo updates once they are home and recovered from jet lag.

All of these packages have now been delivered to the
kids at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory in Ethiopia. 
Thank You to Joey Austin's team of volunteers!

On Monday and Tuesday, the team worked with the teaching staff and students at Kind Hearts, and on Wednesday they visited the kids and staff at Trees of Glory.  Joey's team raised enough funds before the trip to be able to provide a new pair of shoes for every child at Kind Hearts (nearly 150 kids).  The kids were measured for shoes before the team arrived, and the shoes were delivered to the care-point during their visit so they could personally provide each child with a pair of shoes fitted just for them!

Here is an excerpt from Joey's blog ...

After a LONG year waiting to see the clean water well (100 meters deep!) we finally were able to see this long awaited project finished! Near the well, three workers were manually digging a large trench to hold the pipeline which will take the water to the Kind Hearts site. In 80 degree heat for eight hours they broke through rock and dirt to clear the way for the trench. Tough work, but what fantastic yields their toil will bring!

The kids were very well behaved and tolerated our attempts at Ethiopian dancing and songs. There are never enough hands to hold theirs, or enough people to throw kids in the air, sing songs with or do (my personal favorite) hand clapping games.

While we were playing with the kids, our teacher crew (Lanette Bocquin, Connie Thornton, Kelsey Lane & Grace Dahlgren) was able to spend some quality mentoring time with the staff at Kind Hearts. They discussed goals, education, classroom skills and much more. What a great opportunity to mesh two cultures and discuss their passions for education.

Even in the midst of great poverty, it is obvious there is a lot of love here between the teachers and kids. They love to be noticed and spend time with anyone who will catch their eye.

Here is another update from Joey's blog from Tuesday when shoes were delivered ...

We squeezed every moment out of our last day at Kind Hearts and even then could have spent just a few more moments with the kids. After singing, dancing, the lesson/craft from the teachers and a quick lunch we were ready to hand out the new shoes!

The brand new leather shoes spilled out onto the tables awaiting their new owners. The children were first lined up that received a sponsor package from their parents, and if you’ve ever witnessed your own children running down the stairs on Christmas morning, then you can begin to imagine the anticipation the children were experiencing as they waited their turn to open their package with a team member and translator.

Kind Hearts kids praying a prayer of thanksgiving!

They oo’d and ah’d over pencils, new underwear, socks, stickers, suckers and more. Each letter was read to the child and many pointed with excited eyes at those sponsors who have visited before! They would point to the picture then back at themselves...”They know me!” one child said.

My personal favorite moment of the day was spent with Hyder (my sponsor child). He was very reluctant last year to spend time with me (no jokes here please!!) and warily said goodbye. This year, he hugged me when he saw me, and throughout the day would catch my eye and smile. When we received his package, he sat on my lap as we went through his package. (I do believe his favorite was the MIZZOU shirt...Go Tigers...)

Joey with her sponsor child, Hyder, at Kind Hearts.

At the end, he hugged me and let me kiss him, then whispered “I love you”. It was a tiny little raspy whisper that melted my heart and the tears began to pour down my face. I’ve loved him for a lot longer than he’s loved me and finally he is reciprocating! I can only liken it to the way God longs for us to KNOW LOVE him...then when we do...WOW!

Each child received a new pair of shoes and their smiles and giggles were contagious. Most children have shoes, although many have more “holes than soles.” Their feet get injured on the dusty, rough terrain and they do not complain and often go barefoot. It was our honor at St. Joseph Christian School to raise funds to purchase shoes for each child. They were measured before-hand so the shoes would fit perfectly. They ran as they left the table and held their dirty, dusty shoes in their other hands. We remarked that many of them strutted away from the table with new confidence. What a pleasure to give them such a special gift!

THANK YOU to Joey and the volunteer team from St Joseph Christian School for demonstrating the love of family and the love of God to our kids at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory CarePoints in Ethiopia!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Buy a cool shirt, help fund orphan-care initiatives in Haita and Moldova ... AND get a chance to win a free mission trip with Children's HopeChest.  Last day to purchase a shirt is March 18!

