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Entries in snapshot (11)

Snapshot: Swaziland

This week we turn our focus to Swaziland, a small country situated between Mozambique and South Africa. Swaziland is slightly smaller than New Jersey, but with 1.4 million inhabitants, has one-sixth the population.

As we’ve written here before, the problems Swaziland faces are so much bigger than the country itself. Swaziland continues to have the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world; estimates from several years ago found that one in four adults had HIV.

Where does that leave the children?

A member of the mission team from Connection Pointe Christian Church in Brownsburg, Indiana, was reminded of “Kings and Queens,” a song by Audio Adrenaline:

Little hands, shoeless feet, lonely eyes looking back at me
Will we leave behind the innocent too brief
On their own, on the run when their lives have only begun
These could be our daughters and our sons
And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating
I know my God won’t let them be defeated
Every child has a dream to belong and be loved

Children in Swaziland face tremendous instability. If a parent falls ill of “the sickness” as they sometimes call HIV there, they are often sent to live with relatives, who may be caring for several children or grandchildren. The mission team met a 93-year-old grandfather living with his daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. A grandmother with five children in her home, whose husband left her. A mother who at 29 is dying of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS could no longer care for her 9-year-old daughter and sent her to live with relatives.

When stability fails, it is the children who suffer. And so with the help of our partner, Children’s Cup, we work to meet the needs of children by offering nutritious meals, medical attention and screenings, educational support, Bible clubs and discipleship by caring adults who can be positive role models in their lives.

These child development centers also offer another crucial opportunity: the chance to be a kid again. The kids in Swaziland celebrate the birth of Jesus in a huge way (you can see photos of their Christmas parties here), because it’s made all the difference in the world. There is playground equipment thanks to the efforts of several partner churches, and fun activities galore.

It’s so important to offer a safe and engaging place for children to come, learn, and grow. We are grateful for our partnerships with Children’s Cup and several churches who have stepped up to meet the needs of these children.

One of the Connection Pointe team members wrote of her experience interacting with the children at the center her church helps support.

What I noticed more than anything was their joy. The kids you see in the sponsor pictures look so serious or even sad. But if you tell them to “schlega!” they will smile so big! They are happy to be alive. The kids play well together, poke and tickle each other, chase each other, kick the soccer ball (really well), and are just kids. But they have so little. It truly amazed me how much joy they have just having their clothes, maybe shoes, and food. It makes me think – do we really have more?

Thank you for ensuring that children all over the world have not just a little more, but enough to thrive. Sponsorship builds hope-bringing, world-changing, God-serving young adults. We are proud to be a part of what God is doing in countries like Swaziland and others around the world.

Snapshot: Haiti

Dèyè mon, gen mon.

Beyond the mountains, more mountains.

This proverb is familiar to Haitians. Some say it is a proverb about patience – others, that there is more to someone or something then you can see at first.

We think it captures an essence of Haiti not often understood. Today, most people in the US associate one thing with Haiti: a terrible earthquake in January of 2010 that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

The crowded capital of Port-au-Prince. The earthquake will likely be a defining moment in Haiti’s modern history, but that tragedy stuck the nation’s capital, and a majority of Haitians live outside of Port-au-Prince.  

The challenges Haiti faces – both pre- and post-earthquake – are numerous and complex, but so too is the country’s beauty. The name Haiti comes from the indigenous Taino people’s name for the island, Ayiti, or land of high mountains.

A view of Cap Haitian and an approaching storm.We serve several communities in Haiti in addition to Port-au-Prince. Cap Haitien, one of Haiti’s largest cities outside the capital, is in the far north on the coast that overlooks many of Haiti’s mountains.

The mountains beyond the mountains near Limbe.Limbe, technically a group of communities to the west of Cap Haitien along the Limbe River, is much more rural. Like many of the smaller cities and villages in Haiti, Limbe has received little to no investment in infrastructure and other important resources.

Ouanaminthe, a city just across the river from another city we serve, Dajabon in the Dominican Republic, is home to one of the four border crossings into the DR. The Massacre River is shallow enough for crossing by foot, and many Haitians use it to bathe or wash their clothing.

Are you surprised by the diversity of this small country? We hope to broaden your perspective beyond the traditional news story. Many of the countries we serve could be defined by horrible events in their history; while these events and tragedies provide important context, we hope instead to define a country by the endless potential of their greatest resource: their children.

