Adding Malawi

Due to the generous gifts of our donors, we are thrilled to announce that CompassioNow is adding the Passion Center for Children in Zomba, Malawi, to the list of clinics we support. For nearly 10 years, the Passion Center has been actively “rescuing, redeeming, and restoring” children, widows, and communities. According to Eric Sythoff, President of the Passion Center, “The Passion Center provides food, shelter, medical care, clothes, & access to education to over 250 orphans. We are focused on the Whole Child, in the Whole Community for their Whole Lives.”Group-of-young-Kids-626x469
Our connection with the Passion Center began last year when we partnered with Rock of the Foothills Lutheran Church in LaVerne, CA, to ship donated medical supplies to the Passion Center.

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This coming year, we will be supporting the Community Health Network Project. Currently, the CHN supports the 137 surrounding villages through trained Community Based Groups of villagers eager to provide healthcare and education. Sythoff explains that since its beginnings 5 years ago, “the simple training in basic First Aid, hygiene and sanitation has now blossomed into a well trained & respected Network of Care for thousands. Additionally, most HIV and TB sufferers are too weak to travel to get their medicines. Our network is entrusted to bring these patients their medicines, provide updates on their condition and transport them- as well as other emergencies- via bicycle ambulances.”

The Community Health Network began when “Austin Chisuse, one of our Passion Kids came to us and asked us to train him and a few villagers who wanted to serve their fellow villagers in the area of Health Care. Mr. Chisuse is himself HIV+ as are many of the 40 CBO volunteers. In Malawi about 73% of the population lives in rural areas, it is in these rural areas that health care and health supplies are deplorably lacking. Since that initial request, Austin’s Community Based Group (CBO) has grown by 3 more and these CBOs provide sometimes the only Health care available to thousands of villagers.” The Passion Center provides training, supplies, and oversight for the Community Health Network.

Another way we are hoping to come alongside the Passion Center is through the purchase of newer bicycle ambulances to serve the surrounding villages. Sythoff explains, “Over the past three years we have provided the community groups with up to four Bicycle Ambulances of the older design. When we provide a Bicycle Ambulance we give them training on how to use and maintain them. We stress the important role the Bicycle Ambulances play in caring for the weak and sick, but we make it clear the use and maintenance of the Bicycle Ambulances is now their responsibility. The first one was given to Austin Chisuse’s CBO, and they used it all the time, transporting patients daily and sometimes twice a day. This group maintained their Bicycle Ambulance until the pedal crank actually broke.”

Buffalo Bicycle Ambulance

Since that ambulance broke, the Passion Center has been raising funds to purchase a newer design of the bicycle ambulance. Two have been purchased to date. Sythoff explains, “We keep one of the Bicycle Ambulances at the Passion Center in the event a child or person from the surrounding community needs to get to the Hospital or Clinic and there is no vehicle or driver around. Another Bicycle Ambulance is in use with Austin Chisuse’s CBO. This one is used extensively. Both of these Bicycle Ambulances are of the newer design, which is made stronger and more suitable for the village roads and conditions.” By providing more bicycle ambulances to the other CBO groups in other villages, we can improve the quality and speed of health care to the villagers there as well.

We are thrilled to be offering support for this network and to be bringing healthcare to more of the “world’s least served.” To learn more, visit http://www.passioncenterforchildren.org. To donate directly to CompassioNow’s work, visit http://www.compassionow.org.

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Sanctity of Life

It has been roughly 11 years since I saw my first ultrasound, saw the little bean of a baby and watched the fluttering butterfly of a heart inside. And while it hurts a lot less these days, I still remember walking into the doctor’s office in great anticipation of seeing that little heart bigger and stronger and instead hearing that it had stopped. That was the first day my world stopped. Stood still. Wound around itself in a web of despair and darkness. If I had carried full term all of the children God placed in my womb, I’d have 6 children. God, in His amazing wisdom, gave me 2 bright and beautiful children to love here on Earth and a passel of kiddos waiting for me in Heaven. What a grand reunion it will be one day when I meet them all and when Joseph meets his twin.

I mention this because this week is the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade and therefore is simultaneously the week of Sanctity of Life Sunday across our nation and the March for Life in Washington D.C. Because of my past, that phrase, “sanctity of life,” has special meaning for me. If a heart starts beating around 12 weeks of life and its cessation means there is no life, then how can an unborn child not be protected as a living being?

