Category Archives: Changing Lives

Lighthouse Shines Joy into the Lives of South Africa Families

Ron Townsend & GLL kids

 

970299_614864335190262_1175523254_nBy Amy Townsend, ER Staff,                                                                                                                      Cape Town, South Africa

GLL kidFor a glimpse at the impact of God’s Little Lighthouse (GLL), just consider Gabriel and her four siblings. This daycare and school for young children in Fish Hoek, South Africa, has cared for each of these underprivileged youngsters since they were pre-school age. The oldest now attends university and two more are thriving at local schools in grades 6 and 11. Gabriel, the youngest, is similarly enjoying educational opportunities she wouldn’t have otherwise.

Thanks to the love and commitment of “Aunty Pam” and her late husband, Rob, GLL has engendered countless stories of youngsters rescued from poverty – native South Africans as well Zimbabwean, Congolese and Malawian immigrants.

The organization is one of more than a dozen overseen by ER partner ATAIM. It was launched some 26 years ago, when Rob and Aunty Pam took notice of the poverty and despair local children were suffering.

The couple desired to bring hope to these children. But never did they imagine the stories that would be told in their community about GLL – stories of hope where there was hopelessness, friendship where there was loneliness, and happiness where there was despair. Each story told not just of children who were blessed to have a spot in the preschool program, but of their families and communities as well.

Auntie PamWhen there is not enough food to feed the children at home or a family struggle to pay tuition, Aunty Pam finds a way to provide. When difficult circumstances abound in a child’s home life, she and her staff provide hugs. It is not unusual to be playing outside with the children and see a young gentleman or lady come looking for Aunty Pam. Many times they just want to spend some time in the place that provided food, safety and love during their early years. They never walk through the gate without a huge smile on their face, and they never leave without a hug.

One pair of local parents dropped their first child off at GLL 15 years ago. During the course of those years and a litany of life changes, GLL and Aunty Pam were the constant in their lives. When the couple became foster parents, they naturally turned to GLL for help.

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Today the mother says, “Besides my two biological sons and my nephew, Aunty Pam and her wonderful staff have helped us raise four other children. Now I have enrolled three more foster children in GLL. I look forward to another five years of happiness and support that we get from everyone at the school.”

It is no wonder GLL has a waiting list for the next school year. Love and compassion, the kind provided by Aunty Pam and her staff, are in high demand

Click here to learn more about GLL and ATAIM. 

970299_614864335190262_1175523254_nAmy and Ron Townsend work at God’s Little Lighthouse on loan from Extreme Response. The Townsends and their three daughters, Emily, Hannah and Sarah, recently moved to South Africa to help Extreme Response establish a regional presence. Click here to learn more about Extreme Response’s vision helping people in Africa.  Click here to learn more about our partners in South Africa, Kenya, and Malawi.

Donated iPads Open Up New Worlds for Kids with Disabilities

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Cyndi Maloy“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t being said”.                              ~Author Unknown

By Cyndi Maloy, ER Latin America Writer

Most of us never think about what a gift it is to be able to communicate using our words. That’s not possible for some of the children with disabilities at For His Children (FHC), an ER partner working with at-risk and abandoned children in Ecuador. These sweet kiddos are trapped inside their bodies, knowing what they want to say, but not being able to do so.

IMAG0154Recently, a group of 17 university students from Northeastern University in Boston came to volunteer with FHC and brought with them iPads designed to open up the world of communication for these precious children. Each iPad is loaded with programs specifically tailored to that child’s abilities. Within an hour of receiving the iPads, these special kids were using their devices to communicate for the very first time.

In addition to teaching the children how to use the iPads, the students taught the caregivers to use them, allowing them to communicate directly with the children using something besides “yes” and “no” questions.

As the photos with this story demonstrate, technology plus caring hearts can open worlds that were once closed. Kudus to FHC and Northeastern University, and thanks for letting ER be a small part of making life better for these special children.

