Tag Archives: JAM

I Met Beth Moore!

Coming back yesterday from the STs-132 mission tweetup hosted by the Johnson Space Center, I met Beth Moore at the airport.

Beth Moore. Credit: Living Proof Ministries

Beth Moore. Credit: Living Proof Ministries

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Beth Moore, founder of Living Proof Ministries, let me just tell you she’s an inspiration to women of faith around the world with her books and Biblical studies. My daughters, sister and Mother have all read, taken, and shared Beth Moore studies through the years. In fact, when I was in Zambia visiting my missionary aunt Melody, we watched a Beth Moore series video with the other missionary ladies serving in country. “Breaking Free” was my first Beth Moore experience. My daughter shared “Praying God’s Word” with me when I was going through a tough time. I bought the book to share with my friends. I have a library full of Beth Moore books and devotionals.

No, Beth Moore's hair doesn't look like this!

No, Beth Moore's hair doesn't look like this!

Back to my story: I noticed a petite woman on the escalator in front of me wearing a cute outfit and Texas hair. Those of you from Texas know what I’m talking about. Texas hair is perfectly coiffed. Virginia hair is pony-tailed or clipped. (I moved from Texas hair to Virginia hair long ago. I’ve worked in DC for 20 years now.)

I followed this cutely-dressed woman into the airport tram. As the doors opened, I saw her face for the first time. She looked so familiar. Then it hit me, she looked just like Beth Moore — who I’ve only ever seen in video and on book bios. As we left the tram I asked her if anyone ever told her she looked like Beth Moore. She responded with a laugh, “Oh, I get that all the time.” I laughed and told her I wasn’t surprised because she looked just like her. As I started to walk away, she added,

“….It’s because I am Beth Moore.”

Wow! We chatted as we headed down the escalator and to our respective gates. I told her how my daughter Steph and I visited the JAM facilities in South Africa because of her!

Last Christmas, I attended a Christmas tea at the Willard hosted by a colleague’s church. At the tea, Candice Pretorius, daughter-in-law of JAM founder Peter Pretorius, showed a video with a clip by Beth Moore talking about JAM‘s amazing work feeding poor children in Africa. I talked with Candice about Steph wanting to serve orphans in South Africa and that we were planning a trip to survey potential organizations. Candice connected us with Joy Nell at JAM Headquarters in Johannesburg to learn more about what JAM does.

As it turned out, JAM really doesn’t need counselors at this time. They focus on feeding the most at risk children. And what a great job they do! See earlier blogposts of our time in Africa.

JAM Headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa

JAM Headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa

Steph, BTW, just graduated in May with her Masters in Community Counseling, with a specialty in play therapy. I shared with Beth Moore that she accepted a one-year (or more) position with Bethany House in Johannesburg, South Africa to work with victim empowerment program to counsel kids with untreated trauma. She leaves in July.  Here’s the cool part about meeting Beth Moore: she told me several times how thankful she was that my daughter was going to serve in South Africa.

She told me to tell Steph how proud she was of her.

Bethany House

Bethany House

Just let me tell you, those few words of encouragement on a chance meeting in the IAH airport (though I don’t believe in chance) made all the difference to my daughter Steph. She’s facing some life-altering experiences — both thrilling and unsettling. She’s uprooting to a different continent, leaving friends and family, and starting over with children who desperately need help. She’s following God’s call for her life, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Beth Moore’s heartfelt words of thanks gave Steph a boost when she needs it most.

Thank you Beth Moore for all you do! So cool to meet you!!

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Filed under Africa, space, tweet-up, writers

JAM: Help Africa Help Itself!

One child dies every eight seconds.

One of the reasons we traveled to South Africa this summer: to survey potential organizations where my youngest daughter might possibly serve orphans who’ve lost their parents to AIDs. She’s completing her grad degree in Counseling, with a specialty in Play Therapy.

Joint Aid Management, JAM — South Africa’s best kept secret — was our first appointment. Our taxicab driver had trouble finding JAM, but once we did, WOW. Their complex is amazing.

Reception office at JAM Headquarters in Johannesburg.

Reception office at JAM Headquarters in Johannesburg.

What is JAM?

During our meeting, we learned about JAM’s history and how they’ve morphed into the humanitarian organization they are today. We walked the property and watched two movies about their work that brought us to tears.

We learned about JAM’s founder, Peter Pretorius (seen in the portrait above, who “saw the light” after he was abandoned in a refugee camp for ten days. He lived the plight of the refugees, with no food and no care. He watched people around him die EVERY day, and helped bury the bodies. What he saw during that ten days broke his heart. He returned home wanting to help feed the starving people where the need was the greatest.