When I was a sophomore in high school, I joined the speech and debate team. As an original orator, I wrote a speech and week after week delivered it to an ever-tiring group of other high-schoolers who could recite each other’s speeches by the end of the season. My topic? Abortion vs. adoption. Why? Because I was adopted. And somewhere along the way, it dawned on me that my life could very well have been ended shortly after it began, before it ever really got going. That is kind of a daunting thing to face! Instead, I have spent my life singing silently the praises of the woman who had the courage to give me life in so many respects… living, breathing life and life in a family with loving, doting parents who could provide a steady, stable environment for me and boundless opportunities.

Recognizing the sanctity of life is equally important after birth. This past Christmas, Dawn Faith Leppan, who runs the 1000 Hills Community Helpers clinic and feeding center and school outside of Durban, South Africa, posted a picture of a beautiful little three week old baby who had been abandoned that day.

Christmas Baby at 1000 Hills

Christmas Baby at 1000 Hills

His mother left him with a friend, wrapped in dirty linens. The friend brought the baby to Dawn who through the help of donations to her clinic was able to provide for the little one. The story is not uncommon in Africa. Between the ravages of HIV/AIDS, war, famine, and abject poverty, it is estimated there are over 40 million abandoned children in Africa. Some live with their grandmothers while others are sent to orphanages or government child welfare organizations. Still others are left to fend for themselves on the streets of the larger cities or in villages too poor to help each other.

You may recall the story of Yohanna, (link) who lived with his grandmother. She was too poor to own a goat, too poor to provide food on a regular basis. When Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom met Yohanna, he was suffering from malaria and malnutrition and was being treated at the Tanzania Christian Clinic. Or you may recall the story of Patrick (link) who was rescued from an orphanage by the Mission Medic Air team in Zambia and who was sent to a Christian school. He had been abandoned by his mother. During a visit to 1000 Hills outside Durban, South Africa, Lee Kennedy watched the children play outside. Amidst the screams of joy, a little boy wandered off on his own, disoriented and unwell. Lee asked a nearby nurse what was happening. She explained that the boy was probably in the last stages of HIV and probably wouldn’t make it. This is the fragile balance that has gone grossly askew in Africa.

The stories of the children are the most heart-wrenching. Why is that? Is it because kids are just so cute? Is it because they are so little and helpless and innocent? Is it because their lives have just begun, lives that could hold so much promise if given the right opportunities? Yes. Yes. And yes. They remind us of the sanctity of life, of all life. The children pull on our hearts because we don’t want to see innocence ruined by harsh reality, because we feel so protective of the powerless and the helpless, because we see in children the hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Lily of the Valley Medical Clinic, one of the clinics Compassion Tea and CompassioNow supports, operates in conjunction with an orphanage. Several of the directors of Compassion Tea support children at this orphanage. Opened in 1994, the Children’s Village accepts children from government-run child welfare organizations. Most of these children have lost parents to HIV/AIDS and are quite ill themselves. At the village, they are housed in one of 23 3-bedroom homes. Each home has a house Mother and 6 children. The Mother cooks, cleans, helps with homework, and generally cares for the children the way a mother would. Through education, a community garden, computer classes, and day care for the small, Lily of the Valley seeks to improve life and provide opportunities these children would not otherwise be given. 

We can’t change this situation overnight. But we can do small things that will make big differences. Please join us in supporting the work of people like Dawn Leppan, Geoff and Nell at Mission Medic Air, Danny and Nancy at Tanzania Christian Clinic, and the Mothers at Lily of the Valley, the boots on the ground so to speak, those who are acutely aware of the sanctity and the fragility of life.

Tis the Season… to Donate?

A friend of mine from high school recently lamented on Facebook that everywhere she turns she is hounded by someone expecting her to make a donation. Would you like to add $1 to your purchase to help XYZ charity? Put money in my kettle! Hi, I’m calling from XYZ to ask for your support this holiday season. I’m a hired telemarketer but can you please help XYZ with a financial contribution of just $25. The cacophony of pleas for help is overwhelming. I was amazed recently when the audience at The Lion King in San Francisco was asked to sit after the curtain call and an actor (ironically, you might say, the one playing Pumba, the smelly warthog) asked the audience to support a charity through monetary donations as they left the theater.

