News and Events

November 2017

Dear Shared Blessings Friends,

November is here with a flurry of activities and thoughts of preparing for Christmas.  If you would still like to send money for your sponsored child and for the children’s much anticipated Christmas party, there is still time.  

Moses,director of CHILDREN SAFE UGANDA (CSU), came to California this month for surgery.  It was done at Doctors Hospital in Modesto and everything went really smoothly.  He is home now (my house) and recovering well.  Moses has a trusted and competent staff, who keep things running smoothly in his absence. Last week, along with the local Rotary, the CSU staff held a free medical clinic.  Over 500 people waited patiently for a turn to receive immunizations, treatment for ailments and other medical help that is not available to them most of the year.  CSU has plans to remedy the lack of medical resources in their area.  They have obtained two shipping containers, with a plan to fit them together and have them customized as a sturdy building with windows and doors.  This building will become a much needed clinic for 9 surrounding villages.  The Ugandan government has already agreed to staff it with full time nurses and lab technicians and a part time doctor, if CSU will get it up and running and then manage it.  Shared Blessings received a sizeable donation in memory of Dr. Doug Chadwick and this will help get this project off the ground.  What a fitting tribute to Dr. Doug.

In DORCAS VILLAGE, they are already making preparations for the Shared Blessings Christmas party.  It is always very special because along with the 17 sponsored children, the party includes over two hundred village children who are so poor that one piece of candy is cause for much delight.  This year, the party will honor the memory of Dr. Doug Chadwick, who was well known to many villagers; it will include special treats for the children and a program of games and dancing. Pictures of Dr.Doug when he was there working among them, plus speeches about his life and generous spirit will remind them of how God’s love for them is expressed through people.

The Trade School at KEZIYA CHILDREN’S HOME in Uganda will be graduating 21 students on December 2, with certificates in Tailoring and Hair Care.  The job market for these skills is good so the future looks bright for these young graduates.  Last year’s graduates were very successful in finding jobs to support themselves.  Florence, Director at Keziya, has hopes of expanding the Shared Blessings Junior School so that grades will accommodate the older children at Keziya.  We hope to help with that.  

Shaila Rao is getting ready to leave for India and on December 7 will be visiting with the children at ODISHA.  They have come to know Shaila and love her, so they want to have their Christmas party early so she can be with them. It has been 11 years since Shaila’s first trip to meet the tribal people in the mountainous area.  Her heart was so stirred by their abject poverty and the universal lack of education, she came back determined to do something about it. Now, a boarding school has been operating for 7 years, turning out the first high school graduates among the many villages in the area. We are constantly amazed at the transformation of those formerly sad and hopeless children.

The Wine and Cheese Auction just held in Sacramento to raise funds for the expansion of the boarding school building was very successful.  People had fun–and raised over $5,500!

EMMANUEL CHILDREN’S HOME  (ECH), in Myanmar is presently enjoying a November visit from Mike Taulier, a Shared Blessings Board member.  Each time he goes, Mike sees the progress made by this hard working group.  The Director and staff make the most of any help we send and turn it into a means to become more self sufficient.  With the large truck we financed and outfitted with benches to hold many people, they transport the ECH children to school, and also take  paying riders to pay for the gas and driver.  Their rice fields not only feed their large group for the year, but also provide payment for the farmer working them and a few bags left to sell.  When Mike makes his twice yearly visit, he always returns with high praise of the staff and the children.  Joel, the Director, knows how to give the children a solid assurance of the love of Jesus, a strong work ethic and a sense of joy in daily life.

With the help of generous donors, Shared Blessings was able to send the money needed to register ECH with the Myanmar government, who recently decided that every children’s home must pay a one time registration fee or they could not operate.  Joel sends his sincere thanks.

With so many things to be grateful for, I wish you all a Thanksgiving filled with God’s blessings,

Audrey Foster, Director
Shared Blessings International Christian Ministries
1120 Tully Road
Modesto, Ca. 95350
209 524 8844
www.sharedblessingsicm.org

 

October 2017

Dear Shared Blessings Friends,

It’s time to think about Christmas gifts for our precious children in other lands.  Best timing would be to send the money for gifts with our mid November wire, with the rest (for the parties) going in early December, so I hope you will keep this in mind.

Many people ask us to suggest an amount to send their child for Christmas.  Between $25 and $30 is what we hope to spend on gifts for each child in our program.   The special Christmas celebrations that are held mean so much to our sponsored children and also to  the many other kids who live nearby and are included. We try to send as much money as possible for this once a year treat.  The children’s anticipation  for this party and their joyous memories afterward really touch our hearts.

At DORCAS VILLAGE in Uganda, the Christmas party will be held in honor of Dr. Doug Chadwick, who died recently.  It will be a good chance for the many children who remember his loving care and his joy of life to be inspired by his life of service.   Contributors to the party will receive a personal thank you from Uganda.  The work with the HIV children at Dorcas continues on a steady basis.  Most of the children are doing really well, health wise, but their HIV status keeps them vulnerable and a few have a difficult time fighting the common diseases like malaria and TB, that are rampant in Uganda.  Our continued prayers for them are important.

Attached at the end of this letter are some pictures that KEZIYA CHILDREN’S HOME sent us this month.  Looking at the bareness of their surroundings and the simplicity of their meal, you can get some idea of how much our support means to them.  Filder, Rev. Otto’s wife, takes a special interest in her neighbors who are hungry and thirsty so that is included in Keziya’s ministry.     

It’s hard to keep up with all the projects that Moses, director of CHILDREN SAFE UGANDA (CSU) is moving ahead.  The new well is a treasured source of clean water for countless families, and plans for more wells needed in nearby areas are being discussed.  The Shared Blessings Junior School is overflowing with 250 plus children, who are the first generation in the Makukuba Village area to get an education.  They cherish their chance to learn and especially love the 2 meals at day they get at school.   Pictures of the school building might lead you to believe it is in a city rather than carved out of the jungle where it stands.  A new and thriving Trade School is growing fast and is producing products that network with the school and the adult self help projects.  

The latest project of dynamo director, Moses, is to turn a shipping container he just acquired into a medical clinic!! These huge containers are often used by enterprising Ugandans for other purposes and Moses always has some purpose in mind.  More about this as the project unfolds.  I soon will be asking Moses about this in person, since he is coming to California in early November.  The main purpose of his visit is for a needed surgery, but of course we will fit in some other activities as we are able.

