Progress in Ghana’s Refugee Camp

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The plight of the Liberian and Ivorian people in the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana West Africa has been a designated project for Abandoned Children’s Fund since it was first introduced to us by our project partner in 2011. The camp originally opened in 1990 by the United Nations served originally as a refugee camp for the first Liberian Civil War (19890-1996) and later served to provide refuge to victims fleeing from the Civil war in Sierra Leone (1991-2001) and the second Liberian Civil War (1999 -2003). There is also a small contingent of Ivorian refugees from the two Civil Wars in The Ivory Coast (2002-2004 & 2011).

As the open hostilities in these wars have mostly long faded into history and the camp has “officially” been decommissioned by the United Nations. Unfortunately, the problem of resettling mostly widows and children back to their places of origin are complicated by poverty and war ravaged conditions in their home countries, property that has either been confiscated or seized by hostile strangers, massive unemployment and the accumulated weariness and depression resulting from years of displacement. At some point the shock of a life of continual insecurity gives rise to a sort of paralysis.

As is often the case the circumstances behind these wars are complex and confusing toGhana casual observers but the humanitarian consequences are by no means ambiguous. The same old ghosts of war and poverty stalk these camps. Contaminated water, scarcity of food and health care, an absence of any educational or occupational opportunities reduce the strength of will of these people to little more than begging, victims of circumstances far beyond their control.

Abandoned Children’s Fund has supported our project partner in the camp who are comprised primarily of Ghanaian citizens who Ghana 4(unlike the majority of their fellow countrymen) look beyond these unwanted immigrants and the stigma they represent as social pariahs, and see in them the suffering of the human family.

They pay a price for reaching out against the popular rejection of the refugees (who are feared and hated for taking potential jobs away from Ghanaian nationals) and attempting to lift their lifestyle though providing basic human necessities. Abandoned Children’s Fund has donated containers of food medicine and medical supplies. We have also been able to assist logistically in providing funding for the installation of water tanks for the camp residents.

Understandably the government of Ghana has for years been trying to actively encourage the deportation and relocation of these refugees back to their host countries and as a result the population in the camp is slowly declining over the years, but it appears it will be many ears before the final page is turned on this sad chapter of African life.

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In the meantime, tens of thousands of mostly women and children are born and raised in the tragic squalor of this camp outside Accra. The strategy for assisting these people includes as a first step; installing water tanks throughout the various sections of the camp (which has no sewage system or running water) and organizing feeding programs throughout their section of the camp. Step two then seeks to undertaking to provide rudimentary educational instruction for the children and then lay the foundation for some kind of health care provision for camp refugees (which is at this point mostly a dream).

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Once there is some support in place for addressing the most fundamental needs for survival the encouragement leads to an increased hope for bettering the circumstances that plague such profound poverty and disempowerment. Our project partners have reported that in the parts of the camp community that they have responsibility for there have been some rather dramatic improvements measured in the underlying mental and spiritual health of the youth. An example of some of the results being reported by our partners in the camp include

  • 90% decrease in absentee from days missed at school among children enrolled in our project partners program
  • 80% decrease in children diagnosed as malnourished among children enrolled in our project partners program
  • 85% decrease in death from starvation among children enrolled in our project partners program
  • 75% decrease in child prostitution related arrests among children enrolled in our project partners program
  • 65% decrease of criminal activities associated with gang activities among children enrolled in our project partners program

Though these results are not yet supported by pure verifiable scientific data they represent the search for reestablishing some control in their environment and are providing vision and enthusiasm to continue in a struggle which at times appears to them to be Hopeless. Please help us continue to be a cup of clean water, a bowl of nutritious food, a way out of illiteracy and recruitment into gangs or prostitution and the way forward to a purposeful life for these refugees.

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Serial Orphans in Zambia

The names of the children in Abandoned Children’s Fund stories are changed to protect the children but the stories related are true stories. This story is about baby Jeanne who when our project partner first laid eyes on her was seven months old and weighed a mere 12 pounds.  One of our caregivers observed that even at her age she had the saddest expression she had ever seen on a baby.

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Jeanne was born to a couple who loved her dearly, but the happiness did not last long.  When Jeanne was less than one month old, her father died. Grieving for her husband, Jeanne’s mother clung to her baby, carrying her on her back all day and sleeping with her at night.  But Jeanne’s tragedy was just beginning. One day her mother came down with malaria.  Twenty-four hours later she was dead.