My friend, Kari Gibson (and fellow adoptive mom) has partnered again with Children's HopeChest to create these limited edition t-shirts to fund projects in Haiti and Moldova. 

If you win the mission trip, you can choose any country that HopeChest works in (hint, hint - join me in Ethiopia in November!!)

CLICK HERE for the details on the Children's HopeChest website.

Or click on the banner below to go directly to the t-shirt store to purchase a shirt.

Here’s all the project information:
  • Mission Trip Giveaway ends March 18th. 1 tee = 1 entry to win.
  • The mission trip winner will be announced on the Children's HopeChest facebook page on April 2nd.
  • Winner wins a free mission trip (value $3000)
  • If you win the mission trip and can't go, you can transfer the trip to someone else.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rejected and Redeemed

My first glimpse of Beti was from a distance as she walked with a group of kids at our Trees of Glory Care-Point.  My eyes followed her and I looked to Simret (the CarePoint director) with a puzzled look on my face.  "Who is she?" I asked.  "Is she enrolled here?"

I recognize almost all of the kids at Trees of Glory and could easily pick out the newest kids - but Beti stood out from the crowd of 150 kids because she has Albinism.  A somewhat rare gene mutation, Albinism is passed on to a child when the recessive gene mutation is inherited from both parents.  It produces a lack of pigment cells in the skin, hair and eyes and is accompanied by visual impairment. 

In African countries, especially in remote rural areas where the disorder is not understood, it can be viewed as a curse and a child can be completely ostracized and rejected by their families and their community.  In some areas of Africa, there have been targeted killings.

This beautiful photo (below) circulated online recently as part of news stories about killings in Tanzania, which have been targeted at people with Albinism.  An evil trade in body parts that supersticion holds have special magical powers.

Beti was as curious about us as we were about her.  By some strange coincidence, there were 4 volunteers with red hair on our team (including me) and Beti was fascinated that we had hair color and light skin similar to hers.  She kept her distance at first (most kids do until they get to know us), shyly watching and observing our activities at the CarePoint. 

She hovered near Simret much of the time, and when she got brave enough to come close enough, I reached my hand out to her and she took my hand.  I folded her into an embrace and held her close as I continued my conversation with Simret.  Within a few minutes, Beti tapped me on my wrist, and pointed to my skin and hers, comparing.  I smiled and nodded - and she cracked a shy smile too.

Later, I had a chance in private to ask Simret about Beti.  Simret explained how Beti was born to a family in a village about a 3 hour drive away.  She had 3 siblings and her entire family "had very dark skin" Simret explained. 

They did not understand how a child with this skin color could be born to their family, and they believed she was a curse.  She was left on her own and oftentimes turned out of her home with no place to go.  There was abuse and neglect, no education and very little provision for her basic needs.  Someone who knew of her situation intervened, and word came to Simret, asking if a child could be placed permanently at the CarePoint.

Of course Simret opened her arms and her heart to this child.  Simret told me how Beti is wary and scared, and oftentimes aggressive if she feels threatened.  But she is safe and loved and going to school and Simret and the kids are teaching her to trust again.

One of our volunteers, Julie Fernandez, noticed Beti right away too and asked me if she was new (yes) and does she have a sponsor (no).  At that moment, Julie asked if her family could be Beti's sponsor family (YES!).  Julie spent that evening selecting items for a special gift for Beti.

We then sat down with Simret and a few other staff members to explain why Beti's skin was painfully red (sunburn), why her eyes were so watery from the blinding, harsh sun, and why her lips were cracked and bleeding (sunburn).  Julie showed Beti and the staff how to use sunscreen (and we explained how all of us had to use it to avoid a painful sunburn) and wear a hat, long sleeves and sunglasses.  Upon donning the sunglasses, Beti's was able to open her eyes instead of squinting and she stood up and gave Julie an extravagant hug.

Beti lives full-time at Trees of Glory CarePoint now and Julie's sponsorship provides for all of her basic needs (nutritious food, clean water, clothing, medical care, education and Christian discipleship) while she learns to love and trust again under Simret's compassionate care.