New Hope for a New Generation

It’s difficult to identify New Hope’s greatest accomplishment.  Their orphanage provides shelter, nourishment, discipline, and counseling to over 100 HIV positive children.  Their school educates over 170 children and their clinic provides affordable healthcare to nearly 500 patients from the surrounding area.  Each of these is monumental.  But none compare to the extraordinary revolution New Hope has given the Meru Community.  

Clinic patients wait to be seen.

Caroline, a clinic technician.

In defiance of norms, superstitions and ignorant health concerns, New Hope treats both HIV positive and negative patients in their clinic and teaches both HIV positive and negative children in their classrooms.  The result is massive progress towards abolishing the devastating social stigma that surrounds HIV.  

It’s impossible to overstate how destructive the HIV stigma is in Africa.  It causes physical and psychological suffering to HIV positive people and denies them their basic human rights (an example being the HIV positive children who are pitilessly abandoned and now live at New Hope).  These repercussions cause many people to deny their condition and take no medication or precaution.  The HIV medication, along with helping with symptoms and progression, prevents the disease from passing to a child during pregnancy.  The parents remain in denial and the result is the generation of innocent HIV positive children at New Hope who dutifully take their medication morning and night. 

Each child has a cubby for their medication.  The dosage depends on their stage of HIV.

A house mother calls roll to give out morning medicine.

It begins and ends with these children.  If you watch them play, it would be easy to overlook that most of them have endured nothing short of horror in their short lives.  One of our jobs while at New Hope was to have the children write their story.   In simple seven-year-old language, they describe starvation, beatings, death, child labor, and abandonment.  And then, they describe coming to New Hope.

They didn’t expect to be received.  They didn’t expect to have friends.  Many had never had a home.  They were scared, lonely, and HIV positive.  They’d never known a secure future.  And then, New Hope swooped in.

A chalkboard from Class 5 at New Hope School.

The kids are constantly holding hands.

And the older ones take care of the younger ones.  And all of them take care of the babies.

And the older ones take care of the younger ones.  And all of them take care of the babies.

Now, the children play.  They study hard and sit quietly through three-hour church services on Sunday.  They eat five meals a day and take medicine every morning and every night.  They laugh when they catch balls and cry when they fall.  They talk openly about being HIV positive and they have teachers and counselors who will listen. 

Africa is complicated and the challenges are overwhelming.  We were discouraged and, without seeing it with our own eyes, we wouldn’t have believed that an organization like New Hope could exist.  But it does.  And they’re nourishing a new generation of Africans who will carry their banner and change their world.  And we should all cheer them on. 

Click Here to learn more about New Hope and their parent organization March to the Top.  For information on how to sponsor one of these incredible children, please email info@marchtothetop.com.

An Orphan Walks a Lonely Road

There are a few things you should know:

-There are an estimated 3.7 million orphans in South Africa today and close to half of them have lost their parents due to HIV/AIDS related illness.  

-Many orphans live in child-run homes (think of the show “Shameless” but not funny).  The communities help raise them.

-Children’s Centers are safe places kids can come during the day to play and learn.  The centers are mostly run by the grandmothers of the communities, but on their own, so the centers lack basic funding and the sophistication to source funding.  Enter Lonely Road.

The Lonely Road Foundation is not a charity.  One of Lonely Road’s excellent team members, Karabo, told us her view: Charities give help and then leave.  They create dependence.  We empower.

The difference is paramount not only in the results, but in the effort required.  It’s gratifying and fairly easy to donate clothes to a community in need.  But what happens when charities lose interest and the people still need clothes?  <Insert inevitable "Teach a man to fish" parable> 

Lonely Road works with the Children’s Centers in rural areas outside Johannesburg.  The centers provide one meal per day to the kids as well as a safe place to play and learn.  The centers also offer a gateway to the communities and, through the centers, Lonely Road is able to identify needs and address them.

We visited two of the centers in our short time working with Lonely Road.  The children are sweet and mischievous and silly.  They clung to Ryan the entire time (males are hard to come by).  They were rowdy until mealtime when they sat quietly to finish their food.  They listened to the grandmother teacher unlike any child I’ve ever seen and they danced like maniacs during dance time.

This is  my favorite pic.  Those kids are like "WHO is this guy and WHAT is he doing on my rug?"

This game went on for a while...

Meal Time = Quiet Time

Then they fell in love.

Until meal time called!

These kids play hard!

The donated toys stay safe in the cupboards so they don’t get messed up.   The kids play games and sing songs without them.  These kids don’t need toys. These kids need food.  The government funding has just been revoked without explanation (South Africa’s government has made great strides in our lifetime, but is still an incredibly frustrating and complex mess) so the one meal that the Centers offer (and often the only meal the kids get) is currently in limbo.  These kids are easy to help because they need so little and it’s not their fault. 

We spent time with the people behind Lonely Road and were moved by their kindness.  These people are the real deal.  They work tirelessly with the Children’s Centers and the communities to help in responsible and effective ways.  The good kind of giving is complicated and I’m grateful there are smart and effective people in the world like those at Lonely Road to do it.  I trust them. 

Go to their site to learn more and give what you can.  They’ll do the rest.

See the Full Lonely Road Photo Gallery Here.

That Time We Chose Love.

Our trip is focused on love (duh).  And two things happened around the same time that helped us to choose the big L as our trip's focus.

We've already told you the first reason. But there's a second reason that was too precious to shout.

It's this: we watched Andy Stanley's message on the definition of Christianity.  Yep.  That loaded and terribly convoluted word "Christianity."  And, as usual, he made so much sense.  

What only a few people may guess, Christianity is only about love (not mostly.  Only).  And his words reminded us of this and this and this and we felt encouraged.  But then we remembered this and this and this.  And we got furious.  And so sad.  But mostly furious.  Furious that it got so wrong.  And overwhelmed with how to make it right.

The harsh reality is that, in most places in the world, Christianity is associated with judgement, ignorance, and even hatred.  And that is exactly the opposite of everything we should be.  In the beginning, disciples of Christ were known for their extraordinary, unconventional, and unconditional love.  And now look where we are.

So.  Back to us.  

We aren't the smartest in the world.  Nor the bravest.  Nor the wisest/coolest/rightest/anythingest.  We can't do much.  But we can do this.

So we are.  To as much as our (very) limited abilities allow, we're gonna shovel out love as we go.  And we'll fail tons of times.  But we gotta start somewhere.  And frankly, as Christians, we have a lot to make up for.

This is the last time we'll say on the blog that we're Christians.  It's our hope that, by our love, everyone will know.

Reading Partners

What is Reading Partners?

An organization that works with schools in major cities around the country (lookin' at you New York) to tutor students who have fallen behind in their reading abilities.  They match one tutor to each student in order to empower the students as lifelong readers and unlock unlimited possibilities. 

This is Darius.  Yes, he's cooler than all of us.

Reasons We Love Reading Partners:

  1. Anyone can do it.  You don't have to be a teacher because the curriculum is provided and very simple to follow.
  2. The results are measurable so it's easier to stay motivated.
  3. You work with the same child and therefore develop a relationship and provide consistency.
  4. There are multiple time windows to tutor throughout each day so it can fit into your schedule.
  5. Reading is Blakely's passion (obsession).  This reason shouldn't be overlooked-- if you have a hard time giving back and you want to start, pick whatever makes you happiest or angriest and go from there.  

Click Here to Get Involved