Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Perfect Example of Harmony and Collaboration

Ok, I first saw this on Glen Megill's Facebook page, but still..... very cool.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Shout Out to Liz!

One of the workers at a local sporting goods store that is going out of business here in Avondale plans to ask her managers if they would agree to donate soccer balls to SLI for our November mission. She hasn't been able to get in touch with them yet. So she went ahead and bought four with her own money, as well as four hackey sacs, and gave us a call to come pick them up. WHAT A BLESSING SHE IS!!!!! Thanks, Liz, for your big heart!

Like I said before, it's these little gestures that surprise and bless us so much. Here is a picture courtesy of photographer Lori Aderholt taken in Zimbabwe, 2007:

Soccer balls are a BIG HIT, and most of these kids, playing in bare feet, kick a** on the field!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thankful for Every Little Bit

What amazes us the most is not the people who donate large sums, though we are very grateful to them, but those who really shouldn't be donating at all in this economy and, stepping out in faith, do so anyway. 

We know that these are difficult times.  It is very hard to ask, and yet we ask, and boldly, because we know that there is no comparison between the hardships most of us suffer here and what we see daily in Zimbabwe and other parts of Southern Africa.  There, they ask, "Is it true that in America, even the poor people own cars?"  Yes, we answer.  And i-Pods and cell phones and satellite TV. But more -- we can walk into any Costco or Fresh n' Easy and get free food -- enough to sustain a person for a day if one were truly hungry.  Here, we have government dole programs that some say are much too easy, too available.  Here, we have social services to protect the rights of children.  In Zimbabwe, the street children are cracked on the heads with clubs carried by the police officers, who consider their presence in the town square to be undesirable.  I've witnessed the children, crying, clutching their bleeding heads.  Here, out of our own surplus, we have garage sales to raise extra cash while we unload some of our clutter.  There, at least in 2007, the currency had an expiration date.  Yogurt had a longer shelf life.  Now, the currency is dead.  Useless.  Not even legal tender in their own country.

So we know that what we are asking, in today's economy, is a lot.  And we do so, unapologetically, bolstered by those who are giving small amounts, amounts which are, even so, painful and sacrificial.  And we thank you for every dollar, for the pinch that it puts on your own budgets, for the fear that is always clinging to the back of our necks, and pray that it all gets returned to you a hundred-fold.  And we know, because we have also seen it, that the joy in the faces of the children, halfway across the world, makes every dollar given worth the sacrifice.

Friday, October 16, 2009

How Do You Build a Child's Self Esteem?

I've been asked this question twice this week. A good friend who has gone through the fire of low self-esteem issues herself, in her youth, told me this:
"You can't build a child's self-esteem by giving him praise. Praising him is not a bad thing, but it is only through experience of having accomplished something that a child will grow in self-esteem."
Today I said the same thing to my husband, who expressed concern about our task of parenting our children. Remembering my friend's wisdom, I said that I believe we should praise a child for making an effort, because making an effort is worthy, and necessary in order to build experience. I believe we should encourage a child when he experiences failure or frustration, because he's going to need to experience much more of that before success can come. But, other than that, our only job is to place opportunity after opportunity in front of him and challenge him to make that effort again and again; for it is only in taking action, and assuming risk, that one can ever accomplish anything. And it is the accomplishment that becomes the fertile soil where a sense of self-worth can grow.

Finally, parents and other caregivers of children can give them a gift that makes their journey easier, their failures and setbacks more bearable, and the triumphs more sweet -- the Truth, from which comes faith.  The truth is they don't have to struggle alone.  The truth is they are cared for and loved and worthy of love.  The truth is their efforts matter and are counted.  The truth is they are the future of us all.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

To Lead is to Serve -- and to Serve is to Succeed: the Teaching of James C. Hunter

"Making our world different -- that's how we raise our leadership game; it doesn't happen reading books or watching videos or going to seminars. We've got to get in the game that is worked out in the crucible of our choices." 
~James C. Hunter, The Servant Leadership Training Course
Jim Hunter talks about the elements of leadership:  Courage, Compassion and Character, all of which, he says in many ways, must be played out and developed in action, in the course of experience.  Leadership, he says, is about influence.

