[ “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.’
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.