Twenty high school students sat at a make-shift, collapsible table eating a lunch of rice, beans and tortillas. Like many youth, they were pretty absorbed in the act of filling their stomachs. It had been a long morning of working with children in the various UrbanPromise day camps throughout the city of Copan. The youth were part of a group from Canada.
A small Honduran woman came in from the street, sat in an empty chair, and watched the young people put spoonfuls of food in their mouths. A minute passed. Another minute. A few of the youth glanced up from their plates and, uncomfortably, went back to eating their food.
After another minute the woman began to cry. More than a few tears came down her cheeks. She began to wail—loud, uncontrollable sobs with broken Spanish sentences in-between breaths. The youth stopped eating.
The woman, who had prepared the meal, came out from the kitchen to calm the woman. She discovered that her infant son was sick, had no money for food or medicine, and needed help. Quickly the students gathered some money, and put together some plates of food for their guest. The woman went on her way.
“Our kids were really rattled,” shared one of the leaders. “They’ve never encountered that kind of situation. Many are reevaluating their lives—they are realizing how much they’ve been given.”
The kids were having what behavioral scientist call a “disorienting dilemma”. Momentarily their world had been turned upside down. They were confronted with the reality that they had led privileged lives.
Many people question the value of short-term mission trips. “It’s a lot of money,” they claim. “They could do something in their own backyard.” There is a lot of truth to the statement. Short-term mission trips can be expensive and the impact can be fleeting. I don’t think there is a definitive answer. Some mission trips can be extremely impactful, others not so.
My hope and prayer is that some of these young people will go back to Canada changed and begin living from a different set of values and commitments. My hope is that some of these young people will allow the seeds planted from this experience to germinate and give clarity to their life’s calling. That will make the trip worthwhile.
This morning we dedicated a new playground for a school in Los Pinos. The playground was designed by the third grade teacher, Francisco, and build in partnership with the faculty and the visiting workgroup. The groups labored together and learned together. The result: a place of beauty for beautiful children to play.
Today, as I walked up the stairs to the 2nd floor of our camp site, I could hear those words getting louder and louder every step I took. Upon reaching the final step, I realized that the music was coming from our Staff and StreetLeaders who were gathered in a circle singing from the bottom of their hearts - "I cannot do all the good that the world needs...but the world needs all the good that I can do!" Our Staff and StreetlLeaders filled the room with their motto for the summer of 2011 and proclaimed the change they would be bringing to the Little Havana community in Miami.
This year we have been blessed with an extremely dedicated group of Staff, StreetLeaders, and Volunteers! With only 4 days of orientation, the energy is so strong and infectious, that we are guaranteed an amazing summer.
UrbanPromise Miami will be launching its 2nd Summer Program - Camp Courage - starting Tuesday, July 5th. We currently have 80 children enrolled, 16 teenagers who have been selected as part of our StreetLeader Program, numerous volunteers from within the community, and 6 Staff Members ready to build a path of promise for the children of Miami. UrbanPromise Miami will be providing a 5-week summer camp (free of cost) to the under-resourced children of the Little Havana community. Our goal this summer is to help the children of the community grow academically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually, and continue with same success we had last year!
Although an amazing and successful summer lies ahead, much work and help is still needed! As one of our Camp Co-Directors, Eduardo "Pookie" Lopez, pointed out during orientation today - "the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few! (Matthew 9:37)" There is MUCH help and support the camp still needs. We are COMPLETELY privately funded, and every penny collected goes directly to benefit the children. If you are interested in helping us this summer - be it with your time, financial contribution, or in-kind donation - please contact us at Info@UrbanPromiseMiami.org.
We are eternally grateful for all the support we have received in order to make this summer a reality. Without you...none of this would be possible! Please stay tuned for more detailed information and spotlights on our Staff, StreetLeaders, Camp Kids, Volunteers, and Sponsors for our 2011 summer camp.
Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director
P.S. -You can follow the UrbanPromise Miami updates on their blog: http://urbanpromisemiami.blogspot.com/
Posted on Tue, Jul. 20, 2010
Camp Courage keeps kids off streets, teaches rewards of spiritual guidance
BY ANNA QUINTANA
The Miami Herald
Ana Ojeda and Kristy Nuñez get goose bumps every time they hear the cheer:
“We are Camp Courage, the mighty, mighty courage.”
The cheer was written by kids in Camp Courage, a summer program in Little Havana.
For Ojeda and Nuñez, it is a reminder that all of their hard work has paid off.
“We still can’t believe it,”Nuñez said. “Look at my arms, I get chills.”
Less than a year ago, Ojeda and Nuñez, who have been best friends since middle school, began fundraising for a summer program that would cater to local, underprivileged kids.
