$1,000 of school supplies

IMG_4576

From Houston to Nairobi and Nairobi back to Houston back to Nairobi back…back…back…you get it! Friends have each other’s back!  The beautiful bracelets made by our friends in Kenya have been sold in the front yard, the soccer park, to family, the piano teacher, and during the school carnival.  It is really hard to put into words all of the experiences that we’ve shared with our partner school.  When you find yourself in a library full of U.S. students skyping with a room full of Kenyan students, it seems almost unbelievable!  We talk with them and learn about their lives and their culture.  And of course, we HOKEY POKEY!

Children are amazing with their ability to understand and reach out to each other in friendship.  These kids all want the best for each other.  Competition is lost when you really just want another child to be able to go to school.

IMG_3974
After many bracelet sells, we can now send the children in Kenya the money that we have all helped to earn.  We have learned a lot along the way. Geography, communication skills, technology etiquette, history, marketing, entrepreneurial skills, and current events are just a few of the subjects we have worked on. Just as importantly, we have learned about kindness, understanding, compassion, respect, and love.
IMG_4084
We are happy to be involved in making an education possible for 33 children with this money. We hope that more people will join with us as we learn and give.  Thank you!!! to everyone (teen soccer kids at the park you too!) who has donated to this project through which 100% of the moola is spent on school supplies for children who would be unable to attend school without the love and support of others.  We think it’s a great deal!

Letters to Liberia

IMG_4571
We held our School Ties meeting Thursday morning this week. We recapped the Ebola situation and read the letter that Sampson sent me. We were all pretty much in tears by the end of it and the children were all concerned. We decided to join The Joy Maker Challenge as a club and find kind things to do to make Christmas a happy time for more kids. As our first kind act, we wrote notes to Sampson and his students in Liberia. Many of the kids drew pictures of snowmen, hearts, sunbeams, and flowers. One student wrote, “I’m sincerly will pray for you and your kids. Because some day God will bless you and I will be very thankful for you.” I loved how our club kids felt strongly about the situation and want to ease the pain others feel. Every time we meet as a club, my feelings are reinforced about the goodness that can come from activities that teach children to care and allow them ways to express their desire to help.
We hope you’ll join us in a Joy Maker Challenge
too!IMG_4588

Ebola: How to Help

usaid-cidi-logo

After posting the letter from my friend in Liberia, it was suggested that we do something to help.  With over 13,042 cases reported and 4, 818 deaths this disease continues to ravage West Africa (CDC).  As I thought about what we could do, I realized that reinventing the wheel is not a good idea here.  There are people and organizations on the ground working to improve the situation.  We should find ways to support their efforts.  In the future, when giving, the CIDI has posted Guidelines for Giving:

When disaster strikes overseas, people want to help.  The good news is this: the easiest way to support response efforts is also the most economical efficient, and effective – through cash donations to relief agencies.

Financial contributions allow professional relief organizations to purchase exactly what is most urgently needed by disaster survivors, when it is needed. Cash donations allow relief supplies to be purchased near the disaster site, avoiding the delays, and steep transportation and logistical costs that can encumber material donations. Some commodities, particularly food, can almost always be purchased locally – even after devastating emergencies and in famine situations.

Cash purchases also convey benefits beyond the items procured. They support local merchants and local economies, ensure that commodities are fresh and familiar to survivors, that supplies arrive expeditiously and that goods are culturally, nutritionally and environmentally appropriate.

When disasters happen, many Americans respond by collecting items in food and clothes drives, intending to provide for those in need. It is not unusual for community and civic groups to collect thousands of pounds of material – typically used clothing, canned food and bottled water – realizing only afterward that they do not know what to do with it.

In-kind and material donations require transportation, which is often prohibitively expensive and logistically complicated, given post-disaster infrastructure and challenges.  Further, shipments of material donations require an identified recipient on the ground – someone willing to receive, sort and distribute the material.

In contrast to how cash donations are used, unsolicited household donations can clog supply chains, take space required to stage life-saving relief supplies for distribution, and divert relief workers’ time. Collections of household goods serve no useful function in the acute phase of an emergency operation. Managing piles of unsolicited items may actually add to the cost of relief work through forcing changes to logistical and distribution plans and creating more tasks for relief workers.

Before collecting goods, consider transportation expenses, storage and distribution challenges, and the real-time needs of those in the affected area.

Cash contributions to established, legitimate relief agencies are always more beneficial to survivors and to relief operations.  Keep reading for more information on why cash, rather than material donations, are the most effective way to help.

A lot of info but important to know!  If you would like to help in the Ebola effort, please visit the CIDI web site and consider making a donation.  I liked this one from GlobalGiving.  Perhaps we can pass on a few sodas or an extra pair of shoes to help someone who’s life depends on a Good Samaritan.

