17May/18

Teens in a Changing World

Often when we think of child sponsorship, we consider younger children being the most vulnerable. While the needs of young children are truly important, we have found the most crucial stage for our students is adolescence. According to WHO’s Atlas of African Health Statistics 2017, Uganda has one of the highest adolescent mortality rates in Africa due to accidents, substance abuse, suicide, violence, HIV and pregnancy complications. 40% of girls are married by age 18 and 14% have given birth between the ages of 15 and 19 (Atlas of African Health Statistics, 2017). Many of these young girls then raise their children without the involvement of the father, dropping out of school and struggling to make ends meet. We need to be deeply concerned for our older students in the program, investing even more time in discipleship, camps, health education and family support!

Hope Africa International has several strategies to respond to the increasingly complex issues our adolescent students face. First, we believe that the spiritual and emotional aspects of child development need to be addressed early on in sponsorship through Bible teaching and health education at Center Days. Also, by 5th grade, students are encouraged to participate in outreach events to open their eyes to the needs of others and how they can give back to their community. We have seen wonderful results from this investment with our children striving to be excellent students, standing strong in their faith, and having a sincere desire to make change in their community!

Things change for our students when they are promoted from Primary to Secondary School. They leave home and board full time at school (except during holidays) with rigorous academics, decrease in parental involvement, increasing peer pressure, and as is the case all over the world, a greater exposure to social media. We have implemented a discipleship program through Ugandan staff and volunteer pastors who visit the schools to meet with students as a group, guiding them spiritually and holding them accountable. We also host four day camps three times a year for our Secondary students where they truly grow in their faith, make important decisions to direct their lives and maintain a community of friends and adults who challenge them to stand strong.

Hope Africa International strives to be an ongoing support to the parents of sponsored children. Through group parent meetings, individual meetings, and home visits, our Ugandan staff have built lasting relationships with these families. Students who are orphaned or from single parent homes, often feel pressured to enter into early marriage (especially girls) or drop out of school to help out at home. Understanding the family dynamics helps us to better meet the needs of the child and provide support for the family to prevent potentially devastating consequences.

Your role as a sponsor is more important than ever at this stage of life for sponsored children. Even if you do not write often, your simple, financial support sends a message to the student that they matter! One nursing student recently wrote to her sponsor, “Thank you so much for your support. You have made me somebody important, and now I can help my parents in case they are sick! God Bless you!” What a beautiful example of how the basic investment in a teen’s life makes a world of difference.

23Oct/17

Shining Light

Lillian was sponsored at a time when her father was too ill to work, leaving him very few resources to support his children. In addition to this, he had to take out loans to pay for his medical expenses. The burden of the loans overwhelmed the family and the children suffered greatly, with no hope of completing their schooling. Lillian was sponsored at that time and proved to be responsible and hard-working, completing her secondary education with the advanced level diploma! Today, she is in her third year studying economics at a University. Lillian also continues to volunteer with Hope Africa International, investing back what she received from the program. When I was in Uganda in August, Lillian worked with my daughter to teach sixth and seventh graders in three different schools about drug and alcohol abuse prevention. She has a deep faith and love for Jesus, which makes her a powerful witness in the university setting. All of this stems from her years of sponsorship, simply because someone decided to reach out to her as a little child. As we continue to watch these children grow up, we realize the scope of sponsorship reaches far beyond the child who is sponsored. These godly men and women who were sponsored as children demonstrate the light and life of Jesus as they go out into the world. They use their gifts to build up their communities, churches and families and use their resources to help others in need, just as someone long ago reached out to help them. Hope Africa International seeks to invest deeply into the communities of Kapchorwa, Kaplobotwo and Kabachirya over the long haul. Why? Because we believe that this is how communities are empowered to rise above all circumstances, and we believe that long-term investment is the best way for transformation to take place.  

23May/17

Our Father is Home

 

Tears were pouring from his eyes when I told Patrick we could add his son to our sponsorship program. My Ugandan staff said, “He is so overwhelmed with how Hope Africa has impacted his family. He is praising God that we helped in their time of need!”