Many things are happening at ODISHA, India.  Shaila’s note will be in a separate email. She will let you know about an upcoming fundraiser on November 12 in Sacramento.  At the end of November, Shaila leaves to visit Odisha and the children we sponsor there

At EMMANUEL CHILDREN’S HOME (ECH) in Myanmar, the young director, Joel, has huge responsibilities overseeing his family of 24 people (his wife and 2 children, 20 orphans and 1 staff member).  Yet he always finds time to write a detailed monthly report complete with many pictures.  Here are some of the things he wrote about this month:

 

The children are provided with nutritious meals three times in a day.

They take big breakfast before school and lunch and then big dinner in

the evening. Three time meats provided including eggs within a week

and vegetables and other beans. All the children continue to grow

strong in body.

…. we have cleaned up our small garden to

prepare to plant various vegetables like mustard, cabbage, eggplant,

ladyfinger, beans and other crops in the garden.

It was raining for one week recently and devastation that rain,

flooding and landslides have caused Kalaymyo areas where we live, and

affected many people. We are all well here and safe by God’s grace

 

…The children are provided with very

good vitamins every month. It’s a big help for the children get

strength and healthy so they are able to eat and sleep well……

Every weekend nights, the children are taught the Bible lessons as

Bible education is very important for our children at ECH and is part

of the curriculum.

We teach the Word of God and share the reality of the Gospel through

daily time for prayer, devotions, and praise songs. Many now have a

purpose in life and are continuing to grow and mature in Christ…..

How we praise God and so thankful for each and every one of you who

serve in the works of SB for praying for us and helping us financially

so that the work among the children can continue steadily. Without

your partnership, where would we be?

Through the supports of Shared Blessings, children are being rescued

from a life of poverty! Your supports enable us to feed, educate, and

raise children in a loving Christian environment at ECH in Myanmar.

We are so grateful to all the wonderful sponsors and donors for their

contributions to help our children have a future.

Thank you so much for your prayers, love and supports in so many ways.

It is always felt and deeply appreciated! We can see God blessings

your work and it is bearing fruits.

Our prayers are with you all always. May God bless all who serve in

the work of Shared Blessings!

In His Service,

Joel

I will close this long update now.  Don’t forget to view the Keziya pictures at the end.

Blessings,

Audrey

Little boys play in the dirt while they wait for food

Filder serves lunch to hungry people in the neighborhood. Not a scrap will be wasted.

All ages pitch in to uncover the bean seeds which will be used to cook lunch

 

September 2017

Dear Shared Blessings Friends,

The first part of our October update is an In Memorium for Dr. Doug Chadwick, who died August 29, 2017, approaching his 82nd birthday..  Doug was one of the original Board Members for Shared Blessings and after serving several terms, he continued to be active as an Honarary Board Member.  He rarely missed a meeting and attended one just a few days before he died.  As always, he was enthusiastic and smiling, full of  good humor and ready to support the next plan.  His death (heart related) was a shock to everyone because he was so “alive” up to his last hours.

 

A retired Modesto pediatrician, Doug was beloved by many, but especially the children he treated. He widened his fan base by making several trips to Uganda and seeing hundreds of children, who waited patiently in line to be checked by  “Wepakulu”.  That was the name the Ugandan orphanage directors gave Doug on our very first ministry trip there.  It means “the only one” because on that first medical mission, Doug was the only doctor.  The first time around the children, who had never been examined by a doctor, were scared and nervous.  As the first ones in line began coming out of the room with wide smiles and a lollipop, the rest of the children relaxed.  The first ones displayed Doug’s signature for all his children’s exams:  a Mickey Mouse facte drawn on their tummies with a highlighter.  The rest of the kids could hardly wait to get one!

 

Doug was easygoing, but he could be strongminded about some things.  On that first trip to Uganda, he insisted on bringing his accordian, which used up luggage space we wanted to fill with other things.  It turned out to be an amazing hit with the Ugandan children, who for months afterward walked the roads and pumped water at the well shouting out the chorus of “Oom Ya Ya” from Doug’s favorite college song (and the only song he could play)!.

 

Doug’s love for the ragged, malnourished, but lively children he met in Uganda was expressed in his avid recruitment of funds to improve their daily lives.  He was generous with his time, energy and his own funds on their behalf.   Doug also loved Jesus and was vocal about it.   We are happy for him that he is enjoying eternity now, even as we greatly miss his company.

 

With a full heart,
Audrey

 

August 2017

Dear Shared Blessings Friends,

Many of you have recently expressed how much you appreciate being able to give through Shared Blessings because you like the fact the 100% of your gift goes to the work.  You let us know that you are pleased that all of our work is done by volunteers.  (These devoted volunteers personally pick up the minimal administrative expenses that are not covered by Family Connections Christian Adoptions.)

 

We don’t ever plan to bombard you with emergencies and urgent requests.  The needs are always there;  we try to make them known as we see them and then trust God to open hearts to respond to them.  How we thank Him and praise Him for all the work that has been done and the lives that are changed. It is a privilege to part of so many little miracles unfolding.

 

At DORCAS VILLAGE, even though the numbers we help there are small, it is a deep joy to get the monthly reports on the eleven HIV positive children and to see pictures of them thriving because of the extra nutrition they now receive.  Each is a precious individual who no longer wastes away in a dark corner of a mud hut, but who attends school, plays games, does chores….and smiles a lot now.  We hope to help more of the village children with AIDS as sponsors materialize.

 

Someone sent me an article about how child sacrifice is still being carried out in some parts of Uganda.  It made me think of one of our sponsored boys at Dorcas, who is now finishing high school.  When he was a small boy, his grandmother brought him to the Dorcas Children’s Home after he escaped from his father, who had him locked up and under guard in a mud hut.  His father planned to take him away and sell him for sacrifice, but the child escaped and ran to his grandmother.  She knew she could not keep him safe, so the Dorcas Home became his refuge. With good attention over the years, he has become a fine young man and a leader among his peers.  We think God has some special task for him.

