Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Day for Giving

Kioskea, Dominican Republic; Thursday, April 1

Before we left Mirquea's school on Tuesday, Dale got a list of things to stock the pantry with. So we went to the store and got it all, in order to deliver it to her on Thursday morning. The reaction on her face and the cheers of the children were incredible! The whole trip would have been worth it for just that moment.

A Surprise for Cindy
Danielle and I spent Tuesday with Cindy and her baby while we were at Mirquea's school. During this time, Cindy really attached herself to Danielle. And Danielle felt deeply for the situation she was in. It must be really rough to raise a baby in this neighborhood at the young age of 16. So Danielle surprised Cindy with a bag full of baby supplies, a pair of shoes (she wasn't wearing any!) and some new clothes. You should have seen the look on her face! She was so excited she went to get her mom who lived down the street. She wanted her to meet Danielle and show her all that she had been given.

Monte Christy

I have seen some pretty terrible things in my time in the third world, but nothing compairs to what I saw at the Haitian Elderly home that we visited on Thursday afternoon. I decided I can't bring myself to show it online, so I wanted to share about a man a few beds down instead, named Enoch (in the green pants).

Enoch is 85-years old. He grew up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. His daughter dropped him off at this Haitian elderly home and told him she’d come back for him soon. That was four years ago…But he doesn't seem to let that discourage him. He is still very proud of her. A group of us gathered around him as he told us stories of his life through his broken English. He made us all laugh a lot, as he talked through his big smile. He stepped out of the room for a minute and came back with a small photo album full of family photos. He flipped through the album, pointing out snapshots of his daughter and son and grandson. He was so proud of them. And then he pulled out a photo of him and his wife on their wedding day. His face lit up. I could tell he really loved her. Standing there with Enoch made me smile, even though I felt like crying.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The House of Light

San Pedro, Dominican Republic; Wednesday, March 31

La Casa de Luz (The House of Light) is a special needs orphanage that was started by an American couple living in Florida. There are 3 nurses and 1 doctor that live there and care for the children. It costs about $8,500/month to run the facility, but lately the funds have been quite hard to sustain. They usually consume 200lbs of rice a month, along with beans, sugar and flour. Chicken is rare.

I met a very extraordinary five-year old girl here, named Elisa. She is smart and sassy and extremely independent. Although her limbs don’t function correctly, she has taught herself how to get by; like when she blew bubbles. She uses her leg to hold up her arm which brings the wand close enough to her face so she can blow.

Elisa & Me

Joy & Rachel Blowing Bubbles with Ruth



Kristen & Lauren have both worked with special needs children back in the States. These two children in particular need to be held close, or else they can't sit up.

Mr. Smith




Los Montones
We visited a new church in Los Montones. DJ led worship, Dale spoke and the Dominican pastor named Greg gave the sermon. He is 19-years old.

Danielle and I with the young women from Los Montones.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Life in Kioskea

Kioskea, Dominican Republic; Tuesday, March 30

We spent the morning at a day-orphanage in Ki0skea. The children from the surrounding neighborhood of Pueblo Nuevo come here for education. This neighborhood is known for its theft and voodoo practices. All of this activity with no education is a bad equation for the children. So a women named Milkea started this day-orphanage in order to give these children a chance to rise above the statistics. God has blessed her efforts with several dedicated and loving teachers who come, regardless if they get paid that month or not. They labor day in and day out because they realize that these children are the future. These children, when empowered with knowledge and love, can change the Dominican Republic. These children can be the future leaders of their country.

Last year, the students at The Rock raised money to renovate Milkea's school. They stocked the shelves with food before they left, but upon our arrival, the shelves were bare. Milkea has to send the children home during lunch time because she has nothing to feed them.

But what they lack in supplies, they make up for in love. The teachers know that God is in control and will give them the strength to persevere. And they do. Their love is strong and their faith carries them forward. It is times like this, when God brings them encouragement. Here, DJ sings with the children about the love of God; their little voices fill the small school room.

Danielle and I met Cindy and her 1-year old daughter at Milkea's. She is 16-years old. She helps out at the school and has grown up in Pueblo Nuevo. We got to hang out with her for the rest of the morning.

