Alyssa Carrel recently returned from a brief stint as a volunteer with ER partner African Hope Trust. Here she details its work with vulnerable children and its plans to build a new safe house.
My time at African Hope Trust was brief, but oh how refreshing. I struggle to adequately describe what it felt like walking into the two African Hope Trust safe houses, but suffice to say, acceptance, love and peace were a big part of it. The women who run the homes aren’t devoid of struggle, but they all exude a sense of peace and quiet confidence.
Located in the South African township of Masiphumelele, just south of Cape Town, these homes are a safe haven for abandoned, orphaned and abused children. Each employs one to two trained house moms and provides a stable environment for five to seven kids.
Judging from a letter one of the children wrote for Mother’s Day, it’s evident that they know how much they are loved – even when discipline is involved. I couldn’t help laughing when I read, “Thank you for shouting at us in love so that we can understand that it is wrong.”
In addition to its work with kids, African Hope Trust cares for people in emergency circumstances. In the five years since it opened its doors, African Hope Trust has been able to address some 15 short-term emergency cases, such as relocating a child from an abusive uncle’s home. The Trust’s philosophy is while it cannot care for every child in need, it can love as many as possible.
Approximately 40,00 people reside in Masiphumelele, with 50% of them believed to be HIV positive. While anti-retroviral drugs are readily available and free of charge, many still live in fear of the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, and therefore refuse to be tested or treated. Consequently, countless children are left to fend for themselves.
Before African Hope Trust began, only one orphanage existed in Masiphumelele, and it was created for older children. With African Hope Trust, a gap is being filled, at least in part, for younger children in need.
African Hope Trust now is seeking to build and open a third home in Masiphumelele, which would allow for the care of six more children. That would mean six fewer children living in extreme circumstances and wondering where their next meal will come from.
These children need someone to love them and African Hope Trust offers exactly that. The “mamas” care for the children as they do their own. In one of the children’s words, “They give me more love that I didn’t have before.” All these mamas want is a chance to love them – to show them a love that is greater than life. Listening to these kids, it’s evident they have succeeded.
Click here to learn more about African Trust and its plans for a new safe home.
ER’s Jenny Reitz Compere represents House of Hope in Haiti, a children’s home that cares for up to 80 kids who are orphaned, neglected or abandoned, many suffering from health issues. House of Hope is located in northern Haiti. In her most recent update, she shared this heart-warming cause for celebration.
“Greetings to all our friends and supporters. Thank you so much for the prayers for our students who were writing the exams. They all feel they did pretty well — time will tell — now they just have to wait to get the results back, which will likely take a month or two.
“A couple of months ago, two of our lovely little girls found a forever family here in Haiti. Our pediatrician here at the hospital had a sister who wanted to adopt some children. Unable to have their own children, she asked her sister to watch out for some little girls who needed a home. She found two of our little girls, Rose and Julienne, who do not have homes to return to.
“They came up from Port-au-Prince to meet the girls and it was love at first sight! Now, the girls have joined their family and are fitting right in. As you can see from the picture of Rose in their new home, they appear to be very happy.
“It doesn’t happen often (adoptions), but when it does we are thrilled to have our little ones find a family here in Haiti to adopt them. As you can imagine, it was an emotionally difficult day when they came to take the girls with them. Both girls have been with us since they were just a few months old. Yet we are thankful for more people in Haiti who are willing to love and care for these children and now we can receive others in their place. We look forward to filling their beds again!
“Thanks for your support that helps us bring hope in so many different ways to the children and youth who come through our doors.”
Read more about House of Hope here, sign up for their blog here and make donations here.
ER’s Paul Fernane directs short-term teams in the Americas, with a majority of those trips taking place in Ecuador where he is stationed. Below, Paul shares the recent impact created by a team from Washington state.