 

There have been some changes at KEZIYA.  The founder and Director, Rev. Otto Naptali has handed over the reigns to his daughter, Florence.  He is still helping with the work and of course is there to consult and advise.  Florence is a hard working and lovely woman who has a good rapport with children.  She has been a drama and music teacher in Uganda schools for many years, but will now devote full time to the Children’s Home.  I have met her several times and always enjoyed her sweet spirit and her sense of humor.  Watching her in action with the children of all ages when they presented a play for us, I could see that she is competent and loving.  The children love her.  We look forward to working with her.

 

The new batch of students at our Keziya Trade School is already planning for their graduation in December, 2017.  There are 38 students in the tailoring class and the hairdressing class.  This year, Keziya has assumed more of the expenses of running the school, using the fees from paying students (Keziya orphans attend at no charge)  That is a trend we will encourage until the school is self supporting.

 

There are always so many projects going on at CHILDREN SAFE UGANDA (CSU), and one of our favorites is the Shared Blessings Junior School.  It started in the bush as a classroom of poles and tarp, evolving into an impressive brick building featuring desks, blackboards and windows. The handful of children grew to 224, with 35 of them having a Shared Blessings sponsor.  One of the benefits of being sponsored is being assured of a school uniform, a true luxury and delight for these children.

 

Before she had a sponsor, Benar, a 12 year old girl, tells us that she often missed school because she was in rags and they were inadequate covering for her.  Now she is so happy because her dream of becoming a doctor no longer seems out of reach.  She is thrilled to have a school uniform and also says, ” At home, I used to stay without food, but am sure that when I go to school, I am rest assured of the meals.  God is great!”  Benar’s mother, a widow with several children, is also grateful, because CSU has helped her start an income generating business of raising pigs.  This inspired Benar to help the family income by starting her own poultry business with four hens from CSU.

 

There is much good news from the new Trade School, but we will save that for another time.  One little note–I just love how Moses networks the projects at CSU.  The tailoring school students are making the uniforms for the shared Blessings Junior School and the printers’ class is producing many of the books they use.  How encouraging for us to know how well the money we send is being used!

 

This has been the news from Uganda.  Look for updates from Odisha, India and Emmanuel Children’s Home in Myanmar in future newsletter.

 

With much love and a grateful heart to all of you wonderful sponsors and donors,

 

March 2017

Dear Friends of Shared Blessings,

Today, I received an uplifting report about the Trade School run by KEZIYA CHILDREN’S HOME.  (KCH) I could not wait to share it with you!  It is full of hope and is the realization of many of the goals we set out to accomplish with the money we send.
In a modest beginning, with simple equipment in a crowded space and dedicated teachers, life skills were taught.  All of the 25  students were needy, some being orphans who were raised at KCH.  Of the first year group, a few were able to pay a small amount toward the expense of running the school.  Shared Blessings supplied the rest.  At graduation, tailoring students were given a sewing machine for which they had contributed half the money, with the other half from Shared Blessings.  Hair dressings students likewise received equipment.
Now the graduates have a way to earn their living in a difficult economy.  Here are some success stories:

Eunice Akello has found work at Lacor Centre.  Her earnings buy her food soap and salt.  She gives back by being a support to the new students in the current Trade School class.
 
Gretty Akello runs a hair salon, using the equipment she received at graduation  She is very grateful for the helping hand she received.

Susan Ajok works outside her home to earn her living with her new skills.  Susan is an orphan who found refuge at Keziya Children’s Home.  As a young child, she had been abducted the the Rebel Army and spent some years in the bush.  She expresses her joy that her life was restored and that her sponsorsip at KCH has given her hope for the future.
 
Fiona Akot has formed a group that works together at Keyo Trading Centre, making and selling clothing.  She sends us her sincere thanks for changing her life and says she prays for blessings and a long life for the donors of Shared Blessings.
Classes for 2017 at the Keziya Trade School are in the works.  This year the plan is to recruit more paying students so the school can work towards being self-sustaining.  Tailoring and Hair Dressings will again be offered and when there is sufficient money, a Welding class will be added.
It is such  a joy to see some of the children grow up and know that we had a part in providing them with the skills they need to earn a living.  Thanks for your partnership in this.
Blessings,
Audrey

Dear Friends,

Before we zoom too far into 2017, I want to let you know how abundantly we were blessed in 2016.  We were able to send more than $235,000 to our five partner projects in Uganda, India and Myanmar.  The money supplied the basics of food, clothing, shelter, education and medicine for many orphaned and poverty stricken children.   As you know, we don’t have any paid staff or a budget for advertising.     Word of mouth brings new donors and God touches many hearts to share their money as people hear about the ways we can help.  Your prayers are so powerful. Keep them up!

 

This week I was very touched by an email from Moses, director of Children Safe Uganda (CSU).  He wrote that the drought in Uganda is affecting our Makukuba village people and many of the crops of this farming community have failed. Food is scarce so the price has doubled.  Many of the people are starving. A ray of light is our Shared Blessings school;  the children, about 200 of them, continue to get a hot lunch of gruel and a light breakfast Monday through Friday.  “They are happy when they can come to school,” Moses writes  “On the weekend, they may have one meal.”  Moses asks us to  “Please pray as there is a lot of hunger all over the country.”

 

 I hope Shared Blessings can increase our funding of the school program so that we can enroll more children.  We are feeding their bodies along with their minds and spirits–and that is such a good thing.

Some of the village children

This child at Shared Blessings school hesitates to drain the
precious last bit of his porridge.

 

A Shared Blessings donor has given a generous grant to begin a trade school, for which Moses has put together an excellent plan.  It will be an extension of Shared Blessings Junior School at CSU and there will be classes in
1) shoemaking
2) tailoring
3) tie dye(designing and coloring material for supply)
4) making school bags and purses
5) printing books.
The products of the Trade School  will increase the supply of uniforms, shoes, school bags and books for the children at Shared Blessings Junior School.   Since the government does not supply any scholastic material, the books will be especially welcome.  Any surplus products of the Trade School will be easily sold on the market.  Moses promises a quarterly report, plus external monitoring and a yearly financial audit.  This school should have a major impact on the youth and families of Makukuba village, not only boosting the economy, but giving the hope of future employment to many young people.
While there are many things yet to be done at Makukuba, it is a joy to see the vast improvements that have taken place thanks to Shared Blessings donors and Moses’ team of workers.  God bless you all!
Warmly,
Audrey

Dear Friends of Shared Blessings,

There is lots of news from Odisha and all of it is good!  Shaila, our Odisha progam manager, will tell you all about it in her letter below.