In Zambia when a nursing mother is buried, often (within a few days) the infant child is buried right behind her as a nursing infant cannot survive without milk. A household trying to survive on one dollar each day cannot afford even one small can of infant formula. A child may lose his life because of a simple infection that could have been cured with $2 worth of antibiotics.

In Jeanne’s case, according to Zambia’s extended family custom  Jeanne’s aunt took her into her family.  Unfortunately, with other children in the home, Jeanne did not get as much attention as she had from her mother, but her aunt was at least able to feed her and sometimes she sang to her.

Then an unexpected tragedy struck again. One morning her aunt had a bad headache.  Before noon she had collapsed on the kitchen floor.  By evening she had died.

Another relative, a widow, had compassion on Jeanne and took her home.  But this woman, struggling as she did to earn a living working as a maid, found it necessary during the day for Jeanne to be left with neighbors – first one, then another.  This exasperation was just another straw on the camel’s load as some mornings it seemed impossible to find anyone who would watch little the baby Jeanne.

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One day, the widow left the child with a woman who was unknowingly an alcoholic.  When Jeanne cried, her baby bottle was filled with beer.  After that “meal” Jeanne didn’t cry for the rest of the day. When the widow returned from work she found Jeanne drunk. Horrified, she knew she couldn’t continue to care for Jeanne and keep her job, which was her lifeline to survival.

If a friend had not told her about our Children’s Care Home, it is likely Jeanne would have been abandoned by the caring widow. Though this may seem heartless, sometimes the burden of compassion just becomes to much to bear and even the most generous people give up. Baby Jeanne had become a serial orphan, having lost three mothers in less than 7 months.

Fortunately, Jeanne’s story does not end on this sad note.  After recovering at our partner’s Crisis Nursery, and was eventually adopted by a wonderful Zambian family. Jeanne matured into a healthy, delightful little girl and is now growing up as God intended, in a family.  Please accept our invitation to provide a safety net of provision for an innocent, abandoned child like Jeanne.

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Hope in Action in the Philippines

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The Abandoned Children’s Fund just had a team return from the Philippines in mid-March where as a group we had the opportunity to meet with each of our key project partners in their work. For a few days we were able to travel with them and experience some on-site observations of the work they consistently accomplish and the unpleasant conditions they cope with daily while assisting the families and children of the poorest of the poor in that country.

I recently discovered a fact unknown to me in my research preparing for this trip, that Manila is the most densely populated urban environment in the world. That is not to say it is the largest or most populated (China holds a couple of those distinctions) but it is the most densely packed population in a given space or area.

Speaking personally going into third world shanty towns, dumpsites and barrios to visit families who live in conditions that no human should have to be reduced to, has always been one of the most revealing, stressful, riveting and white knuckle aspects of the work we do at Abandoned Children’s Fund. Taking those first tentative footsteps out across the treacherous bridge, spanning the gulf that exists between the relative comfort and security of our lifestyle in the West and the hodge podge of languages (there are 179 linguistic dialects spoken in the Philippines) cultures and lifestyles that permanently reside in the hunger and filth of profound poverty in these barrios, is always nerve wracking.

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I never seem to be able to prepare myself adequately for that journey and without the internal knowledge that when we a finished for the day I have a ride back to my hotel room, a hot shower and a nutritious meal (and eventually a return ticket to my home in the first world) I would probably be paralyzed with shock. I look around in the tangled chaos of bootlegged electric hot wires that power the unknowable reaches and the illegally tapped and hi-jacked plastic water hoses carrying questionable water (presumably for drinking?) from who knows what source into the maze of alleyways and footpaths of mud and rubbish and I’m profoundly humbled

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I see countless laughing children running barefooted through the muddy slop and squalor of this deterioration where the smell of rotting waste chokes the lungs with a penetrating, awful, toxic smell. Oddly, there is prevailing calmness in the clamor of all this disorder, perhaps its resignation, humiliation or just human exhaustion. Maybe it’s that God’s grace is close to those who suffer such poverty and neglect. There is nothing here that He is not present for.