Snapshot: Mozambique

Mozambique is one of those countries that remind us how little we understand geography – especially in terms of comparable land masses. So, if you had to guess, which of our fellow United States would be closest to Mozambique’s size?

Here’s a hint: think big.

Twice the size of California, Mozambique is also larger than Texas. Only the land mass of Alaska can dwarf this country in southern Africa.

We partner with two churches to meet the needs of children in Mozambique. And these children have pressing needs – here are just a few of them.

Family Instability

Many factors put pressure on families in Mozambique. Unemployment is incredibly high, and some parents may leave the country in search of work. More often than not, children are left in the care of aunts, uncles, or grandparents because of the high rate of HIV/AIDS (it’s estimated that one in nine have the infection, the 8th highest rate in the world).

Child Headed Households

Perhaps it’s a mix of necessity and cultural expectation that older children will care for their younger siblings. Still, it’s amazing to see children with infants wrapped on their backs.

One of the most important resources our programs provide are role models in the caring adults who serve the kids, and the tutoring and educational support available at the projects. Recent studies showed that less than half of the population over the age of 15 can write. If you sponsor a child in Mozambique, sending letters provides a great exercise in reading and writing skills and provides valuable, tangible encouragement.

Did you know? Many children in Mozambique give their sponsors telling nicknames in the national language of Portuguese – madrinha or padrinho – godmother or godfather. This endearing term points to both the respect they have for you and the impact you have on their lives.

Do you sponsor a child in Mozambique? How have they honored the support and encouragement they receive from you?

School Snapshot: Jordan

Yesterday we shared a wonderful recipe from Jordan, and today we’ll examine one of the schools we serve there. In many ways, this school provides a glimpse of the greater picture in Jordan.

Jordan may be considered more developed than many of those we serve, yet the children of Jordan face numerous challenges. The influx of refugees into Jordan has only increased (from Iraqi and Palestinian refugees earlier in the decade, to nearly a third of the 1.5 million Syrian refugees fleeing their country’s civil war in the last two years).

Jordan has a long history of sheltering asylum-seekers and refugees, but Jordan’s infrastructure, including its schools, is increasingly strained. Schooling is compulsory until age fifteen, but with increasing class sizes, it is difficult to meet the needs of Jordan’s children, let alone the ever-growing refugee population.     

Several of the schools we partner with provide opportunities for students in unique ways. The Theodor Schneller School has a long and storied history (the late King of Jordan, His Majesty Hussein Bin Talal laid the cornerstone in 1959) and was opened next to the Hitteen refugee camp to meet the needs of poor, orphaned and neglected children from all walks of life. It was named after a missionary who opened schools and orphanages in the Middle East.

In addition to standard academics, the school has a gymnasium, a computer lab, sports clubs, a garden, and sporting teams. Students learn important skills in metal and wood working or automobile mechanics. These are opportunities not normally available to refugee families who struggle to meet basic needs, let alone pay for school fees and activities.

Children like Mahmood, Aadil, and Abdas, found hope for their future at the school. Mahmood, as the oldest, had been caring for his siblings even though he was only 6 years old. His parents, recently divorced, were mostly absent from the boys’ lives, but Mahmood found a place at the Theodor Schneller School and began to flourish.

Soon Aadil and Abdas were also enrolled. Nearly 10 years later, the boys have strong characters and are near the top of their classes. The love and acceptance they found at the school shaped their lives.

For many children, the Theodor Schneller School is a refuge of safety and security, providing opportunities they would have never received on their own. These are the life-changing opportunities you provide when you choose to sponsor a child. Thank you!

 

Powerful Prayers For Parents

If you want to pray for an issue that affects your sponsored child’s quality of life, one of the best things you can pray for is their parents’ jobs.

Many adults in the developing world work in jobs that are considered part of the “informal economy” – they may work as a street vendor or day laborer, working in an unofficial capacity, using whatever money they earn to feed their families.

We’ve learned a lot about what drives Bangladesh’s industrial economy since the collapse of a multi-story garment factory that claimed over 1,100 lives. The images of family members waiting tearfully for news on loved ones were heartbreaking.