Blessings,

Audrey

A LETTER FROM SHAILA

We have wonderful news to report.  The tech company in India that helped with the construction of the first floor of our residential school in Dasmantpur, has come through again.  They have promised to grant sufficient funds to complete the second floor. Longtime supporters may recall that when we initially had the plans drawn out, it was for a building with two floors that could house about hundred children.  For lack of funds, the plan for second floor was tabled, but we kept our hopes and prayers to see this dream become a reality. Now, it looks like our prayers have been answered.  Plans are being revisited.

Recently, we had an engineer visit the school to make sure that the first floor was built properly to bear the weight of the second floor.  As soon the first quarter funds are released, construction will begin.  We were hoping to have the walls and roof up before the rainy season starts (by June) but now we think that it might be delayed. In any case, it will take about a year to get it all completed.

In addition to funding the construction of the second floor, the same company has also approved funding to finish up couple of projects that were taken up but not totally completed. While we funded the kitchen construction, it still needed a storage room as well as water tank.  Also, construction for separate bathrooms and toilets for boys and girls was taken up but was not finished – again for lack of funds. I am thrilled to report that now both of these projects will be finished in the near future.  We are still raising funds to get the solar panels.  We will wait until the roof for second floor is finished where the panels can be installed.  This will give us more time to raise the funds.

As part of our fundraising efforts, several supporters in Sacramento area are spearheading a yard sale to be held on April 29th.  If it rains that day, the event will be put off for a week, and held on May 6th.  The sale will be held on the grounds of on St. John Vianney Parish in Rancho Cordova.  We have Sharon Hanson, Cathy Ewing, Anna Weimann and Kathy Masters who are coordinating the collection and sales. If you live in the area, or want to support our efforts, please stop by on the 29th between 9:30 am and 3 pm.  The address is: 10497 Coloma Road Rancho Cordova, CA 95670.  We have lots of wonderful things that are waiting for you.

Our first auction fundraiser was such a big success, we want to do another one.  Look for more details for an auction/dinner night in December.  Just in time for your Christmas shopping. We already have some beautiful items from India that will be on the auction block.  Kobasics family have generously agreed to provide the space to hold the event.

Our children are done with their finals.  Two girls (Bhagyabati and Sarita) took the high school board exam.  We hope that they pass the exams and join the three girls who are already attending preuniversity classes in Bhuvaneshwar. All of the children are now enjoying the summer break. Yes, it is already summer there.  While they go home for summer, they typically do return to the school after sometime.

We are planning a trip to India in December.  Looks like we will have several people joining us. If anyone is interested in joining the group, please contact me soon.  It will be wonderful to be able to visit the child you sponsor, and see for yourself the changes you have made possible for his/her.  Even though the second floor construction will not be complete by then, we can see the progress and get a feel for how the school will be when completed.  You can also do a little sightseeing; we will help arrange an itinerary that gets the most out of the time you will have.

And that is our news for now!

Yard Sale in Sacramento for Odisha, India

A yard sale to raise money for solar panels for our school in Odisha India went well.  Here is what Shaila Rao, program manager, wrote about it:
Our yard sale on Saturday, April 21 was a success. Lots of items were donated for sale. We had a stream of people throughout the day.  We raised over $600 for our solar panels.  Much of the work was done by Sharon Hanson, Anna Weimann, Cathy Ewing, Noel Neuburger, Kathy Masters, Bob Ream, and Sharon’s three wonderful children, Nick, Cassie and Jacob. 

 

 

 

 

SHAILA RAO brings us News from ODISHA, India

 

Christmas was celebrated by all our school children on the 25th of December. Local pastor, Ajit Bagh, graced the occasion and spoke on the importance of Christmas to the children. Sweets, cakes and chocolate were distributed to the children. They also received a goodie bag each containing a new school bag, two sets of dresses or shirt and pants, one pair of shoes, and a blanket. Each child also received one additional personal item such as a hat, bracelet, pen, etc.

A little one enjoying his first cupcake ever!

Children receiving gifts on Christmas

Children receiving gifts on Christmas2

Kids are very much interested in getting the latest news.

One of the Emcees – Ashok. He is looking so good!

Pastor Ajit Bagh leading Christmas prayers

Smrithi distributing cupcakes

Tribal Dancers

children

Our representative Sushrutha visited the school as he has done every December for the past ten years. He was accompanied by his 13 year old daughter, Smrithi, and 19 year old niece, Dhrithi. Smrithi, an avid baker, spent her allowance money and time to bake 80 cupcakes for the children; the girls filled up an entire suitcase with boxes containing the cupcakes. Needless to say, the children enjoyed the tasty treat. Both girls were duly impressed by how well the children interacted with the staff, each other, and visitors. One comment that stood out – they were amazed at the interest children showed in the world events – they looked forward to reading daily newspaper!

Raising funds for the solar panels is getting off to a good start. Each month, precious Rupee is spent on electricity supply for the generator that gets the water to the school (despite attempts to dig a well to get water on the premises was unsuccessful) – money that is needed to care for the children. For about $10,000, we can install enough panels that will meet the school’s need. We have raised about $2,500 right now. We want to meet our goal before the cost estimate goes up. A few fundraising ideas are being looked at. In the spring we will have a yard sale with the entire proceeding going to the school. We also have lots of wonderful Indian items; hoping to do an auction again later this year.

There are sixty-one children AGPV who are part of the sponsorship program. Shared Blessings supports forty of these children; we also take care of seven older children who are now attending junior college or technical training institute. Ten children are supported by an organization in Canada. That means, eleven children are currently without sponsors. Behera is managing to care for these by stretching the money, and looking for other sources in India. Sadly, the local child welfare department has decided that the school is where orphan children can just be dropped off – not considering whether there is room for them or not. They also do not provide a single rupee to support the children. This has created a dire situation for Behera. While turning away orphan children is not an option, caring for all these additional children has IDS incurring expenses they are prepared to bear. Sadly, saying no to the welfare department is not an option. So currently, the total number of children residing there is close to eighty!