The team from Kennewick Baptist Church did an awesome job of strengthening their relationship with our partner Buen Pastor, an organization that serves impoverished people in Pifo, Ecuador. The team worked alongside ER staff and spent some special moments with them throughout their stay. The staff opened their homes, shared meals, challenged the team and created memories.
ER’s Jose and Teresa Jimenez, who also pastor a church in nearby San Carlos, hosted the team at their home and enjoyed having the team help with their Community Kids Clubs.
The team spent time in three different communities and brought joy to the kids there. It is fun to see how spending time with kids and playing simple games like Duck, Duck, Goose, providing a craft and Beanie Baby can brighten up a kid’s face.
One of the most impactful time was when the team visited three families that earn their living recycling items from the Quito garbage. The first visit was hard. Margarita, the wife and mother of the first family, was physically and emotionally abused the night before we met. We had to meet her at the Quito Family Resource Center because she had to leave her home. The team had brought food, clothes, hygiene items and a soccer ball for her children.
However, the team demonstrated warmth to her that morning and that meant so much more than the gifts. The team visited two more families that day and delivered the items and demonstrated heartfelt love to them too.
The classroom construction took shape during 10 days. Pastor Ramiro said no group had tried to do three classrooms before and complimented the team for giving such great effort. The classrooms will be a huge blessing to the high school when classes resume after the summer break.
The team is already brainstorming about what to do in 2017.
Want to bring a team of volunteers and impact the lives of at-risk families in one of the 10 countries where ER serves? Our short-term teams typically spend 7-10 days doing educational support, sports camps, home/school construction, light maintenance and health screenings. Click here to learn more.
ER’s Robbie Murdock shares this story about how one boy’s life will be changed forever because of the work that takes in the After-School Program at the Quito Family Resource Center.
Sebastian has been part of our after school program since September of 2014 when he started first grade. This year we started to notice that he was behind. While the other kids in his grade were reading and writing by themselves, Sebastian couldn’t recognize even the letters that made up the words he was trying to read. Writing was not even an option. The result of being behind meant he was constantly frustrated during homework time. He was regularly acting out and causing problems. It was also nearly impossible for him to do his homework without one of our teachers sitting down next to him and writing out his answers for him to copy.
When we got his grades from school we realized that the problem was worse than we thought. His teacher was ignoring how behind he was and giving him passing grades in every course. For Sebastian to finish this year and go on to the third grade without the ability to read and write would spell disaster, so we decided to take action.
We began a lesson plan to work on his letter recognition and his reading skills immediately. Our teacher Erika would spend about a half hour before our program working hard with Sebastian, and it was amazing how quickly the results came. Within a month of working with him one-on-one, Sebastian was able to write words that we said to him.
He still has a long way to go. He struggles with reading comprehension and still needs to work at spelling independently, but we are confident that he is going to move on to the third grade and succeed.
Click here to learn more about the kids of Dump families, and how we are providing them with help and hope.
Jason left home at a young age, deciding that Manila street life was preferable to living with an abusive and negligent father.
He scavenged garbage for recyclers and sold illegally acquired tickets to sporting events and concerts. He had not been to school since he was in fifth grade, but deep down, he had a dream to finish his studies.
Three years ago, Jason began a remarkable comeback story when he learned about Support A Child Community Learning Center, a new ER partner in Quezon City, a Manila suburb.
Along with other street children and out-of-school youth, Jason enrolled in Alternative Learning System (ALS), a non-formal education plan operated by Support a Child and other organizations for the local Department of Education.
Jason failed his first ALS exam. But he didn’t learn to survive on the street without a streak of tenacity, and he put that to use in his new studies. He continued his education and ultimately passed the entrance exam for Working Hands, a vocational skills program in which he took up computer literacy training.
Today Jason, 18, is one of SCSF’s junior staff members for serving street children, and is active in the organization’s youth discipleship program. In March he graduated from Working Hands with certification in computer technology. There to witness his accomplishment were his older brother and his mother, Lyn, whom he not seen in some 15 years. She made a 36-hour trip by boat to be with her son for the occasion.
