Archive for the tag “Global Hunger Relief”

True life transformation for impoverished girls

This deeply moving story comes from our partner, Baptist Global Response:

FarjanaBANGLADESH — The small, ramshackle “home” sits just feet from the edge of railroad tracks. The house made of corrugated tin, bamboo, plastic tarps and wood is one small room shared by a family of six. The roof leaks when it rains and looks in danger of collapsing.

But this home is all 10-year-old Farjana’s family can — barely — afford.

Farjana and her youngest brother, 8-year-old Shukor Ali, must beg to help their family survive. Nearly every day, the children can be found begging at a busy intersection in their city that’s surrounded by shops, restaurants and businesses.

“When I was very young, my father died,” Farjana says. “My mom was unable to manage our family by providing food and other needs for us. … The last six years I have been going to the [intersection] for begging and earning money for my family.”

Farjana’s family is doing what they can to make it. Farajana and her four siblings live with their mother, 50-year-old Khotija, in the one-room shack. Her eldest brother is 20 and divorced, living back home, and works in a garment factory — but doesn’t always share the money with his family. Her next brother is 17 and unemployed. Farjana’s 15-year-old sister works in a color factory and “sometimes she provides [money], and sometimes she does not,” her mother says. Khotija doesn’t have a job or beg because of her ill health.

Farjana and her sister are the breadwinners for this family — but it’s not enough.

Farjana isn’t able to attend school because of her family’s lack of resources and her role as breadwinner. She cannot read or write. But she wants to go to school someday because “without education, there is no significance in life,” she says.

‘THE SHELTER’

Farjana is just one of Bangladesh’s estimated 700,000 beggars. Girls from low-income families like Farjana face many obstacles and dangers in their life — including potentially being trafficked and exploited, says Christian worker Geri Hennerman.*

“They are seen as nobodies and only good for cleaning, cooking, sex and child-bearing,” Hennerman says. “They are often beaten verbally and physically. They have little — if any — encouragement, love, correct discipline or teaching. They do not have good female role models to follow. Many are given for marriage at extremely young ages.

“They are seen as objects instead of real people.”

But impoverished girls can have the chance to avoid this dark future through the Light of Hope Learning Center, which Geri and another Christian worker started more than six years ago.

The center — a day shelter that gives girls education, nutrition, health care, moral training, life skills and the love of Jesus — empowers girls to have a brighter future. They are taught they are special and created by God, and have great potential for living a transformed life. Locals call it “the shelter” — a place of peace, refuge and safety — but the Light of Hope Learning Center is much more than a place of protection. It is a place where underprivileged girls can find a way out of the poverty cycle.

For many girls at the Light of Hope, life was once very similar to Farjana’s. They were begging or working every day to support their families, so they couldn’t afford to attend school. They live in one-room shacks in the slums, typically with just one parent, usually their mother. Many families have moved from the villages to the city looking for a better life, only to find a worse situation and become trapped in the cycle of poverty.

“[The girls] spend their days learning and growing in all areas — intellectually, morally, spiritually, physically, emotionally and socially — instead of spending their days (and nights) out in their very dangerous and open areas, learning the ways of the world and getting into dangerous and trouble-type situations,” Hennerman says.

LEARNING AND GROWING

At 7:45 am, Light of Hope Learning Center is already a flurry of activity. Fourteen girls file in through the apartment’s front door, and proceed to take showers and practice proper hygiene to prepare for the day. After showering, they change into clean, dry uniforms while the Light of Hope staff wash their dirty ones from the previous day.

These 14 girls, all between the ages of 13 and 18, come to the Light of Hope five days a week between 8 am to 4:30 pm. Geri and her husband, Mickey,* act as Light of Hope’s directors, while a group of national women run the center’s daily operations, assisted by volunteers.

The girls receive nutritious snacks and two meals a day provided by Global Hunger Relief  (formerly the World Hunger Fund), a Southern Baptist initiative that directs 100 percent of each donation to meet hunger needs worldwide. The center also provides food like lentils, rice and oil to help supplement family nutrition. This year, BGR channeled more than $14,000 to help provide the center with food, classroom materials, teachers’ salaries, training materials, medical supplies, rent and electricity.

The girls attend classes and learn the basics of math, reading and writing, science, English and social sciences. Since many of the girls had no education before attending the center, the goal is to bring the girls to a fifth grade-level education — which in Bangladesh is a requirement to get any kind of respectable job.

“The Light of Hope Center girls, they’re getting an education they wouldn’t get otherwise,” says Cassie Blanchet,* a short-term volunteer at the center. “If they had brothers, they’re more likely to get it anyways. … Women are going to take second to their brothers or fathers or husbands.”

But the center teaches these young women they do have worth and value through the love of Jesus. The girls are taught moral lessons, Bible stories and godly principles by the staff and volunteers. Most of the girls come from Muslim families.