Our seven older children missed being at the school to partake in the celebrations.. but they are all thriving and working hard in school. Each one of them wrote a heartwarming letter to their sponsors thanking them for the continued support, and providing them with an opportunity they never imagined they would have.
It has been ten years since Shared Blessings started the sponsorship program in Odisha. I still remember the first trip I took back in 2007 – it is amazing how much has been accomplished, and how much more needs to be done. Without you, the steadfast supporters of Shared Blessings, these children’s lives would not changed. They dream of going to college, getting trained in special areas, going back to their communities to be teachers, technicians, businessmen. That dream is what got us involved a decade ago. I know Behera, AGPV staff, the children and their families are all grateful for the kindness you have shown over the years, for getting them to dream, and helping to make that dream a possibility.

Have a wonderful new year.

Shaila

 

December 2016:

Dear Shared Blessings Friends,

Here is the second part of the December, 2016 update, coming to you a little late. 😇   It covers our three partners in Uganda,  The final part, Odisha,  will arrive in a separate email.

 

You have already read some about the first ever Trade School graduation at KEZIYA CHILDREN’S HOME  in Gulu, Uganda.  Rev. Otto wrote that it was “wonderful”.  To help celebrate the graduation ceremony for 25 Trade School students, there were traditional dances from the different tribes who had their children in the tailoring class.  Speeches and prayers filled out the program.  Then sixteen tailoring students were presented with their certificates and new sewing machines for which they had saved up half the money and Shared Blessings paid the other half.  Nine Hair Dressing students also received graduation certificates along with supplies to get them started.  When the next Trade School session begins, Rev. Otto is hoping to add a welding class.  The good news is that $500 of the $2,000 needed to set up a welding class has already been given by a Shared Blessings donor.

 

Simon, the head teacher at the Trade School, Rev. Otto, Keziya Children’s Home director and Mike Taulier, our Shared Blessings board member visiting Uganda, all wear matching shirts made for them by the Tailoring Class students.

At DORCA S VILLAGE, the children are still talking about the good time they had at the Christmas party that Shared Blessings funded.  We hope to have pictures to share with you in the next update on Dorcas.  The children we sponsor  were joined at the Christmas party by many of the village children, who are extremely  poor and really appreciate the smallest treat–like one piece of hard candy.  The children looked forward to this celebration for many weeks and when it arrived, they started in the morning and ended at dark.  Thank you for the many generous donations that made it possible to have an extra nice party this year.

 

The Dorcas Health Center has seen a rise in activity since the Uganda goverment began supplying a doctor and some other staff to the project.  Malaria is still the most common sickness.  Sometimes the beds are so crowded, the little ones must share a bed while they receive IV medicine to fight the disease.  Most of the children leave greatly improved, but sadly some babies die because  families wait too long before coming for help.

 

Two sick little girls, sharing a bed at the Dorcas Health Center

 

When Moses, director of CHILDREN SAFE UGANDA (CSU) returned home after visiting us in October, he carried back with him many promises of help in various areas.  One was from St. James Anglican Church in Fresno to build a much needed well for the school.  In record time, the group raised the $3,500 needed plus about $600 extra.  That well will soon be under construction!
The attendance at the Shared Blessings school in Makukuba Village has exploded.  A few years ago, while waiting for us to raise some money for a school building, Moses inspired the local people to construct a make shift school in the jungle, using poles and large leaves.  At first, many were dubious about having a school, since it was the first to exist in the community.  Moses and his staff had to actively recruit students; initial attendance was under 50 children.  As the word spread about the quality education (complete with lunch), the numbers grew.  Now there are over 200 eager students and more clamoring to get in.

 

Shared Blessings has been able to send enough money to construct a sturdy brick school building shown.  Moses’  local Rotary club helped with some of th details.  With some very generous gifts just received by Shared Blessings this Christmas, we will send money to add on a classroom, finish the inside of the classrooms and furnish them with desks and benches.

 

Moses insists that the families of all children who attend the school must volunteer their help and also must attend classes for their own edification.  The adults are now learning to read, improving their parenting skills, learning good hygiene, and more.

 

Self-help groups that teach people how to begin their own business (raising chickens, growing onions, etc;) are flourishing.  When a person completes the required steps, such as attending the classes, preparing for the business (by building a chicken coop or clearing the land, etc.) he or she is provided with the materials needed to start a business.  Sometimes a group will come together to begin a business.  The goal is to have parents and guardians be able to take care of their children.

 

On a personal note, I would like you to know that I have retired from my full time job at Family Connections Christian Adoptions as of January 1. 2016.  It has been a wonderfull 33 years, but it is time.  This will not affect the work of Shared Blessings, since we will continue to operate out of the FCCA offices and the agency will generously keep on providing support for administrative expenses.

 

A very happy New Year to all of you wonderful, generous and amazing people.  My heart spills over with gratitude for your partnership in the work we do together..

 

Love and blessings,
Audrey

 

October 2016:

Dear Friends of Shared Blessings,

Before sharing the latest news of our Shared Blessings partners, I will just mention that it is time to think about our Christmas gifts for the children.  We would like to wire money in November so that the orphanage staff  have some time to shop and get things together.  For those who can’t make it by then, we will wire again in December.

 

 It would be lovely if every sponsored child could be remembered.  There is also a Christmas party held at each of our five places and that is very special.  In most cases, the party includes outside children who are desperately poor and who, along with the sponsored kids, look forward to this celebration with great anticipation.  Special treats to eat and drink and little gifts bought with the money we send make this a magical time for the children.  They enact the birth of Jesus with costumes of their own making; they sing and dance with great ardor.   I love contributing to this party fund because I know how much joy it brings.

 

Shared Blessings Board member, Mike Taulier, just returned from a tour of our three partner projects in Uganda.    At DORCAS VILLAGE, he was welcomed by a lively group of children, who sang and danced for him.  Mike also visited with the HIV positive children we sponsor there.  Most look healthy and happy, thanks to the extra nutritios food we supply and their routine of daily medicine.  Wilber, the former director who many of you remember, is almost totally blind now and relies on his wife and son for daily needs.

 

The tailoring class at the KEZIYA Trade School is in the final quarter and 16 students will graduate in December, along with several other in the Hair Dressing class.   The students were delighted to greet Mike.  They had sewed matching African shirts for Mike and Rev. Otto, so the men could wear them when they toured the area together.  Mike was impressed by all the activity at Keziya Children’s Home and the numbers of children being touched by the Keziya program.  Several of the volunteers who help with the program are young adults who had been homeless young children in the bush when Rev. Otto and wife took them in and raised them.  Now they are giving back.