"Informal Settlement" or squatter park not far from JAM HQ

"Informal Settlement" or squatter park not far from JAM HQ

JAM’s website describes them as follows:

“Joint Aid Management is a South African founded, registered non-profit Christian humanitarian relief and development organisation, with 25 years experience in sustainable development.”

The organization helps almost half a million children in need each year. They focus on the community as a resource to support the children through:

  • school food programs to offer on nutritional meal each day,
  • drilling for clean water convenient to the community,
  • help with proper sanitation,
  • assisting vulnerable children and orphans,
  • programs to combat HIV/AIDS,
  • community training and skills development,
  • agricultural training,
  • assisting projects to bring income into the community.

JAM’s little red plastic bowl (visible in the portrait above) is their signature. Each bowl holds what may be the only meal the child gets each day — a porridge-like nutritionally-fortified food ration made of corn, soy beans, sugar, and micronutrients.

JAM’s little red bowl provides 75% of each child’s recommended daily allowance (RDA), by UNICEF‘s standards.

Right now, JAM is actively fighting back against starvation and human suffering through the schools in several African countries:

  • 237,000 children fed each school day in Mozambique;
  • 202,000 in Angola;
  • 2,200 in Sudan, with plans to increase support to 15,000;
  • 24,000 in Zimbabwe, in partnership with World Vision;
  • 4,948 in an informal settlement in Orange County, South Africa.
JAM Headquarters Offices

JAM Headquarters Building

We learned in our meeting at JAM that feeding children in South Africa has been traditionally lower on the priority scale because needs, until recently, hadn’t been as desperate as in other African nations. With the influx of poverty-stricken immigrants from neighboring countries, the situation has changed.

JAM plans to feed 100,000 children in South Africa within the next five years.

We toured JAM’s headquarters, a complex with an extensive logistics network that includes food storage, vehicle maintenance, housing units for employees, multimedia lab, and office space. JAM employs 700 full time employees, with over 3,000 volunteers. They make every attempt to employ locals in the communities they serve, offering job training and income support to help self-sustain the effort as time goes by.

JAM's Vehicle Depot

JAM's Vehicle Depot

JAM operates a fleet of 170 vehicles, many purchased at auctions and rebuilt for their rugged logistics requirements. These trucks travel over rough terrain where roads may or may not exist. Believe me, after driving in Zambia, I completely understand what wear and tear is expected of JAM’s fleet.

Partnering with JAM, you can “help Africa help itself.”

You can donate online to feed a child for a year. Or fund water drilling, HIV/AIDs support, or emergency relief. The choice is yours. As we move into the giving season, consider giving friends and family the gift of life for a child.

Save yourself a trip to the shopping mall. Give a donation in honor of your loved ones. What better gift can you give?

JAM has a US presence in downtown DC and one in Alexandria, Virginia. You can start here:

900 19th Street, NW, Suite 400; Washington DC, 20006

202.380.3566

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Filed under Africa, humanitarian aid, poverty

Have and Have-nots: Light years apart

Koome Village

Kooma Village

I’m really strugging with reintry into my 1st-World lifestyle after three weeks in a 3rd-World reality in southern Africa.

I’ve experienced 3rd-World living before. I studied in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere Mexico during college, and built a church in a little village in poverty-stricken central Brazil. And yet, this transition seems harder for me. The situation in Africa — ever more desperate.

In addition to extreme poverty among the citizens, the mass migration of millions fleeing from tyrannical governments, such as Zimbabwe, strains scarce resources to the breaking point.

SnakePark

SnakePark

So, what drew me to Africa? Business? Pleasure? A little of both. This trip was an “occupational survey” for my youngest daughter, who completes her graduate studies in 2010 with a degree in counseling. Her specialty is play therapy, to help children work through traumatic experiences. She has a heart for children of the AIDs epidemic.

Kids from the street.

Kids from the street.

Her time in South Africa and Mozambique last summer introduced her to the “child-head-of-household” crisis caused by AIDs. With parents dying and children forced to raise their siblings, they are forced into early adulthood without the emotional maturity for the job. My daughter wants to help the children cope with tragedy in their young lives.