“Allah has 99 names, but none of which are love,” says Maggie Caley,* a Christian worker who teaches at the center. “It’s just hard for [the girls] to comprehend love, and I think that has to do a lot with their joy and passion — because they’re seeing what love is and feeling cared for and provided for, as well as learning real life practical things.”

Many of the girls have found life transformation through the love of Jesus, and that has made a “big change” in their behavior, says Esther,* one of the Bangladeshi teachers at the center.

“I like to teach Bible class to them [and] to share my life also to them,” Esther says, because when she shares her life the girls can ask questions and she can encourage them in their faith.

But Light of Hope does not just help the girls, it also reaches out to their families. The center provides the girls and their families with basic medical care, and assists the families when they have medical emergencies.

At school, the girls are taught to embroider handicrafts, which gives them a valuable job skill, as well as an income they can use to help support their families instead of resorting to begging. The girls’ mothers and sisters are also invited to the center during the afternoons, when they can learn basic sewing and embroidery skills, as well as attend a basic literacy class once a week.

TRANSFORMATION

Before she attended Light of Hope, 14-year-old Fatema* used to collect recyclables off the street to sell in the market — her father has passed away and she lives with her mother and three siblings. They could not make ends meet, though, and her family was starving.

“By coming to the Light of Hope Center, my life has been changed,” Fatema says. “… Here I am getting food, I am getting opportunity to take shower … They are also providing different kinds of relief goods for our family. When I got sick, they provided me with medicine and they even took me to the doctor for treatment.”

Like Fatema, 13-year-old Jahanara’s  * life has been dramatically changed, too. She used to beg and sell firewood to help her family scrape by.

“My life was full of sorrows and painful,” Jahanara says.

Through the center, however, Jahanara’s life is better — “I have listened to many good teaching … What I needed they provided me everything.” She says she is especially thankful for “the opportunity to have the education.”

The Light of Hope girls — like Farjana — once faced a dark future, but now have hope for a brighter one, through the love and care of godly women and the support, prayers and donations of people who care.

“God, through the Light of Hope Center, takes the girls in daily and educates them,” director Geri says. “They are taught from young ages about how special God has created them, and that He has great plans for their lives. … They learn they are beautiful and full of potential for living Christ-centered lives.

“They become jewels in our King’s crown.”

*Names changed.

YOU CAN HELP

• Pray for the directors, staff and volunteers of the Light of Hope Learning Center as they minister to the girls, teach them valuable skills and demonstrate the love of Jesus.
• Pray the center would be able to help even more impoverished girls, like Farjana and the Light of Hope students, have a brighter future.
• Pray that Light of Hope students would continue to learn and grow, and realize their potential for a brighter future.
• Learn more about how you can help, volunteer and get involved in the Light of Hope Learning Center, email lightofhope916@gmail.com
• Give to the Light of Hope Learning Center through Baptist Global Response’s “Widows and Orphans Fund,” which provides education materials and/or opportunities to children and youth in need, at http://www.baptistglobalresponse.com/donate/view/widows_orphans_and_vulnerable_children
• Give through Global Hunger Relief, which helps alleviate hunger needs worldwide, at http://www.globalhungerrelief.com

A pastor’s dream comes true: Feeding his family

Harper McKay writes for CommissionStories.com:

pigsPaulus Maharaj* had a dream. It was a dream that brought him up close and personal to one of the dirtiest, smelliest jobs in the world — raising pigs.

The smells of rotten, day-old food and festering animal waste would turn even the strongest of stomachs. But for Paulus and a handful of rural Indian pastors, they are the smells of progress, smells that mean their families and communities can better support themselves. That’s what Paulus’ dream was all about, and Southern Baptists’ gifts through the World Hunger Fund** made that dream a reality.

It all began when Paulus took time away from the overcrowded city streets of his hometown to visit the wide-open spaces of village life. A pastor and teacher, Paulus wanted to encourage other pastors he had the opportunity to train. What he saw in their homes left a lasting impression.

“The pastors, their children eat only rice. They can’t afford even milk or vegetables and fruit,” Paulus says. “Many pastors are not able to send their children to school.”

People in this area of India typically need no less than 5,000 rupees per month (a little over $80) to feed and support their families. The pastors Paulus saw were making less than 2,000 rupees a month ($30), if that much.

Most of the pastors relied on their already poor congregations — other villagers like themselves. Depending mostly on crops that struggled to grow in the hard, dusty soil or on livestock prone to sickness and malnourishment, these church members simply could not afford to give much to their pastors.

Paulus knew the pastors’ ministries and families would continue to suffer unless they had help.

“I said to myself, how can I help these people?” Paulus recalls. “I was thinking, what is the best way to keep their ministries going, to help them maintain financial stability without depending on outside income?”

A Thanksgiving Day discovery

Paulus’ dream took an interesting turn as he searched at the local vet school for a Thanksgiving turkey for a visiting American friend. There Paulus heard the deep grunts of a much less attractive animal.

