Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Compassion Joys: August

It's the end of the month, so it's time to share our Compassion Joys!


Letters seem to be picking up some this month. We had a couple of kids who were almost due for inquiries when their letters came through, and I see that as progress. This month we heard from Jeannette, Kaue, Motempa, Nkoyio, Elisha, Said, Amelia, Emmanuel, Purity, Estha, Eyo, Herlan, Christina, Mjay, Kevin, Edmundo, Zalifina, Reine, and Fatuma! And we got Manna mail from Zoila!


August is one of our slower birthday months, but we still had several to celebrate! This month, Thanakan in Thailand turned 9; Prakasit in Thailand turned 12; Yisleidi in Ecuador turned 5; Caleb in Uganda turned 15; Pitchaya in Thailand turned 21; and Jessika in Ecuador turned 20!


Until last year, apparently we didn't have any new kids in July! So this year we celebrated one year of writing to Rubby and Amelia, and one year of co-sponsoring Maribel!

New Kids!

Sadly, we lost two correspondents this month because their sponsors decided to write to them, but we did gain three new kids! Welcome to little Jarvin in Mexico, and lovely Diana and Edwing in Nicaragua! And Edwing is officially our 100th Compassion kid! This is the most kids I have ever had to write to at one time. I definitely never thought I would have this many members in our far away family!

Photo Updates!

We had a couple of photo updates this month! The most exciting one was Vandana's- we've just had the one photo of her since we sponsored her last May, and it was already a little old. Twenty seven months after her last photo update, Vandana got a new photo- and it's stunning. She is so pretty! I am also excited because if you zoom in, you can see that the necklace she's wearing looks uncannily similar to the one that I sent in a bag of gifts when Shelley traveled to India in February. I hope this means that she (and the other girls) received their gifts!

Also this month, we got photo updates from Carla in Bolivia, and Christine, Mercy, Motempa, and Nkoyio in Kenya!

Special Mail! 

We received a big packet of Manna Mail from Zoila this week! Zoila made four folders, four colorful drawings, and a notepad for me! She is ridiculously creative- everything was covered with pretty doodles and drawings, she fixed flowers on one folder with paint, things were lined and trimmed with glitter glue and sparkling ribbon- it was amazing! And she even squeezed her little doll in. I think I will start carrying it with me and taking photos when I travel, to share with her! Dolly visits the zoo, the museum, and in October, Honduras! :)


Trip Countdown! 

As of today, my trip to Honduras is 52 days away!! I'm so excited! We won't get our itinerary until 2-3 weeks before the trip, but we are working to finalize our plans ("our" meaning me and Marissa, another sponsor) to meet up with our Manna kids when we are in San Pedro Sula. In the process, we did find out where we will be staying at the beginning of the trip. One thing I'm looking forward to is the fact that we will be staying in big cities on this trip- cities that frequently have tourists and visitors. I looked up the hotel on trip advisor, and they have a breakfast buffet that looks really nice! Being excited about that may seem strange, but in some ways, Tanzania was challenging because we stayed in a rural location most of the time, and the "hotel' was not quite what anyone was expecting. Seeing recognizable food (or properly cooked and stored local cuisine!) in a recognizable setting, in a hotel that looks like any I might stay in here, is very comforting. Yay! :)


In May, our wonderful Eduardo graduated from Compassion's program. I recently found him on facebook, and this week he accepted my friend request! I'm so grateful that we will be able to stay in touch! With a little help from Hannah, since I don't speak Spanish.:)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Project Letter: TZ-665

Here's a letter from Amina's project in Tanzania! The photos are from Compassion's website. 

I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ. My name is Pastor Joseph C of (the church) located in the Dodoma region in Tanzania. Matongolo is a village about 55 km away from the Kongwa district center. Your sponsored child attends (TZ-665.) There are 273 children in the sponsorship program, and in the CSP we have 40 mothers and babies. On behalf of our children, parents, members of our church, and village members of Matongolo, I would like to use this opportunity to thank you for all your support to Amina. We thank you so much.

Through sponsorship, our children know about God. They know that Jesus is the savior. They attend classes to learn about the word of God every week at the center. Through this special day, many of the children have accepted Jesus as their savior and also use their talents (like singing, playing musical instruments, and preaching the Word of God) to minister to their peers. All of these are the result of sponsor support.

