Spring newsletter: Creating ripples of change at the Gracias Foundation
Spring is almost here, despite March snowfalls in parts of the US and Europe. It's great to celebrate growth and over the past couple of months our amazing volunteers have been helping to grow and develop our projects. Andy and Amy also spent time with volunteers, staff and kids at the Maisha Home in Kenya and AHOPE in Ethiopa. Below we are pleased to share with you the exciting activities and projects the volunteers participated in and helped to complete.
Jack's school project video: volunteering in Kenya
Student volunteers reflect on their experiences working with staff and kids at Maisha home in Kenya
Maisha is sitiuated in a semi rural location outside Nairobi. 22 children and 5 caregivers share a small family home. Maisha gives orphans a loving home, a healthy, homegrown diet and access to elementary and secondary education to enable them to become productive future citizens of Kenya.
Jack, a 10th Grade student writes:
"On Monday I got an idea of the day to day life of the caretakers at Maisha. To summarize, they're amazing. I started off by walking the goats with Chris, (a teenage Maisha resident) in the full sun then walked around the village while we waited for them to graze. Then I cleared up the goat poop from their pen. We then started cutting kale leaves for dinner and I sucked at it. The aim of the game was to cut them as small as possible; my pieces looked more
like salad leaves. The caretakers cooked the food over two small fires in a metal shed, it got insanely hot and smoky. They do that every day". (Thanks to a generous donation the cooking area has been
much improved, see below). "I was exhausted after one day, and they do it every single day. They're pretty much legends."
Sacha, an 11th Grade volunteer reflected on her experience via her Facebook page:
"The best experience of my life! Nairobi, Kenya 2013 ♥ Thank you so much Amy Paulson and Andy Hughes for making this trip possible, I really appreciate it. It was, without a doubt, the most influential week of my life! This week really made me cherish family, friends but foremost life!"
Volunteer Giulio creates a ripple of change at Maisha
Giulio, our most recent volunteer, received a warm welcome at the Maisha Home last month. His boundless energy and passion for helping others had a big impact on the kids and staff.
One project he saw completed was the installation of a new oven in the cooking area. The existing facilities meant cooking was a hot, smoky and
time-consuming chore. Food had to be prepared
in large pots over wood fires. Now staff are able to cook on an efficient wood-burning stove in a more pleasant atmosphere as smoke is dispersed via a chimney.
He took all the kids and staff on a truly memorable field trip to Crescent Island - many of the kids' first time ever on a boat!
He also tutored a number of kids and helped them improve their school grades; *Sara is excited to have moved up several places towards thetop of her class.
Giulio described his volunteer experience:
"This is truly a life changing experience. I was amazed and blown away by the environment Mama Maisha has created: all the children seem happy, optimists and living a fulfilling life despite their difficult backgrounds. They are disciplined, extremely well educated and hard working in school. I felt at home since the very first day and everyone welcomed me as if I were a family member."
Thank you to everyone, including all the generous
eBay and PayPal employees, who donated to
Giulio's campaign to provide sustainable transport for the Maisha community. We're 70% funded and hope to purchase the van later this year!
Our friend and fundraiser, Olga recently spent two weeks working at our partner home for children and adolescents with HIV/AIDs. She organised a museum trip, giving a group of young people a great learning experience; museums bring to life past and present and can inspire us in the future.
She also ran a "sewing by hand" workshop. A group of girls learned how to make skirts; a time consuming process involving concentration, perseverance and ultimately success, satisfaction and stylish skirts!
Look out for Olga's future blog post detailing her experiences.
Generous donations help improve young lives at Jelly Tots Daycare Center, South Africa
Following the amazing fundraising efforts of the eBay offices in Bern and Zurich, we are happy to report on the delivery and daily use of mattresses at Jelly Tots, giving infants a comfortable place to sleep during nap-time. Plans are also being drawn up to install a more suitable playground surface, paint the climbing frame in attractive, appealing colors and build a sturdy wall to replace the rickety wooden fence.
Thank you to everyone who helped us make this possible.
Elayne's plans to return to DR Congo
Elayne, who created the Safe Embrace Trauma Healing Program (SETH) is planning to return to the V-Day Foundation's City of Joy later this year. Part of our ongoing project to train local trainers to use SETH, the program helps heal young women like *Ruth. A former child prostitute, Ruth is one of several young survivors who participated in Elayne's program in DR Congo in 2009, having already suffered devastating damage to her body and mind by the time she was 14 years old. The SETH program uses social rehabilitation, creative therapies and somatic awareness skills to help heal traumas, restore dignity, and create sustainable futures. The photo shows her proudly receiving her graduation certificate from the program. As Ruth never had the chance to attend school, this certificate is the first thing that she was proud of in her life.
Elayne states "I believe that we are all here to be of passionate service. I also believe that for many of us it is a journey to find out the way that we are called to serve"