JAM: Change a Life. Feed a Child

JAM: Change a Life. Feed a Child

We embarked on a “survey” of potential organizations where she might contribute her counseling skills. In South Africa, we met with  JAM (Joint Aid Management), which feeds starving children across Africa; Door of Hope, which accepts abandoned babies no-questions-asked (CNN reported on Door of Hope the day we visited), Bethany House Trust, a home for orphan and foster children with a holistic approach to treatment and placement; and a Soweto Township Primary School and Day Care. In Zambia, my daughter accompanied a Play Therapy specialist to a local orphanage to meet the children.

I offer a few observations from the trip.

South Africa:

Nelson Mandela poster in school.

Nelson Mandela poster in school.

We saw and spoke with people on both sides of the apartheid system of government in South Africa, which is a relatively new democracy after the handover of power from white to black leadership in 1994. South Africa has 1st-World infrastructure in the historical “have” population, and a 3rd-World reality for the have-nots.

In the 19 years since apartheid was abolished, South Africa’s infrastructure for the ‘few’ has been shifted to cover the ‘many’ — straining the country’s resources.

Soweto Po

Abandoned Power Station

Electricity, under apartheid, was only available for the white population in the cities. The black townships had no power. Now that the power stations are supporting the total population, the system shuts down regularly. Without new power stations, the infrastructure can’t cope with the demand. Power is often “hijacked” by makeshift power lines strung from the overhead cables to the ground. These wires, when not properly grounded but held down by a pile of rocks, bring tragedy to innocent children playing in the area who stumble across the hot wires.

Desperate people do desperate things.

SnakePark

SnakePark

Woman Fetching Water

Woman Fetching Water

In preparation for the upcoming 2010 World Cup events in South Africa, the government of South Africa is providing propane heaters and cooktops to lessen the demand on electricity. One of our cab drivers told us how welcome the propane units are, though he held held little confidence the units could put a dent in the problem. At least, he informed us, his wife could cook for him when the power went out. (I won’t even TOUCH the division of labor between men and women. That would fill an entire book, not a just a blogpost.)

Portia's 1-room tin shack

Portia's 1-room tin shack

We visited squatter villages, many filled with destitute emigrants who fled from other countries to the cities in “Hope in Africa.” We met with Portia who came to South Africa from an unnamed neighboring country. She allowed us into her one-room shack. No water. No plumbing. No electricity. She graciously told us about her life (as interpreted by my buddy Mike who speaks a dozen or so languages). Outside her little tin shack she planted little cactus gardens. (You can see her water buckets outside the structure in the picture.)

The human spirit is amazingly abounding, even in the most hopeless times.

Making the best of circumstances

Making the best of circumstances

AIDs epidemic:

This little girl stole my heart.

Big Smiles Day Care

Dan (name changed for privacy issues), our escort for a day in the Soweto Township (home of Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and Dan), is HIV-positive. He told us the story of how he found out. His second son had health issues. After repeatedly taking him in for treatment, the doctor suggested an AIDs test since the boy exhibited the telltale sign of lumps behind his ears. The boy tested positive. Dan’s wife admitted she was HIV-positive. Dan tested positive too. He felt devastated and betrayed. They lost their youngest boy to AIDs. No medicine was available to help him.

He wants attention

Big Smiles Day Care

Dan had two choices: leave his wife or stay with her. The doctor counseled that their healthy son could soon be an orphan, as so many other children who lose both parents to AIDs. The boy should enjoy his parents as long as possible. Dan chose to forgive his wife and stay a family.

On the happy side of this story, Dan and his wife have enrolled in an AIDs program through a US NGO (I’m not sure which one) which gives them drug cocktails for free. He boasted his white blood cell count as being in a really good range. He threw out numbers that met the world to him, yet nothing to me. I had to ask what was a dangerous vs. acceptable number. I admit. I really knew very little about the battle against AIDs beFORE this trip. I am now painfully aware now.

To quote Dan:

Everyone is either infected or affected by AIDs.

Plight of Children:

Primary School Principal

Primary School Principal

When visiting a primary school in the Soweto Township, the principal spoke to us in a dark office. Power had been out for a couple of weeks. She’d been assured they would have power sometime the following week. She told us of her challenges running the school. Children starve. Their parents die of AIDs. They, themselves, are infected. Older children care for younger siblings. They may or may not have family to help. Many drop out and end up on the streets.

Playground Games

Playground Games

The principal told us a story. One of her young students quit coming to school. She discovered he was caring for his deathly ill Mother, as well as his brothers and sisters. The principal found a hospice organization to take the Mother in. After proper treatment, she returned home to care for her own children.

So, why isn’t the same care available to ALL infected parents?