Children who are registered at our center are healthier. This is partly from the balanced diet of meals and snacks that they eat while at the center when attending their program day. These children also acquire treatment from the neighboring health center when they fall sick. Entrepreneurship and self reliance skills are part of what they learn here at the center. They learn about carpentry, tailoring, computers, and making clothes. They also participate in different games and sports, like football and netball.

Through different activities done at the center, the community has been changed economically. At the center we have some parents who have organized themselves and formed a group called Bank Mazao. These group members deal with collecting maize from these families during harvest seasons and store them at the center. During drought seasons, they redistribute this maize to themselves- some for food and some for selling. They use the money raised to provide loans to village members, which are later returned with some interest on an agreed-upon period of time. This helps them so much to increase their income and build a good relationship between the community and the center. The CSP mothers have been able to establish the batik center, which deals with making cultural clothes. They buy material and dye it using the special batik method, making cultural clothes. They buy material and dye it using the special batik method, then make clothing, which they later sell to the community. This center has been so successful because the income earned helps in meeting their families' needs.

I think the correspondence relationship is crucial to the survival of the program. It establishes the motivation and confidence between the sponsor and the sponsored. It allows the sponsor to ensure a good return on his investment. When the children receive letters from you, it is a single area where we can see the happiness on their faces. They are joyful when they receive a letter from you. On the contrary, those who do not receive any letter from you for a long time become sad. Please write a letter to Amina.

We thank you very much for your support to Amina. May God bless you so much.

If you are interested in sponsoring a young lady in Tanzania, please consider beautiful Halima! She lives with her mom and dad and she is 19 years old. You can learn more about her here.

Sweet Greetings from Tanzania, Bolivia, Uganda, and the Philippines

The triumphant return of Mail Call Monday!

I didn't get the chance to post last week, as Brandon has been on vacation and my schedule has been a bit wonky. I'm happy to say that letters are picking back up again; some have arrived rather quickly after being written, and at least two of our kids had letters on the way this week when we were scheduled to do an inquiry for them, as it had been six months of silence. I take both of these things as good signs that the kinks in the new communication system are being worked out.

First up, we have a letter from Edmundo in the Philippines.

Edmundo's letter arrived the day before we would have been able to ask for an inquiry about him. : ) Edmundo's letter was a little short, but it was still good to hear from him! He said that his family is doing well and he's glad to know that my back is doing better. He said he knew that we were having cold weather, and his place was getting lots of rain because of El Nino. He also said I'm thankful to God because he never leaves us, and I'm so thankful because he protects you and gives you good health!" How sweet!

The same day, we got a letter from Kevin in Peru!

Kevin's letter was logged about a week before my friend Marissa went to Peru and delivered some gifts for him and our other little guy Milder. I know that another sponsor who had gifts delivered heard from one of those children within two weeks, and I believe she had an extra photo- so I'm very anxious to see the contents of Milder's next letter, which is waiting in the queue. In this letter, he thanked us for sending "beautiful" letters and said that his family greets us with the love of God. He said that he's so glad Brandon's uncle Dennis is recovering well from his liver transplant, and loved seeing the photo we sent of him and aunt Anne. He also specifically mentioned he was glad to learn about my friend Melissa- I've been trying to send letters sharing about my friends, so the kids will know more about who I spend my time with! And Kevin said he thinks Melissa is pretty! :) Kevin also said he is praying for my mom, that she will have the strength to care for my pappaw, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and has some health struggles. And finally, he said to be sure to give lots of hugs to Brandon! I always think it's extra sweet when the kids send a message specifically for him, because I send messages on behalf of our family, but Brandon doesn't actually participate in the letter writing.

Next we heard from Mjay in the Philippines!

It had also been six months since we heard from Mjay, so it was really nice to get his letter. He said he's moving on to fifth grade, and apologized that he didn't make the honor roll. I was sure to tell him in my response that we are so proud of his accomplishments, and the most important thing is that he always tries his best (and that I didn't make honor roll that many times, either!) He also thanked us for sending lots of photos with our letters, which is a bonus of being able to attach extra pages to our online letters now.

