Saturday, 25 March 2017

Ana - Compassion child's Story

Ana's Story "Poverty to prosperity"

Ana is an orphan living in a tiny coastal rural village in a developing country. She comes from a loving family whose lives were blown apart when she was only 2.

Ana's parents were happily married and expecting their third child. Ana had an older brother and another sister was due to be born. Things didn't go as planned there was no hospital nearby to source help and her Mum died giving birth to her little sister. The new little baby was weak and had sustained damage during the traumatic birth. She struggles and survived.

Her father broken and lost from loosing his wife and now responsible for three small children couldn't cope so took his son and left the 2 little girls in the care of their elderly grandparents. He never returned to the family or visited his daughters. They never saw him or their brother again. As a little girl both her grandparents worked as laborers on a plantation and in the plantations factory. As time passed by her grandfather now reaching his 80's and was not well enough to work so their grandmother was the sole income worker earning a tiny income to raise the 2 little girls with.

Ana joined the Compassion project when she was 3 and her sister due to the families tiny income and her additional needs also joined the program. Through the sponsorship program they were helped with food, meals every day at the center and when the time came for their education to start all their supplies, uniforms and levies were covered by Compassion.

Ana loved school although she found some subjects very difficult. Maths and Languages were always a challenge to her. She worked hard with her tutor at Compassion to overcome these barriers and always did her best. She had to sit exams in grade 6 to enter high school and spent many extra hours with her tutor studying as she wanted to finish her education and become a teacher.

With much joy she passed the entry exams and entered high school many miles away. To attend classes she had to rise early and travel by bus for almost an hour to attend the nearest high school. Again she gave her study everything she had, worked with her tutors and did well. Although in high school she now found she was no longer in the top of her class but still passing her subjects.

Each year she had to pass exams to enter into the next grade and each year she was a little close to becoming a teacher. Finally year 12 was underway, new subjects and new teachers. Ana was still with Compassion and not only doing her school work but also the Compassion project program that prepares children to be able to make good decisions and function well in the world they live with all its challenges and vices. At the project there are course that students can undertake to give them additional skills like computer skills, dress making, pottery, screen printing etc. Ana had taken many of these courses and made the best of every opportunity that came her way.

By the time Ana entered year 12 her grandparents health was failing, both dependent on medication to stay alive and both unable to work any more. Compassion again came to the families aid with food and medical help for the grandparents who wouldn't of been able to afford the medication they needed.

Ana still struggled with language and she had to have a high pass in this subject to enter training to be a teacher. Sadly her results didn't meet the requirements for her to become a teacher. Her childhood dream was not going to become a reality. Her faith in God was strong and she knew He had another plan that was better than hers she just had to discover His plan. For many teenagers this breaking of a life long dream would have destroyed them and they might have given up. Ana remained strong and focused knowing she needed a good income to support her grandparents and sister.

She had completed a computer course at the Compassion project and had done well so she applied to do a computer and technology course which would take a years study and give her a qualification to work with computers and IT. She completed the course with flying colors and was offered a junior job in a computer company near where she lived. She could now support her grandparents and sister and they would no longer be dependent on Compassion for their food and needs.

Ana's life went from good to better. Due some changes in the letter writing process I didn't hear from Ana for many months.Compassion let me know that Ana had graduated from the project and she and her family were self sufficient. Her sister with the help of Compassion had become a dressmaker and was working for a business in the town too.  Then a new letter arrived the first page was about the usual things and how she was going but on the last page was the most exciting news. She told me that she had got married to a wonderful young man who had a job in a trade and they were both very happy. The sad new was her grandfather had died and her grandmother was dying.

I was overjoyed to hear her life had a happy ending and pray that they she and her new husband can enjoy a long and happy life together. Without Compassion her story would have been very different she may have been a statistic and died before the age of 5 like many in her country do.I was blessed to be her correspondent for 10 years and somewhere out there is her sponsor who made this fairy tale come true. It is knowing the difference a sponsorship, a compassion project with the children at the heart of their ministry, lots of love and your words in a letter can do that makes this journey a remarkable one.