We agree.  It's not about standing at the head of a crowd, alone, imperious, forging ahead and hoping the throng continues to drag along behind you.  It's about engaging in that sea of humanity, entering the human arena, getting messy, getting our hands in it, walking alongside another, who might be suffering.  Influence, after all, is not about acting in solitary, but about other people, about acting in concert with them and having an effect upon their behavior, their choices, their feelings and their lives.

This is not an easy task, especially for young people emerging from adolescence and entering a harsh and demanding world.  If you're from America, or influenced at all by American products (our greatest export being, of course, our image, usually packaged in the form of motion picture entertainment), then you are conditioned to care first about "ME."  Generations that came up after me (the oldest director at SLI who for the moment shall remain comfortably nameless) were even labeled with cute names like "Generation X," and "the ME generation."  We sneered at the folly of these youth, forgetting that we were wholly to blame for having created them, conditioned them and turned them out without having equipped them.

Ok, I'm generalizing.

But I really like what Jim Hunter says about the whole idea of putting self first, which he considers to be age-appropriate behavior for two-year-olds ("Me first!!"):
"Emotional and spiritual growth, according to Scott Peck, is getting over your twos, and growing up and recognizing that it's not about me anymore, and to start extending ourselves for other people.  This is what character is.  It's not something we're born with -- developing our character is a life long journey."
He goes on to suggest that, when we meet the true needs of other people -- when we truly care about serving other people and identifying and meeting their legitimate needs, our "inner child," or our sense of our own innocence, our rightness with the world, will be just fine, will thrive.

Be blessed as you bless others.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Give a Ton Campaign - T-shirt Winners!

We are pleased to announce that we have a few donations of $300 or more in response to our "Save a Life; Give a Ton" campaign. These donors each will be personally providing one ton of grain to feed village school children in Zimbabwe. Elizabeth M, Lawrence J and Leslie W will each be receiving a Servant Leaders T-shirt with "I Gave a Ton!" under our logo. It's our humble way of saying "Thanks" for the generous spirit of giving and selflessness of these donors.

Every dollar is appreciated. No donation is too small. Every dollar raised ensures the survival of children, and for that we are grateful that anyone would care enough to make the sacrifice.

We salute our donors, we thank you, and we ask that you help us spread the word to everyone you know to help us reach our fund raising goals. Together, we CAN make a difference in the lives of suffering children.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Report on the Hunger Crisis in Zimbabwe

This is why we go.

The problem of famine and starvation in Zimbabwe is tied to more than climate and drought. It is a deeper problem, like a cancer with many tentacles. The wholesale and illegal government seizure of producing private and commercial farms, the wasting of tons of mangoes and other food crops in the face of 5.1 million people dependent on food aid for survival, and the torture and beating of farm owners who lodge complaints is a phenomenon that is hard to grasp.

Famine in Zimbabwe and Zambia is also tied inexorably to the AIDS epidemic. Most people affected by HIV and AIDS depend on agriculture. AIDS has killed around 7 million agricultural workers in the last 20 years. Production deficits, high staple food prices, the runaway inflation rates leading to the collapse of the Zim dollar all have worked together to further impoverish a nation. Villagers who run out of the food they've grown themselves will sell their only remaining chickens, goats and cows to buy grain, and when that supply runs out, they begin to starve.

Starvation can lead people to do the most atrocious things. The stripping of assets and abuse of widows, the exploitation and neglect -- even trafficking -- of young children are made even more commonplace in a world where hunger is the strongest motivator.

This AIDS-related famine, dubbed a "new variant famine" in the book Silent Hunger: Policy Options for Effective Responses to the Impact of HIV and AIDS on Agriculture and Food Security in the SADC Region (South African Development Community)is necessitating new approaches to education and the prioritizing of social protection.

