Posts Tagged ‘Child Sponsorship in Africa’
You are about to read a fascinating account of a collective effort of compassion that almost derailed. In the public schools of Pennsylvania, all twelfth grade students are required to complete a senior project, often a community service project, to fulfill their graduation requirements. Our Hope For Change story takes us to Radnor Township School District located west of Philadelphia in the Main Line. “The mission of the Radnor Township School District is to inspire in all students the love of learning and creating, and to empower them to discover and pursue their individual passions with knowledge, confidence, and caring to shape the future.” (Italics mine)
On April 20, 2010 my twin sister, Mary Brown, called me on her cell phone and asked, “Sarah, does Hope For Change operate elementary schools in Africa?” Mary is the Director of a non-profit organization, “Teen Learning Community”, which assists Main Line seniors with conceiving, organizing, and implementing their senior projects. On that day while Mary was talking with Jin Hwang, president of the senior class at Radnor High School, she was informed that a certain “pencil project” had hit a impasse on the tracks ~ so to speak. This senior project, “Pencils For Africa”, challenged the student body of Radnor High School to purchase and donate pencils for children in an elementary school in Africa. However, the go-between agency failed to follow through and contact the two project organizers, Radnor seniors, Gigi Blanco and Lauren Bridges, regarding possible recipients of their collected pencils. On April 20th, they had no school to which they would send the pencils.
Mary put Gigi on her cell phone and after brief introductions, I said we could help. My husband, James R. Smith, Director of Hope For Change International (H4C), would be traveling to Tanzania in June. Visiting our schools would be included in his itinerary. The cell phone exchange ended with my asking, “Could Gigi and Lauren get the pencils to our home by early June?”
Another thing…seniors are required to prepare a verbal presentation of the stages of their projects to a review/grading committee comprised of teachers and the senior project coordinator. The girls’ presentation was scheduled for Thursday, April 22 ~ two days away. After weeks of hard work in collecting the pencils, now only two days away from their presentation, they had no destination school for the pencils ~ which now numbered over 1,000. You can imagine the disappointment that would be caused by a “no completion” grading of their efforts! The caboose had to be put on this train. By Wednesday, the eve of their presentation, all plans were in place for James to take the assortment of pencils to Africa with him! That is, if the young women could get the donated pencils to him by early June. The presentation would go on with now “Plan B” destination schools in place.
When I checked in with Gigi on Thursday afternoon, she passed along the good news that, “Yes, we did our presentation today and we got a Distinguished Pass which is the highest you can get!” James and I were thrilled that children in two H4C African schools ~ one in Sakila Village and the other in Arusha ~ would be the recipients of their endeavor!
Five weeks went by and the pencils which were now stored in a “pretty good-sized copy box” had still not arrived at our home. Here was another gridlock for the pencils on their journey ~ no money had been collected for transport of the pencils.
Enter Paul Grimsland, our H4C Philippines Director, who had just returned from a Foundations Center Seminar held in Manhattan. During the breakout session, Paul had met Lisa Williamson, Director of Communications for a school district. Can you guess which school district? If you said, “Radnor”, then you win the prize.
This amazed Paul too. Interestingly, I had casually let Paul know about the “derailed pencil project” back in April. Once we talked after he returned from the Seminar and we realized it was the same “Radnor”, Paul put me in contact with Lisa and the pace picked up after that.
Lisa made arrangements for Gigi to drop off the pencils at her family’s home in Wayne, PA. She and her husband, Phil, would make sure the pencils kept moving. On Saturday, June 5th, Lisa and Phil took the pencils to Wayne Post Office and VOILA! they were on their way from the Main Line and the homerooms of Radnor to our home in Saugerties, NY.
By the following Tuesday, the “good-sized box” was sitting on our dining room table in plenty of time to be included in James’ packing and for the air flight to Amsterdam en route to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania.
You may, as I did, want to know the back story to this scenario and to read why Gigi and Lauren chose education as the theme of their senior project. So here are their answers…
When I (Gigi) was in the 9th grade, I was nominated to win an award from the Emergency Aid of PA Foundation, only a handful of girls from Delaware County got this nomination and to narrow it down even more we each had to fill out an application. Within the application, we were required to write an essay under the prompt, “If you could start your own non-profit organization, what would it be?” I decided to call mine the Ethiopian Embrace and send school supplies over to children in need. Then, I had the idea that this would actually be really cool if I brought my made up organization to life, so doing it for my senior project was the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to begin the Ethiopian Embrace, so I researched over the Internet to find an organization close to it and I found the Pencil Project.
My (Lauren’s) older sister was always doing community service for different schools in Africa, and seeing how many lives she was able to change really inspired me to do the same. She actually ran the African Education Program for a while, and so I had originally planned to do my senior project through that. I have also always been interested in international culture, and aspire to go in to international business so this was the perfect start for me. Then, after talking to Gigi, we realized what we wanted to do was very similar and we could be twice as successful if we worked together.
We are both African Americans, so we really saw this as an opportunity to give back to our roots. Also, Africa has always struggled, and we know that as a continent it has so much potential; the least we could do was to give them basic necessities to prosper.
We would just like to say hello, and hope that they are all enjoying the pencils! We know the students will put them to great use, so stay in school, be creative, never give up, and you will move mountains! We believe the very best in each and every one of you, so keep smiling, and we promise you will be great in life!
The countdown until James’ departure for Africa on June 16, 2010 has come and gone a week ago. Earlier today, Wednesday, June 23rd, we spoke using his Motorola phone with a SIM card. James is adjusted to the environment in Sakila Village, Tanzania. As his wife, I was relieved to hear that!