The same day, we got a quick letter from Christina in Tanzania.

Christina's letter was a form letter about her school. As I sit here and read it, I think about the fact that my little guys Bonifas and Elisha don't send form letters anymore- they still have help with writing, but they're too big for this stuff. Oh, how time flies! Christina shared that she's in nursery school, her school is 2 km from her home, and she gets there by foot. She wears a blue shirt and a navy skirt, and her best school friend is named Lilian. And her favorite activity at school is eating food! Christina also did a small drawing for us, which I like because the girl in the picture has gigantic hands.

The third letter of that day was from Herlan in Bolivia! 

Herlan was my mom's correspondent for about a year and a half before we took over those responsibilities, but since there was a long gap between that time and his first letter, I'm still waiting for his letters to be as informative as they were to my mom- and for him to acknowledge the letters I sent explaining that I would be writing for her now. Herlan is a musician and loves to play guitar, and this letter simply said that he is still enjoying the guitar and the new amp his parents were able to give him for his birthday, and he is happy to serve God with his musical talents by playing in the praise band! 

Next was a letter from Eyo in Burkina Faso! 

Eyo is such a sweetheart. I love writing to her and getting her letters. Eyo said that her family is working hard to cultivate peanuts, and her mother recently gave birth to a baby boy. Her new little brother is named Christian. She said she's enjoying primary school, and her favorite subjects are dictation and "orthograph!" She would like to be a teacher someday. Eyo said that she was glad I asked her to pray for the "sick children" and when she read about them, she cried. I am not 100% sure which letter she's talking about, but I love the fact that she is an empathetic young lady and has a tender heart. She also shared that her father breeds goats and chickens, and that they have a dog named "la lousse." I have yet to find a translation for that, as all the pages that mention that word are in French anyway. She asked that we pray for her family and their farming, and that she hoped to get another letter soon. 

We also recently heard from Amelia in Uganda! 

Though we celebrated her one year sponsor-versary this year, we are still getting to know Amelia. She is very sweet but her letters are just now starting to grow beyond a few sentences. She opened with "I am happy to get this nice time to say hello to you," and asked how all our relatives and friends are doing. She said she enjoyed a recent letter talking about my mom's relatives, and she is thankful to God for providing Brandon and I with new jobs in the past year. She specifically mentioned that she would like to learn more about elephants, which is something I ask about at the end of each animal-themed letter I send out to the kids. She asked that we keep praying for her to succeed in her studies, and said "I wish you a nice stay." :) 

Finally, something really awesome happened last week that I didn't get the chance to share about yet! Some of my online sponsor friends met one of our kiddos! Jennifer and Katrina from Canada were both traveling with Compassion Canada on a tour of Bolivia, and when they got their itinerary, shared it in a facebook group to which we belong. The project for our little guy Francisco was listed on there! I sent them messages along with his photo and ID number, in case they ran into him, and asked them to give him a hug for me. I got way more than that. Jennifer actually put together a bag of gifts for him, and they were able to notify the project ahead of time that they were coming, so he would be sure to be there. His mom and little sister came, too. They met with him, hugged him, prayed for him, and took lots of photos. Katrina said his mom was crying and the Compassion staff said Francisco makes some of the other kids jealous because he gets so many letters and goes around reading them to people. They also sent two videos of Francisco, in which he greeted me and said he loved me and expressed thanks for his new toys. It was so incredible! I'm sharing a couple of the photos here- the young man is Francisco's tutor, and it's so encouraging that they seem to have a close relationship, especially since Francisco's father is not a part of his life. The Compassion staff and volunteers bless our kids in so many ways! And I will never be able to properly thank Jennifer and Katrina for meeting my boy and blessing him with new toys and a little attention. When we go on these trips to visit the centers and our children, we act as ambassadors for other sponsors who may never get the chance to meet their kids. I hope that on my upcoming Honduras trip, I'll be visiting the project of one of my friends' kids. It would be so awesome to pass on this blessing (as I witnessed in Tanzania when some of our travelers met with a young man sponsored by a woman at their church!) 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Project Letter: KE-792

Here's a letter from Mercy's project in Kenya! All the photos come from Compassion's website.