Ana is not her name and I have deliberately not mentioned her country to protect her confidentiality but her story is totally true and I feel so blessed to have been part of it. Sorry no photos either for the same reason.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Power of Love - Romania

The Power of love - a lesson from Romania

Never under estimate the power of love.

 Never under estimate the power of a few simple words!

Sponsoring a child or being a correspondent is far more than a financial or time investment in the life of a child. For some of these children it is a lifeline in a very difficult lonely world. It may be the only time someone cares about them enough to want to help them through their daily grind where being hungry is normal, roaming the street and begging are survival skills and to go to school is a far off dram they never imagine they will have a chance to do.

My job involves training educators who work in the child care industry and this lesson of the huge influence we have on a child's life, well-being and future we brought home to me very strongly as I read some research out of Romania some years ago. I share this with my fellow workers regularly as it made me realize how important the tiny details are to let a child know they are loved and valued. I believe this lesson is also true for our Compassion children and any other children in a sponsorship program.

Many years ago now, those of my generation will remember the horror pictures that came out of Romania as the world became aware of a country on its knees with too many children, too little food or work and a government that couldn't cope. These images were of scores of children locked in cots or rooms with little clothing or food and nothing to do but sit all day in their cots while the few staff employed would try to attend to their basic needs with the few resources they had. There were many horror stories of what happened to these children, what they were fed and what happened to them in the institutions. I won't go into that but you can research it on the net if you want the details.

The world was saddened by the plight of all these children and thousands of them were adopted all over the world. Most of the children adopted were under 5 years old from memory. A researcher at a US University decided to write his thesis on what happened to these children adopted in the USA and to find out how they got on as they reached adulthood.

His results were devastating finding that a very large number of the children adopted had not fared well. A large number had sever mental health issues, some had taken their lives, others hadn't been able to adjust to normal life and were living as homeless or on the edges of society. There was also another smaller group that were well adjusted, had been educated, gone on to have steady jobs, marriage and families and had completely assimilated into the American life style.

This puzzled him and he decided to investigate further. He then discovered that all these children who were doing well had come from the same orphanage. So he researched the orphanage and could fine no difference from that one and all the other government orphanages. So he decided to go to Romania and fine the orphanage and see if he could find the answers there.

When he got to Romania he also found that all these children had come from one particular wing of that orphanage on the same floor. He went to the orphanage and talked to the staff but they were all younger and had not been there when the children had been. One of the staff remembered there was an old lady who had worked at the orphanage then still alive and in the city. So he went to visit her and she had the answer:-

Another member of staff who had since died did the late shift. Every night at the end of her shift she would take off her apron, hang it up and then go to each crib one by one. She would pick up the child give them a cuddle and tell them she loved them and they were important. She would then tuck them into bed and go to the next child. She would do this for every child on that floor of the wing every night before she went home.

That was the only difference between the children that thrived and all the others from all the other orphanages. A little bit of love goes a long way!

All children need to know they are loved and cared for, in the world of poverty where survival takes first place love is often missing or not shown due to stress and strife. A short letter to let a child know you care and are thinking of them may be the same as that old lady telling each child they were loved and worthy.

As I started with never under estimate the power of love, your words could be the difference between a life lost or a full and happy future.

What can you do for a child today????

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Saving the life of a precious Mom!

Bolivia 2016

Just over 18 months ago I received a letter from one of my older Bolivian girls. It read as usual full of the things she had been doing, how school was going and what she had been doing at her Compassion Project. Then there was the final paragraph in which she said her family were sad as her mother was in the final stages of "chagas sickness" and wouldn't be with them for much longer.

I had been her sponsor for many years and knew her well from all the letters we share. She was one of the older children in a family of 7, her father farmed a little plot of land some distance away from where they lived. She was excelling in school and hoping with the help of Compassion she would be able to finish her schooling and pursue a university degree in medicine, her passport out of poverty along with her family. She also had an older sister with a medical issue that meant the sister needed constant care which her mother devoted her time to along with the usual things a mother does day to day. If her mother died my sponsor child would become responsible for the family including her ill sister, not only would they loose the mother they loved but also the hope for a better future.