Jason now is embarking on an on-the-job training initiative that will enhance his computer skills and prepare him for a career in computers.
Meanwhile he’ll continue to serve street children, and he has expressed interest in becoming a pastor
Considering the determination he’s exhibited in his young life so far, he’ll achieve that goal too. And he’ll surely be an inspiration to many.
Children are known for their wild imaginations, the stories they create, the way they dream. But for a child growing up in poverty, dreams are a luxury they typically can’t afford.
That’s why the South Africa Dream Centre is so important to children like Kayleen.
This adorable little spitfire from Zimbabwe is a joy to be around. Consider this recent snippet of conversation:
Me: “Do you like school?”
Me: “Why not?”
Kayleen: “It’s a lot of work.”
I think we can all relate. Her honest answers mirror that of the typical 6-year-old, but don’t be fooled: This girl knows how to work.
I have been privileged to watch Kayleen in action, and let me tell you, when she puts her mind to something, she gets it done. For example, one day I watched her, surrounded by the sort of distractions that come with the territory in an after-school children’s program, set laser-like focus on a story she was reading about go-karts; she didn’t look up until she read the final word.
I was impressed. If she can maintain that kind of focus, she’ll go far – despite odds that are stacked against her. Living in South Africa, Kayleen is part of a system that puts the expense of education in the hands of the parents. And many of those hands are occupied with finding work to keep food on the table and a roof over their families’ heads. Education is viewed as a luxury, not a necessity.
South Africa has 11 official languages, but most teaching is done in English. For Kayleen and many other children, English is a second, third or even fourth language, which makes homework a struggle. If the parents haven’t learned English, it can be downright impossible.
That’s where the Dream Centre seeks to fill in the gaps. Run by ER staffers Ron and Amy Townsend (pictured here with their children), the Dream Centre is a safe place for Cape Town-area kids to receive food, love, tutoring and the chance to dream of a future free of poverty.
The Townsends are fully invested in this venture. They desire to live life alongside these kids – to see them through graduation and on to college. Their hope is that by working with and loving on the children, their families also will be positively impacted.
While much of this is a vision toward the future, I have already experienced the impact they’re having on families today. I have seen parents pour out their hearts with gratitude to the Townsends for all they do for their children. Love is a powerful communicator. It needs no translation.
The Townsends – and the rest of the Dream Centre team – want these kids to know, above all else, that they are loved. They’re teaching families that there’s more to life than just survival – that poverty can be overcome and dreams can be realized.
Click here to read more about the Townsends and the Dream Centre.
Alyssa Carrel is native to Michigan. She’s passionate about the written word, children, South Africa and the melodies. Alyssa is native to Michigan. Alyssa visited Extreme Response Africa and spent time working at the Dream Centre, where she worked with at-risk kids in the after-school program.
Canadian Aimee Hurtubise is helping to change lives through Ignite South Africa. Extreme Response Canada is pleased to be the sending organization for Aimee.
The first time I drove into Qwa Qwa, South Africa, I knew I was home. I still feel that way 10 years later. Although I have spent half of the last decade living in Canada, the moment I moved back to Qwa Qwa last year I knew I had returned to a place that will always be my home away from home.
Qwa Qwa is a place filled with challenges, endless potential, cold winters and the warmest people. It is where I get to make a difference in the lives of orphaned and at-risk youth while being surrounded by my African family, and I can’t imagine doing life any other way.
I am able to do this work through Ignite South Africa. This organization is dedicated to developing leaders of all ages and empowering them to impact their schools, communities, country and homes.
Many young women in Qwa Qwa struggle with unplanned pregnancies. The girls typically range in age from 13-18, although I’ve seen them as young as 12. Most will keep their babies because adoption is seen in a very negative light in our community, although we will walk with the girls through either parenting or adoption.
