[ ‘SHARE’ Nov-Dec 2012 – Care for Children ~ ‘Join Hands Join Hearts’ ] EDITORIAL
Amongst different poverty relief works, children’s ministry often receive the most attention. Innocent smiles warm our hearts, and their predicament moves us to lend a helping hand.
In this issue of SHARE, we will look at our children’s ministry through the eyes of supporters, frontline workers, backstage project officers and children-beneficiaries of ‘Join Hands Join Hearts’ Children Ministry Scheme, listening to what they have learned and what are important to the children.
In this perverse and unjust generation, many believers are searching for directions in life. Among them are ‘Join Hands Join Hearts’ supporters, Chris, Mr. and Mrs. Wong, as well as Kenneth and his wife who participate in the ‘Visit Low-Income Families’ programme. They show us how to live out our faith and slowly change the world by starting with doing little things ourselves.
From the first ten chapters of the Book of Numbers, Fung Ceefoong, our Administration Officer, shares how we may find order in the midst of CEDAR’s hectic schedules and focus solely on God.
A ministry matters not in its scale and glamour, each project should simply be our faithful response to our belief.
[ “SHARE” Nov-Dec 2012 – Care for Children ~ ‘Join Hands Join Hearts’ ] FOCUS ~ Interviewing a Ministry
Compiler and writer> Jojo POON
‘Give children a happy childhood’, ‘care for the pillars of our future’, ‘give the little ones a cup of cold water to drink’, ‘love for children’ – these are all reasons people support children’s ministry. But how do we give impoverished children a happy childhood? What do they really need? In this issue some children’s ministry stakeholders will talk about joining hands and hearts with children.
Supporters: Walk together so they may see
Mr. and Mrs. Wong have sponsored children before through other organisations. Upon hearing about CEDAR’s principle of ‘From Church, Through Church’, they started supporting CEDAR’s children’s ministry, helping overseas impoverished children with their basic needs.
Through CEDAR’s short films a few years ago, Mr. and Mrs. Wong learned about children’s education in war-torn Afghanistan, the health condition of scavenging children in Indonesia, and how HIV/AIDS wrecked families in Africa. Mrs. Wong tells us, ‘This world is so unfair. Perhaps those of us who live in Hong Kong are so blessed that we do not truly understand… developed countries lead the world and yet they set rules and system which are difficult for poor countries to follow.’
Mr. and Mrs. Wong understand that providing children with their basic needs deals only with one level of the poverty issue, so they hope that these faraway families can become self-reliant rather than having to depend on relief from organisations. ‘Providing appropriate life skills training, fighting for reasonable returns for producers, having proper HIV preventions and all-round control of diseases all bring changes to impoverished families.’
Another supporter, Chris, joined CEDAR’s Children Ministry Scheme over four years ago. He hopes that his contribution will help children go to school and improve their lives. ‘I believe the impact of education is far-reaching; it is very important for children’s growth and can greatly impact the community. With knowledge, children may even resolve problems such as hunger and disasters.’
At first Chris was happy with just corresponding with the children and exchanging news. That was ‘poverty relief’ to him. But then he realised that there was more to it and he needed to go further, so his involvement changed from merely sponsoring daily needs to supporting community development programmes and now struggles with greater awareness of the injustices behind poverty.
After years of involvement, supporters now see not only the needs of individual impoverished children, but also the predicaments faced by their families, communities and countries, as well as the importance of mobilising community development in order to help these children.
Project officers: Reach out so they may see wider
Tracy joined CEDAR in 2007 working on children’s projects. Through our global partners she learns about oppressed children – some are victims of wars or natural disasters; others are AIDS orphans, school drop-outs or scavengers. Problems and challenges vary but Tracy believes that whatever the situation, children should receive basic living guarantees and education, because protection and provision are the basic rights of children.
Years of ministry have taught Tracy that, to help the children, it is not enough to just take care of their personal and superficial needs but it is also necessary to know the particular situation of the entire family and the community. ‘Actually, the hardship of the children’s families can be resolved by helping the entire family and the community, to empower them and nurture mutual-help. Improving the community as a whole can give the children a better environment to grow up in. If we merely sponsor individual children directly but not their siblings because of the insufficient resources or the restriction of organisation’s policies, there will be discrepancies in learning, development and growth.’
Hazel, our project consultant, recently visited India and met an organisation that adopts the children’s rights-based approach. She saw how children were encouraged to think and express their views on their community’s issues through children’s rights and development groups. ‘It was very memorable to see children bravely voicing out their concerns, such as alcohol abuse, fathers abusing mothers, lack of community sanitation, frequent verbal abuse of children and the government’s reckless tree felling. We see that the children’s daily life and concerns are inseparable from their community and even the children are well aware of those issues.’