Yet, as someone who works with a non-profit, I felt torn by my friend’s post. I’ve been mulling it over for weeks actually, praying for clarity. But this is a muddy pool, people, and anyone willing to consider it ends up smelling like something. On the one hand, I completely understand my friend’s complaint. The telemarketer phone calls are so inconvenient and pushy. Are you like me? Do you only answer your cell phone these days because it isn’t “safe” to answer the landline? Odds are it is someone selling something or asking for a donation. At least the political phone calls have ceased for now! Sometimes the group or individual asking for the donation does not take no gracefully. Leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Oh, and, one simply can’t give to every organization out there. The need is great and there are so many organizations out there asking for and seeking help. Intended or not, guilt often comes creeping along after one of these encounters. Enough already!

Ahhhh, but the need is great. Full stop. And if we’re living, breathing, compassionate beings, we do feel called to help somewhere, somehow. In an effort to set a good example for the kids and to show the kids another side of life so very different from their enchanted existence, together we’ve supported several families through the Giving Tree, donated coats to One Warm Coat, donated food to food pantries, filled shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, and purchased holiday gifts through Compassion Tea.

Each time we do one of these things, one of the kids asks why. Why are we doing this? And the answer is always because we have plenty and because the Bible calls us to love our neighbor. We love through helping; we help through loving.

And then they go back to dictating their list to Santa. For Joseph, this is all-consuming. It’s part of childhood, right?

I’ve had another dilemma this Christmas season. The kids, early on, made a plan. For their Christmas presents to each other this year, I would drive them to the pet store and they would buy (meaning put it on Mama’s credit card) rabbits and the accompanying gear for each other. The rabbits would live on the floor of the playroom, near the already abandoned hamsters, and yours truly would have another dependent or two. You can imagine that I was not keen on this idea. With the chickens, the dog, the fish, and the hamsters, I feel quite sure we don’t need rabbits. However, I didn’t want to set the kids loose in a toy store either. Then I read this blog.
The Grateful Christmas Project: 7 Ways to have more Grateful Kids this Christmas
And I praised God for His amazing inspiration. On the way to horseback riding yesterday, the topic came up again. Can’t we PLEASE get rabbits? Why won’t you let us get rabbits? (Because, surely, I’m the meanest mom on the planet?) I offered a quick prayer silently that my words would come out correctly and they would fall on receptive ears. “We don’t need rabbits. We have enough pets to love and take care of. We don’t really need any more toys either. In fact, you kids have toys you never play with. I have a suggestion and you have a choice. Instead of exchanging toys or rabbits this year, let’s do one of these two things. 1. I would drive you to a pet store and we would load up on pet food… dog food, cat food, kitty litter, the works, and then we would take it to the local animal shelter and donate it OR you could buy each other an animal through the Heifer Project.” After a little more discussion and web-based research, the verdict was that Clara was buying Joseph a goat and Joseph was buying Clara a trio of rabbits. And the beauty is that these animals are not coming to my house to live but are being given to families in poorer parts of the world where the animals can provide sustenance (goat’s milk, cheese, yogurt) and fertilizer. The joy on the faces of the kids as they picked out their animal was miraculous. Truly. Better than opening a toy? Maybe not. But much better than I expected. It opened the door to a long conversation about our responsibility and joy as Christians, as blessed Americans, to reach out to God’s people (because we are ALL God’s people even if we don’t recognize Him as sovereign Lord). I am so excited for my kids. As they get older and as toys become more electronic and expensive and worldly, this is a gift I would like to make a tradition. When I’m old and grayer than I am now, I hope my kids buy me goats and rabbits. Or pouches of Compassion Tea!

Compassion Tea is running a campaign right now called our 30 Days of Giving campaign. You see, on top of selling high-quality tea, we are giving our profits to CompassioNow and that non-profit is using the money to help people in Africa. Each day for 30 days we are highlighting a way in which the money from the sale of tea is providing life-saving medical care to someone or someones in Africa. It looks something like this:
Day 1: Your gift of tea will help stock the shelves of Tanzania Christian Clinic with crucial meds for treating malaria, giardia, and infection.Day12Meds.162535
Day 2: Your gift of tea will provide funding to Chalabesa Mission Hospital for a new well so that workers at the clinic will have fresh, clean water with which to treat and refresh patients. (“Cold Shower Water”)

Day 3: Your gift of tea will provide grandmothers with eyeglasses to see and take care of their orphaned grandchildren.

