February 13, 2012

It Matters: Investing In People

This weekend I was a big grump.  We've been working on home repairs from sun up to sun down and my body was aching.  It felt like we would never be done.  I lost steam.  I lost respect for the blessing of the home that we currently live in.  I despised all the little tiny pieces of puzzles that my children have collected over the years.  I cursed all of the matchbox cars that seem to breed like rabbits. 

I crawled in bed and thanked God that I don't work like this physically with my body every day.  I can guarantee that it wouldn't hold up well.  My thoughts immediately flashed to my sponsored sister, Simone, in Congo.  I wonder how many hours a day she spends carrying back breaking loads of wood from the forest just to be able to start a fire to cook a meal.  I wonder how many times she has to walk miles and miles with a heavy jerry can or a bucket just to get enough water for her family to drink, much less to wash with and cook with.

Suddenly, complaining of my aching back and my to-do list felt so selfish.  I looked around me and realized that I'd just spend more on four gallons of paint, brushes and drop clothes, than most people in Congo (and all over impoverished countries) make in a year.

I thought of the last letter that I got from Simone.  She was so excited to be going to vocational training.  She's hoping to start her own business one day.  She'd been able to save enough money from odd jobs that she bought a goat.  She has two children and now she can give them milk every day.  In a letter that was completely devoid of any type of punctuation, there were two exclamation points after the sentence about how her children would have milk every day.  We are both moms, Simone and me.  We just want to do the best we can for our children.  My dreams for mine have been polluted by the world.  Her dreams for hers have been destroyed by poverty.  But now she's taking her life back with just a tiny bit of a hand up.  I'm so proud of her.  

I thought about those matchbox cars that I kicked around earlier and wondered what kind of person I'd be like if I had to worry about being able to feed my children every day.  Or if I didn't have milk to give my babies.  Or if the proudest accomplishment that I had in my life was the ownership of a goat.  Sometimes I try to sit and let this just soak in.  I think that in America we focus so much on all of the things that kids "need".  We make baby registries that are 25 pages long.  Our back to school shopping has it's own line in the budget.  We spend enough on books and educational apps to fund a small city it seems like on some days.  And while there is nothing wrong with those things, if we don't remember to recognize them for the blessings that they are and pay it forward when we can then we have missed out on how incredible it is to bless others.

As an adoptive parent who didn't study poverty and it's effects on populations until I already had my child home, I struggle to make sense of how children become orphans and my role in it.  Here we can't imagine taking our kid and turning them over to an institution because we can't fill their bellies.  But it's a reality that so many women all across the globe face.  They LOVE their children.  Let me say that again.  They LOVE their children.  And the children LOVE their parents.  They just can't be taken care of and it's heartbreaking to see what once was a family be broken up.  I know that there will always be orphans as a result of war, disease, etc.  But poverty?  Oh poverty.  It's just tricky. 

I know that we can keep children from becoming orphans by investing in their mothers.  I am so grateful to have my son.  But I look at the issues that he has had as a result of once being an orphan and I wish to God that some woman playing around on the Internet had thought to give his mother a hand up so that her life (and my son's life as a result) would have been different.

This is how we prevent children from becoming orphans: we invest in people.  I think that sponsorships are one of the very best ways to do this.  Take a mom who has a fierce love for her children and a good head on her shoulders and enable her to start her own business, or teach her a skill that her village values or get her the medical help she needs so that she can take care of her children and THAT woman will NEVER need to take her children to an orphanage and THOSE CHILDREN will NEVER become ORPHANS.

We have two sisters that we sponsor in Congo. One is near completion of her vocational program.  She was able to purchase a sewing machine and is running her own successful business.  She has taken care of her three grandchildren since their mother died.  Because of the sewing that she is now taking in, she is able to send one of those children to school.  That is HUGE!  Do you see how investing in a woman keeps spreading good mojo out through the masses?  That child that gets to go to school (and the other children as she makes more money) is gaining the skills that he needs to also lift himself up out of poverty.  (And all of those children are remaining with their families who love them and out of an orphanage.)  An orphanage is no place for a child to grow up. 

We decided about a year ago, to make this type of giving a priority in our home.   We sponsor our sisters through Women for Women International.  It is about $30/month to sponsor one woman for a year long vocational program.  I get it.  Thirty dollars can sometimes seem like a lot.  For our family, we use 100% of the ad revenues that this blog generates to sponsor our sisters.  We started out with one woman, and as this blog grew, we took on another sister.. and then a child (cute little John) that we are sending to school in Haiti through Heartline .   If we are fortunate enough to continue to grow, we'll take on more. So even if you can't make room in your budget for a sponsorship, just by visiting this blog and having your hit counted with our advertisers, you are helping us help our sisters.  (In some small way, that makes me feel like me airing all my dirty laundry on the Internet actually makes a difference!) My point is, sometimes you have to get creative to make the commitment come to fruition.   

But truly, if sponsorship isn't something you've ever considered, I urge you to step out on faith and make that commitment.  It is one of the very best ways that we can help to preserve families and make an impact, one child who never has to become an orphan at a time.  It's also great for our children.  They look forward to getting those letters that come in the mail from our sisters.  It opens up a whole line of conversation with our kids and shows them that there is a whole world beyond themselves.  They see our sisters' pictures every time they open the refrigerator.  We pray for them by name sometimes.  Creating tiny humanitarians ensures the next generation will still care about these things long after I'm not preaching it to them every day.

There is no end to the good things that can happen when you invest in people.  Just do it.  You will be so glad that you did.  Here are some of my favorite organizations that do sponsorships if you are looking for a place to plug into:

Women For Women International:   helping women survivors of war rebuild their lives and care for their families
Project Hopeful Hope+Sisterhood:  keeping HIV+ women healthy so they can parent their children              
Mercy House: pregnant women are taught sustainable life skills to help them be able to parent their children as well as have a safe delivery and medical care for their children
Harbour House: pregnant women are taught sustainable life skills to help them be able to parent their children as well as have a safe delivery and medical care for their children
Compassion International: child sponsorships to help children go to school, have adequate nutrition and provide them with a Christ centered upbringing

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