After the factory collapse, however, some attention was paid to the average wage earned by a garment worker – roughly $38 a month, or $456 a year, one of the lowest minimum wages in the world.

We prayed hard for those families, knowing that securing a job in a garment factory is often considered a boon for a family, because it provided a more stable source of income than the agricultural jobs most Bangladeshi’s work, especially in rural areas. It is accidents like these and the loss of a stable income that push many families into the crushing poverty we are trying to alleviate.

So how can you pray for those who also provide for your sponsored child?

  • Pray for their health and safety as they work
  • For jobs that provide a stable income
  • For reasonable hours that allow them to see their children, especially if they work more than one job to try and make ends meet
  • For the parents to value education (for many families, keeping a child in school means two less hands in the field to earn money, and it is difficult for them to see the long-term benefit of an education)

Be sure to check out this amazing gallery of Bangladeshis at work -- some of their skills will simply amaze you. We praise God that we can partner with these parents, helping them care for the children and improve their chances at a brighter future.

If you're having trouble viewing this slideshow, you can view the gallery separately here.

Snapshot: Bangladesh

Less than a thousand miles from Cambodia, which we highlighted last week, lies a country with what would seem like many similarities -- Bangladesh has a colorful culture and a tumultuous history.

Considering that the region was settled as many as 4,000 years ago, the last 70 years have been nothing short of turbulent. Modern-day Bangladesh was created after the British Empire withdrew and partitioned two countries -- India and Pakistan -- based on religious distinctions in 1947.

Originally designated "East Bengal," the region we now know as Bangladesh was part of Pakistan; from the time of partition, however, clashes grew between the eastern, Bengali-speaking region and the more wealthy Urdu-speaking west. The next two decades were filled with repression and violent unrest, even after Bangladesh's independence was declared in 1971.

In the midst of such upheaval, the people of Bangladesh continued to live and work in one of the most unique regions of the world. Situated on the delta of three major rivers (the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna) as well as countless tributaries, Bangladesh has some of the most fertile soil in the world.

We'll explore more of Bangladesh this week, but before we do, take a look at some of the areas we serve and learn more about this fascinating country!

Bangladesh is a very small country (about the size of the state of Iowa) but it is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. There are 156 million people who live in Bangladesh. Can you imagine that many people living in Iowa? That’s over 50 times more people in the same amount of land!

Not only is the population dense, but the landscape is too! This makes it so much harder to travel anywhere or build and maintain roads, bridges, and power lines. For example, one of our projects is a mere 50 miles from the capital city of Dhaka, and yet it takes several hours driving in a truck and an hour boat ride to get there from the capital.

Bangladesh is a low-lying country and very wet as you can see from most of these photos. Cyclones and monsoons are so frequent that a large amount of the country is flooded six months out of the year.

Farming is a main source of income for many of our children’s families but their fields are also flooded half of the year. During that time these farmers have to find another way to feed their families and earn an income.

And because water is everywhere, so are bridges.

Does your sponsored child walk to school? Chances are that he walks over several bridges just to get to school. Can you imagine using a bridge like the one above everyday?

Speaking of water… does your sponsored child have the responsibility of getting water for the family? In Bangladesh indoor plumbing is very rare and children usually get their water from nearby wells or rivers and carry it home. 

Or maybe your sponsored child helps the family by washing clothes, fishing, or gathering firewood?

Have the letters you received from you child given you an inside look at what life is like in Bangladesh? Let us know! We'd love to hear what you've learned! 

Journey With Them

Yesterday provided a brief sketch of an influential time in Cambodia’s history. Today we get a glimpse of a very special area One Child Matters serves in Cambodia – the Mechrey Floating School on the Tonle Sap Lake.

The largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, the flow of the Tonle Sap changes directions twice a year, and expands to six times its size during the rainy season, creating great breeding grounds for fish. Families live in floating homes on the Tonle Sap – simple, single-roomed dwellings that follow the flow and the fish.

To ensure the children of these fishing villages receive an education, we helped build a floating school. Hundreds of students have learned and grown in this floating schoolhouse, and now some have the opportunity for secondary education at our Dream Center in Siem Reap.

We’ve written about the Floating School before, and perhaps, like us, you’ve wondered what it’s like to live in a home and attend a school that’s never in the same place twice.

Well, here’s your chance – Kaliyan welcomed us into her boat to follow her on her journey home.

