Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fundraising - HALO's lifeline

HALO is a 100% volunteer-based charity, meaning there are no paid members of the organization. All proceeds go directly to supporting Christ's Children's Home.
HALO ambassadors Kristen and Marcie show Fungbeh and the kids yoga poses.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"The Contrast"

As HALO grows, so do the contributions of the Ambassadors who volunteer their time and other resources to ensuring the continuation of CCH and the development of the children who live there, emotionally, spiritually, and academically. Katie Eaton and Hannah Brittain were mentioned in our previous post for their generous contributions to the orphanage by staying with the kids for a month (3 weeks after the rest of the medical mission group left Africa) and testing the kids for aptitude, identifying potential learning disabilities, and creating a game plan for the teachers at CCH to accommodate where all of the kids are developmentally.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Medical Emergencies - an update on two of our CCH children.

Thank you for your continued interest in following the progress of CCH and the HALO organization's efforts in Liberia.

Recently, HALO posted a Facebook request for prayers and support for Mary. Mary was born during the Liberian civil war and was prone to seizures in her infancy, likely caused by a traumatic delivery. This condition is common in children born during the war, regularly resulting in lifelong epilepsy.
HALO Ambassador Courtney Van Hoozer and Mary
When Mary first arrived at CCH, it was not disclosed that she was prone to seizures as an infant, but Neyor and Fungbeh soon learned of her epilepsy when she began experiencing seizures, the most recent of which lasted for nearly fifteen minutes. A six hour commute to a doctor and a $500 (USD) CAT scan later, Mary's doctors determined that her condition is epilepsy, but they did not find any additional, more serious conditions. She was prescribed a stronger medicine than what she was previously taking and was reported in good health by Fungbeh and Neyor this week. Neyor's nursing background and charitable donations saved Mary from other "healing" treatments in rural Liberia. Several reports show that some Liberians still view seizures as possession by spirits. Some traditional healers treat seizures with unconventional approaches by our standards, including blood bathing and homemade medicine. These treatments are largely ineffective. A considerable number of rural Liberians believe epilepsy to be contagious by physical contact, and many epileptic residents are avoided by their community due to fear of contraction of the disease. In a portion of the country lacking education on neurological conditions, Mary's quality of life and probably even her life itself has been saved by her parents, with the support of charitable organizations, including HALO.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pen Pals - "HALO" style.

 

The Pen Pal program has been around basically since the inception of HALO. Organized and supported by Betty Guthrie (yes, that's correct, this is a solo operation), the program has evolved considerably from its origin.
Betty and Nana writing Pen Pal letters.


By Betty's own admission, the program is a little unconventional and has changed directions throughout its lifetime. Anyone familiar with a traditional Pen Pal program will probably not identify with the structure of HALO's Pen Pal program, however consider the fact that Liberia's mail system is unreliable at best. Letters are hand-delivered either by HALO Ambassadors traveling on a mission trip, or by Fungbeh and Neyor and their adult children, traveling back and forth from the United States. The frequency of delivery is about 2 - 3 times annually. One of the most difficult points to convey to you, the reader, is the importance of this program without having actually been to the orphanage and experienced the joy the children express upon receipt of their Pen Pal letters. These letters are the highlight of these children's lives. In our modern world of continual exchange of information via text, email, social media and the like, it is important to understand the impact a small token sent off to a country largely devoid of modern communication avenues has on the person receiving it. To the kids at CCH, receiving these letters is acknowledging there is a person in the United States they will probably never meet who is in constant thought and (hopefully) prayer for their personal future.
HALO Ambassador Ashley Van Hoozer's most recently received Pen Pal letters.
 
Pen Pal letters are supported primarily by a church in Jacksonville, Florida but recently have expanded (either by relocation of members of this church or through general national awareness of the organization). Support comes from all over the country. Letters are mailed to one central location and are screened for content and then distributed. Supporters are now able to request a Pen Pal online at www.myhaloproject.com. Betty often will print out emails from Pen Pal supporters unable to write physical letters, and decorate them with stickers to send to the kids.

Our CCH kids writing their HALO Pen Pals.
In previous posts, the national literacy percentages were addressed. These letters serve multiple purposes, and one of those is to develop the children's reading comprehension abilities. The initial batch of letters resembled what was described by Betty as, "one of the apostles' letters to the early churches" (the kids may have done the first batch of letters as a group activity at school copied from the chalkboard, we're not sure). Since the first exchange of letters, the interaction has evolved into more of a conversation - "What is your favorite subject in school?" "What is your favorite bible verse?" "What is your favorite sport?" "What do you want to do when you grow up?" "When is your birthday?" The kids will often ask similar questions and request pictures of their Pen Pals' families, etc.
While these letters are only delivered a few times annually, it is important for Pen Pals to understand the necessity of continuity. Many of these children have experienced considerable loss in their lives. Once a connection is made with a Pen Pal, there is an expectation that they will continue to hear from this Pen Pal. Committing to writing these kids means committing to sticking with it. The reward for taking a small amount of time to write out a letter or two once or twice a year may only be seen as the responses received (which is easily sufficient), but what matters more is the ability we have to impress on this young generation of Liberians that they are not forgotten, and that we believe in them and support them.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Back To School...