Although 70% of the world is made up of water, 80% of the world population doesn't have access to it. The water problem in this community is huge. So where do they get their water for cooking, cleaning, drinking, washing? As we visited different houses, we didn't realize we were walking through it...the little stream running through the street...that is it...

Mani explained to us that this community has hacked into the main water pipe underground that runs to the city. They made their own faucet by connected this hose to the pipe.

If the children don't have running water, they have to spend each day going to get it which means they can't go to school. This cycle can't be broken unless someone decides to invest time and money to dig a well. Most governments in developing countries don't make clean water a priority due to the long list of other priorities already pending. This issue not being addresses is taking its toll on the people, both in the DR and worldwide. As we walked through the neighborhoods, we found out several students from Milkea's school sick from this unsanitary water.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

La Duquesa

Duquesa, Dominican Republic; Monday, March 29

There is a community of Haitians that live and work at the dump outside of Juan Dolio in a place called La Duquesa. The women fight for rotten food and second hand clothes and anything else the dump trucks bring from the outside world in order to provide for their families. If they find something good, they take the chance of getting beaten up by the men who work there until they hand it over. It is a battle for survival every day.

Jackie goes to see them often, bringing food and clothes and special gifts from her orphans. She took us to meet them today. We stopped by the local grocery store and filled up about ten shopping carts. We bought enough food for 40 hungry families that will last them a few weeks. Their smiles said it all.

The House of Miracles...

Santo Domingo; Dominican Republic; Monday, March 29

Some people wonder if miracles still happen; if God still reaches out and touches lives. I can tell you twenty-two times over that He does. Under the shade of a tin roof in a courtyard scattered with toys and running children, I listened to a woman named Jackie who told me so. Her whole life is a testimony to it. And now her twenty-two orphans are as well. “Look around, God has done a great miracle for each of them.” She went on to tell me some of their stories…

Rosemarie is four months old and the newest addition to Jackie’s family. Her entrance into the world was met by a grievous injustice, which will greatly impact the rest of her live. You see, Haitians in the Dominican Republic are considered worthless. They are the lowest class in society. When Rosemarie’s mother was pregnant, she refused to go to the hospital. She knew how she would be treated. But when it was time to give birth, she decided to go. Upon her arrival, she began to hemorrhage and lose a lot of blood. The doctors did nothing. She lay there on the floor, completely helpless. After much time had passed, someone said, ‘Help her or else!’ It wasn’t until then that the doctors assisted in the delivery. As an outcome, Rosemarie’s twin brother died. Her mother was sent home to the dump, only to die a few days later. With all odds against her, this beautiful little girl was brought to Jackie’s House where she now has another chance at life.

Laura, Naomi, and Angelica came to Jackie’s House from different neighborhoods at different times, but their pasts are devastatingly similar. These little girls were rescued from lives as sex slaves, sold by the people who were supposed to be taking care of them. While we were there, they surprised us with a dance they choreographed. The words of their song told of how the Lord had restored them to health and carried them through their suffering. These little girls have been healed by the love of Jesus and by the peace he promises; a miracle only Christ can claim.

Israel is full of life. Hope resonates from his being and is confirmed only further when he speaks. But he wasn’t always at peace. His physical condition is the result of incest, which left him helpless and hopeless. When Jackie found him, he was on the floor of his parent’s house, severely crippled and too weak to hold a bowl of food. With his parents consent, Jackie took Israel and his sister (who has the same condition), to live with her at the orphanage. There, Israel grew in his relationship with Jesus and gained strength and confidence. He is getting surgery in a few weeks, which will straight out his legs and allow him to walk for the first time in his life. He told Jackie, “As soon as I can walk, I’m walking out of here to go tell the world about what Jesus has done.” Through all of his pain and suffering, Israel found his hope in Jesus and he wants everyone to know.

