Everyone responds in a crisis. When something bad happens, we follow and share and send money and pray and feel compassion. And we should. It’s all hands on deck and let’s get in there and help our neighbors, whether they’re on an island around the world or down the street.
But what about when there is no crisis, nothing bad happens, and people are thriving? It’s boring. We don’t see happy, healthy kids on the news. We don’t see avoided accidents, plenty of provisions, and girls safe from sex trafficking. We never see this headline:
Breaking News – These Girls Worked Hard and Enjoyed School This Week
Please share and retweet #EverythingIsAwesome
When systems are working and crises are averted, we don’t pay attention. Prevention isn’t sexy.
When I started blogging about the kids at our CarePoint in Uganda five years ago, they were desperate. Their caregivers were doing all they could to feed and keep them in school, but most of the adults had been wiped out, between disease and ongoing violence from a neighboring tribe, and they were hungry, sick, and losing hope. I had a lot to write about.
Children’s HopeChest partnered with local leadership to identify the orphaned and most vulnerable children for a sponsorship program. We have a little under 300 kids in the program. They receive food, first aid, medical treatment, help with school supplies and uniforms, and discipleship from Ugandan Christ-followers who minister to them spiritually and emotionally. Most of them have experienced extreme tragedy and trauma. The community donated land. We built a meeting hall and kitchen, a pit latrine, and a fence. We created jobs at the CarePoint, hiring locals as cooks and caretakers. We sent teams of sponsors who raised money for the chance to be able to meet the kids they sponsor, to hug them in person, to take letter-writing to the next level. We listened at community meetings to what the people said they needed, not what we thought they wanted. We stopped handing things out and started building relationships.
Every time we came back, the kids looked healthier. Hope began catching on and more individuals stepped forward to help. We hired a social worker from the region to do home visits and follow up with kids. School attendance began to rise, and test scores went up. This poor district from the north began to have more children get into secondary school. We currently have 35 of our kids studying at the high school level. Kids are staying in school.
We have chickens. They’re new, and part of the campaign we did last year that included oxen and poultry income generating projects. Behold the beginning of income:
Income is really cute and makes cheep-cheep noises. These 300 chicks will generate $40 per day for the CarePoint when they grow up, and the goal is to eventually get to 2,000 chickens. Right now, the eggs in the district come all the way from Kampala, so there’s an untapped market for local eggs. This project will provide vocational training for the older kids who aren’t continuing on to secondary school, and they’ll receive payment in chickens.
In order to be able to control the quality and consistency of access to clean water, we’ve drilled a new well and are in the final stages of tweaking it to make sure it’s replenishing and drawing enough water to provide for the program. And we still have a new playground coming down the pipeline, because after a long day of studying and taking care of chickens, you deserve to blow off some steam on a really cool swingset.
The possibilities are endless. Because of a program for less than 300 kids, a community of 6,500 is looking to the future with hope. Every day, when the disciplers get up to go to work with the kids, they are preventing them from turning to alcohol to numb the pain of their past and showing them that Jesus loves them. Every day, when the cooks show up early to start a fire for the midday meal, they are preventing kids from dropping out of school from hungry bellies. Every day, when the leaders pour love and wisdom into the teenage girls, they are preventing orphaned girls from marrying too early, being taken away and trafficked, or becoming pregnant and continuing the cycle of orphanhood.
The mosquito nets and new water harvesting system at the CarePoint are preventing disease, new gardening and poultry projects are preventing a lifetime of dependence, and vaccines provided by the medical fund are preventing the spread of Hepatitis B.
I can’t worry you with all the girls trafficked to other countries, because they’re staying in school and connected in community and growing as leaders.
I can’t weep about the boys turning to alcohol, because they’re receiving vocational training with the poultry project and learning to provide for themselves and their community.
In short, I don’t have anything newsworthy to tell you, because the program is working. Sustainable development is a thing, and over the last five years, I’ve seen it cranking up. These kids aren’t even going to need us someday not too far from now, and that’s a good thing for them.
So I don’t have a desperate plea. No one’s on the brink of disaster. Everyone is doing really hard, good work, and I’m proud to call these individuals my friends and co-laborers.
Prevention isn’t sexy, but it sure feels awesome.
You Can Get Involved
I really would love for every child to have a sponsor who knows and prays for him or her BY NAME, and we’re still about 40 short. If you’ve thought about sponsoring a child but have wondered what it does and if it helps, I’ll tell you honestly that this village is a different place than it was five years ago, and it’s because this holistic sponsorship program works, by the grace of God. It isn’t a bandaid. It isn’t a stopgap. It’s relational and sustainable and we are working toward a goal. I’d love to have you on the team, so click here to meet the kids and see who’s available for sponsorship or email me at melanie (at) unexpected (dot) org.
photos from Ansley Mayson