IMAG0126For His Children works in Quito and Latacunga, Ecuador. The organization serves homeless children, providing care in a loving and supportive environment, striving to unite them with their biological or adoptive family, and advocating on their behalf to others. Learn more about the work of For His Children at: http://tinyurl.com/ooyqhhy.

Samuel’s Trees Bring Hope to “Big Devil” Community in Haiti

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By Krischelle Frost and Bonita Sparling, Lemuel Ministries

True transformational change often happens like a tree grows…slowly, imperceptibly.

1-GrannFor more than 60 years, Mérilia Dumesle (Grann) has lived on the Plateau. She has seen the years of plenty turn to years of want. Grann remembers the Plateau when trees covered the mountains and the rains still fell— before it became a barren desert, a place forsaken.

For Grann, hope returned when her grandson, Manis Dilus came back to the Plateau. He established Lemuel, a community development organization with a message that the people in this tiny little spot in Haiti’s infamous Northwest were not forgotten. From that day, things began to change.

Samuel’s Trees: How it all began

Seven years later, Manis met Samuel Schӓfer, who was in Haiti to do civil service work for the German government. Manis shared with Samuel his heart and vision for the community of Grand Diable (Big Devil), the name of the plateau where Lemuel is located. Part of this was a desire to see a land that had been laid to waste by years of deforestation filled with life again. Manis helped Samuel to understand that in order to survive years of hardship, the people cut down the trees to make charcoal, in turn exacerbating drought and erosion.

1-IMG_20150128_092941Manis explained that a different way had to be taught by visible example: “You must show people how to bring life back to the land by doing it yourself in front of their eyes.”

After arriving on the Plateau, Manis had been laboring to this end, having started on the Lemuel campus. But he had a bigger dream: to buy the vast acres of wasteland surrounding the community—land that had once been gardens, but that now was abandoned to erosion and cacti—and to reforest it into a usable resource.

12897_10152934799909425_7324039106761030895_nInspired by Manis’ vision and example, Samuel determined to do something. He returned to Haiti, purchased five acres of the wasteland, and hired three young men from the area to help him. It was a seemingly impossible task. The land was full of rocks, gullies, and nasty thorns, and it was open to the destructive habits of roaming livestock. There was no water there. As a skeptical community looked on, Samuel’s team took up their pick-axes and shovels under the brutal Haitian sun

10537366_10152934797404425_4728162443988720764_nand completely transformed a place of nothingness into a land full of hope and potential—in less than one year! Today, they have planted over 1,000 trees.

A place to return

Samuel was eager to show Grann what was happening on the land. Her health and legs are not what they used to be, but at Samuel’s invitation, she took up her walking stick and slowly made her way over the distance. As she entered the gate, a smile crossed her face. “Now,” she said to Samuel, “you will always have a place to return to.”

iGx61Sk3lFZew58crkOnZUvGpRhAwUA9zeB02CvCdu4“A place to return to”…that is part of the vision for Lemuel. Lemuel exists to invest in the growth and development of people, so that they may escape the vicious cycle of poverty, and carry the pattern of reaching out to others through future generations. As we do this, it is our desire for the next generation to see that they have a place to return to—a place where life, hope, and purpose have reappeared – and to break the pattern of exodus from Haiti’s countryside.

Reforestation is only a part of this, but it serves as a powerful visual to a deeper reality. True transformational change often happens like a tree grows…slowly, imperceptibly. Planting the tree is only the beginning; the fruit will be seen by the children to come. Yet, if no one prepares the ground, plants the seed or tends to the sapling over the long years, there will be no tree at all.

JvIHQjupvnUsbwMGM1aR-U8p4pOS4ohZEJxtKMpqcncHere on the Plateau, indifference and doubt in the community have begun to change into appreciation and inspiration. As the people learn to value what they are seeing, they will reproduce it in their own area of influence. Samuel’s Trees remind us there is hope for a better future for our children, but it must start with us.