"The paradox is that while the traditional drought-related famines kill dependents first (children and elderly) the HIV-related 'silent hunger' affects the most 'productive' family members first."

This is what you see when you go to Zimbabwe: old people in the high-density districts who are forgotten by society, old people in the villages who have taken on several orphans, and the children -- scores of children, many of whom are hungry, destitute, shoeless, wearing the clothes left by foreign missionaries, some of whom have become, out of necessity, heads of households of other orphans, left to fend for themselves by the untimely deaths of their parents.

Those who could work the fields are struggling to care for the sick and dying at home. The women, who do most of the farming and manual labor of every description, are facing a life expectancy of 34 -- and the men (life expectancy in Zimbabwe of only 37) are leaving in masses to find employment in neighboring countries of Botswana, Zambia and South Africa. Gender inequality, poverty, and traditional roles and customs that tend to subjugate women all contribute to the spread of the disease, and so continues the cycle of desperation.

Something must change in Zimbabwe. It must start with the young. The lowest mortality rate is among those aged 5 (who have survived the perils of early childhood) to 22, at which point their mortality rates rise as they naturally become sexually active, start families, look for work, and enter the inexorable cycle related to hunger, AIDS and the breakdown of any moral filter that accompanies fear and despair. It is the young, the emerging adults, who are the only hope for change in Zimbabwe, the only light for a dying generation.

From "Southern African Humanitarian Situation" by World Health Organization

Bono on the Crisis in Africa and the Reasons for Increasing Aid

This is Bono at National Prayer Breakfast on February 2, 2006. His message of urgency regarding social advocacy should not be missed.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A 13-Year-Old's Vision of Collaboration

"Let's imagine together: If all the HIV viruses were one virus, what a big virus it would be; if all the axes were one ax, what a big ax it would be; and if all the men were one man what a big man he would be. If that big man took that big ax and cut that big HIV, we could defeat AIDS."
Edward Thomson, 13, student in Senzani, Malawi, sponsored by World Vision,
published in the Seattle Times, 2/6/03

I love the heart of this young man.  I love his vision for the power and possibility of working together to defeat a common enemy, a common threat.  He challenges us:  "If you can imagine the problem, you can solve it."  We must begin the difficult work of imagining the problem, not as some nebulous, out-of-reach problem that happens to "them," but as our problem, our shared agony, our global catastrophe.

Let's not kid ourselves: 5.1 million people in Zimbabwe starving is a catastrophe.  One in FIVE children in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana orphaned by 2010 -- that is a worldwide sorrow, an epic tragedy.  We must do the hard work of imagining such a thing happening in New York City, in Los Angeles, in London, in Hong Kong, in the small towns of middle America.  We must make them real for ourselves, either by going and seeing for ourselves, or by using the power of our empathy and our imagination to make it real for ourselves.  We have to walk through every aspect of the experience for ourselves and own it, for it is only when we take ownership of a problem that we will truly attack it with all the creative ideas in our arsenal.

Each of us has a role to play.  Each of us has a stake.  Each of us has accountability for what has gone before and what will happen in the future.  The death, exploitation and ruination of one fifth of a country's children is the death, exploitation and ruination of that country's future, and a threat to peace and stability throughout the world.

One big problem.  One big ax.  One big man.  Working together with another big man  And another big woman.  And a big teenager.  And a big community.  Together, we CAN make a difference.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Save a Life; Give a Ton!

We're kicking off our "Give a Ton" campaign!

Another of our copyrighted slogans is:  "Care a little; Give a Ton!"  Knowing that only $300 will buy one ton of grain that can keep a school full of children alive for months, we are asking individuals, social and networking groups, and businesses to consider pooling their resources and donating One Ton of grain to our Zimbabwe mission.

Individuals who sacrificially donate $300, and all team members participating in our November outreach, will receive this T-shirt.  Donate Now!
Wear it proudly!