Journey Home - Cambodia from One Child Matters on Vimeo.

 

 

Snapshot: Cambodia

There’s no other way to say it: some of the countries we serve have horrific pasts. Prolonged civil war, famines and droughts, natural disasters. Poverty knows no political boundary, and it is often aided by man-made conflicts and power struggles.

All of these above is true of the next country we’ll highlight this week: Cambodia. And yet, as we share some snapshots of the country this week, always keep the girl in the image above in mind. Look in her eyes, and perhaps you’ll see what our staff see every day – hope.

When he visited Cambodia in 2010, Jack Eans (our Vice President of International Child Ministries) wrote this reflection:

The real story of any country, including Cambodia, is her children. Over 50% of Cambodia’s population is under 15. Many of today’s poor countries share that statistic, but Cambodia’s children groan under the weight and responsibility of being this country’s hope.

Here, the cliché is reality. With many of their parents lost in the horrors of the Killing Fields, this country’s hope for a new soul truly does depend on how her children will be raised. Where Buddhism and a very real belief in evil spirits grips the nation, only the children with the Holy Spirit can make a way through the darkness. Where fear, death, and hatred is the legacy, only the children can lead them out. This is not overstating the case. Our partners who work with the children are staking it all on turning the hearts of the children.

Jack rightly mentions the context of the Killing Fields – a term used to describe sites around Cambodia where more than one fourth of the country’s population were systematically killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge, a Communist movement that sought to take Cambodia back to its agrarian beginnings in the 1970s.

Understanding the impact of the Khmer Rouge is crucial to understanding life in Cambodia today. One of their mottos, “to keep you is no benefit, to destroy you is no loss,” is a reminder of how little life was valued during this formative time in Cambodia’s history.

We seek to prove the opposite and support children as they pursue a brighter future. Cambodia was the second country we began to serve beyond our birthplace in India – now we serve almost 2700 children. We will share more about this amazing country and all that God is doing there this week.

Do you sponsor a child in Cambodia? Have they shared any interesting facts about their country with you?

Buzzworthy Traditions: Ethiopia

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of traveling on a One Child Matters’ mission trip to Ethiopia and meeting my sponsored child, Ruth. It was a trip full of amazing experiences. Aside from meeting Ruth, the numerous coffee ceremonies were my favorite experience. I left the trip addicted to
coffee – Ethiopian coffee anyways.

Coffee is an incredibly important part of Ethiopian culture and life. Some of the best coffee in the world comes from Ethiopia, and it is their largest export. Ethiopians are very proud of the claim that coffee was discovered by an Ethiopian goat herder (who noticed that his goats were quite lively after eating the fruit off a particular bush) and they treat everything about coffee with great reverence.

A coffee ceremony is a sign of friendship and respect and is practically guaranteed for visitors, especially foreign visitors. Every project we visited would perform a ceremony for us, and as we sometimes visited multiple projects a day, we were honored with quite a few ceremonies and enjoyed a lot of coffee!

A coffee ceremony is a rather long affair and can last several hours. A female host, generally wearing the traditional white Ethiopian dress, starts the ceremony by lighting incense which will burn through the whole ceremony. A charcoal stove and a tray of small ceramic cups are set on a bed of grasses that symbolize abundance. The host then sits on a small footstool and begins roasting the coffee beans on a large, flat pan over the charcoal stove. Once the beans have darkened and started to release their aromatic oils, the host then grinds the beans with a mortar and pestle. The ground coffee is then poured into a traditional pot, called a jebena, filled with water, and placed on the charcoal stove.

A unique step of the process is that when the coffee begins to boil, it is poured into another container until it has cooled and then poured back into the jebena. This process is repeated twice so that the coffee has come to a boil three times before it is served into the handle-less cups for the guests. Depending on the region, the coffee can be served with either sugar or some salt. Popcorn is also generally served alongside the coffee.

I cannot begin to tell you how amazing the coffee tastes. I am generally not a coffee drinker, but I could not get enough of it. I went from never drinking coffee to needing to get a double shot of espresso somewhere in a European airport on the journey home to avoid a serious caffeine withdrawal!