The work at Samuel’s Trees is far from finished. They have plans to buy more land and to build a tree nursery. In order to continue moving forward, we need people willing to invest in hope for the future.

IMG_0113For more information about Samuel’s Trees, and to see how you can be involved, please visit www.samuelstrees.blogspot.com.

To learn more about Lemuel and the various ways it is investing in people, please visit the website at www.lemuelministries.org.

Changing Fear into Confidence

RamilThanks to Youth Mobilization’s Loving Approach, a Once-Fearful 5-Year-Old Has Blossomed into a Star Student

Youth Mobilization (Youth Mob), an ER partner near Manila, Philippines, helps further the education of children through its Abot Pag-ibig (Reach Out with Love) program. Ramil is one such student whose life is being changed by the program.

Youth Mob first met Ramil during the ER Christmas party last year. Out of 40 children who received gifts of school supplies, toys and hygiene items, he stood out because he cried incessantly. Youth Mob staff met his mother, Dacelyn, and learned of Ramil’s insecurity. When he was in a group situation, she said, he feared he would lose her.

Ramil and DacelynYouth Mob arranged for Ramil, 5, to enroll in Abot Pag-ibig, which serves children in an impoverished community called Taguig. The program’s year-long curriculum teaches children to discover self-worth and find love among their families, friends and community. For Ramil, that meant giving him ample attention and encouraging him to participate in group lessons and activities.

“We noticed that he gradually joined in activities and lesson discussions,” says Youth Mob’s Mackie Custodio. “As we go through lessons on building strong values in children, we are starting to see good changes in his character and how he communicates to the group.”

Dacelyn also sees evidence of change in her increasingly confident son. Week after week, she says, Ramil comes home excited to tell her about the lessons and show off his activity sheets. He’s even agreed to play a role in an upcoming school play.

“We desire that, little by little, we will produce hope-filled children through values formation in this poor community,” Custudio says. “We want to build strong relationships with these families and show them that we care for their children. We want to know their deepest needs and find ways to help them.”

To learn more about Youth Mobilization and other ER partners in Asia, visit http://www.extremeresponse.org/our-partners/asia

Tunnels to the Future

Phase 2 with chickens

Gerrit KleynhansBy Gerrit Kleynhans, Farm Manager, Living Hope

Living Hope is a longtime ER partner located near Cape Town, South Africa. The following story reflects how its Agriculture and Business Training Programme is creating sustainability by teaching students tunnel farming (tunnel-shaped greenhouses) along with successful business practices. This story first appeared in Living Hope’s February 2015 newsletter.

Tapiwa Chasumba is a businessman at heart. Prior to starting the Agriculture and Business Programme, he ran his own barbershop and sold CDs. Upon enrolling in Phase 1 of the programme, Tapiwa learned the importance of moving into untapped markets and strategically positioning products.

“In class we did a project selling oranges in Masiphumelele (a large local settlement),” says Tapiwa. “People liked buying them from me because no one else was selling oranges.”

Einstein chickenTapiwa quickly realized this was an untapped market for fresh, high-quality produce and began selling tomatoes he had grown on the farm. When the training took a break for the extended Christmas holiday our staff encouraged students to continue to utilize their knowledge to develop their business skills. Tapiwa knew he wanted to expand his new produce stand and had just the place in mind.

“At the entrance to Masiphumelele everyone seemed to think you could only sell second-hand clothes. So I decided to put up a table to sell produce. There is no competition for me.”

He arranged to go with a friend to the commercial market in Epping, located 25 miles north of his home, where produce is sold in bulk. Upon seeing what was available, he contracted a person to source produce from the market and bring it to Masiphumelele for his stand.

“At first I was just selling when I had the time,” says Tapiwa. “But then people kept asking, ‘When are you selling?’ and I realized that it was important for me to sell every day because people should know they can buy from you every time.”

Tapiwa produce standTapiwa now sells produce to the community every day of the week. “In the morning before class I get my tables out and produce set up. Then my wife sells during the day. Before this, my wife was sitting at home doing nothing. Now she starts selling at 8 a.m. each day and goes until 7 p.m.