On researching "Chagas sickness" I discovered that it was a disease, also known as American trypanosomiasis, is a potentially life-threatening illness caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi). The parasites invade the muscles of the body (via contaminated water)including the heart and lay dormant for up to years. Then they  start breeding building their numbers in the muscles and the person starts to show symptoms. There are several stages of the disease and during the final stages a person usually dies of a fatal heart attack. 

This all sounded terrible with not much hope but then I read on that this disease is curable at any stage in the western world by being give a course of 2 very strong antibiotics. These drugs are free under the Australian health system but coat $3,000 in Bolivia, South America. I set about finding out if there was any way we could send the drugs the mother needed from here (Aust) but that wasn't going to be possible. The only way we could help her was to raise the $3,000 and send it to Compassion Bolivia and they would organize the treatment there.

I din't have $3,000 but knew there must be a way to save her. I approached my Director and then the CEO of the company I work for to see if they had any good ideas or if the company might donate some money. She suggested I could use the company resources and involve the staff to do some fund raising and that the company would also give a donation towards the costs if we raise a good amount of money.

The challenge was on and slowly most of my work colleagues were on board and helping in any way they could. We made calendars we sold to all our clients, had a Christmas raffle which some of the staff cooked wonderful creations for prizes, our electrician gave us a % of his profits for a month and the Director and CEO came through with a generous donation. All our clients also generously supported our fund raisers and willing participated.

By January we had the $3.000 and an additional $450 raised. The mothers condition was the same and hadn't worsened in the time it took us to raise the money and we were able to send her money for treatment as well as an additional $150 to three other families we knew of that were struggling. Then we had the long wait to hear if the treatment had been able to cure her and we knew it would b almost a year before we would get the formal report of how things went. 

As the months went by I had little bit of news in my sponsor child's letters saying her Mom had had a treatment or that she was getting better, so we knew there was hope. Finally two weeks ago the report arrived, the treatment was 100% successful, the mother's health had been restored completely and she was now able to live a normal life and look after her family. We also received a lovely photo of my sponsor child beaming standing next to her mom who also looked healthy and happy.

We are only a small business in a small community but with the grace of God we can achieve great things when we work together. I think in life you often only get one or very few chances to do something beyond your hopes and dreams and this was one of those moments for me. I know nothing of medicine but when a small community works together you can save a life and change the future for a family.

Friday, 1 April 2016

 The story of our Carla's continues.

You may have read an earlier post about our first Carla we sponsored many years ago and our journey over those years with that precious little girl. If you haven't scroll down and you can meet her.

After many years I had been blessed with another Carla from Bolivia she was a gently and kind young lady who wrote beautiful caring letters and blessed our lives for 2 year. At the end of 2015 she completed grade 12 and graduated from the Compassion project. In 2016 she moved on to study at University to gain a tertiary qualification and to fulfill her hopes and dreams for the future free from poverty. Like our first Carla she will remain in my heart and I will pray that life treats her well and that her life is a wonderful success and testimony of God faithful love for her.

This year I decided we needed another Carla to join our compassion family and although I search the many children there was no Carla in sight. I asked Compassion to see if they had an older child called Carla on their book from South America.
There were several but with a heart for Bolivia I decided a child from there would be my first choice. There were no older children just one little girl who was 3. As my work days are numbered I was sure I should support an older child but this unseen little girl was pulling at my heart strings and so trusting God that He had the plan and so I accepted her. A few days later she was transferred to my Australian account and I saw her little face for the first time.

So a new journey begins, it could last 19 years if she stays in the program or it could be short as people move and circumstances change. What ever the time we share I look forward to getting to know her and her family and watching her  grow from afar. My first little Compassion sponsor child was also 3 and from Bolivia and over the last 9 years I have seen her grow from a tiny shy child to a confident happy and studious young lady who is going to do well in life and shake the shackles that poverty brings.She feels my like a godchild rather than a sponsor child as we share wonderful letters monthly, sharing our lives and the love of our God. I hope the journey with our little Carla is similar and look forward to seeing her grow and flourish too under the care of her Compassion project. 

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Pocket Letter - OWLS

Owl Pocket Letters!

I decided to create a pocket book for my Compassion Children about the wise old owl. I have started with one for my older English speaking girls, so no translating needed.