 

Mike’s time at CHILDREN SAFE UGANDA (CSU) happened to fall over the weekend, so he attended church with the villagers and gave his testimony (with the help of an interpreter).  The modest brick building was packed with bodies, with at least 80 children in the crowd.  In spite of worshiping in a building with a dirt floor, no seating and no windows or doors, the people sang and prayed with fervor.  The building itself is sturdy, having been recently hand constructed  by the villagers when their old church collapsed.  They made their own bricks and put up the walls by hand, worshipping in a roofless building until one of our donors gave money for a roof.

 

While Mike was in Uganda, Moses, the director of CSU, was visiting us here in California.  With boundless energy, Moses spoke at churches, Rotary Clubs, high schools and several other groups.  He touched the hearts of many when he showed pictures of the desperate poverty and the ways his program is teaching people to help themselves climb out of it.  The money we send is a much appreciated “leg up”.

 

The children and staff at Emmanuel Children’s Home (ECH) in Myanmar are eagerly waiting for the next visit from the Shared Blessings team.  Mike and Marlene Taulier plan to go in November and this time will be taking a dentist with them.  They will conduct a much needed dental clinic for the children at the orphanage, the staff and as many others in the community who can fit into the time frame.  Almost $10,000 has come in for a vehicle, with about $6,000 to go.  The rice field that they planted will be harvested in November, a great way to save money on orphange food expenses.  It is also a means of self-support as they will market what is not used at ECH.  All of the children now have sponsors except for four.

 

The report from ODISHA, India, is a very full one, complete with pictures and report from Behera, plus a note from Shaila.  That will be sent in a separate email sometime soon.

 

As we enter our holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is especially heartwarming to be connected to Shared Blessings projects.  Our partners, who live in very difficult circumstances, meet life with such courage and joy, they inspire us.  And they, on their end, appreciate and love us so much for sharing our material wealth, they cannot find enough ways to tell us.  We are blessed by each other!

 

With much appreciation for you,

 

Audrey

August 2016 –

Hi Shared Blessings Friends,

The volunteer staff of Shared Blessings has been very busy as our work continues to grow.  We know it is God’s grace that keeps the money coming in and then flowing out to bless the lives of so many children across the world.  It’s also great to see the secondary impact of jobs created where they are so needed because of the work generated from the funds we send.

 

At EMMANUEL CHILDREN’S HOME (ECH) in Myanmar, the faithful and steady work of Joel and his wife is bearing much fruit.  It is also bearing many vegetables!  Look at this wonderful garden–which resembles a mini farm!  Everyone at ECH helps with the garden in some way and that makes the harvested corn taste even sweeter.

 

GROWING THE CORN.
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SHUCKING THE CORN
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EATING THE CORN     YUM!
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Joel writes us,” All the children are well by His grace and happy in the school….  It is through your sacrificial gifts that we are able to fulfill our mission each day by feeding the children.”

 

We admire Joel’s forethought as he looks ahead to the future and takes steps toward becoming a self-sufficient orphanage.  We are privileged to be giving ECH a helping hand.

 

Cultivating crops by hand so that the more children can be fed is hard work for people in their seventies, but Rev. Otto and his wife, Filder, at KEZIYA CHILDREN’S HOME continue to do this on a regular basis.  Filder is in charge of the farming, which takes place several miles from the compound where they live with the children.  Last week, Rev. Otto was helping her to harvest ground nuts and millet and then plant simsim and beans.  They also have a rice farm, which generates some income and provides food for the KCH children.

 

Back on the compound, Rev. Otto oversees the Shared Blessings Primary and Nursery School, which goes to third grade.  The goal is to expand it to a full primary school and a Boarding School for all the KCH children and some paying customers.  Another income generating activity is goat herding.  We have been able to send money to increase the herd and hope to send more soon.  It is hard to know which worthy project to support first!

Moses, director at Children Save Uganda (CSU), just came off an exhausting but productive weekend at Makukuba Village, the place where Shared Blessings focuses most of our work with CSU.  The local Rotary Club, of which Moses is a member, invited U.S. doctors to come and work at a temporary medical clinic that the Rotary set up at Makukuba.  So for three full days, the doctors donated their services to the villagers, who have no access to medical help within reach and no money to pay for it even if it were available.  Over 600 patients had medical attention, some of them for the first time in their lives.  The local Rotary is ready to do this again if there is a group of doctors who will come, so I am wondering if …?

 

Moses can show us pictures and tell us more about the work of CSU when he visits in early October.  We are excited about his visit and will plan some area meetings in Modesto, Merced and Fresno so that many of you can meet and talk with him.  Watch for more information about this.

 

Until next time, God bless you all for your love and compassion,

June 2016

Dear Shared Blessings Friends,

Today I want to give you the news of Keziya Children’s Home in Uganda.  KCH is a home run by Rev. Otto and his wife Filder.   They began their work of compassion many years ago, before we came into the picture and they began to  raise 11 orphans who were left homeless on the streets during the twenty year war in northern Uganda.
The original group of children are now grown.  Shared Blessings was privileged to have a part in advancing their education.  One is a doctor, some are nurses; there is a computer tech guy, a media specialist  and others with professions.  Now, many of these young adults are involved with Keziya, helping in some way with the new generation of desperately needy children.   They have been grounded in the knowledge of Jesus and nurtured in His love by Rev. Otto and Filder, who have been such a good example of sacrificial love.  It is heartwarming to witness how these young people want to give back.image
The Trade School recently begun at Keziya is thriving.  Some of the students are from the Keziya Children’s Home and others are paying customers.  Every one of the eleven sewing machines is in full use in the Tailoring Class and there are now ten people enrolled in the Hair Dressing course.  Rev. Otto writes that all the girls look “smart and lovely in their school uniforms”.  (Having a uniform is a matter of great pride for Ugandan children).   Here are some pictures.
At Emmanuel Children’s Home (ECH) in Myanmar, Joel, his wife Sui and their helper Sarah take care of twenty children, plus Joel and Sui’s two little ones.  Pictures of the children show them happy and healthy.  You would never guess the tragedies that lie in the not so distant past of each child.
Amos and Rebecca are siblings whose lives were changed when they came to live at ECH.   Their father died when they were young. When their mother became very sick, she could not feed them and without money for food or school fees, the children languished.  Because of the monthly support sent by Shared Blessings, ECH was able to take them into their circle of care.  Now the children enjoy daily meals, shelter, decent clothing and school.  They are learning skills to help them become independent when it is time, but for now they bask in the warmth of family love provided so generously at ECH.