It would take me hours to record just some of the circumstances we encountered in these disease ridden pockets of need. For the sake of economy I selected one widowed grandmother on the fringe of a garbage site who alone was raising 7 young grandchildren. With an average daily income of 20 cents per day per child for food and water she lived in a squatters hut the size of a small bathroom, made of plywood, tin and cardboard she gratefully accepted the delivery of a food package from the Catholic nuns we partner with. She was crammed-in on all sides by women and families like her own (in huts indistinguishable from her own) for as far as the eye could see. The open sewers ran past her threshold just feet away as her grandchildren looked with pleasant curiosity at our team with our package of food and water.

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In another part of Manila, yet another displaced community of countless hundreds of disparate, homeless men, women and children, living in makeshift structures attached somehow beneath any one of the many concrete overpass bridges in Manila, had the unique distinction of a “waterfront view” of Manila Bay. With its endless landscape of squalid ramshackle booths of plastic, corrugated tin and burlap, built on top of one another like tumbling shapes of rubbish, here on the banks of this fetid body of oil slick strewn salt water, with garbage and human waste floating on the surface. To these children, this was a swimming pool. They slid frolicking in and out of the filth and stench of this water like it was an Olympic sport.

I could go on for hours. The examples of human suffering are limitless. The countless stories of young children being sexually abused by family members or neighbors, pre-teens entering prostitution cartels to help feed their families, parents selling their own organs for enough money to escape the camp are common, as are tales of gang recruitment, extortion and organized protection rackets, Muslim intimidation of Christians, seemingly random strong arm robberies and murders. It’s almost more than the heart can fathom that there are more than 100,000 families squatting in the Baseco camp alone because they have nowhere to go.

But great loss gives rise to great Hope.  So each morning, into the thick of this overwhelming human tragedy the outreach teams we support go forth and follow up on reported leads about incidents of sexual abuse, abandoned children and victims of violent crime. When it is verified for instance, after some discovery, that a child is being physically or sexually abused and there is no extended family into which the child can be placed, as a last resort they are taken to a secure residential treatment center (that Abandoned Children’s Fund furnishes resources for) where they receive medical, nutritional and psychological therapy and are introduced to an educational program and begin to learn to read and write. The reintegration of the family will only take place after the offending adult has been removed from the home.

Other teams provide primary school education programs and feeding projects for children on a daily basis so they can at least have the benefit of nutrition and clean water and the foundation of literacy. I asked one of the young female project partner supervisors, who was walking with me through a narrow, filth strewn alley way, we were traversing “if she was ever “stressed out” being in that environment”. Myself, though I keep a smile on my face and try to remain as alert to the dangers and challenges in the environment I’m in, I find I am inwardly tensed up, like a tightly clenched fist in my chest. She paused and answered “this is our calling. This is what we are led to do.. I feel at peace when I’m here.

I tend to get philosophical after I return from a visit to one of these dump sites or slums and try to rationalize why we are doing this work and what kind of progress we are making when it seems as though the scope of the problem is so enormous and need is so intense. After a while the effort seems so inconsequential compared to the circumstance. Then I come to remember the look on the faces of the children I saw in those classrooms, the smiles on the faces at the feeding program, the reality that these children know these volunteers and project workers, they know in spite of all the obstacles stacked against them that someone is thinking about them, caring for them. It brings them Hope.

These dump site squatters, these poorest of the poor in an impoverished nation are not the only ones who need Hope. The social workers, organizers, counselors, cooks, teachers, volunteers, drivers, everyone involved in the attempt to lift up the lifestyle of these poor need Hope. Those of us who fund raise and tell stories about these modest philanthropic enterprises, who advocate for the needs of the poor, need Hope. Those of you who choose from time to time to donate to Abandoned Children’s Fund, who generously give a little bit of what you have or earn to someone less fortunate, need Hope.

It’s not that the abasement of less fortunate people will ever be completely eliminated, that’s not the object of acting positively from a love for mankind. It is that a life without Hope is a worse tragedy than poverty is. Each of us has our own form of poverty somewhere in our lives don’t we? These dump-site dwellers in the Philippines are not the only ones in need of being lifted up a bit. We all do our part whatever it is, in the grand scheme of things and by doing our little part we keep Hope alive for all of us.

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Pushing Back Against Cholera and Gridlock in Haiti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The following report comes from our heroic and enduring Partners in Casall, Haiti where (among many other things) they operate a cholera clinic and provide relief from the ongoing Cholera epidemic that has persisted in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. 