First you need to source some basket ball card/ swap card pockets. I sourced these on line as they weren't readily available here.I collected up various owl themed papers and bits to create the pockets. I first cut a piece of colored card for each little pocket as backing. I then created each little pockets contents.

This pocket says from me behind on the card insert. In a little cellophane packet are a few little punch cuts of flowers and hearts. I sealed them in the cellophane packet so they wouldn't escape in transit then put the packet into the little pocket. 

This little pocket has an owl print swinging on a bow string with at 3D sticker to give it a bit of color and interest.

This is a paper pocket with a bible verse written on the inside slip. On the outside is an owl 3D sticker and where the verse comes from.

In this pocket is a collection of owl photos showing their diversity and camouflages. A little bit of sticker lace to trim the top.

In this pocket is just a picture of a cute owl which I decorated with a bit of edging sticker tape. I was tempted to give him google eyes but thought they may not pass the paper requirements for Compassion.

In this pocket I just used a 3D sticker and the word "hello" which I will translate for each child's language. A couple more little stickers to finish it off.

In this pocket is a little pre-bought tag that had glitter around the edge. Add a bow, a name and a little 3D sticker and it is done.

This little pocket has an owl print that I added some diamond stickers to the middle of some of the flowers and to the owls to give them a bit more interest. 

This pocket has another little tag which came with the owls on, I added a little row of diamond stickers and another bible verse to create this pocket.

On the back I have added a couple of stickers in one of the pockets and attached an envelope for the letter to go in. 


Finally I found some owl witting paper to write my letter to her on. There are dozens to choose from on the pinterest site.

I used a little bit of stick tape to seal each little pocket so the content didn't fall out in transit. A clear dot sticker would be perfect for a seal but I haven't got them yet so stick tape will do.

I found these "Pocket Letters" fun to do and they didn't take a lot of time once you had your initial ideas together. 

I think I will work on a sea themed one for the older boys and I haven't yet decided on the theme for the little ones. Another advantage of these pocket letters is they are light to post so if you have many correspondent children like I have, it will keep the postage cost down.

Happy Pocket lettering all! 

Friday, 5 June 2015

A day with my Compassion children in the Philippines

A day with my Compassion children in the Philippines

The day started early as the Compassion minibus arrived at Mission House to take Elva and I to meet 3 of my Compassion children in the Philippines. We meandered our way from Baguio to La Trinidad winding around and over the mountains. Unfortunately it was cloudy day so we couldn’t see the ocean from high in the mountains because of the cloud. As we entered La Trinidad we were saddened to see where a large landslip had occurred the year before trapping and killing many families including 3 Compassion children and their families. With my Geologist eyes on, it concerned me that many families had rebuilt on the steep slope of the landslip area.

Not far from this area on the opposite slope was PH106 where the first of my children attended. This was a large well maintained church with many rooms that were well kept and clean. There Alfha, her mum and baby sister were waiting for us. Alfha was shy and hesitant to talk to us, her Mum was lovely, so gentle and kind. The Compassion staff showed us all the files they kept on Alfha, every detail of her progress recorded, her learning, health and medical checks all carefully recorded. Every letter I had sent her and the ones she had sent to me were copied and kept on her file. There was also a detailed record of the monetary gift I had sent over the years and exactly what the money had been spent on. Alfha’s social worker joined us and told us a bit about the program she was working on with Alfha. We learned that she lived in a remote rural area and because she was only young the social worker went out to her rather than her travelling to the project. When she is older she will join the older children and go with them to the center. We took some photos and could hear a large number of children singing in the attached hall although we didn’t get to see them.

Alfha, her family and social worker set out again to collect Jaden from the hostel they were staying. Jaden had traveled by bus for 5 hours the day before to meet us with her Mum and social worker.  Jaden was just as I expected, a beautiful, gentle loving girl that had an air of tranquility and peace about her. She instantly took a shine to little Alfha and took her under her wing. La Trinidad was definitely a poorer area, with police with rifles guarding the streets. We turned off into a settlement area of simple houses with few modern conveniences and went up a little lane to PH170 to meet  Micah and her family. Micah and her Mum as well as her Grandpa had come to meet us. Grandpa had been in World War 2 and was very fluent in English, Mum had worked abroad and could also speak excellent English which helped with the flow of conversation. Micah was shy and gave just one word answers but her family told us lots about their world and what they had been doing.
Jaden's Mum didn’t speak English and Alfha’s only spoke a little which made it hard to talk to them. We stayed at PH170 for quite a long time talking and looking at Jaden and Micah’s files. Jaden had amazing academic results 90+% for many of her subjects both at school and now at University.