Jackie and her husband own an old truck that they use to take the children to and from the hospital. “The truck hurts our bones when we travel.” And they can never go anywhere as a family because there is not enough room to fit them all. Two years ago our High School students at The Rock raised enough money to buy Jackie a 16-passenger van. Unfortunately, it has been sitting in customs for nearly two years. We found out that after 11 months, the customs officials are allowed to sell items that have not been redeemed. So a special lawyer was hired to make sure that didn’t happen to the van. To our surprise, the van finally cleared customs and was ready for pick up the EXACT day that we were at Jackie’s House. Jackie’s children have been praying for this day for so long and we got to watch it unfold. And we got to listen to Jackie pour out her heart in thanksgiving to God who continues to provide for this very special family that he loves so much. This day the miracle from God was meant for all of us…

I looked at this amazing woman of God sitting in front of me and took in all she had to say and my faith was strengthened. Her faith and love seems endless. “It is because of how much God has done for me. It wasn’t the nails that held up Jesus to the cross…It was His love for me.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thank you to my NGT PCs!

Dumaguete, Philippines; Sunday, November 8

The week before I left, my NGT PCs gave me a total of $115 to take with me to the Philippines in order to use it towards a great need. During my week there, I realized that the needs were endless. But I still kept my eye out for the one. There were two young girls named Cristina and Judilyn, who live at ICM's orphanage, who traveled with us throughout the week. On Sunday night we were invited to the orphanage for dinner. A young woman named Annie and her parents have taken in eighteen children, including Cristina and Judilyn and their younger siblings. The children sleep on mattresses on the floor because they cannot afford anything extra. Annie told us each child's story about how they lost their parents and how they got to the shelter. These children have endured more pain in their short lives than many adults. Yet, they have formed a bond so close that they have become family, just quite a large one. After hearing their stories and seeing their needs, I felt that this was right. So thank you, PCs for your generosity. Before we left, the children surprised us with a dance. They told us how much the movie 'Slumdog Millionaire' meant to them as orphans, so they learned the dance at the end to the song, Jai Ho by Rahman and Gulzar. It was quite a production! Here are their beautiful faces:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Riverside Slums in Banago

Bacolod, Philippines; Friday, November 6

Our vans slowly pulled up as we looked out our windows in awe at the heartbreaking scene before us and parked on the side of the dusty gravel road. We got out of the air conditioned vans and walked down the driveway as the sun beat down on our backs. We crossed over a rickety bamboo bridge with missing planks and entered the Riverside neighborhood slums. We saw a huge pig trapped inside a pin oozing with debris filled mud and some stray chickens running around the piles of trash. We turned the corner, only to see another long row of bamboo shanties hovering above the waste. Clothes are hung everywhere to dry in the sun. There are no dryers here. We followed the sidewalks, running alongside a river of slum sewage, and waved to the naked children sitting on their bamboo floors. We passed by a group of people {a father, daughter, and a grandmother, with no mother in sight} walking to their decaying house and a depressing snack shop where a boy in tattered clothing stood. There was a scrappy house with a tattered bamboo fence defining its boarders, trying to keeping out a lake of raw sewage. I stood there for a while taking it all in, in total disbelief. This neighborhood was terrifyingly different from my home in Virginia.

Red Rope Project

Bacolod, Philippines; Friday, November 6

A hand sown masterpiece was revealed as they unfolded their joy across the table; every stitch from the fingers of the women of Bacolod. Their eyes were bright and their smiles crept across their faces. This was more than a quilt, and their labor more than a job. Just as a pattern immerges over time, so does community. These women come to the table with their own difficult life stories, but leave a finished work with an even bigger story; one of friendship and new opportunities and love. Their stories are woven into their work, from cushion covers and quilts to Christmas cards and table runners. Their handiwork is exquisite and has become their livelihood, helping them out of pain and poverty.