In December, there were 175 patients treated in the cholera treatment.  So far, we’ve seen 138 people in January.  These months are part of our dry season with very little rainfall. Usually, the cases drop considerably in these months . . . except this year.  We are not sure why there is such a steady high number of cases, but all organizations currently involved continue to do all they can to stop the disease from spreading.

The Haitian health department, Christian Aid Ministries and the French Red Cross are still giving us supplies that they have on hand whenever possible.  The French Red Cross does home visits to disinfect and educate.  They also visit the center with hygiene kits for those admitted.  Our constant need is an IV fluid called Ringer’s Lactate.  This month, we had one man use 110 liters during his stay.  Another used 87 liters.  We try to have the patients drink an oral rehydration drink instead of using the IV fluid whenever possible, but this is impossible with some children, those that are unconscious, and others.  Thankfully, these organizations supply us with 50-100 cases at each distribution.  We are very grateful for this collaboration for the health and well-being of those in the area.  We wouldn’t be able to keep our doors open without this support and teamwork.

 There have been 4 deaths in the area from cholera in the last two months.  This illness is still causing heartache, pain, and suffering throughout the country.  Many organizations have turned their eye from cholera to other needs in the world, but this disease is still a deadly threat in Haiti.

 Our staff is doing well and working hard.  Two of the ladies are on maternity leave.  We are happy for healthy moms and babies and for the time that they have off to recover and bond.  Everyone else is stepping up to ensure the patients and caregivers receive good care and helpful information.

 Thank you to each of you that pray for these patients, caregivers, and staff.  Thank you to each of you that send medicines, clothes, and supplies.  Thank you to each of you that donate funds for payroll, transportation, and food.  Together we are making a difference and helping recovery of cholera patients in Jesus’ Name.  Thank you for being a light of hope in the midst of this dark epidemic.

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Below are some recent comments published Jan 12th 2015 at the Council on Foreign Relations website from the multiple, award winning Journalist & Author of The Big Truck That Went ~ By How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster Jonathan M. Katz. They reflect the generally dismal progress made politically and governmentally while the humanitarian struggle against the Cholera epidemic forges on.

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0­ magnitude earthquake struck near Haiti’s capital, Port­ au ­Prince, killing as many as 316,000 people and destroying much of the city. Relief and reconstruction in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, continues to move slowly and has been marked by major setbacks, including a cholera outbreak some experts have linked to UN peacekeepers.

The earthquake left an estimated 1.5 million people homeless, spurring the development of sprawling tent camps, some of which remain open. How are conditions today? Most of the rubble has been cleared—mostly by Haitians, who used it to rebuild their homes. General services and infrastructure weren’t there to recover in the first place. The situation before the earthquake was untenable, and it still is untenable. The camps became the most visible symbol of the destruction caused by the earthquake, so a lot of pressure was put on the various responders to reduce the number of people living in the camps. But within a month of the earthquake the camps were simply becoming new parts of the housing stock of Port­ au­ Prince.

If you were to go into one of the major camps and then to Cite Soleil, a shantytown that had been there for about thirty years, you couldn’t really tell them apart. They look the same, they’re made of the same materials, and a lot of the same families had family members living in both. You’d have the same kinds of boutiques, the same guys selling lottery tickets. That’s not to say people didn’t want to move back somewhere else. In many cases people had lived in nicer concrete houses before the earthquake and wanted to get out of the camps. The vast majority of people who were registered as living in earthquake camps have now left. Some have gotten rental subsidies, some have been violently pushed out, and some were able to get back to work and could rent another place.

Critics have referred to Haiti as a republic of NGOs [nongovernmental organizations]. After the earthquake, 93 percent of aid went to NGOs, UN agencies, donor government entities tasked with responding to the crisis, and Red Cross organizations. One percent went to the Haitian government, and 6 percent can’t be traced. The Haitian government was so weak when the earthquake struck that it wasn’t in a position to receive large amounts of money and do anything practical with it. But work should have started within a few months of the disaster to make sure that all the interventions going into Haiti were helping to build municipal and national structures so that next time a disaster struck a more robust state response would be a possibility. But that didn’t happen.