Statistically, 25% will be HIV positive and suffer from hunger and poor nutrition. Those who will be staying with us have no where else to live. They are afraid, alone and overwhelmed. If they are orphaned or have been kicked out of their home for being pregnant, they also may be dealing with abandonment issues.
While there are no accurate statistics on teenage pregnancies in our area, we believe they are on the rise. There are flyers advertising “safe” illegal abortions on every pole, board or free space in our community. So many girls choose abortion because there is no support for them should they decide to become a parent or gift their child through adoption. We want to provide an alternative and make parenting a viable option for these girls.
House of Refuge
The Ntlo ya Setshabelo (House of Refuge) is a maternity home for orphaned or at-risk pregnant teens that we are in the process of developing. Our vision is to offer a place of safety, mentoring and encouragement to provide a solid foundation.
The girls who enter our program will be in intermediate or high school, have limited or no support from their families and must agree to fully participate in the home’s practices. This means they want to learn how to be a good mom and are willing to put in the effort.
The girls will be expected to continue their education and attend classes designed to help their development, including budgeting and life/parenting/small business skills needed to help support their families. We try to offer everything they will need to parent on their own. Our goal is to see them graduate as capable and confident mothers who will positively impact their children and their communities.
Our mentoring program will connect each girl with an older female from the community who can guide and support them. Each girl will begin this relationship while living in the home with the hope it will continue throughout her lifetime.
Ignites’ Executive Director June Blanshan shares this background on why we are introducing the the home.
“We decided to move forward with the home when we discovered that the girls were experiencing abuse and manipulation by providing sex in exchange for food, toiletries and other items. Their situations already appeared hopeless, but adding pregnancy into the mix made these girls feel trapped. Often they choose ‘safe, pain-free abortions’, which translates into illegal abortions. We believe the death rate, sterility and other complications from these unregulated clinics to be astronomically high.”
The Story of Mpho
Blanshan also shares this story about a girl who Ignite helped.
Mpho (named changed to protect her privacy) was planning to end her pregnancy as she was already was struggling to support her three-year-old child. It was difficult for her to even to put food on their table and most days they did not have electricity. She was HIV positive and the father refused to be involved. She was alone and scared.
“One of our Ignite leaders knew her and shared about adoption. I was called in to talk with Mpho because I had gifted a child for adoption. Mpho was excited about this opportunity and decided adoption would be a good choice for her. We promised to walk alongside her and help her connect with services in the community.
“Unfortunately, Mpho’s delivered her baby the next week, prior to contacting social workers. She informed the nurses and a hospital social worker of her intent to place her child for adoption and therefore she did not want to see the baby. The response was…I’m sure you can guess.
“Mpho was basically ignored, or when spoken to, demeaned. The social worker and nurses were downright cruel. Finally, the social worker informed Mpho she would be in the hospital for six months if she wanted to adopt her baby because that was how long court time would take. Mpho already had a child at home who needed to be cared for, so this was not an option. The social worker sat down with us and shared a ‘secret’. If Mpho said she would keep her baby, they would discharge her. What she did with the child after that was completely up to her.
“Mpho chose that option and we cared for her baby as she thought through what she wanted to do. After a week she decided to keep and raise her baby. We remain involved with the family and help as we can. All three are doing well.”
Based on this experience, we decided to provide the support systems and identify other community support for the young mothers. Currently, my efforts are focused on building a solid foundation for the home. This includes applying for grants and fundraising to allow us to purchase and furnish the actual dwelling. Our goal is to open our doors to our first pregnant teens by the end of 2016.
Interested in helping Aimee? Contact her via email, follow her on Facebook or click here to partner with Ignite South Africa.
Last September, the world lost a selfless humanitarian, humble servant and courageous leader. Paul Cripps, Extreme Response Canada co-founder with his wife, Linda, had dedicated his life to helping others. While his passing has left a hole in Extreme Response International, his legacy is alive.