Annual street drama raises awareness of the lack of clean water in schools
Frontline partners: Serve so they may see farther
Our frontline partners live in the same countries and face the social situations as the children-beneficiaries; they therefore identify and struggle with the children’s needs.
Facing Zimbabwe’s high unemployment and inflation rate, high HIV infection and millions of AIDS orphans, CEDAR’s partner Family Aids Caring Trust (FACT) understand that these orphans need education, food and community support. ‘Without an education one cannot find work. Therefore, education is vital for children-beneficiaries to have job opportunities in the future. Further, even if children can go to school, low-income families still have to worry about food because of continuous droughts and inflation… Experiences tell us that community support can help orphaned or traumatised children build self-respect and thereby reduce the risk of them going astray.’
Even though children worldwide have varied backgrounds and needs, all of our partners point out that, apart from basic needs such as food and clothing, bible-based worldview and family/community support are essential for children’s growth. A worker at Addis Ababa Guenet Church (AAGC), CEDAR’s partner in Ethiopia, says, ‘We learn from years of ministry that we need to not only love these children, but also to establish relationships with their families and communities, so as to give them a better living environment.’
CEDAR’s partner New India Evangelistic Association (NIEA) tells us its expectations for its children-beneficiaries, ‘We hope they will get to know and experience Christ, and by their words and deeds they will be witnesses of Christian faith and power. We also hope that they will help other children in the future, know their community’s needs and join in serving and building a better country.’
Children-beneficiaries: Please listen to me
Ultimately, children are the largest stakeholders. Let us hear what they have to say.
[Left] Meheret, Ethiopia > I need food most; education, clothes and shoes that fit. Being properly clothed protects my body and gives me confidence to interact with classmates and enjoy school life. [Right] Priya, India > The most important things in my life are studying, praying and my family.
[Left] Norman, Zimbabwe > I need food, health and education most, because I do not want to contract HIV/AIDS. [Right] Pynos, Zimbabwe > I think food, health and a stable home are the most important things in life.
Since children are vulnerable, they arouse our compassion; however, because they hold an infinite future, they give us hope not despair. Are you willing to join this project of hope and bring changes to children in Myanmar, India, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe? Please support our ‘Join Hands Join Hearts’ Children Ministry Scheme and donate monthly towards our community-based children development programme, to improve living conditions for children and give them a life of dignity and value once again.
[ ‘SHARE’ Nov-Dec 2012 – Care for Children ~ ‘Join Hands Join Hearts’ ] STEP INTO THE WORLD
What dreams do children have? Alem from Ethiopia dreams of having three meals a day, going to school and owning a pair of shoes.
Alem’s family faces a difficult life. Many households are slum dwellers, and some children cannot afford sufficient food or education because their parents are separated or have died from illness.
CEDAR’s partner Addis Ababa Guenet Church (AAGC) distributes food and daily supplies, provides medical services and education to about 200 children in need, and teach older ones a skill. Further, AAGC encourages parents to attend self-help groups to learn money saving and management, and increase family income by starting their own businesses with small loans.
With the help of AAGC, Alem is now in Grade 8, well fed and clothed. Are you willing to make a donation so that more children like Alem can have their dreams fulfilled?
HK$500> enables one parent to attend self-help group, learn to save money and basic skills. HK$200> meets a child’s basic monthly expenses, such as school, food, clothes and medical support.
 CEDAR is an approved charitable institutions and trusts of a public character under section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance. Please click Inland Revenue Department website to check for details.
 Donations over $100 are tax deductible in Hong Kong with our receipts.
 Please DO NOT fax any donation information.
[ ‘SHARE’ Nov-Dec 2012 – Care for Children ~ ‘Join Hands Join Hearts’ ] TAKING ACTION
After completing CEDAR’s course on poverty relief, my wife and I decided to put theory into practice and joined a programme of visiting grass-root low-income families. And there was no stopping once we started.
I remember we were clueless on our first visit; we were anxious to make conversation with the family while noting their needs to report to MKKFA Chan Hing Social Service Centre. But God had already prepared they way for us: Mr. Lam was very talkative. We chatted on topics from the economy to parenting; his wife and mine hit it off with each other almost immediately and their two boys were jolly lads and warmed my heart when the older one insisted on giving me their only ice lolly.