Greetings in the name of Jesus. My name is Rev. Penina M. I am the minister of Methodist Church of Kenya Ngusishi which runs (KE-792) attended by Mercy. I give my heartfelt appreciation for the good work you do in sponsoring and supporting Mercy. I thank you. Sponsors like you have enabled these children to have the opportunity to develop physically, spiritually, socially, and mentally. This would otherwise be unattainable for these children.

The Ngusishi area lies around a market on the slopes of Mt Kenya. The community here is made up of different ethnic groups who have come in search of casual employment opportunities created by horticulture farms. Overpopulation, unreliable rainfall, HIV/AIDS, scarce employment  opportunities and poorly developed human resources create economic marginalization for local population. Parents do not have enough resources or capacity to support their large families.

The children and youth of Ngusishi area are therefore in difficult circumstances. They need support to develop into responsible Christian adults, passionate to transform their community. They need to be inspired to believe they can have an impact.

Our center offers an opportunity for needy children to go through experiences that ignite and sustain their development leading towards belief in Christ. This reduces the vulnerability of children to challenges of alcohol, drug abuse, dangerous social behavior and poor life choices. By ensuring the children access proper health care, we have enhanced their positive hygiene habits, health and fitness. These efforts have reduced incidences of illness, nutritional deficiencies, and physical impediments.

The center strives to provide learning experiences for the children that will ensure development spiritually, physically, economically, and socio-emotionally. The center also seeks to provide educational materials and supplement school fees.

In the last year, over one hundred and eighty children have received letters from their sponsors. All children have written to their sponsors at least three times in the same period. This means the children and the sponsors enjoy frequent communication. They express themselves to each other and get to know all developments. The sponsors also receive updated images of the children. Through sponsor-child relationships, children's self esteem is greatly improved. They also share prayer requests about situations in their lives. They understand each other and share experiences making these relationships meaningful and interesting. Please write to Mercy as much as you can.

All these beautiful things are possible through your sponsorship, your support and your love for Mercy. I request you to pray earnestly for God to guard and protect our children as they grow into fulfilled servants in his ministry. Once again, I thank you for your love and support.

If you are interested in sponsoring a child from Mercy's project, please consider Muriuki! He is only 4 years old and has been waiting over six months for a sponsor. Since kids are usually only registered for sponsorship when they are about 3, this means that for most if not all of his time in the program, he has not had the love and care of a sponsor. You can read more about Muriuki here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Outgoing Mail: Raccoons

I haven't been posting much because I haven't been getting letters! We had a few come through this week, so I hope to remember to do a Mail Call post, but in the meantime, here's a bit about what I sent out to our kiddos this week!

I had been meaning to send out another letter about animals, as those are usually pretty popular (the kids tend to tell me what they already knew about the animal, and ask to learn about more!) As I was looking through the kids' non-fiction section at work this week, I found a few older books about raccoons that really needed to be weeded out of our collection due to condition, and before they went to the book recycler, I read through them and put together this letter! I thought it would be nice to share about an animal that is common where I live, but may be unknown to the kids. All the info just came straight from two non-fiction books, and I added a page of photos and a cute coloring page. That is probably my favorite thing about Compassion's new letter-writing system!

Feel free to copy and edit the text to send to your own sponsor kids!