Day 4: Your gift of a Holiday Tea Caddy will cover the cost of a clinical visit, evaluation and any medicines needed for a mother and a child at any of our clinics.Day7nurseJoyceatKareroclinin.160848

Day 5: Your purchase of Ajiri Kenyan Black Tea will provide a child in western Kenya with much needed school supplies.

Day 6: Your gift of tea will help fuel the plane for Mission Medic Air to serve those in remote areas in Zambia.Day6MMAplanewithgreeters.104954

Day 7: Your purchase of a Holiday Four Tea Gift Box will help fund our clinic in Karero, Kenya. Located in a remote area near the southern border with Tanzania, the clinic is staffed by three healthcare professionals, a Nurse, a Lab Technician, and a Receptionist. Your gift will help fund the entire operation of this clinic for a day.

Day 8: Your purchase of Berry Berry tea will add merriness to your holiday and will help the children of Lily of the Valley orphanage and clinic in South Africa, a part of the world where AIDS is rampant.

Day 9: Our Tanzania clinic is located in the northern part of the country near Mt. Kilimanjaro and primarily serves the nomadic Maasi people of that region. Due to poor nutritional practices and large families, this clinic frequently treats malnourished children. Your purchase of a Holiday Gift Pouch will provide nutritional support for one child.

Day 10: Your purchase of tea will provide malaria meds to children like this one. (“Every 6 Seconds”)Day9634Yohanna.111858

30 days just barely scratches the surface of what a small purchase can translate into for a person in rural Africa. (Join our email list or become a Facebook fan or Twitter follower to hear the rest of the 30 days.) We are blessed in this country. And we can use our purchasing power to make a difference. I come from the belief (Puritanical perhaps) that abundance is God’s blessing. And what a joy to share that with others!

So what. Remember that muddy pool I was talking about? The pushy people asking for donations? Yes, they can be obnoxious. I suppose we all can be obnoxious about something we feel passionately about. Whether it’s our grandkids or our hobby or our political party, we can drive people crazy talking about it. For people in the not-for-profit/charity world, their charity is what they feel passionately about and they are willing to run the risk of being obnoxious to get the word out. Grant us a measure of grace, be amused by us, or better yet, find out more about what we are so almighty strung up about. It might turn out to be a great cause you are actually happy to support.

I think my new standard reply to the clerks at the grocery asking for a donation or the telemarketers on the phone will be something like, “Hey, thanks for the offer. Currently, I am supporting other charities that do similar work. But I will look into this one and see if I can help another way or another time.” We all walk away a little less smelly.

Donations… Looking For, Accepting Now, BUT NOT THAT

Not that long ago, I was busy packing up our house for our epic move 2 miles down the road. I took the opportunity to consider each toy, each child’s clothing, my own clothing, and a myriad of other closets’ contents for their appropriateness and worthiness. Moving is a great time to purge. I started to run out of steam however when I got to the bathroom drawers. It was packing day and the movers were downstairs wrapping up my kitchen while I began throwing medicines and lotions and medical supplies into a box with a wing and a prayer. Not so pretty on the other side! Even though we moved all of a couple of miles, things managed to spill, leak, seep. Sticky and wet, I pulled the bottles and boxes of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies out, tried to discern expiration dates, and either pitched or wiped them off and stored them in neat and tidy plastic drawer organizers. The extra effort was worth it! I can find what I need in a pinch… and with young children underfoot, we are always a pinch away from disaster.

I was reminded of this as I read Chris and Jack’s account of their recent trip to South Africa. In the account, Chris explains one of the difficulties that clinics like Lily Medical Centre and 1000 Hills faces: “One of the first things I noticed walking into the [Lily Medical] clinic was a pile of boxes that looked like garbage off to the side of the pharmacy. I asked about it and offered to clean it up. Sister Noluthando told me that they were donations that had been dropped off but had to be sorted because a lot of it was unusable…. It turns out that clinics like this can become dumping grounds for drug stores and other medical clinics or hospitals looking to get rid of things that they wouldn’t use. This clinic as well as 1000 Hills has shelves and shelves of cough syrups of various types. The reason is if one breaks in a case, it ruins the labeling of all the bottles and they can’t be sold. So these donations have to be cleaned and dates checked. There were also boxes of hair dye and weight loss solutions and pills. This was why our duffle was not received with great enthusiasm on Monday. When she [Sister} saw what was actually in it she was practically in tears. She… let me do inventory in the pharmacy… [which] gave me an opportunity to see what they had, what they use frequently and how low they were on antibiotics. We already mentioned the Ibuprofen and Aspirin being down to their last 10 each so I felt like even if we couldn’t give them antibiotics, what we were able to bring was helpful. As the kids like to say, when we left Sister was ‘vedy, vedy heppy!’”