As it happened, the vet school specialized in pig husbandry. The school had scores of stalls packed with the biggest, fattest mama pigs he’d seen in some time, many with squealing babies following closely — a stark comparison to the stunted, sickly pigs he’d seen in most villages. He saw so many breeds — black ones, brown ones, spotted ones, some with large snouts, some with narrow, some with sleek bodies, some with wrinkled.

An idea flickered.

“Someone had told me about raising pigs before, but I didn’t think it would work,” says Paulus. “At the school I came to know that it could be the easiest and best way to support the pastors and their families and help them be self-supported.”

His dream began to take wings — or rather hooves.

Training begins

Paulus researched pig husbandry and became convinced it was just what the rural pastors needed. Soon, Paulus and IMB representative Clifton Melek* developed a plan to provide pig husbandry training to rural pastors. One thing was lacking — seed money to get the project off and running.

Baptist Global Response, through the World Hunger Fund, was able to answer their call for help and provide funds.

At first, many pastors hesitated. Did they really want to wake up at dawn every day and collect rancid leftovers to feed their pigs? Was it worth wafting smells and endless squealing and grunting just steps from their houses? What would their neighbors think?

After an awareness day that included a tour of the vet school, 20 pastors decided to participate. For 15 days at the vet school, they learned the basics of raising pigs — feeding, providing shelter, administering immunizations and performing basic medical care.

The pastors received this training plus two starter pigs through the World Hunger Fund. They went back to their villages ready to succeed.

Prodigal pastors

But for most pastors, things got off to a rocky start. Surprisingly, a lot of opposition came from church members’ interpretation of a familiar Bible story — the prodigal son. They associated caring for pigs with backsliding.

No one wanted their pastors trudging through pig waste in their most tattered clothing. No one wanted their pastors cleaning stalls covered in mud and swarming with flies. To think of the prodigal son wanting to eat the rancid, discarded food that pigs slop up in seconds was repulsive. How could pastors have time for this and for ministry?

“People mocked me at first,” says Kanai Hembrom,* a pastor who received training. “They laughed at me and said to me, ‘What happened to you? Have you lost your mind?’”

Pastor Sontash Roraon* also faced opposition from church members. “They started commenting that this pastor who used to be taking care of the church members is now taking care of pigs,” he says.

During monthly meetings with the pastors, Paulus heard about the opposition and began to wonder if the program would succeed. “I was discouraged, and I asked God, ‘God, [if] it is you who gave me this thought and vision, why is this happening?’”

Gateway to ministry

Over a year has gone by, and church members and neighbors have changed their tune. Within months, many of the pigs had five to six babies, increasing the pastors’ wealth to at least 25,000 rupees ($400)  — more than 10 times what they need to care for their families for one month. By the time the pigs were ready to sell in the market (a matter of months), each pig could earn the pastors up to 10,000 rupees (about $160).

Rather than hindering ministry, pig farming has opened up new ways for pastors to serve their church members.

“One church member came to me because he owed 40,000 rupees in 15 days and could not pay it,” explains Sontash Roraon. “I went and sold two pigs and was able to give him 20,000 that day.”

Doors once tightly shut have opened.

Neighbors noticed how pastors’ lives were improving because of the pigs, which grew faster than any they had seen before. They were healthy, robust and quickly sold to vendors.

“The people who are very poor are looking at me and saying, ‘If this man can get this kind of income, why can’t we?’” says Sontash. “A few of [my neighbors] have already requested for me to provide baby pigs for them to begin raising.”

Several pastors have been able to share their expertise and build relationships to share the Gospel with people who have not heard it before.

Kanai Hembrom has done so well with his pigs that he is known by many as the “pig doctor.” He is now called upon to administer vaccines and help other farmers whose animals become sick.

Kanai says happily, “I feel like this is the grace of God that I can go to the communities and do these treatments … As my pigs increase, so do my churches.”

Passing the blessing

The impact of the World Hunger Fund goes beyond the 20 pastors initially trained. After their farms begin to flourish, each is expected to train and provide two pigs to a “Timothy,” who will then start his own pig farm. Many pastors have already begun to invest in other farmers and break the hunger cycle in their areas.

Sontash plans to pass on his expertise and starter pigs to unemployed youths in his community who have little education and find it hard to feed themselves. “I just considered that this is a great return I can give to my community so they can be blessed by my work,” he says.

Dreams come true

Paulus is grateful to God for His provision. “It was God’s direction leading me to be connected with these pastors. It was God who put this desire in my heart,” he reflects. “All glory goes to God.”

Without support from the World Hunger Fund through BGR, this program would still be just a dream. The funds given reach far beyond the original 20 pastors to include their families, neighbors and other communities. Paulus hopes to continue training pastors who will go into other locations and reach out to those who need it.

“Thank you BGR and World Hunger Fund for making my dreams come true to help the pastors have income that is self-sustaining,” he says through a huge smile. “Dhanyavaad!”

*Name changed

**The World Hunger Fund is now Global Hunger Relief.

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