The Haitian government has very limited reach, and basic services — like the construction of wells and clinics, for example — are mostly provided by NGOs. There’s no democracy in that scenario. If you live in the quake zone and you’re just an ordinary Haitian citizen who depends on an NGO for services, and the NGO does a bad job, or even an irrelevant job, there’s usually no mechanism to communicate it. In the United States — in theory, and usually in practice — if we’re angry enough [about public services] we can vote for the other guy.

Cholera in Haiti is a disaster that, while not commensurate with the death toll of the earthquake, has had in many ways at least a comparable impact. It has killed about nine thousand people and infected about seven hundred thousand. It ruined people’s livelihoods. It changed people’s relationships with one another. People were afraid to shake hands, to eat at each other’s’ houses. Fishermen didn’t want to go out fishing. People who were raising rice crops didn’t want to go out into the rice paddies. It was really destructive beyond the death toll. And the death toll was massively high. If we weren’t putting this in conversation with an earthquake that killed an estimated 316,000 people, a disaster that killed about nine thousand people in a country of ten million would be considered sort of one of the great disasters of its century.

If an earthquake were to strike today, would Haiti be any better prepared? If another earthquake were to happen today on the exact same fault, the result would be more or less the same. There’s no robust response waiting in the wings. Many people have moved back to the same homes they were living in before the earthquake, homes that have been patched up slightly or maybe not at all, or they’ve moved to new buildings that have been since the earthquake but are just as vulnerable as the ones built before it. There has always been a building code in Haiti, but there has never been an enforcement mechanism to make people follow it. The Haitian government still doesn’t have the enforcement mechanism to ensure that masons are doing what they are supposed to be doing. That goes back to core structural problems of governance and economy.

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Lifting children in the most densely populated urban environment in the world

A telling statistic I discovered this week is that the most densely populated urban environment in the world is  surprisingly, Manila Philippines. While it may not be the largest or most populated in the world it is the most cramped and crowded. Abandoned Children’s Fund has been collaborating with our local Project partners in the Philippines since our inception in 2007.

One of the projects Abandoned Children’s Fund has been investing in is caring for abused and abandoned children at The Laguna Center of Hope which provides treatment and residential care primarily conducted through a total family approach wherein each child is given a father and mother (house parents) and brothers and sisters structure. The treatment each child is being handled by a multidisciplinary case management team, offering a wide range of skills, including psychological and psychiatric assessment. The center aims to help children and their families become whole again in which they have attained social functioning in an environment where they interact constructively, have developed a sense of hope and that encourages the children and their families to succeed.

Programs and Services that The Laguna Center of Hope provides include:

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Residential Care Program

Short-term residential care, treatment and placement to children in crisis who are referred by Department of Social Welfare and Development and other institutions or communities is provided.  Through this program, up to ten children live together as an active, giving family unit in cottages with a married couple that serves as house parents. Each cottage will be a comfortable family-style home with kitchen, family room, study area and bedrooms. Before the children are given their assigned cottage, they will be sent to a transition facility for adjustment, orientation, observation and assessment. Children in residential care avail of the in-house pre-school and attend public schools if old enough. In each home, daily devotions instill Christian values. Children are encouraged to participate in activities at school and also with peers.

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  1. Case Management Program

The program implements the multi-disciplinary approach to provide more comprehensive case management services to child victims of abuse, especially sexual abuse victims. The multi-disciplinary team is composed of social workers (team leader), counselors, psychologists, teachers, house parents, lawyers and medical doctors/nurses. The social worker takes responsibility for an “organized arrangement” of services to heal, rehabilitate, care for or seek change for the child victim. Each case typically involves three stages; assessment, intervention/treatment and termination. The social worker and the multi-disciplinary team conduct a weekly case conference to discuss, assess and propose individualized treatment strategies for each child. Treatment and intervention can borrow from a number of therapeutic approaches to suit the needs of the child or family. Treatment plans are comprehensive and outcome oriented and may include round-the-clock victim counseling; behavior modification; family mediation; individual, group and family therapy; peer counseling; art therapy; and life skills training.

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  1. Placement Program

 The Family Reunification Project provides comprehensive family intervention to families or immediate relatives of the children that have been placed in the Center of Hope for protective custody and healing. The purpose of the program is to reunite these children with their families or relatives who are supportive to the case of the child.