Gradually, we stopped ‘making visits’ and started ‘building relationships’. The programme has bonded two unrelated families and now we are friends. It may seem impossible in a cold and distant society like ours but it happened naturally in the Lord. When we learn to love, we are loved at the same time.
Disasters, conflicts and injustices occur every day – which individual, group or even nation can change the situation? Are we building a better kingdom? Rather than taking the trouble to hold high-level meetings, we can start with ourselves, to love and care for the people around us. Then our world will be very different.
We will love, because He loved us first No matter what, we’ll choose to stay together So we will smile and we’ll forgive For Your love will bring us heaven on earth *
In 2009, CEDAR and Mong Kok Kai Fong Association Ltd. Chan Hing Social Service Centre jointly launched the ‘Walk in Love – Visit Low-Income Families Programme’, to show loving care and build friendships through regular visits. The programme has already gone through three phases with over 40 participants visiting 20 families. Kenneth is one of the participants along with his wife.
[ ‘SHARE’ Nov-Dec 2012 – Care for Children ~ ‘Join Hands Join Hearts’ ] CEDAR’S BLOGGER
Author> FUNG Cee Foong Administration Officer
On Mid-Autumn Day I got back from a trip to deal with personnel and financial matters in Beijing, Lanzhou and Kunming, China. While my mind was still filled with information and issues from the trip, I rushed off to attend my church’s bible camp.
Within a day and a half at camp I briefly read the first ten chapters of the Book of Numbers: Chapter 1 is the numbering of tens of thousands of the twelve tribes’ descendants. In Chapter 2, the LORD gave the sequential order by which the people should camp and break camp. In Chapters 3 and 4 the Levites were numbered and their duties listed. Then, suddenly, Chapters 5 and 6 set out the laws relating to unclean persons and the Nazirite. Chapter 7 contains long and repetitive lists of offerings, and Chapters 8 and 9 describe the cleansing of the Levites and keeping of the Passover in Sinai. Chapter 10 talks about the two silver trumpets. These first ten chapters of the Book of Numbers helped me organise my thoughts on the earlier trip to China.
CEDAR is not big; we started off with one person working on a dining table and now a dozen of us have our own work desks. Three departments grew out of the one-man-one-task original, and the number of staff is increasing. Yet, I am perplexed: does number indicate strength? There seems to be a positive correlation between the two but reality shows that this may not always be true. When I read about the census and the camping and breaking of camp in Chapters 1-4, the figure of six hundred odd thousand give me a ‘headache’ but I also see an order, an organisational structure and efficient actions. Can structural tools alone achieve things? Let’s look at Chapter 7: the LORD only commanded that each day one leader would make an offering; and then all the tribes made the same offering according to their sequential order. I am surprised by their mutual understanding and how internal harmony existed among them. Then I thought of what I observed in China and realised that a body’s order and communion gives the organisation its direction.
I am still unsure as to how to ‘number the people’ and establish order, but the LORD tells me to esteem Him as the Nazirites consecrated themselves, I need to lay aside my ‘self’ and move forward. I firmly believe and am convinced that the LORD’s blessing (Num. 6:24-27) will be found.
[ “SHARE” Sept-Oct 2012 – An Eye-Opening Experience of Poverty ] FOCUS: An EXPOSURE TRIP
Author> POON Man Yan, Education and Promotion Officer
I took the exposure trip in April, seven years since my last one. To make the most of the trip, I decided to forget about the camera and use my eyes to study each scene and face, and use my ears to listen to every life transforming story.
Namaste! Greetings, Nepal!
It was already dark when we landed in Kathmandu so the view was not very clear. The streets reeked of petrol and filled with the hoots of car horns, like China’s rural roads of over a decade ago. Nepal ranks second-last amongst Asian countries on the human development index. Compared with neighbouring China and India, its development road ahead is still very long.
They meet any situation with a smile.
As the home of Mt. Everest, Nepal is indeed a mountainous nation with hills and highlands all over the country. The best route to the mountain villages during the dry season would be to drive across dried-up riverbeds. The twelve of us transformed into contestants of some adventure game show, flying across bumpy riverbeds in jeeps heading towards our destination in the mountains.
During our eight-day trip we went to the central districts of Lalitpur, Makawanpur and Dhading, and visited the Dalit (the oppressed) community and the indigenous groups of Chepang and Tamang. Amidst harsh condition of village life, the people there were cheery and appeared to be happier than those of us who were visiting.
Silent cries of the girls
The day after arrival we visited eight girls around 15 or 16 in Lalitpur. They are members of adolescent groups in the Women Empowerment Programme organized by CEDAR’s partner Share and Care Nepal.