This man had just been released after two years of prison, serving a sentence for which he was completely innocent. Before this time, he was a successful business owner in Kapchorwa, providing well for his family without many worries.

It all started when some squatters tried to take over property the family used for farming. When Patrick tried to force them to leave, they bribed the police claiming that he was guilty of murder and kidnapping. The police gave in to temptation and arrested him without any evidence supporting these claims.

Patrick was torn apart with anxiety over the welfare of his family. But then, two of his children, Enock and Naume were sponsored, bringing some relief to their financial strain. Both of these children became dynamic leaders for Hope Africa and at their schools, with Enock becoming the student body president of Kapchorwa Townview! Then, a sponsor took on Patrick’s son, Timothy, as well. Since then, Enock and Naume have graduated from Secondary School, with great hope for their future.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Timothy is thriving in school and is also a key student leader for Hope Africa!

Every day, this family prayed for justice for their father. I personally visited their home twice during this time, moved by their faith and trust in God’s provision in spite of their circumstances. They even had their 102 year old grandmother staying with them during this time, a woman who was so thankful for what the sponsors were doing for her grandchildren.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Finally, an attorney showed up at the prison, seeking to assist people who were wrongfully accused. After hearing Patrick’s story and examining the evidence, this attorney was convinced that he was innocent after all. While the family rejoiced in his homecoming, this man came back to a dire situation in Kapchorwa. The squatters had constructed buildings on his land, enabling them to have full control of the land. Since he was gone for two years, he also lost his business, leaving him without a means to provide for his family or the ability to fight for his land.

Yet in all of this, he was overcome with emotion, so thankful for sponsors who cared enough about his kids to sponsor them. Since his son graduated from the program, we told him we would take on another son, Emmanuel, so he could also have hope for a brighter future. We could tell that Patrick did not want to ask for anything, humbled by his situation. But watching his reaction of complete gratitude and joy reminded me that we are not just helping children. We are keeping families together with small acts of generosity, just when all hope seems lost!

 

 

02Mar/17

Samuel’s Voice

As Samuel came running up to meet me, I was overcome by the intense joy flowing from this delightful child! My heart broke for Samuel and his family when I first heard of the tragedy which left five children on their own. His oldest sister, Shamira, was sponsored by Hope Africa International at the time when her father passed away from HIV. Devastated, her mother struggled to care for the children while fighting the disease herself. A few years later, Shamira and her siblings lost their mother, and it seemed they had nowhere to turn. But thankfully, their cousin stepped in to care for them, and all of the children were sponsored immediately. Hope Africa International has been diligent to assist with food for the children on top of our commitment to pay school fees, uniforms and medical care. However, our greatest challenge has been to find a solution for sweet Samuel, a special needs child who was unable to walk, speak any words or take care of himself at all until he was seven years old. Now, this boy is speaking words, walking, running, and taking on more and more with his self-care.

While he has made great strides through the hard work of his siblings, schools in Kapchorwa have refused to allow Samuel to attend. They insisted we send Samuel to a care facility for special needs children, but the last thing we wanted to do was to place Samuel in an institution where he could be potentially neglected, abused, and separated from his loving family. Most importantly, if something happened to Samuel, he would not have a voice to tell us! After weeks of prayer and discussion, our Ugandan staff discovered an answer in a wonderful friend of Samuel’s family. This woman loved Samuel from the moment he was born, giving of herself to help them whenever she could. She offered to become Samuel’s caregiver, and they will be traveling to a center in Mbale where she will be trained on how to help Samuel to learn!

Hope Africa International seeks to provide assistance to families, both biological and foster, so that children do not have to be institutionalized. Why do we do this? Because, institutionalizing children can have extremely tragic consequences such as abuse, exploitation, or neglect. Even in the best of situations, children growing up in institutions are more likely to suffer from attachment disorders, mental illness and depression. We believe that supporting families by providing for their children is the healthiest solution to overcome the cycle of poverty. Thank you, sponsors, for joining with us in keeping Ugandan families together through sponsoring children!