  • Foster Careprovides children with a short term or long-term home and a supportive, permanent family environment where they cannot live with their birth parents. Foster parents will be trained and licensed through the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the children they foster will be organized as alumni to further strengthen commitment and ensure the continuity of the program. Our Foster Care Program follows the policies and procedures set by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the social worker in charge will work closely with DSWD.
  • Surrendered, neglected and abandoned children will be submitted for permanent placement through adoption, which will be coordinated closely with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and matching Board for both local and inter-country adoptions. Social workers in charge will likewise work closely with DSWD following the policies and procedures on adoption.
  • The Independent Living Programprovides services to assist teens and young adults with the transition from our Residential Care Program into an independent living situation. The Independent Living Program provides the following services: housing; food; clothing; education; medical, skills training, and other social services.
  • Aftercare and Monitoring is an after care service of the Center of HOPE  in order to monitor a child’s adjustment and functioning, coping and life skills towards herself, her family, environment, community and vise versa.  It also aims to assist the client and the family on how to cope and move on with their current functioning and ensure the protection and safety of the client. The after care program shall only be for 6 months, as a minimum, and up to 12 months maximum time frame.  The Center of HOPE intends to monitor the cases however on a 5 year time frame, in order to determine if there has been a significant and long term impact towards the client and the family.

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  1. Treatment and Recovery Program

This program aims to instill a sense of wholeness in the child who experiences sexual and or physical abuse. The program will help the children deal with their trauma, guilt and anger through different modalities, like psychological testing and evaluation, psychiatric assessment and medication, clinical interview, individual/group counseling, and individual/group therapy. The objectives of this program are the following:

  • Provide Individual or Group therapy (Play therapy and Art therapy) for children in the Center based and community based projects.
  • Help children to develop positive coping skills to live with their traumas* (Creative Arts Therapy)
  • Organized trainings, workshops and seminars for primary caregivers to provide them with psychological training in dealing with children in the Center.
  • Provide family intervention in the community through therapy and various trainings and workshops to facilitate healing and empowerment.
  • Provide a venue for volunteers to facilitate therapeutic activities with children in the center.
  • Establish networks with other professionals or organization that provides psychological services to children in especially difficult circumstances.
  1. Child and Youth Development Program 

The Abandoned Children’s Fund is humbled by the generous and professional attention being devoted to these precious  children by our partners in the Laguna Center of Hope who have the opportunity to avail themselves of the in-house school program such as the pre-school and feeding; skills training; public education, depending on their age. In each home, daily devotions instill Christian values. Children are encouraged to participate in activities at school and peers. The child’s house parents and social workers provide spiritual, emotional, and academic guidance on-site.

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From Juarez

The story below was authored by Adam Sebastian, the director one of our Projects Hogar de Niño’s Emmanuel, a Children’s Home in Juarez Mexico. Adam reminds us it’s not always all a cake walk on the way to healing and Faith.1

Sometimes, the realities we face at Emmanuel can be shocking and uncomfortable. However, you are part of the Emmanuel family, and we feel it’s important that you know the story of Joselyn, Mariana, and their mother Valeria. Tears form in my eyes as I began to type this story for you, but I promise that the end is full of hope, promise, and the hand of Father God.

This is only the beginning of the story of Valeria and her two girls Joselyn and Mariana, because the best is still yet to come! As with most of our stories, this one starts with the mother.

An Unbelievable Beginning

Valeria was an orphan given up by her mother to a very cold and unloving lady. After years of neglect, Valeria’s mother took her in only to continue the neglect. Valeria explains, “My mother never went to my school functions because she told me that her job was more important than me. She didn’t even notice when I stopped going to school. That’s when my life started to really mess up.”

 From Orphan to Prostitute

Valeria felt her mother wouldn’t miss her if she left, and so she went living from house to house at just the age of 13. At one point, a cousin tried to rape her, and when her mom found out, her mother hit her, accused her of doing drugs, and sent her to a drug rehabilitation center. That is where Valeria actually started doing drugs for the first time.

At just the age of 14, she became pregnant at the rehab center and left to start a life with her boyfriend. However, this young man would beat Valeria, even as she was pregnant, and when she asked her mother to take her in, she was rejected. “So I spent my pregnancy on the streets, sleeping on benches and begging for money,” Valeria remembers.