March 2016

Dear Friends,
It’s time to catch you up on some of the things that are happening with our Shared Blessings partners. But first I will remind you of our “Friend Raiser” on Saturday, April 30. It will be in the “big room” at the Family Connections offices from 2 to 4 p.m. and we hope to see many of you here–with a friend or two! We would like to tell more people about the work of Shared Blessings and give them an opportunity to be part of our grass roots effort that sends every penny given to the work. Besides interesting information, there will be delicious refreshments and a silent auction with items from various countries. So come if you can.

At the end of this September, we will have a visit from CHILDREN SAFE UGANDA’s dynamo director, Moses Ssebeggala. When he was here two years ago, he forged many relationships and some of you have even gone to visit him in Uganda. His work with the poorest of children and families touches everyone who sees it because it is obvious that this man with such great organizational abilities is pouring out his very life for his people. Recently, Moses wrote that they are ready to put the roof on the three classroom block they are adding to the school house. Help from the local Rotary Club with the materials for roofing has sped up this effort. Shared Blessings School, even in the rough, has changed the lives of hundreds of children in the impoverished villages. Along with enlightening their minds, we are filling their stomachs daily, with a simple breakfast and a hot lunch of soup or gruel.

At EMMANUEL CHILDREN’S HOME in Myanmar, there is great rejoicing. Joel writes: “It is amazing how the Lord is working for ECH. In nine months, the Lord has provided through His people for the purchase of the building ($40,000). We are so thankful…Praise be His name!!” Not only do they now own the orphanage building, but there was enough money to build a needed wall to hold back floods, renovate the kitchen, improve the roof and add a bathroom. Besides that, Mike T., who makes regular six months trips to monitor the work, tells us the following wonderful news:

“Following my trip in February and after checking several pieces of land with Joel, the Director of ECH, I returned to the States to begin raising funds to purchase a parcel of land in the area of Kalaymyo so that the Children’s Home could eventually become self-supporting. Thankfully, enough funds had already been accumulated for a substantial down payment to put a hold on a parcel once found. Two weeks after our return, Joel found a suitable piece of land. Last week, while sharing about this need in a local church, a brother and his wife came forward offering to pay the balance due on the land!

We want to thank everyone who participated so faithfully and generously to the well being of ECH. as you can see, the home is well on its way to becoming self-supporting…”

KEZIYA CHILDREN’S HOME in Gulu, Uganda is opening their long awaited Trade School! This will provide a vocation for some Keziya children who are aging out of the program. Starting with a course in Tailoring and Sewing, the school is equipped with 22 sewing machines and all the necessary accessories. Teachers and 15 students have already begun the first term. There is enough money to cover the first year of operation and hopes are that the school will become self-sustaining from the fees of those paying students who attend. Since there are few trade schools in the Keziya area, our school should do well. As funding comes in, Rev. Otto will increase the courses, offering classes in carpentry, cooking, welding and other trades that lead to jobs in Uganda. This school fills a great gap and we are praying for its increase.

Another project that Keziya staff want to focus on is their goat herd. This is already a modest source of income, but with attention it could increase dramatically. A capital investment of $7,000 is needed to make this happen and we hope to help with this.

The children of DORCAS Village in Uganda are preparing for their traditional Easter celebration. On Easter Day, they wake up very early in the morning and before church time, go door to door to remind folks that “The Lord is Risen”. Over the years that we have been sending support, they have come to look forward to a special party with music, dancing, and refreshments. It has become a tradition for them to perform a Passion Play at this party. Using whatever is at hand for costumes and props, they manage to put so much feeling into it, they bring tears to many eyes.

Shaila returned from her December trip to ODISHA brimming over with enthusiasm for what she encountered there. The children looked great and recent reports tell us they did very well on their exams just taken. Shaila was delighted to see a completed kitchen, newly built bathrooms so boys and girls could have separate ones. and a large water tank under construction. A new project we are working on is raising funds for the installation of solar panels. This would save hundreds of dollars monthly in electricity fees for light, heat and water. (The generator that pumps all the water is run by electricity, also). While the cost of the panels is not cheap ($10,000), the savings in electric bills would soon make up for it. There is already $3,000 in the solar panel fund, a good start for a practical project.

To help avoid staff turnover at the school, Shared Blessings has instituted a bonus given at the end of the school year to each teacher who stays for the entire year. We have also initiated a Staff Appreciation Day, where every member of the staff receives a small gift from us as a thank you for the service provided to the children.

Mr. Behera is seeking government grants to pay for finishing the second floor of our Boarding School, while Shaila and others look for funding sources in India to add to our Shared Blessings support. There is much to be thankful for in Odisha as the children grow in mind, body and spirit.

I hope to share some pictures from our five partners in the next email update.

Thank you for sharing in this meaningful effort. May you have a blessed Easter.

Warm regards,
Audrey

December 2015:

 Dear Shared Blessings Friends,

Your All Volunteer Staff at Shared Blessings has been extra busy handling all the Christmas checks coming in. That is a cheer, not a complaint. We just love to see the generosity of so many, cascading like Bridal Veil Falls into the lives of grateful children. That special meal for Christmas (with cake!), that piece of new clothing, and perhaps a toy, give the children hope because people they have not even met care about them. The children continually express their thanks and pray for us.

Shaila will leave for her trip to ODISHA a few days after Christmas. New pictures and reports on the children just arrived so she is really busy trying to email them to all the sponsors before she leaves. The children will have their holiday celebration on Christmas Day, before Shaila arrives, but there will be more festivities while she is there–because she is there. Shaila promises more pictures and lots of update details when she returns.