After some more photos we headed to the Mall in Baguio for lunch at “Jollibees” which is like KFC. It was Alfha’s first time in the city and first time at Jollbees so she was beside herself with excitement. Once lunch was over we did a bit of shopping with the children while the parents went and bought some food. The children bought some clothes and Alfha bought a ball. The girls decided that because they all had the same sponsor they were now sisters and walked arm in arm everywhere. In such a short time a beautiful bond had formed between them.

From there we went to try out some sideshow rides which were like bumper cars that Micah and Alfha tried out  then Jaden went with Alfha on a round-a-bout ride. Before we knew it our day was over, we took some more family photos at the mall and a photo of us all together. We gave them each their gifts and the precious families also blessed us with some beautiful gifts too. Jaden had made an amazing bead bag for me beautifully lines, it must have taken her weeks to make, I will treasure it always. Micah gave us a bag of delicious mangoes which we all enjoyed over the next few days. They were much sweeter and tastier than their Australian cousins. Alfha gave me some lovely hand crafted gifts made in the Philippines, a beautiful little woven bag, a wooden backscratcher, and a reed mat to put hot pots or kettles on. Wonderful gifts that I will treasure always along with the memories of a very special day. Hopefully God willing I will be able to visit them again one day in the future.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Working with His Hands for the Philippines!

Working with His Hands for the Philippines

We met our hosts Jamie and Merilee at the Manila airport as they arrived from the USA two hours after us. At midnight we set out for our first stop Calistan several hours away to the north. At 5 a.m. in the morning we arrived to a warm welcome from the Pastor and his family. They had set up mattresses for us to sleep on in their tiny home and Elva and I fell into a much needed deep sleep for a couple of hours. We were meant to wake for their early morning church service but they let us sleep through and woke us later to a cooked breakfast of omelette, hot dogs ,bread and rice.
Next we had to learn the routine of getting the details and measurements of the children in the sponsor program and the details of the new children joining the program. The children sat quietly waiting their turn, then watched as the rest of their friends were measured eating their lollipop Jamie gave them at the end of their turn. The Pastors home was simple but beautiful, around his home were masses of intricate bonsai plants. They were warm and gentle people who made us very welcome and comfortable. We left the pastor with some of the sound cards and readers which the children loved and then we were on our way again to the mountain and Baguio.

The scenery to Baguio was stunning, sheer cliffs raising hundreds of feet into the air, with little cottages balance precariously on the edges of the road and cliff edges, thick forests of pine trees and then the cool humid air of Baguio.

The routine of each day was much the same we would go to a little church community and measure and photo the children in the sponsorship program. The children were delightful even though they spoke only a little English they were friendly and wanted you to play with them. When we met our sponsor children in the various communities they were so friendly and caring and often their family also came to meet us. One child was away at camp and once a sibling discovered her sponsors friend was there he contacted her. Within half an hour she arrived to meet us. She was delightful such a sweet, humble and gentle girl who was delighted that her sponsor had sent her a little gift. Shortly after this her mother and grandmother arrived then an aunt and cousins, all chatting and sharing their world with us and asking about our world. They all waited for the hour or more it took to register the children to have time with us again before we left and blessed us with a lovely family photo to take back to her sponsor. Every community loved the cards and readers we left with them even the pastors joined the children in making them work.

The thing that stood out to me most was the kindness of the communities and how clean the children were. With the exception of only a couple of children they were all clean, their clothes were spotless and their hair clean brushed and tidy.  For us this is not extraordinary but when you consider most of these children living tiny tin sheds no bigger than a double bed and only a few have the luxury of a cement block house of the same size, they don’t have running water or electricity. There is no bathroom, the lucky ones have a toilet (but no flushing you just pour some water from a bucket in it after using) no showers or baths just a basin of water and a container to pour it over themselves. There are no washing machines, you have to boil water to get hot water and hand wash everything. Mostly their homes only have windows that are holes in the walls if they have any, they cook over a wood fire or gas bottle. Many have some electricity but it is unreliable and can go out for a couple of days. We lost electricity for 2 days when we first arrived.