 When Valeria was 8 months pregnant, she had to be hospitalized and the staff threatened to call Child Protective Services. Valeria’s mother was forced to be present in the birth and Valeria’s life again. Upon setting eyes on her baby, Valeria was determined to change her life, but her mother wouldn’t have it and instead chose to send her baby away and sell Valeria out as a prostitute.

From Prostitute to Drug Dealer

Valeria became pregnant again and started working at a bar to support the baby. However, she crashed a friend’s car and had to work day and night for a time to pay for it. When she came back home, her baby had been given away. “My family didn’t want anything to do with me and told me I was dead to them. So I left the city, without my children, and prostituted myself out and became addicted to drugs

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She started a relationship with a drug trafficker who also violently beat her even while she was pregnant with her third child. Being only a 17 year old in so much pain, she took her anger and desperation out on her unborn baby, trying everything to have an abortion. God protected the baby, however and Joselyn was born healthy.

Valeria was still being beaten physically in front of baby Joselyn when she became pregnant with Mariana. Now with two young children to care for, Valeria tried to escape the abuse, but her boyfriend would also find her, even beating her at her workplace. Joselyn was only 4 years old when she told her mother to leave her dad, that she didn’t want him to hit her mom anymore.

 From Drug Dealer to Widowed Paraplegic

Valeria finally escaped and began making a lot of money trafficking drugs. She gave her girls everything they wanted, and remembers, “At the time, I felt proud because I didn’t need a man helping me take care of my girls.” One day on the road trafficking drugs, a mudslide occurred ahead, and the van Valeria was in flipped over a barrier and down a hill, throwing Valeria out and landing on top of her.

 She continues, “It was a miracle from God that I survived, but I was left paralyzed from the waist down.” She saw no other choice but to go back to her boyfriend, and she fell into a deep depression. Her boyfriend began actually helping her and the girls, and Valeria started to improve emotionally, until a rival drug gang murdered her boyfriend.

Valeria remembers, “I had hope that he had changed and would help me and my girls, but they brought his body to my house, and my daughters saw their father dead. Joselyn was 5 years old, and Mariana was 2. Mariana would cry a lot, run and hide wanting to leave the house. Joselyn, silent at first, after a while began asking for her father, wanting to see him and wanting him to kiss her.”

Now alone, confined to a wheelchair and desperate, Valeria returned to the drug business. Joselyn and Mariana would even answer the door and tell Valeria things like, “Mom, a man’s here and wants two bags of marijuana.” After many people began dying in the drug violence, Valeria came to her senses. She fled with her two girls to Juarez where she knew her sister was attending a church that might help.

 Paths Cross, Hope Begins

Around the same time this past summer, my wife Becky and the pastor of our church Christian began passing out flyers at other churches in the neighborhood around Emmanuel. We were in search for good people that could join our team of caregivers, as we were receiving many new children and were short on staff.

Still without any leads, they happened to come upon the little church where one overwhelmed pastor had just taken in Valeria and her two girls. In the end, we didn’t find a single new caregiver, but rather two new children and a 25 year-old widow in great need of hope and a family.

I guess sometimes the seemingly disappointing and random journeys we go on to find what we think we need are actually very carefully designed for someone else to receive what we have to give.

Transformation Underway

With just a few months being at Emmanuel, Joselyn, now 8 years old, explains, “Before, my mom would treat me and my sister really bad. We would fight and bite each other and my mom would hit me. But then she decided she wanted to change, and now we are here and everything has changed. My mom doesn’t hit anymore, and my sister and I hardly ever fight.”

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After 25 years of abuse and disappointment, Valeria explains what the Emmanuel family means to her now: “You are helping so much in my difficult situation. I have seen a lot of improvement in my girls… their behavior, attitude, thoughts, and how they share with others now.”

 In order to better serve Valeria, we have plans to outfit our campus to be wheelchair- accessible. We are also inviting Valeria to become a part of a new ministry of Emmanuel that God gave us just in time for her. You will be hearing much more soon, but Valeria will be surrounded by other women becoming empowered to believe in themselves and trained to make and sell their own jewelry.

It is a joy to have Joselyn and Mariana in our home, as they are such sweet girls, very kind, intelligent and respectful. They are also doing very well in our school and love attending dance classes in our ballet academy and learning about Jesus in our church. No doubt God brought them to Emmanuel because He has a future full of hope and promise waiting for them.