“It is a good place to be because everyone is walking past on their way to work or coming home. Even cars stop to buy. I am selling grapes, tomato, kale, potatoes, onions, pears, many things.”

When asked about his future business opportunities, Tapiwa says with a confident smile, “I’m expecting it to grow”.

Tapiwa’s business is growing because of the skills he learned through the Agricultural and Business Programme. We look forward to his continued learning and more great things to come.

Living Hope is looking for sponsors and volunteers with farm experience to boost its Agriculture and Business Training Programme. Interested? Visit www.livinghope.co.za

Gerrit Kleynhans manages the Agriculture and Business Training Programme for Living Hope. Living Hope’s slogan is “Bringing Hope, Breaking Despair”. Collectively, it reaches more than 40,000 people annually through programs that fight homelessness, poverty, HIV/AIDS/TB and other chronic diseases, unemployment, and substance abuse. 

Each year, Extreme Response sends volunteer teams to work with Living Hope, including a Christmas Celebration team scheduled for Nov. 15-25, 2015. To learn more, visit www.extremeresponse.org/our-programs/christmas-celebrations

 

 

A Fighter With A Future

Belwop Girls

Kenyan Teen Overcomes Extreme Circumstances to Graduate from Secondary School

Hillary WolfeBy Hilary Wolfe, ER Contributing Writer

 

Salome faced long odds as she entered adolescence. Growing up in poverty, losing a mother and living with an alcoholic father will do that to a person. But a fighting spirit, big dreams and a loving support network helped this determined Kenyan blossom into a young woman with a bright future. 

IMG_4800Salome was just coming into her “tween” years when her mother passed away. She had to drop out of school so she could work to provide food for her three younger sisters. She became the family’s provider and was often forced to fight off her alcoholic father from stealing what little they had. On numerous occasions, she found herself running to the local hospital, located several kilometers away, with an ailing sister in her arms.

Salome and her sisters were brought home to Belwop Rescue Centre (http://www.thebelwopproject.com) in Nyeri, Kenya in 2008. This ER partner cares for orphaned, abused and otherwise vulnerable children, and unlike some children’s homes, doesn’t set a cutoff age at which children can no longer live there. The house manager, Veronica, nurtures the children as if they were her own and works tirelessly to ensure their readiness when they do leave.

With counseling and support from the Belwop staff, Salome was able to simply be a child again. For the first time in a long while, she and her sisters had someone else providing for them, both physically and emotionally. She continued to keep a watchful eye on her sisters, but she now had peace in knowing they were all together, cared for and deeply loved.

In addition to a balanced diet and secure home environment, Salome received a private-school education through Belwop. Now 18, she’s a recent graduate of secondary school and is awaiting her exam results, with an eye toward further education.

BelwopThanks to Belwop, Salome went from a life of instability and despair to one of immeasurable hope and promise. She recently said she didn’t imagine making it this far, but she’s also proud to have proved wrong those who told her she would never graduate. Clearly she’s a fighter, and now she’s an empowered young woman – one who knows there is no dream or task too big for her to achieve.

 

Hillary Wolfe is 23 years old and currently resides in Indiana. Since returning to the U.S. after living and serving at Belwop for a year, she balances being a full-time personal assistant with advocating for Belwop and managing its fundraising and sponsorships.

Shristi’s Story: Orphaned, Trafficked, Rescued

Rescued From Human Trafficking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was very happy because I thought I had finally found someone who loved me enough to take care of me.

My name is Shristi*. I was three years old when my parents died. My uncle and his wife raised me alongside their three kids. They could not afford to send me to school. My aunt wasn’t fond of me and put her own kids first.

At age 16, my uncle and my aunt informed me I would marry a man 10 years older than me. I could say little in protest to their decision. I had no voice.

The first few months of my married life were great. Although my husband would be gone for long periods, he would always return with a nice paycheck to run our household.