When I left Ethiopia, I did so with at least 10 pounds of coffee crammed into my backpack and the best intentions of replicating the delicious coffee I had fallen in love with. I immediately bought a mortar and pestle and a French press when I returned and hoped they would give me similar results. I was sadly disappointed. I still haven’t been able to duplicate their coffee or find anything that compares, but then again I haven’t bought my own jebena or taken the hours to roast, grind, and boil the coffee multiple times. The more I reminisce, however, the more I’m tempted to take those steps…

Meghan manages One Child Matters’ communications. In addition to Ethiopia, she’s visited our projects in the Dominican Republic and Honduras. This is one of the few pictures she has with Ruth where they are not covered in face paint.

Snapshot: Honduras

One Child Matters has 27 projects in Honduras, serving almost 3,000 children. Honduras means “great depths” – legend has it that Christopher Columbus, the first explorer to land in Honduras, exclaimed “Gracias a Dios que hemos salido de esas Honduras” (literally “Thank God we have come out of those depths”) while he sailed along Honduras’ northern coast.

We love this fact for two reasons: it seems to nod to Honduras' great depth of culture and pride. And yet it also reminds us of Psalm 86:12-13

With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.
I will give glory to your name forever,
for your love for me is very great.
You have rescued me from the depths of death.

We needed God to rescue us from the depths of death, just like the children in Honduras need us to draw them out of the depths of poverty. Honduras is one of the poorest nations in Latin America, and its beautiful children face so many challenges. Here are a few reasons why we work in Honduras:

The children need stability

More than two-thirds of children in our programs come from single-mother homes, and the most children in each family have different fathers. The average age of a first-time mother is 15. Domestic violence and substance abuse are huge issues in Honduras.

The children need support

Schools in Honduras are understaffed and overpopulated – as many as 80 children may share a classroom. Less than a third of children go on to secondary school, and less than 10 % go on to university.

The children need positive role models

Honduras is overrun by gangs, called maras after marabuntas, a type of ant that destroys everything in its path. Our country staff estimate that there are four times as many gang members than police in Honduras. The combination of abysmal educational and job opportunities and fewer father figures encourages many young boys to become a part of gangs, some as young as 9 years old. One young man shared with a reporter “you may only last one or two years, but it makes you someone.”

For many children, sponsorship provides an intervention – sponsorship proves to a child that they already are someone, that they are loved, valued, and worthy of investment.

How you can pray for your sponsored child

Pray for your child’s parent(s) and family members – pray for stable work, for positive relationships, and for their health. Pray your child can attend school with an attentive teacher, and that project staff can continue to provide educational support and tutoring to help them succeed in school. You can also pray for the staff to have a positive impact on your sponsored child, to be a role model in faith and life. Your letters can provide crucial encouragement – please write regularly and ask how you can pray for them!

What have you learned about Honduras from your sponsored child’s letters?

Snapshot: Dominican Republic

One Child Matters serves almost 4,300 children in the Dominican Republic. It is a country of exquisite beauty and unique challenges. Why is ministry needed there? Here are a few reasons:

Family Instability

So-called “free unions,” where couples live together without the formality of marriage, are quite common and very unstable. In the communities we serve, the average number of children in each family is 5; however, these children are often from 2 or 3 different fathers. Blended families pose their own risks, as children from previous relationships may be rejected or neglected.

Informal Economy

In urban areas, most adults work as street vendors or have low-paying part-time jobs that rarely provide enough for their families. Our more rural programs have seen families struggle to survive off the land. Our programs provide an element of stability for children, giving them access to nutritious snacks and educational support, easing the burden on parents who have so little.

A country's culture can shape our approach to ministry as much as the challenges children face.

Did you know?

Coat of arms courtsey of http://www.colonialzone-dr.com/With a Bible in its coat of arms, the Dominican Republic is the only country in the world with such explicit biblical symbol on its flag. In 2010, the Dominican constitution as amended to clarify elements of the coat of arms (seen at left), specifically that the Bible is turned to John 8:32, which says “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Due in part to its rich faith heritage, the Dominican Republic is receptive to our programs for children. Each of our 30 child development centers in the Dominican Republic is connected with a local church which helps reinforce the biblical values we teach. Often the children in our programs end up bringing their parents and siblings to church with them, multiplying the outreach in their communities.

Do you sponsor a child in the Dominican Republic? What would you like to know about your child’s country?