Heartbreaking News from Liberia

Over the summer I reached out to several teachers around the world.  One was Samson Chea from Liberia.  He wrote that although his school could not afford a computer or postage for letters, the children were excited to learn more about others around the world.  He said that the school would love to correspond if help with postage could be offered.  At the time, I thought it would be a great experience for children here to learn about his students in Liberia and also a great adventure for his students.  This partnership could open their eyes and understanding to the great, wondrous world!

Unfortunately, I was not able to partner his school with a school here in the states, but I continued to think of them and write Samson every so often to stay in touch.

With the ensuing ebola outbreak I wanted to check in with Samson.  This is his reply

Dear Kelly,
Thank so much for the concerned shown us. all we
need now is prayer because the kids here are dying
everyday and we can not do anything to stop that
since the virus is difficult to prevent. i have
lost 13 of my students and 8 friends so far. the
government has closed down every school in the
country so the kids are with their parents but i
still have to do my best to monitor them because i
love them so much.It’s hurts allot when an
innocent child die from such a deadly virus.i am
thinking of establishing a center to keep kids
there so that they can be well monitor till the
situation calm down since most parents are
illiterate and are not putting adequate preventive
measure into place and the kid keep dying? what do
you think will be the best to do now to help the
innocent kids? any other idea is welcome. i am
really confuse the situation is getting worst
everyday.

Let God save us, we need everyone of you prayer

Sampson

What started as an exciting chance to help children learn and grow (and grow the adults a bit too), has turned into heartbreak.  How much can change in just a few short months.  I will be sending love to Liberia today.

Lemon AID for Africa

IMG_4428

This weekend the girls and I hit the soccor park to raise money for our partner school in Kenya. We took the bracelets that they had made along with some lemonade to tempt thirsty potential donors. We were not there for long and it did not take much of our day, but we did raise enough to send a few more children to school! We met really great partents and interested youth. It was fun to tell them about some of our experiences with the kids in Kenya and the School Ties project.
We did come across one rather grumpy man who cast a slight shadow over our good feelings for only a moment, but I think it was an important moment and something that should be talked about.

The girls invited the man over for some lemonade and he seemed interested until he saw our sign, “Lemon AID for Africa.” At this point he turned and said, “Not for Africa.” Huh? What? The girls were pretty confused why their perspective donor had pivoted away and why he had said, “Not for Africa.” They both looked to me for an answer. Perhaps there is a great answer out there, but I didn’t have one. I am not sure why this man decided against a cold lemonade on a hot day when he realized that the donated money would not be kept in our pockets but instead given to children who need it more.

This question snowballs into more questions like, “Do we feel it our responsibility to help people in a different country? Should we only worry about our own families and communities? Why do the children in Africa need this lemonade money more than children here in the United States? What part do we each play in assisting those in need?

Again, I don’t have all of the answers to all of these questions for everyone. I just hope that the questions are asked, thought about, studied out, and hopefully a personal conclusion reached.

Monster Exchange

IMG_4398

Today we held our first humanitarian club meeting at Reynolds Elementary. We talked about humanitarian work, global awerness, current world issues, and how we can learn more about the world around us. I was surprised to hear that the kids are very aware of ISIS and Ebola. We talked about how those issues affect us in the United States and the rest of the world.

We met our partner school in Nairobi, Kenya and looked at some picutres they sent showing their school and lives. We talked about how we are different, how we are the same, and how we can work together.

We also started our MONSTER ECHANGE. Our kids drew a picture of a monster. They then had to write a description of the monster. We will send the description ONLY to our partner school. Using the description the children in Kenya will draw a monster. When we meet up to Skype we will be able to show each other the monsters we have come up with! It will be fun to see how they are the different and the same!

Wanna make a difference?

School Ties is looking to expand to your neck of the woods! We currently have FOUR international schools waiting to partner with your school here in the US!

(in no particular order)

The Falkland Islands. What? Where is that? Want your kids to know? Down at the very tip of South America children are waiting to reach out and get to know you too!

Ghana. This school in West Africa already has bracelets ready to go! One teacher at the school wrote,
“Actually we are going through a lot of challenges and problems as a school to extend that some children stay out of school because they don’t have basic learning materials like pencils, pens, exercise books and others to use at school, let alone money to buy food sometimes.”
They hope to buy the school’s first computer with money earned from bracelet sells. In the mean time, they are willing to walk to a nearby internet cafe to skype!

Ghana. This school in Accra is full of enthusiasm to learn. They are all set up for skype and email. The lead teacher has tons of educational ideas to share with their partner school.

Liberia. Did you know that Liberia and America go way back? I’m sure you’ll find out more when you partner with a school full of students ready send pictures and letters about their lives. This school does not have skype and emailing is limited, but they would love to be involved in the School Ties project in an effort to raise money to add a computer to their school.

Let’s see what we can do!

Please comment, text, email, or call me if you are interested in getting involved!