One day, I had some stomach problems. My husband said he would take me to India for treatment. I was very happy because I thought I had finally found someone who loved me enough to take care of me.

The next day we headed to India. We were at one of the border crossings when some young ladies stopped us for questioning. My husband’s behavior started changing.

During the questioning I learned the ladies were KI Nepal staff doing surveillance against human trafficking. They told me my husband had already taken another women to India, claiming her to be his wife.

I was devastated. Suddenly, his travel and money made sense.

I had nowhere to go. The KI Nepal staff told me they provide safe homes and skills development trainings to girls like me. I was so happy to go.

I stayed for six months and received sewing training and other life skills. KI Nepal helped me to set up a business that included a sewing machine and some seed to start my own tailoring shop.

Today, I’m living a dignified and self-sustaining life back in my own community in western Nepal.

 *Name changed to provide confidentiality

 

“Angel” Brings Hope to Ecuadorian Kindergartner

Robin, Wendy and Bethany

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wendy Gutierrez lives in Macas, Ecuador, where her husband, Robin, administers Emmanuel Christian School, an ER partner. Here Wendy (pictured with Robin and their daughter, Bethany) shares the story of Joselyn, a kindergartener at ECS who has “adopted” her American benefactor.

Joselyn is in her third year at Emmanuel Christian School. She attended two years of preschool with us, but it appeared she would not be able to continue to Kindergarten due to financial hardship in her family. Then a donor stepped in to cover the monthly cost of her school fees.

We are so happy to be able to offer Joselyn a quality education in a safe environment. Sometimes life is uncertain here in Ecuador, but what a blessing that people like you help kids like Joselyn.

Recently Joselyn and her parents sent heartfelt letters to their donor. Joselyn, 5, wrote, “I want to thank you for giving me the gift of happiness to be able to study in my beautiful school … I love you a lot. … Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

In their letter, her parents, Juan and Maria, described the donor as an “angel” and added, “You cannot imagine the happiness we felt when I was told my daughter had an angel so that she could keep studying. … Joselyn sees you as part of our family. This year she has been working harder and now she gets up early and is the first to arrive to school. Thank you for your noble heart. I hope that in this world there exists more good people like you.”

Indeed there does – many of whom are faithful supporters of ER and its many partners.

Emmanuel Christian School is currently working toward construction of a new campus in order to serve more children like Joselyn. If you would like more information please visit www.emanuel.edu.ec/building.

The Impact of Human Trafficking

Kelly in Nepal
The people in this Nepal village were friendly with Extreme Response staff.

 

Kelly

Kelly McClelland is ER’s Director of Women’s Advocacy. She oversees Extreme Women, a program designed to empower women living in extreme conditions. Here she shares her experience of meeting human trafficking victims while working with ER partner KI Nepal last summer.

My work for ER includes advocating for women in extreme circumstances around the world. When I visited one of KI Nepal’s border crossing stations, the notion of extreme circumstances took on a whole new meaning for me.

KI Nepal works to fight human trafficking and violence against women – first by rescuing them from trafficking attempts at border crossings, then by equipping them with skills and knowledge to bring about positive holistic change.

Interview boothRescued girls are brought to KI Nepal’s temporary safe house. There they can file a report with local authorities and identify their trafficker(s). Then they can enter a resident safe house and begin the process of healing.

When I visited, I learned that five girls had been rescued from the hands of traffickers the previous day. I was asked if I would like to meet the girls, observe the counseling process and offer them a word of encouragement. Of course I said yes.

What I encountered were three girls, one with her head down, looking at her hands, the other two whispering and giggling. I guessed they were between 13 and 16 years old. I don’t know exactly what I expected to find, but it was not giggling girls. As I settled in, however, it soon became clear that those giggles were from nervousness. Girls are the same, no matter where they are in the world!