Based off the model of UrbanPromise, an organization located in New Jersey, Camp Courage — which stands for Changing Others Using Respect and God’s Embrace — is dedicated to academic, social, emotional and spiritual growth.
Eduardo Lopez, the camp director, has been a part of UrbanPromise since he was 14 years old, and he knows the difference this camp can make in children’s lives.
“I’m not out on the streets, I’m not selling drugs, I value myself as man,”Lopez said. “I’m impacting the lives of 50 kids, and that means more to me than being a doctor.”
Camp Courage, which started on July 12, is based in San Juan Bosco Church until it gets its own center.
The camp currently has more than 60 kids between the ages of 5 and 12.
However, teenagers between the ages of 14 to 18 can also take part in the camp as street leaders, junior staff members who help organize and mentor the children.
“As they get older, the kids don’t want to go to camp anymore,”Ojeda said. “That is why we have street leaders, so that they have more responsibility and are not on the street.”
At Camp Courage, the kids are divided up into age groups and rotate activities throughout the day. One group goes to art, another to Bible study, another to recreation and the other to hodgepodge, which is a variety of activities that change every day.
The children are also tutored in reading by the street leaders, go on field trips once a week, and receive breakfast, lunch and a snack, provided by Camille LeClaire, the director of Born to Serve Ministries.
Ojeda and Nuñez are also using their talents to help those children that need more guidance.
Ojeda, a psychiatrist, will counsel kids, while Nuñez, an attorney, will bring guest speakers to talk about crime and drugs.
Sandra Meneces, who is charge of the street leaders, notices that many of the kids just need someone to talk to.
“I have kids come up to me, asking for help,”Meneces said. “They just need someone to talk to and to get away from their home life.”
However, Camp Courage isn’t just a six-week summer program. It is designed to run for the entire year, with an after-school care program to help kids with their homework.
Geraldo Serrano has been with UrbanPromise since high school and, now at 22 years old, is the “chef”at Camp Courage.
“I dropped out of high school, and UrbanPromise Academy accepted me,”Serrano said. “It puts mentors in your life and it gives you a place to be when you don’t have a place to be.”
For Ojeda and Nuñez, that is the most important aspect of Camp Courage: being there for the children.
“We want to improve the community,”Ojeda said. “Our long-term social goal is preventing crime and improving graduation rates.”
They still have a long way to go until that goal is reached, but they already see the impact they are having on the community.
Just ask Elizabeth Gonzalez, a 9-year-old at Camp Courage, what the name stands for.
“It’s called Camp Courage because it encourages you to do things you’ve never done before,”she said.
I have officially been back in the U.S. for two weeks, and this will be my final blog entry as I finish up my time of service with UPI. I left Malawi and the various ministries there with a heart full of hope for the potential of a brighter future for the ministries, and a prayer in my heart that the work I was able to accomplish with the various sites would further their mission and assist in fund development, sustainability, and self-sufficiency. I was able to finish up some final sponsorship details with YouthCare and Safe Haven orphanage, say goodbye to my friends and Malawian family in Lilongwe, visit ChristCares Ministry after school program one last time, pack my things, and take the two-day long journey back to the States.
My last week in Lilongwe was filled with finalizing details for the sponsorship program for YouthCare for the children in the after school program and with the boys from Safe Haven Orphanage. I worked closely with the directors of the after school program to help them select which children would be part of the sponsorship program and to help them fill out their profiles and take their pictures. However, the majority of my last week in Malawi was spent on one exciting project for the Safe Haven boys. There is a
My family in Lilongwe. Gibozi the director of Youth Care, his wife Ester, their baby Isreal, and brother Chimango.
church in New Jersey that is very much involved in the work of UPI in Malawi that has decided to help Safe Haven with the funding of the building of a new orphanage and office facility on the outskirts of Lilongwe. YouthCare purchased a piece of land a few years ago with the idea in mind of building a new orphanage for Safe Haven, but up until now has not had the funding to build the new facility. Their current home and office is very crowded, with 11 boys living in three very small rooms, and two other rooms used for office space. During my last week in Malawi I worked with the Safe Haven orphan boys on putting together some video clips of their stories of their past, the present situation, and the excitement for the potential of a new home for the orphanage. We worked for hours on what they wanted to say, practicing their lines, traveling around Lilongwe filming in different areas, and finally ending up at the site where the new home will be built. The video turned out so well and was shown to the sponsoring church in New Jersey, which has already raised over 90% of the funds needed to build the facility. The boys are so excited for the building of their new home, which will make a huge difference in their lives, as well as providing more space for other orphan boys from the streets of Malawi. You can watch the video that I worked on at this link: http://video.ak.fbcdn.net/cfs-ak-ash4/231731/81/10150177329274327_37304.mp4?oh=64d3ce64e3953e439926ac542d7d7cba&oe=4DDD6300&__gda__=1306354432_fe0c482deea8fac2f120a4b67e22b37b
My last day in Lilongwe I was able to go back and visit the ChristCares Ministries after school program. I missed the kids and leaders from CCM so much, and it was wonderful to spend one last day with them before I left. The kids were so happy to see me, and I was happy to see them. Together we sang my favorite Malawian song “My home is beyond the sky,” danced, laughed, played some games, took our final pictures together, and said our goodbyes. The kids were given an opportunity to say something to me before I left. They urged me to never forget them and told me that they would never forget me, and asked me to always pray for them and to come back to Malawi again someday soon. I absolutely love every single one of them and promised to think and pray for them every day.