Paul’s passion for helping people who live in dire need brought him to Africa, Asia and the Americas. He was tireless in not only visiting the poor in settlements, barrios and squatter communities around the world, but also in sharing their needs with anyone who would listen. He was a frequent speaker throughout Canada and the U.S., encouraging people to get involved in helping to change the lives of the poor.
Paul and Linda led or participated in volunteer teams in Ecuador, the Philippines, South Africa, Brazil and other developing countries. Their compassion has been contagious. Countless people continue to become short-term volunteers and serve others as a result of their example.
Perhaps one of Paul’s strongest qualities was displaying courage while fighting cancer, a reoccurring enemy that finally ended his life on earth. Even while battling cancer for many years, Paul remained focused on meeting the needs of people living in extreme poverty and helping our partners who serve them.
Today, Linda is carrying on their shared passion. She serves as president of ER Canada and continues to raise funds, support partners and assist those who seek to go to foreign countries to serve. Linda shared these thoughts after viewing the award ceremony via Skype:
“After watching the award ceremony, I wiped a tear away and thanked God for a great group of men who wanted to honor Paul’s memory,” she said. “Courage is a wonderful word; it’s both adjective and verb. It can describe a characteristic of a person, but shows the action in someone’s life.
“The courage Paul demonstrated in the last 16 years of his life, especially the last four or five years, exemplifies his true dedication. He was willing to give his life for his passion of helping to change the lives of others through ER and all our partners.
“Many of our partners can echo with me the times Paul would be walking beside in their world them with yet another personal medical issue that needed attention while away from the comforts of his doctor. He left his fate in the hands of his Heavenly Father.
Because of his humbleness, Paul would say, ‘oh friends, this award is not necessary’. But as his wife, I truly thank each of you for this lasting memorial, a tribute that his brothers in arms will share and a legacy that can be remembered every year going forward. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Rich Brown Receives First Paul Cripps Courage Award
Extreme Response sought to recognize Paul in a way that would pay tribute to his strong faith, generosity and leadership. Paul was a cornerstone of ER’s Leadership Community, having coached and encouraged developing leaders worldwide.
Russ Cline, ER Chief Development Officer who heads up our Leadership Community, was inspired to create the Paul Cripps Courage Award.
The very first Paul Cripps Courage Award was presented at the 2016 Leader Mundial Summit to Rich Brown, founder and president of Inca Link. In presenting the award, Russ highlighted Rich’s huge vision, fearlessness and willingness to help at-risk youth throughout from locations in Ecuador and Peru.
Rich is married to Lisa and has four children, Olivia, 22, Michaela, 20, Josiah, 18, and Alexa, 15. His vision is to help 300 million at-risk youth in Latin America through leadership training, networking and compassion programming. His strategies include using short-term volunteer teams, interns and donated resources to engage youth throughout the Latin world.
So you’ve survived winter and are looking for something exciting to do this year. You’ve thought about planning a vacation, but the idea of another beach trip leaves you empty. Fortunately for you, we’ve got the perfect solution: Join an Extreme Response Christmas team and help change lives!
Join an ER Christmas team? Why would you want to do that?
We’re glad you asked. Here are seven reasons why you would be crazy not to join a team.
1. Why settle for celebrating Christmas once when you can celebrate it seven-plus times? ER Christmas teams go where few others go in order to connect with people living in extreme conditions. Our Christmas teams typically host at least one party each day for a week, with each party taking place in a unique setting.
2. You dislike “touristy” trips. We feel your pain. Nothing screams “snoozer” like a visit to some man-made theme park or shopping district. As part of an ER Christmas team, you’ll meet real people living on the edge of society and you’ll play a central role in providing them with hope!
3. Your passport needs a stamp from Ecuador, the Philippines or South Africa. How can you say you’ve seen the world without visiting one or all of these incredible countries?