Eventually the shyness melted away and the girls warmly welcomed me. I was then invited into an inner office, where two more girls sat at a table with a pair of military inspectors and a KI Nepal counselor. These girls had begun the process of reporting their experience, which hopefully would result in their trafficker being prosecuted.

As I looked around, I saw a cell with a man inside. He had walked up to the cell door to see who had entered the room. It took some courage for me to look him in the eye. Not only was I meeting these precious victims, but right there was a trafficker, the man who was part of their nightmare. I felt an intense surge of anger as he smirked at me! Hanging on to the back of a chair, it took everything I had not to lash out at him.

Months later when I was back home, I had the opportunity to meet with a man who had been a trafficker. He had served a prison sentence in his home country, undergone a change of heart, and was now living in the U.S., where he shares his own story of life change.

My takeaway from these experiences is that human trafficking is a tragedy for everyone involved. Help is needed for both victim and trafficker to experience restoration and healing. I’ll keep doing my part, and I’m grateful for the amazing work that KI Nepal is doing.

Extreme WomenExtreme Women wishes to see women around the world rescued from the horrible perils of human trafficking. Our goal is to see the girls restored, counsel them on their road to recovery, provide them with job training and life skills, and work to break the cycle of poverty in their lives. This task is quite large and we cannot do it alone. We are so grateful to work alongside our global partners. For more information on Extreme Women or how you can help stop human trafficking, please contact us at extremewomen@extremeresponse.org.

True and Lasting Hope

Jessa Anderson

 Jessa AndersonBy Jessa Anderson, Extreme Response Volunteer

Recording artists Jessa and Jordan Anderson have made six trips to Quito to work at ER Christmas celebrations. What inspires them to return every year, while juggling two kids and a hectic touring schedule?

 

This year my husband Jordan and I took our sixth trip to Quito, Ecuador, for the annual Extreme Response Christmas celebrations. You’d think that after so much exposure to extreme poverty we would feel emotionally prepared to witness it again. Yet each trip brings fresh and unique emotions. It never fails to pierce my heart when I see the contrast between the plenty I live with every day, and the lack of even basic necessities that those we serve during the course of the week live with.

While I always enjoy the celebrations themselves, my favorite time is usually when the party is ending and Jordan Anderson says goodbye to guests at an ER Christmas Celebrationthe guests are leaving. Language is no longer a barrier as we have the opportunity to distribute gifts and food, and to hug, high-five, and fist-bump as we all wish one another a Merry Christmas.

Time after time, I’ve witnessed children joyfully clinging to a stuffed toy, proudly displaying a new comb, or contentedly sitting down just outside the exit to eat a piece of fruit they have received. I see mothers with tiny babies strapped to their backs rearranging their belongings to allow them to carry a bag heavy with pantry staples that will provide meals for weeks and months to come. Some people shyly accept their gifts, while others exuberantly pull you in for a kiss on the cheek, but each of them has had the opportunity to have fun, to play games, to relax, and to set aside their struggles, if only for a few hours.

Jessa Anderson get Quito hugMore than the personal blessing of knowing we were able to provide a few hours of fun, there is the knowledge that we were able to play a small part in providing each person with true and lasting hope. All year, staff and local partners are working with these same people to change their situations, and ultimately, change their lives. We may only see them once a year, but we can leave knowing there are people caring for their needs on a regular basis. I have heard story after story of lives forever changed by the work Extreme Response does. Having the opportunity to be part of that has been instrumental is shifting my life perspective.

Jordan Anderson does face painting at an ER Christmas celebration in QuitoEach trip reminds me that there are many people living in extreme situations, not just across the world, but in my own city. I find I am renewed in my passion for serving those in need with the resources I have. I have been encouraged and challenged by the work Extreme Response is doing to change lives, and privileged to play a small part through the Christmas celebrations.

 

Jessa Anderson, WholeThe Andersons live in Nashville, TN, with their two small children. Learn more about their music – including Whole – Jessa’s latest CD, their touring schedule, blogs, volunteer work, and more at www.jessaanderson.com.