Their kindness and generosity was overwhelming at times, here were these lovely people who had nothing by our standards yet they would each day prepare us a feast of delicious food for lunch and I am sure they would have used all their food for the next week to prepare it. Often the community would share the meal with us, but we would be served first and they would eat what was left over. We were treated like royalty, they met our every need from cool drinks, to umbrellas to keep the sun off us to chairs and a hand to help down steep slopes or getting off jeepy’s.

We had one day when we didn't have children to register and on that day the Americans were going to the tourist craft market but we weren't going to be able to go because that was the day we were going to meet our Compassion children. Our American hosts kindly found time at the end of a day to take us to the market so we didn't miss out. It was quite an experience with stalls in every direction selling everything from food to souvenirs and clothes. Dotted throughout the rabbit warren of stalls were police officers keeping an eye on what was going on and keeping tourists safe.

We were well cared for by our Filipino hosts who organised and protected us throughout the mission. We were with them at all times and only went is safe areas. Even when we visited the churches in the slums we had our own transport and several Filipinos for protection. The only evidence we saw of the danger was the police presence in several places, we saw a policeman with a machine gun in the mall standing watching and another in La Trinidad standing in a market area. Although I believe there was danger and violence in Baguio we were unaware of it due to the care of our American and Filipino hosts.  We always felt safe and enjoyed every minute of our stay.

The work on His Hands for the Philippines is certainly making a difference to the lives of the children who are sponsored. Without the sponsorship these children from very poor families could not afford to go to school. They could not buy the uniforms and stationary that are mandatory to be able to attend, nor could they pay the levees and fees for various compulsory activities required during the year. Ten dollars a month wouldn't even buy a family one meal in Australia yet in the Philippines it goes a long way. The families are so grateful for our help and glad their children will be able to go to school and have a better future. I met many college students who have been able to complete their education due to being sponsored and are now going to university because they are still sponsored.(just $20 a month) Their families are so proud of these children and they are working very hard to do their best for their sponsor and their families. There seemed to be many children doing accountancy and teaching among the college children I recorded.

As we recorded the children’s updated information we also often heard the stories of their families and their situations. So many of these children had one or both parents working away and they were living with grandparents or relatives. We met one grandmother who was looking after her 7 grandchildren ranging in age from about 12 to 2 years old. Another little girls father was a miner and away mining most of the time, she had an older sister who worked in another city but their mother died in December so now she live with her 7 year old sister fully responsible for both of them. She is only 14. As I watched her with the other children in the church she had such a gentle kind heart, with her little sister close beside her she was the one helping the younger children to write their letters to their sponsor even though at the time she didn't have a sponsor. She has now as by God’s grace one of my children left the program giving me the perfect opportunity to sponsor this precious child.

I also found when I was taking their details that many of the children wanted to be doctors, nurse, teachers and policemen in the younger age group. The older children seemed to be doing very well at school often in the top 10 of their class and many excelling in mathematics and English. These children don’t take their sponsorship for granted they all want to do well to please their sponsor. Although these children don’t write very often to sponsors there is no doubt that sponsorship is having a very positive influence on their lives and they appreciate what sponsors are doing for them. They love receiving letters and cherish them, rereading them and know they are loved by someone across the sea.

The days we spent with His Hands for the Philippines will always remain with me, a wonderful experience with beautiful people and caring thoughtful Pastors. Our American hosts took great care of every detail with fellowship and humor
 we had so much fun in amidst the work we were doing, every day was full of new experiences to take in our stride and Jamie gave us great grace in our differences and made every day a pleasure taking into account our needs and different culture. I think we all learned a little more about each others countries both the similarities and the differences. I am so glad I took the leap in faith and headed to a far away country, way out of my comfort zone as I have learned so much and been totally blessed by the experience and wonderful people I met. Actually meeting the children I sponsor in person, talking with them and sharing some time with them was the most amazing blessing to me. It is one thing to write to a child and receive letters but it is a totally awesome experience to meet them and their families.