Friday, November 6, 2009

TB Shelter & The Bacolod Slums

Bacolod, Philippines; Thursday, November 5

As we pulled up to the enclosed compound, the big iron gates opened. "Care Recovery Shelter" was spelled out in thin wire over the doorway. We drove underneath and into the Tuberculous Shelter. {Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that usually attacks the lungs but can also affect the central nervous system, lymphatic system and much more} There, in the screened-in porch, were 35 beautiful faces. They welcomed us into their home with several songs they had prepared. I was deeply moved by their words as they sang, "Though I'm weak and poor, all I have is yours, every single breath." I have heard that song a million times, but never like this. Never with these people in mind. The tears burned in my eyes. These people were found in the slums, weak and poor, on the brink of death, and have been rescued and given a second chance at life. Their once damaged lungs have healed and their breath is now used to sing praises to God. Their despair has subsided...their hope is now in Jesus.

"Tuberculosis is the number one medical problem in the Philippines. For those with critical cases, medication must be coupled with adequate nutrition. Patients who reside at ICM's Care Recovery Shelter are provided three meals a day, monitored medication and counseling support. They also receive education in health care, values and livelihood opportunities to prepare them for success when they return to their families." -ICM

It costs $1,000USD to support one TB Patient, which will literally save their life. Since the economic crisis, ICM has had to cut down on the number of TB patients in the shelter. Last year there were 50 patients and this year they could only take 35. They have a capacity of 50 beds, but lack the monetary support to fill them.

Most TB patients arrive to the shelter just skin and bones.

We spent the morning listening to their stories, as they explained what their lives were like before TB, their thoughts in their darkest moments of their illness and their road to recovery. As they all stood in the doorway, waving their farewells, a million thoughts were running through my head. As I looked back, I saw miracles standing there, for that is what they are...

Bacolod Slums, Philippines; Thursday, November 5

When I think of my childhood, it is filled with trees to climb, hay fields to roam, and woods to explore. Not for these children. As I walked through the maze of shanties in the Bacolod Slums, I just kept thinking how there is no privacy in this place. Clothes are hung out to dry, doors are left open, cracks are in the wood, roofs have holes, floors are weak, and there are no locks. We were dodging dripping laundry, jumping over sewage run-off and piles of trash. It was a maze of streets jutting around shanties and trees and big puddles of sewage. And all of the people living within.

We soon had a following of children. We were apparently the main attraction for the afternoon. We all laughed and giggled together as we walked through the streets and made our house visits. They are all so beautiful...

ICM began a program called "Container Farming" which has now multiplied exponentially and has become the livelihood of many families in the slums. The families grow and sell their produce, which brings in money for the family. We saw multiple shanties with these containers outside of their houses. This has been one of the most encouraging signs to the ICM staff, as poor families are taking steps to get themselves out of poverty.

This young girl lives in the slums with her mom and dad and is suffering from some type of meningitis. She has four seizures a day and is currently taking medicine for them. She will need brain surgery sometime in the near future, and to remove the growth on her face, but there is a lack of funding for it. It will probably cost a couple thousand dollars.

Crossing the River to Silay

Silay, Philippines; Wednesday, November 4

We made our way down a narrow path overgrown with vegetation. As we walked further from our vans, the mosquitoes started to bite. Children from a nearby village ran alone side us, until we disappeared into the woods. After a few minutes, we began to hear the sound of the river as we got closer to our destination: The Village of Silay. The trees stopped and we came to the clearing where the river rushed below. We made our way down the steep banks onto the small sandy beach. There is no bridge to Silay so we crossed on the bamboo raft made by the villagers. Two by two, we pulled ourselves across to the other side.

Danielle and Jess crossing the river

As we made our way up the bamboo hillside, we could hear the songs of the children getting louder. We finally made it to the Preschool and our hearts melted as they sang to us the songs they had prepared and recited all of Psalm 23. ICM currently has 38 operating Preschools. The students learn to ready, write and do simple addition and subtraction.

The Preschoolers singing and reciting Psalm 23

"Philippine statistics indicate that with each grade of education, the likelihood of living a life of poverty decreases. ICM's Preschool Plus program gives 25 vulnerable children a strong academic start. Two certified teachers prepare them for success in public school. Students receive a nutritious lunch and snack each day, a uniform and supplies. Parents also benefit from weekly classes in values, health care, and livelihood, and work together to prepare meals for the children." -ICM

It costs $5,000USD to sponsor one year-long Preschool in one of these poor neighborhoods.