Since his arrival, there has not been electricity in the village, or more accurately, the supply has been intermittent. James does not forsee having electricity to power his lap top or the Internet until next week. In light of that I will post these “send-off” pictures in the meantime.
When I spoke to our African H4C partner, Eliudi Issangya, this morning he was exhuberant when declaring that, “James had arrived safe and sound. ” Eliudi will host James during the visit without the help of his wife, Mama Helen, who died on February 2, 2010. She will be missed greatly.
On a personal note, I am writing a daily journal of “life at home” while James is in Africa. We’ve never taken the time to count the exact number of trips he’s made and the number of our goodbyes. The estimate of twenty-one or so has served to make the point that he has gone there a lot. On “Day 3″, which was last Friday, I pulled out James’ old U.S. Passport and attempted to count the Tanzanian, South African, Mozambique-ian (heh-heh), and Kenyan visas stamped on the pages. I wasn’t able to do it which was daunting for me since I love to count things. Anyway, he’s been using his new passport since the trips in 2003 so I would only have half the number anyway.
Here’s a shout-out of “thanks” to our H4C Philippines Director, Paul Grimsland. Paul drove James to JFK on June 16th and there’s a good possibility that he will be making the trip down to JFK again when James returns. Don’t tell Paul I said that though.
Paul is punctual and reliable and a good friend who’s heart burns for doing what he can to provide educational opportunities for impoverished youth through our child sponsorship programs. I can tell you that Paul loves these kids! By way of making that point, read some of his MBELE! blogs posted earlier in the year. (See the archive box up above to the right.) Another tremendous friend, Vinnie Smith, has altered his work schedule many times in order to transport James to and from airports. Wow, personal drivers sure make the difference in getting started from home and getting back to home.
This backpack in the picture above holds a lot of pencils, more than one thousand, and a lot of caring by the students of Radnor High School which is located west of Philadelphia in the great state of Pennsylvania. I plan on writing a blog titled, ”The Journey of the Pencils”, to tell the entire fascinating story once James sends me a picture of the recipients in Africa. However, this will be the first “thank you” to all those PA residents who assumed a role in this effort to demonstrate concern for the children in an African village school.
Finally, H4C sends thanks to all of you who financially support our water, medical, trade-training, and educational projects in Africa. If you are newly learing about HOPE FOR CHANGE please visit our web site www.H4Cinternational.org and learn more.
Sarah Anne Smith
CHRISTIANA GIDEON - (Arusha, Tanzania) died from malaria Sept. 21, 2009. Christiana was a 4th grade student who was preparing for her national exams in one of the schools that we are helping sponsor in Tanzania.
She was excelling in her studies. Sadly, like over ten million others in developing nations she died from a disease that could have been prevented with the help of available medicines and proper care. The solution seems so simple -getting the medicines and medical care which are available to the “Christianas” of the world.
Urgency is often viewed through a negative lens particularly when it is presented within the backdrop of our hurry-up culture. In that sense, urgency can be a tyrant that robs us of our priorities and peace of mind. However, urgency that has direction and purpose is necessary to accomplish tasks that are of extreme and immediate importance.
I share Christiana’s story with you with the hope that more of you will embrace with us a sense of useful, purposeful and life-saving urgency.
Preventable = to keep from occurring; to avert; to hinder. Many things are beyond our control and understanding…others are not. They are PREVENTABLE. Join us in our efforts to prevent the preventable.
James R. Smith
Recently I was privileged to be in the audience when Tanneken Fros delivered her passionate update of work among the bereft orphans of Beira District, Mozambique. Twenty miles outside of Beira is the town of Dondo where Tanneken Fros has been residing since 2001.
A rapid synopsis of her life beginning with ancestral Holland went like this…born in Paraguay, educated in the USA, worked with handicapped youth in NYC & Connecticut, then with drug-addicted adults in Israel. After this brief introduction her listeners are held in rapt attention since we NOW know that this woman has ”been around!”
For 450 years Mozambique was a Portugese colony. Over one million people were taken as slaves during the 1700′s alone. Revolutionary war began in 1962 and ended in 1975. Civil war followed, leaving more than one million dead, and thousands of war orphans. Aggravated by droughts and famine, Mozambique plunged into economic collapse. Fighting stopped in 1992 and two years later UN troops oversaw the country’s first free election in years. Today there still remains much need for rehabilitation and development.
During the last decade, Mozambique has vied with other African nations for an unenviable status – the world’s poorest country. The average age of death is 35 years old, and the average annual income is less than $900 USD. Due to poverty, war, diseases, AIDS, and natural disasters, Mozambique has an inordinate number of orphans. It is estimated that the nation is now caring for more than 1.5 million orphans. Many choose to respond to these statistics by throwing their hands up in the air. Tanneken and we, at HOPE FOR CHANGE, have chosen to throw our arms open wide.
To accomplish this, Tanneken pairs local families with the forlorn children in holistic ministry to their spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. Education is on the top of her list for all of “Tanneken’s Children” as she oversees and directs funds for school fees, housing, medical, transportation, clothing, and training in cottage industries, carpentry & woodworking, and farming projects. Sounds like a tall order…and it is!
Go back with me to that Sunday morning during Tanneken’s presentation and I’ll take you to the part when she answers the often put-to-her question, “How long will you stay in Mozambique?” Her enlivened eyes roam across the faces of all present and after a pause pregnant with hush, she shouts, “With my last breath I will remain and care for my children!”
One of the many students who are now being sponsored and given an opportunity.
One of my great joys is that after going to many of these same places for over 15 years I have been able to see the result of Hope for Change. I have been able to watch these children grow up and have choices that they never would have had. Many are AIDS orphans who are leading powerful and productive lives……they will be “history makers!”
James R. Smith