When asked about their dreams for the future, the girls shyly told us that they would love to become teachers or social workers. Yet they knew that soon they would have to obey their parents be married off and then play the traditional female role in their husband’s household. Their own future is no longer theirs to hold and their dreams are thus unreachable. Two illiterate girls among them even remained silent. As I watched and listened, I felt cut to the hearts: do Nepalese girls have no right to pursue their dreams? After all, God sees everyone as unique and precious!
Smart and sweet girls
On hearing that two girls had stopped schooling, trippers already guessed the reason – it is either to give way to a son, the future head of the family, to go to school, or give the family an extra pair of hands for chores and farming. When a society fails to examine the rationale for customs and traditions, and regard belittlement or neglect of women as a natural practice, gender inequality thus becomes one of the causes of Nepal’s poverty, especially amongst women.
What is poverty? The Nepalese women made us see that poverty is not merely about a lack in material necessities but also the injustice behind a social system and traditional culture, turning the poor into those in society who are oppressed and ‘sinned against.’ Exploitation and discrimination not only hurt people, but abuse God’s righteous nature also.
The ‘untouchables’ are never cheap and lowly
Hinduism was once Nepal’s state religion and the country remains heavily influenced by the caste system. The low-castes are restricted in many ways, both in the workplace and daily life. However, the Dalit in Dhading are living with self-confidence, self-respect and self-love despite all kinds of discrimination and oppression.
During a visit to the project run by our partner Shanti Nepal in Dhading’s Gajuri district, we went to a small community hall where a dozen children were singing and playing. It is also where the office of the residents’ self-help group is located. The group’s treasurer related the changes the community had gone through in the past years.
Low-castes form self-help groups to assist each other
In the past, a derogatory name was given to this place because local residents were mainly of the low-caste. Even the government paid little attention to the needs of these inhabitants. After the self-help group was set up, villagers slowly warmed to the importance of unity. They got together and successfully had the place name changed and the insulting words deleted; they began to encourage savings and pooled funds to give small loans to villagers in need. Further, group members actively help care for sick or elderly neighbours, including those who had hurled insults at them before.
What is development? Some suggest ‘growing towards urbanisation’, others ‘building of infrastructure’ or ‘developing the economy’. Yet, from the experience of the oppressed in Gajuri, we realise that what the exploited and discriminated Nepalese marginalised communities want most is to be free from discrimination, to be self-reliant, to build a society with equality where they may appreciate the value and dignity of one’s own life.
What we as visitors found most admirable was the way local Christian organisations facilitated the community’s empowerment and development. Frontline workers transcend the boundaries of the caste system and promote trust among different castes. They also encourage villagers to actively participate in expressing their needs and concerns. Self-help groups are set up to build a close-knit support network. All these stem from the conviction that all humans are born equal and the affirmation of the personal value of even the poorest.
A concrete interpretation of the Gospel
Some may ask how our efforts are linked to the Gospel if we only work on development programmes without evangelism.
One trip member spoke for all of us, ‘If the Gospel is only to redeem my soul, then I should have been taken to heaven immediately upon conversion. I am still here, so I believe there is still work to do.’ The Good News or Gospel is not only about getting people to believe in Jesus now for the hope of eternal life later. It also points to transformation of our life right now whilst we practise the Word of God in both private and public lives.
As vessels of the Gospel, Christians are themselves interpretation of the Gospel. One trip member, a minister who was once a frontline worker, said, ‘The ministry of local organisations is what Jesus talked about in Luke 4:18 – proclaim to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.’ I say ‘Amen’ to that as I think of the villagers we met, their positive attitude, courage and self-confidence.
In remote mountains, villagers experience the truth of God’s love
Dhanyabaad! Thank you, Nepal!
After returning to Hong Kong, a young trip member told us, ‘One day, while enjoying the comfort of an air-conditioned room and eating my favourite salmon sushi, guilt of extravagance suddenly came upon me.’ Many others have experienced similar struggles which challenge our ingrained way of living. Her father who also went on the trip encouraged her to live conscientiously, not be restricted by an established lifestyle but bravely open our heart to explore and broaden our horizon.
Thank you, Nepal! You expanded our horizon to see the richness in God’s Word and works.
Are you ready for a breakthrough and to open your heart to see God’s manifold and wonderful works? Visit http://bit.ly/cedar_nepal2012 for more photos of the Nepal trip. We also invite you to join our exposure trip to Ethiopia scheduled for January 2013, where we expect to witness God’s boundless work among the poor.
FOCUS explores different topics, integrates theory with practice, and broadens our horizon and thinking.