Brandon and I really love animals, and we are always happy to learn more about God's creatures. I thought you might enjoy learning about an animal that is native to where we live, Kentucky. This animal is called the raccoon. Raccoons are mammals found throughout North America. They live in forests and grasslands from Canada to Panama. Some even live in cities! Most raccoons like to live near water. They build homes called dens. These are often in trees, logs, or unused burrows. Dens can also be in old abandoned buildings. Raccoons have grey or brown fur. They are known for their ringed tails and mask-like markings. They also have pointed noses, short ears, and short legs. Their front paws have long fingers with sharp claws. Raccoons use their paws to grip food. Raccoons will eat anything available: nuts and seeds, small animals and insects, eggs, and fruits and vegetables! They even sometimes steal from garbage cans! In the northern US and Canada, food can be hard to find in the winter months. Raccoons in these areas eat as much as they can during the summer and autumn. Then they sleep for much of the winter. Male raccoons are called boars. They are bigger than the females, which are called sows. Raccoons grow to be about 60-105 centimeters long. Most boars weigh between 3.6 and 10.4 kilograms. Their large size often keeps predators from attacking them. When danger is near, raccoons hiss, bark, and growl. Their sharp teeth also help fight off snakes, birds of prey, and other large animals. Female raccoons give birth to cubs in the spring or summer. Newborn raccoons are blind. Their eyes open after about three weeks. The mother stays near to protect her cubs. After two months, raccoon cubs leave the den. They search for food with their mother. They share her den for the next winter, then they are ready to live on their own! Raccoons are seen as pests in the USA because they like to dig through garbage and sometimes destroy parts of homes when seeking shelter during the winter. Raccoons can also carry a deadly disease called rabies, so it is important to avoid them in the wild, just in case they are sick. I think raccoons are very cute, though. When I was a kid, I wanted to keep one as a pet. My parents told me this would be a bad idea because wild animals belong in the wild, and raccoons can be very destructive and mischievous. They like to chew, dig, and scratch, so it would be a bad idea to keep one in a house! 
I am sending you some photos of raccoons, and a fun coloring page! If there are other animals you would like to learn about, you can let me know! 
Love, Jessi

Here's a photo of the letter that I sent out, along with a copy of the coloring page!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Project Letter: GH-755

Here's a letter from the project our Mary A. in Ghana attends! All the photos come from Compassion's website.

My name is Rev. Canon M of (the church) in the eastern region of Ghana. We run (GH-755) attended by Mary A. Our cool and peaceful town, famous for its botanic gardens, is home to the 195 registered children of the center.

I appreciate you for sponsoring our needy children and would like to thank you on behalf of the center for your love, gifts, and words of encouragement for Mary. We thank you for helping to be a blessing to these children and for giving them hope in life.

Aburi is the capital of Akuapem with an estimated population of 18,701 inhabitants. The primary occupation of the people is subsistence farming while others are employed as wood carvers and petty traders. It is the home to the famous Aburi Botanical Gardens, the Presbyterian women's college of education, Aburi girls senior high school, Adonten senior high school and three public missionary basic schools built by the Presbyterian, Wesleyan, and Anglicans. Despite the availability of educational institutions, most people in this community are not able to complete a basic education because of their low level of income.

The impact of the center cannot be underestimated. The children begin the day with morning worship service. After that, the children take their breakfast. Teaching of the curriculum usually begins at 9:45 where teachers go through lessons from the four thematic areas of cognitive, spiritual, physical, and socio-emotional curriculum. Classes for children 6-8 years are interspersed with various activities such as singing, painting and memory verse recitals which makes the curriculum interesting and fun.

At 1:00 pm the children break for lunch and extracurricular activities. This includes sewing, piano lessons, academics, drama, and cultural dance for those between 9 and 14 years. The children are also allowed some play time where they build their social interaction with others.

The center has not only had a great impact on the lives of the children but also on their families and the community as a whole. Education meetings held each month teach caregivers how to properly care for their children. Caregivers receive education on prevention of diseases such as malaria, hepatitis B and cholera. They also receive education on child rights and protection and this has helped improve the lives of families and the community. Caregivers sometimes meet to pray for the center, their children and sponsors. The children are also educated on their health and on the prevention of certain diseases that are prevalent in the community.

The children, who used to roam on the dangerous streets of the town on Saturdays while their parents worked now have a safe place to gather, meet other children, learn about the love of Christ, learn some good health practices and enjoy balanced meals. Children also have access to good health care as their parents no longer have to worry about their hospital bills.

Letters play a role in bonding children and their sponsors. Children who receive letters from their sponsors are happy and share the letters with family. They wish to write back immediately. Children who do not receive letters are often sad. Letters tell the children they are loved and valued. This is significant. Please write to Mary as much as you can.

It is my fervent prayer that this center will grow from strength to strength, that God will bless all our sponsors and that the children will grow in the spirit and likeness of Christ. We are indeed grateful for your continuous love and support for Mary.

If you are interested in sponsoring a child from Mary's center, please consider sweet little Francisca! She has been waiting much too long for a sponsor. Read more about her here.