By now, families in the US have settled comfortably into yet another school year – parents have successfully adjusted schedules to accommodate drop off/pick up times, professionals have altered their work commutes to account for the additional traffic, school supplies have, in bulk, been purchased and put to good use, summer reading has frantically been completed, new college students have begun adjusting to dorm life and a diet of mainly ramen noodles, and teachers have commenced their yearly initiative to prepare their students for the increasing standardized testing criteria. Our country’s challenges as they relate to educating our children are hectic but manageable. The popular grievances are the ever-growing supply list for elementary school students (“Honestly, two reams of computer paper?!” Sound familiar?), class sizes, transportation, scheduling conflicts and the like. Ultimately when the dust finally settles, the reward outweighs the challenge and all is right with the world.


CCH students at the 2012/2013 graduation.
As the children of CCH begin their school year, the challenges faced are quite different. School is not guaranteed to any child or adult in Liberia. In fact, all schooling comes with a fee, to the tune of anywhere from $100-150 per year for elementary school and $200-300 per year for secondary education. With a large majority of household income below the poverty level (less than $2 USD/day earned) the idea of schooling is a distant dream for most children and their parents. There are few public schooling options in Liberia. Most schools are supported by charitable organizations, and it’s estimated that 62% of the country’s teachers are under qualified. What’s more, about 85% of students in elementary school range from ages 8 – 20 with 50% being between 11 and 20 years old. For the citizens of Liberia, the question of “Will I ever graduate?” is not just a complacent student’s response, but rather a harsh reality. An overwhelming majority do not.

 During HALO’s June visit, our team was able to witness and partake in two major milestones for education at CCH.
 



Our six graduates, three from Kindergarten to 1st grade
and three from 5th to 6th grade.
Graduation
6 of the children graduated from either kindergarten to 1st grade or 5th grade to 6th grade.  Graduations are a considerably different, very formal ceremony in Liberia. Each grade put on a performance for the audience, including several songs and skits. In turn, the staff spoke about their pride in their position as well as the accomplishments of individual students and their plans for the future, and the caregivers put on a performance for the audience of a traditional Liberian dance. Nyempu, Fungbeh and Neyor’s daughter, put on a performance dedicated to all the students and encouraged them to be silly sometimes and enjoy life.

2012/2013 graduation. Note the kids anxiously awaiting an exciting performance!


 

 
 
 Aptitude Evaluation


Katie and one of her favorite students,
Jerry, at graduation.
Hannah and Josiah. Josiah
had the highest grade
in the school for last
year.
Hannah Brittain and Katie Eaton are both teachers by profession and volunteered their summer to stay behind and give the kids some individual time after the rest of the group had gone back to the states. During the month they were there, they administered standardized testing to each child based off of their respective grade level. The results were varied but there was marked progress for each child. Remarking on the progress made, Katie said, “Just the individual time with the younger kids was so important – even more important than their test results. We were able to identify several learning disabilities just based off of the time it took certain children to answer questions, watching how they calculated certain math problems, or what level they were comprehending their reading assignments.”
 
Lorenzo helps with a graduation presentation
on the Liberian holidays.
 

Neyor helps the kids with a graduation presentation on
high blood pressure, a very common condition in Liberia.
 In addition to these accomplishments, Hannah and Katie were able to build a functioning library for the kids with books donated from several of our ambassadors, organized by subject and age target. Several supplemental materials were also brought and shared with the teachers. The Liberian government has an established curriculum for grade school that is relatively comparable to the US curriculum (with cultural differences such as Science mainly being geared towards horticulture and farming), but most schools lack the resources to give children practical application for the material they are learning. Several workbooks in varying subjects were supplied and explained to the teachers, which will benefit the children’s educational development greatly in the new school year. Each teacher was also evaluated for capacity to teach their designated grade and it was determined that all are qualified to teach the material they are responsible for.

 

 
For more information about our children and their educational progress, visit www.myhaloproject.com/our-kids.html.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

First Thing's First - Malaria.


The HALO team has made two trips to Liberia so far this year. In an effort to not overwhelm you the reader with information, over the course of the next several weeks, information will be posted in segments about the details of the trips we’ve taken in 2013 as well as facts about the country itself.

HALO Ambassador Kelly Steckelberg with the local children
during the June 2013 Medical Mission.
The HALO Project’s goals are simple – give hope and a future to a community otherwise devoid of resources through the loving care of orphaned children and others left to fend for themselves. Our message is clear – you, Liberia, are not alone.

Medical treatment in Liberia is lacking at best. Most families would not be able to afford proper medical treatment if they were even aware any was available. Routine checkups are out of the question and many Liberians suffer daily with medical issues easily and commonly treated in the United States and other countries.