Time seemed to have gone by so fast. I stepped into the Lilongwe airport feeling as though I had just gotten off of the plane back in January. Leaving Malawi was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. My heart broke as the plane took off for South Africa, and then on to the U.S. Tears rolled down my cheeks as the reality hit me that I do not know when and if I will ever be back to this amazing country, or if I will see my friends and people that I now consider family ever again. I left a huge piece of my heart in Malawi, but know that I have to return to the States to complete the work which I began to benefit these ministries.
In order to bring this time of service full circle I will be working and volunteering for UPI this summer to complete some fund development projects and finalize and launch the sponsorship program. I began working at UPI on the 11th of May and have been working on getting resources together for a special Malawian festival that UPI hosted in the same church that is going to be sponsoring the new Safe Haven boys’ orphanage. The Malawian interns (Malawian fellows) who are spending a year at UrbanPromise Camden were in charge of putting the event together, and I came on board to help to promote the sponsorship program to those who attended. The event consisted of a walk through a day in the life of a Malawian child, which was about 45 minutes long, and consisted of fetching water, chopping wood, cooking food, hand washing clothes, washing their feet, etc. After the walk, guests came inside the church for some Malawian arts and crafts, games, music, merchandise, and a special program put on by the Malawian fellows. I set
up a table of various sponsorship information, profiles and pictures of children, youth, and Safe Haven orphan boys who need sponsors. I hung up some of their art work and photos and talked to a number of people about my time in Malawi and the new sponsorship program. A few people decided to sponsor a child, youth, and Safe Haven boy, making the commitment to invest in their lives and the ministries in Malawi. The event was a great success, and the sponsorship program is now well on its way to bringing much needed funding to the ministries of UPI Malawi, and to the children and youth who are a part of these ministries.
Malawi and Honduras will always have a piece of my heart, and I am so excited to see what the Lord is going to continue to do through these ministries. The need for programs and ministries like these is so great, and I am blessed to have been able to play a small role in the furthering of God’s kingdom through serving and assisting these ministries. For the next two months I will be finishing up details for the sponsorship program and the other projects I started with UPI. I am seeking the Lord for what He has for my future. I hope and pray that He provides a way for me to someday be back to work with these ministries in Honduras and Malawi.
Please continue to pray for these ministries as they work day to day to help the children, youth, and communities of Honduras and Malawi. Feel free to stay in contact with me. I would love to talk to you about my experience in person sometime, chat on the phone, or answer any questions you might have. My phone number is 570-982-3109, or you can email me at KLMalefyt21@gmail.com.
Also, please pray for the following.
- Praise the Lord for His provision in the partnering of a church for the building of the new Safe Haven orphanage.
- For the success of the sponsorship program, that we are able to find sponsors who will help give to the needy children and youth, and help fund the ministries in Malawi.
- For peace, guidance, and direction from the Lord, as this transition has been very hard, and as I seek the Lord’s direction and will for my future. That He will guide my every step along the way and make my path clear.
- Praise the Lord for the success of my time of service with UPI, and that as I finish up my final projects with UPI in the U.S., that He provides me with strength to complete what was started.
- For the ministries of Honduras and Malawi, that the Lord would continue to provide for them and for the children, youth, and leaders of the ministries.
It has been an amazing second-to-last week here in Malawi. I have already been able to accomplish much in my short time with Youth Care, working hard alongside of their wonderful staff and getting to know the boys from Safe Haven Orphanage a little bit better. I spent all of last week working in the office, checking various things off of my growing to-do list, and spent the long holiday weekend with various friends, beginning the difficult process of saying goodbyes.
Last week I spent the majority of my time with Chikondi, Mwai, and Gibozi, three of the full-time staff members of Youth Care, brainstorming various development ideas, working with the Safe Haven boys on their profiles, and discussing details of the new sponsorship program. They seem very excited for the potential of the sponsorship program, and jumped right on board as we discussed its potential and importance to the sustainability of the ministry. Youth Care also runs two after school programs in the local community; however they were still on holiday as of last week so we were able to focus the majority of our time on office items.