From my formative years, I can remember one or two garage sales. My brother and I sold lemonade out on the driveway, and because we lived in Amish country, we were very excited about the horses that were grazing in our front yard while their owners shopped. But my dad emphatically believed that garage sales were nothing more than the passing off of junk from one family to another. Please, if you are a self-professed garage sale stalker, I am not meaning to offend. There are plenty of really good bargains at garage sales and recycling clothing is a very good idea. This was just my dad’s view and therefore we rarely made the effort to hold a garage sale. Donating goods, on the other hand, we’re quite good at. I think I receive at least one request for donated goods to support one organization or another at least once a week. How about you? And what do you donate?

In our small city, people leave their donated items on the street in bags with the donation request cards taped on the bags. Sometimes the bags spill over or a creature comes out of the Zone 7 waterways and peruses the contents or maybe there is an item that just doesn’t conveniently fit into a bag. I find myself drawn in a mysterious if not morbid way to glance at the items. “Hmmmm, could I use that?” or “What does that tell me about their life?” seem to be my two primary thoughts. Sometimes I see an item and I think, “Good heavens! That belongs in the junk pile not the donation pile!” It just makes me wonder what people are thinking when they make donations. Apparently, according to Chris and Jack, this same question is pertinent to large hospitals and drug manufacturers and retailers, too.

Chris mentions that Sister Noluthando was “practically in tears” when she unpacked the duffle from CompassioNow. That’s because what Chris and Jack brought over was in good condition and much needed. They brought over Nature Made Vitamins donated by Pharmavite, the company Jack works for; eyeglasses donated by CareHarbor; wound care items such as sutures, bandages, surgical gloves, sponges and dressings from Giving Children Hope (CompassioNow made a monetary donation to this organization and they in turn gave CompassioNow the much needed wound care supplies which they collect from donating hospitals); medical supplies donated by Conejo Free Clinic in Thousand Oaks, CA, where Chris volunteers as a Pediatric Nurse; as well as lots and lots of bottles of antacids, antidiarrheals, Tylenol, Neosporin, and ibuprofen purchased by CompassioNow from Costco and Target to name a few things. CompassioNow coordinated the collection of these items… in total 250 lbs. of supplies. Chris and Jack funded the actual trip themselves.

Chris and Jack also carried over around 125 pairs of warm, rubber-tread socks, the kind you receive when you spend time as a patient in a hospital. Chris has a nurse friend at the Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, CA, who collects these socks from patients who don’t care to take their socks home. Instead of throwing them away, Chris takes the socks and washes them. She used them to protect the supplies she carried over to South Africa in 5 large duffle bags and then distributed them to people she met at the two clinics… people who have no coverings for their feet even in freezing weather.

There IS a difference in donations. Some just create more work, are worthless, or are not appropriate. Seriously, is donating weight loss pills and hair dye to clinics in rural Africa where food and water are scarce really all that effective? Or wise?

On the other hand, timely and appropriate donations can make a world of difference. About the supplies they took to 1000 Hills, Jack writes: “Dawn [Leppan] was very moved by the supplies provided, commenting regularly about how certain items would be helpful…. We also got to witness some of the impact of the supplies delivered. Dawn gave a pair of reading glasses to a grandmother there. She was very happy but her glasses started steaming up. Dawn asked what was wrong and the grandmother replied that she could finally see well but she had no money to pay for them. Dawn said that they were free and the grandmother was overcome with joy.”

If I may be so bold, may I remind you that through your support of Compassion Tea… your membership or your purchase of tea… you are helping to support the work of CompassioNow. The people of Africa need the kind of thoughtful donations CompassioNow provides, and you… yes, little old you!… can help us send them joy and comfort.