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Baby Moses and Receiving Our First Babies

Zambia Map

One of our African partners in Zambia operates among other projects The House of Moses Crisis Nursery. It was first opened under stressful and perilous circumstances in 1998, at a time when they had no idea (other than Faith in God) how in the world they were going to expand their vision to care for children in crisis, especially tiny, premature infants. One afternoon in June, a phone call came in from the nurse in charge of the neo-natal unit of the University Teaching Hospital.  The hospital had been described by international media as a scene out of hell with the cross infection rate at nearly 50%. Posted signs even warned visitors to beware! We have four babies at the hospital to send to the House of Martha Crisis Nursery” our Director was told. “You must pick them up at the hospital today or they may die here from infection.”

The largest of the babies was a boy who had been found wrapped in a plastic bag at the bus station, weighing less than 4 pounds. The three little girls were barely half that size.  “You must take them,” pleaded the nurse. “The only other ward is for infectious cases; if we are forced to put them there, they will not survive.”  The existing children’s home at that time was The House of Martha Crisis Nursery but it was not equipped for the intensive care these infants required, but they could not be left to die, so with grave concerns, the babies were received.

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Now June in Zambia is very cold. As a precaution, the babies were bundled up in warm blankets and placed into the office of the house mother at the House of Martha to keep them together. Then, without warning, the electricity went off, and the engineers reported that it would take more than a month to repair. Charcoal braziers were started to keep the babies warm, but it was not enough. Two weeks later, the little boy was suffering from pneumonia and one of the girls was very dehydrated and had to be readmitted to the hospital. With no other place to care for the other two babies, one of the two tiny bedrooms of the mission home was converted into an intensive nursery. 24-hour help was found at local churches to help care for the infants. The two little girls began to improve.  Sadly, the two that had to return to the hospital did not.  The little boy was the first to go, followed by the girl just days later.

Then we received word of another child in danger. A cardboard box, carefully lined with foam rubber was found two blocks from the mission home at the Mother Teresa hospital.  The box, left in the middle of the night was found by the Sisters early the next cold morning.  The box had baby clothes carefully folded beside a baby boy. The Sisters took him to the University Teaching Hospital and the nurses named him “Moses” because of the “basket” in which he had been placed.

Because baby Moses was not “sick” he was admitted to the orthopedic ward. We visited Moses the next day and were impressed by his health and his dimples. As long as we held him we were rewarded with smiles and coos. He protested loudly when we left. Surely, we would be bringing this baby home very soon. But tragically, a week later, Moses died. Within three weeks, three babies had been buried, but two others who had been close to the same fate were living.  We felt God say, “We must not despair those who die, but celebrate those who are able to live” and knew we had to “prepare room” for others like them.

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Less than six months later, a generous grant was received to establish a home for premature and high risk infants in need of critical care.  In honor of the children who live only days, and in celebration of those who will have a full life we dedicated House of Moses in memory of our little Moses with the dimples and big smile. Sixteen years later these two crisis homes (House of Martha and House of Moses) remain to stand in the gap for these vulnerable and helpless children in Zambia. These years of experience have taught many lessons, the most basic of which include these two facts;

  • An orphaned or abandoned infant may have only hours to live.
  • An orphaned or abandoned child can easily become a street child.

In both cases, immediate and competent intervention is critical. A wide variety of care and service have grown up out of these early to children attempts to help.  Today, in addition to schools and feeding programs, children are cared for in temporary homes until they can be placed within the extended family, adopted or fostered. Through an alliance with dedicated local churches the programs have grown to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of children from birth through twelve years of age who are orphaned, abandoned or victims of family violence.

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Once a child is accepted, no child is “aged out” and like an extended family member they continue to provide for that child until a home and family can be found or until they have reached adulthood and are thoroughly prepared to support themselves. In addition to love and prayer, a warm bed, three nutritious meals each day, and clothing the children in our Crisis Nurseries receive medical and developmental services and their parents and extended families are given the Gospel, Christian counseling, parenting education, family support and assistance with micro-loans to enable them to care for their children.

It is an ongoing challenge to find a team of qualified and dependable care providers in the undeveloped world. Our donors need the assurance that the resources they commit to us is being invested where the greatest difference can be realized for abandoned children. We are very impressed by the remarkable work our project partners in Zambia have provided through the years and take comfort from the faces and smiles we see on the faces of these deserving children.

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