The principal explained she can’t help when she doesn’t know the family has a problem. Many parents won’t admit they are sick, much less that their children are sick.

Stigma. Shame. Fear.

Can you resist that face?

Can you resist that face?

The government now provides a grain product so that every child has one meal a day at school. The principal told us that she asks for a donation every week from the children that allows her to buy spices, olive oil and other ingredients to add to the porridge-type substance they serve the children — just to give it a flavor. She also has them bring in containers to take the grain home for the days when school is closed. Otherwise, they may not eat until school opens again.

Many of the children experience sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. Rape is rampant. How do you build hope in a child who has so little and so little to live for? (Thankfully, my daughter has skills to help.)

And yet, those with the least keep going…in spite of it all.

Thumbs up after receiving new "tropicals" or flip-flops

Thumbs up after receiving new "tropicals" or flip-flops

Zambia:

Streets of Livingstone

Streets of Livingstone

My long-lost aunt Melody and my uncle Phil are missionaries with the people of Zambia. My aunt found me two days after I joined Facebook. She invited us to visit. Since we planned to travel to South Africa, we decided to hop over to Zambia while in the neighborhood. We spent a glorious week with Melody in Livingstone while my uncle was in the US for surgery. Girl-time!

Power is sporatic in the city. Thursday is their “load-shedding” night where the city goes dark for 3-4 hours. I can only assume the government is selling that “saved” electricity to a neighboring country, perhaps. That’s only my speculation. Power went out Saturday morning for several hours, but I’d gotten up early to download pics to Facebook, so I felt proud to beat the outage. No hot breakfast though.

Lion King welcomes Chinese investment.

Lion King welcomes Chinese investment.

What surprised me the most? Chinese infrastructure EVERYwhere. Roads. Schools. Buildings. Why, you may wonder? Infrastructure in exchange for mineral rights. Zambia is rich in copper, amethyst, aquamarine, beryl, emerald, tourmaline, garnets and more.

Koome Village Community School

Kooma Village Community School

In comparison to the shantytowns in South Africa, the poverty in the Zambian villages felt hopeful. I know that sounds strange. To me, the squalor of the squatter towns in South Africa felt oppressive, yet the villages felt almost quaint. They looked artistic, picturesque. Even the poverty of a one-room school hut seems idyllic.

Mukuni Village: Home of Lion King

Mukuni Village: Home of Lion King

The villages still operate with a strong sense of community. Village elders. Social heirarchy. Family structure. They are established and well-run. The shacktowns, in comparison, come together in chaos of uprooted people with no community ties. Society breaks down. Crime and despair follow.

What’s Next?

So what now? What can I do to make a difference?

Zambian boy

Zambian boy

Over 30 years ago, my Daddy felt a burden for starving people in Africa. He tried to persuade our extended family to cut back on lavish Christmas spending and give gifts to those who needed it most. We adopted the idea later when my girls were little. We agreed with family to exchange Christmas ornaments and give donations in family member’s honor. Our girls chose Toys for Tots. We gave them an amount we would normally spend on gifts and let them shop for toys.

Street Boys

Street Boys

We piled the toys into a mountain, took their picture in front of it, and give the picture as our gift to family. In recent years, we’ve given gifts through the World Vision Gift catalog. And last year, after I met with folks from JAM, I give gifts to JAM in my daughters’ names. And yet, these contributions feel so incredibly inadequate.

Mukuni Village Boy

Mukuni Village Boy

My time in Africa reminded me of Daddy and how God broke his heart for the people of Africa. (And how cool that his youngest brother is now living and serving in Africa!) There I was, in the very place, looking at the very faces he yearned to help.

I want to do more.


Bethany House Transport

Bethany House Transport

Bethany House Trust, a Christian-based organization, stole my heart on this trip. I want to find a way to help get the word out about the amazing things they do in their community. Gert Jonkers told us they spend R4000 per month per child ($510). The government reimburses them R1000 per month ($127). The government is five months behind in payment. Gert and Antoinette have used all their savings to keep Bethany House afloat. In this economy, many like organizations already folded.

Bethany House Playground

Bethany House Playground

$1 each would help. $50 would be a tremendous contribution. I don’t think they are set up for US contributions, but you can contact them directly to see how YOU can help.

So I leave you with this double rainbow I discovered over Victoria Falls. I saw the red flower, walked over to take its picture, and saw the most gorgeous site EVER! What a wonderful sign of hope and new beginnings.

Double Rainbow over Victoria Falls

Double Rainbow over Victoria Falls

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Filed under Africa, AIDs, Earth, poverty