Another project I spent time on last week was the editing of the college application of Ernest, one of the Safe Haven boys. Ernest is 19 years old and has lived at Safe Haven since 2005. His mother passed away when he was only a child, and his father passed away when he was 11, leaving Ernest to fend for himself on the streets of Lilongwe. He would be on the streets during the day begging for money to eat, and would frequently have to go for days without food. His home was the underside of a bus, and he soon became part of a group of street boys who bonded together as orphans in this already very poor country.
By the grace of God, Ernest was taken into the Safe Haven Orphanage in 2005. The director at that time found him on the streets and asked him if he wanted to start a new and better way of life. He and the other boys he was with were taken into a new family and community at Safe Haven. Ernest was given a bed, fed, clothed, taken to church, and soon was attending school. Ernest has now finished his secondary education thanks to a lot of hard work, help, and encouragement from Safe Haven and Youth Care, and is currently in the process of applying to university.
The possibility of getting a university degree in Malawi is something that is very rare. Since there is only one government school with four sub schools for the entire country, the competition is very intense for the 2200 openings. Besides these government schools there are about 4 private universities in Malawi, which are also difficult to get into and expensive. These are only some of the factors that make it difficult to get a university education. Many children and teens are unable to complete secondary school due to lack of funds and responsibilities at home. If they are blessed enough to complete their secondary education they have to sit for exams and pass with high enough marks to get them into a national university, and if they score well enough to attend, they have to somehow come up with necessary finances.. The odds are very much against them, and education in this country is truly the key to a brighter future.
Ernest, by the grace of God, hard work, and the help of Safe Haven has completed his secondary education, scored well on his exams, and is hoping to attend university this coming fall. His top choice for university is a Christian university in California, Azusa Pacific University (APU). His dream is to become a doctor. He hopes to help his country with its need for medical doctor specialists. Malawi has many serious health issues, such as HIV/Aids, malnutrition, high rates of infant and child mortality, and malaria. There are not many doctors in Malawi—only one physician for every 65,000 people-- and often the ones who are fortunate enough to get their medical degrees end up leaving the country to find better paying jobs in other countries. Ernest’s story, strength, and
motivation are so inspiring to me. I am blessed and privileged to have spent so much time with him last week, working through his application and editing his essays. His desire to serve his country, with a potential degree that could take him to so many levels of what the world would see as “success”, and give to his community touches my heart. God has given a gift in bringing him to Safe Haven, and he desires to pass along that blessing to others, serving them and bringing glory and honor to God. I pray that the Lord continues to guide and direct Ernest’s future, and that He will grant his desire to attend Azusa Pacific University.
I spent the long holiday weekend visiting my friends from Rise Malawi in Madisi, Tinashe and Za. I spent the weekend at Tinashe’s house and attended the Good Friday and Easter Sunday services at her church. It was wonderful to spend this Easter holiday with friends, experiencing and celebrating the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with the local church. The celebration was incredible, full of songs in Chichewa, praising, and dancing for joy. Our Easter lunch consisted of pasta with some tomatoes, and some relish. We sat together on the sitting room floor (since Tinashe does not have a table or chairs), thanked the Lord for his gift of love and salvation, and shared our last meal together. I said my goodbyes to my family in Madisi, and boarded the bus for the 1 ½ hour ride back to Lilongwe.
Sunday afternoon and Monday were full of more visits with Robert, the director of CCM, and his family at their home. I was able to catch up with them and stay at their house overnight from Sunday into Monday. It was so good to see them again; their baby girl, Mercy, is getting so big and growing so quickly. It was also nice to spend some time with Innocent and Felista, the house helpers who stay at their home and attend high school. I will miss their family very much.
This week I am working in the office in the mornings and attending the after school program in the afternoon. I haven’t gotten much done in the office this week due to a nationwide power and water outage for the past 4 days. We have power again today so I am in a rush to get a lot done before it goes out. The things we take for granted…!
As I begin my final week here in Malawi, please pray:
- For Ernest, as he sends in his college application to APU this week. For the outcome of that application and for his future.
- For the goodbyes that I will have to say this next week to my family in Malawi. This is going to be a very difficult week for me.
- For peace and clarity from the Lord, as I return to the States on May 7th. That I would be able to process everything that will be going through my mind, and that the Lord would guide and direct my every decision and future.
- For the Sponsorship Program and other development projects that I will be working on with UPI this summer. That the Lord would go ahead of each of these projects and bring them success; that the ministries of Malawi would benefit.