4. You want more friends. Christmas teams are a great way to meet people who share your passions. You’ll enjoy meeting people from different places and learning about their lives.
5. You still have a couple megabytes of space left on your digital camera. Get ready, because you’ll meet some of the cutest kids on the planet. You’ll be physically unable to resist snapping pics of them having the time of their life. For most kids, it will be their only chance to celebrate Christmas.
6. Your heart needs warming. Exhausting jobs, household chores and busy schedules can suck the life out of us. It’s easy to misplace our compassion. We’ll help you find it! Every day will be filled with opportunities to help “the least of these”.
7. You’ve always wanted to join “an assembly line of love”. Our teams participate in something we like to call “organized chaos”. This is when we gather as a team to assemble gift bags for the children. It’s actually a bit of slap-happy fun and a great way to bond with your team.
So we’ve shared some fun and funky reasons to join a Christmas team, but the real reason is that you’ll be investing into the lives of people who are often forgotten by society…families who live in squatter communities, people who glean their living picking through the trash for recyclables, children who are sick, abandoned or orphaned, and the victims of human trafficking. These are the people we reach and we’d love to have you join us.
If you’ve never been on an ER Christmas team, perhaps this is the year. We’re celebrating 20 years of Christmas parties, starting with the very first one (see a video of that party) in the Quito Dump in 1997. In the years since, we’ve become more organized and efficient as you can see in these more recent video. But one thing hasn’t changed. We continue to share the story – and joy – of Christmas to those who eagerly want to receive it.
By Anne Benavidez, Golden Hands Livelihood Educational Program Director
Like caterpillars emerging as beautiful butterflies from their cocoons, eight members of the Golden Hands Livelihood Education Program celebrated being the program’s very first graduates. Each of the women wore dresses they made themselves and enjoyed a time of recognition, glamour and thankfulness.
The graduation ceremony was a very big deal. You see, all of these women came from humble backgrounds. Most live in squatter communities and struggle with extreme poverty, substandard living conditions and a lack of opportunity.
Two years ago, none of them would have envisioned themselves being celebrated. They had little hope that their lives would improve. But today, in a fancy ceremony that involved flowers, photos and the presentation of new sewing machines as graduation gifts, the women were honored for their achievements.
So what caused the transformation to take place?
The short answer is that people cared. Extreme Response Asia staff members saw the needs and became determined to find a way to encourage, inspire and equip these women to strive for better lives. We saw the potential in the women, even though many of the women could not yet see it in themselves.
Our desire to help the women led to the formation of the Golden Hands Sewing group, which evolved into the Golden Hands Livelihood Educational Program a year later. We had to change the name because the program was accomplishing far more than teaching sewing skills.
For one, the women were discovering self-respect and confidence. For another, they were growing trusted new relationships. They also were learning life skills, business skills and spiritual depth. They were becoming well-rounded people, filled with hope and grace.
So that’s why celebrating the graduation of eight women from the Golden Hands program was so big. It was so much more than certificates and gifts. We affirmed them in a very powerful way.
To get to this point, the women had to commit to attend weekly classes for eight months and finish all their assignments. They had to learn cutting, pattern making, basic sewing, crocheting and some knitting. Eight of 10 enrollees made it all the way through the program.
As a special incentive, ER provided a sewing machine and starter kit for all eight graduates. Going forward, the women will receive continuous training and coaching. Most of them are planning to start businesses, including six who want to pool their capital, work as a team and share profits.
During the last year, the women have built a lot of self-confidence, created a community among themselves and become closer than ever. They acquired skills that they say will not be taken away from them, that they will bring with them wherever they go. Even if they are forced to leave the places where they now live, they will bring skills that will provide livelihood wherever they relocate. They now have a weapon to fight poverty.
Anne Benavidez is the director of the Golden Hands Livelihood Educational Program located in Makati City near Manila. Click here and here to learn more about the Golden Hands program.