We were so happy to be able to provide DORCAS with a Hemocue machine. It gives instant information on a blood test and is already making a difference for the many infants who are brought in with severe anemia caused by malaria. Now the doctor can determine treatment immediately and without taking a large quantity of blood from a child who does not have it to spare. Our program for 11 HIV positive children is life changing for those valiant young kids we sponsor. The extra nutrition in their diets, provided by sponsorship money, is helping to keep them healthy most of the time. There are other HIV children in the village whose lives are really pathetic. We are praying that sponsors will appear for them. Each precious one that comes into our program blossoms with renewed health. Excitement is building for the children’s Christmas party. One of the highlights of the day will be large decorated cakes that sit out all day like royalty, being admired and waiting to be eaten with gusto. I just learned that the cakes will be baked by girls who have grown up at the Dorcas orphanage and will be decorated by……Emmanuel, the Director of the Dorcas program! We never knew he had that hidden talent.🎂

Graduation from the Shared Blessings Nursery School at KEZIYA is a very big deal for the children and the community. This school has become self supporting by serving outside families as well as the orphans at KCH. We are really proud of Rev. Otto’s efforts to create and sustain it. The school goes from Kindergarten to the third grade. On the day of graduation for the top class, the children perform traditional dances for all the people who gather for the ceremony. The graduating class then puts on caps and gowns and each receives a small gift from the school. It is a festive and exciting day for everyone.

The Baby home at Child Safe Uganda (CSU) has had an abundance of “drop off’s” recently. The newest residents are young siblings who were found in a dumpster lying next to a dead goat and eating from the garbage. The two year old was so malnourished he is not yet walking; his 3 older siblings were covered with worms and maggots. Of course Moses said yes when the officer asked CSU to take in these children. There will be no government money to help provide for them; it means stretching an already strained budget. But the children were welcomed into loving arms, cleaned up and gently fed. They were taken to the local Health Center for check ups, put on special diets, and treated for skin problems. Now Moses is tracing possible relatives who live 200 miles away. What a privilege it is for us to work with such dedicated partners.

Our work with EMMANUEL CHILDREN’S HOME (ECH) in Myanmar is progressing at an amazing pace. Board members, Mike and Marlene, stay in close touch with the young director, Joel, who is zealous about sending us pictures and detailed reports. Mike continues to visit ECH twice a year to stay aware of their needs and their progress. On his October visit, he was accompanied by a pastor, who led training sessions for two groups of local clergy. It was gratefully received and they are asking for more. There are now 20 children at ECH, 6 more than when we started to work with them. The children are extraordinarily considerate and loving to each other, each one working at chores to keep the daily routine. Our help has not only allowed ECH to add six more children, it has raised their standard of life with better nutrition and improved shelter. Donors to their housing fund will be pleased to know that our project to raise $40,000 to buy the building they now occupy is more than 3/4 done!

Before I close and wish you a Merry Christmas, I want you to share the delight of knowing that this Christmas, you and I have provided love to many needy children around the world. It comes in the form of hot meals, new clothes, parties with singing and dancing…and cake. I thank God that He has provided us a way to give meaningful help. And I thank you for joining in the vision and ministry of Shared Blessings.

May you and those you love have a blessed holiday,
Audrey

The recent graduates from Shared Blessings Nursery School/Keziya

The four siblings enjoying being cared for at CSU

The HIV positive children at Dorcas enjoy a meal together.

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Resting after cleaning the goat pen at ECH

Here is a Christmas greeting for you from a sweet boy at Keziya Children’s Home

October 2015:


Dear Shared Blessings Friends,

While I don’t like rushing the seasons, I need to send a reminder about Christmas money.  If you would like to remember your sponsored child or a Shared Blessings Children’s Home for Christmas, it is time to send a check. I know it would be more fun to buy a present to wrap and send, but the postage would cost way more than the gift and who knows when it would get there.  So wiring the money and having the Children’s Home Directors buy the gifts will work best. If you are wondering what amount to send, $25 would cover the new Christmas clothes that the children always like.  We are always happy to receive money for the children who don’t have sponsors.

Board member Mike T.left for Myanmar yesterday to visit EMMANUEL CHILDREN’S HOME. (ECH). Accompanying him is Pastor Russ from a church in Portland, Oregon who will be running two training sessions for Christian pastors while he is there.  A large group of eager trainees is expected because there is a deep hunger for this kind of support.  The twenty orphans at ECH and Joel’s family are so excited to receive their guests.  They have come to know and love “Grandpa Mike” who is making his fourth trip to see them.  Please pray for his health, as he was recovering from an illness when he left on the trip.   Winter has begun in Myanmar and director Joel was so pleased to be able to buy a floor covering for the cement slab that is the first floor of the orphanage.  He and the older boys have already installed it.   The household is a busy one; all the children contribute to the work of running of it, and still make time for their schoolwork and daily worship.

Today, Board member Susan Hey left for Uganda, accompanied by her friend from church, Carolyn Downey.   Susan and Carolyn would appreciate your prayers as they make a long and arduous journey to carry our love to the precious children we provide for and to the adults who meet their daily needs.   The two ladies will be staying with Moses and his family at CHILDREN SAFE UGANDA (CSU), which is on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda’s capitol city.  There is a vigorous agenda planned for them so they can see the many programs in full tilt at CSU–the overflowing school carved out in the jungle, the thriving co-op business groups, the youth group for teen guidance and more.  They will give us a full report and pictures when they return.

A short trip to KEZIYA CHILDREN’S HOME  in Gulu, Uganda is also on the agenda for Susan and Carolyn.  They will fly there to meet with Rev. Otto and his two staff members, Dennis, who runs the office and Douglas, who works with the children.  Keziya is a shaft of light for a dark area of Uganda that was hit hard by the atrocities of a civil war for over 20 years.  Rev Otto lives out the message of Jesus as he ministers daily to children who have been battered by violence and unspeakable terror.  This is beyond difficult in the midst of extreme poverty and disease.  Right now they are working hard to avoid an epidemic of Hepatitus E, a liver disease caused by contaminated water.  Our provision of a well two years ago has helped them.  Rev. Otto always expresses his gratefulness for the money we send and for “our struggles” on their behalf.  In the meantime, they continue to work hard to keep self-sustaining projects going–bee hives, goat herds, poultry and farming.  These help to feed the children and sometimes there are even extra products to sell.

There will be not time to travel to DORCAS village, but Susan will meet in Kampala with Emmanuel, the director.   Emmanuel tells us that there has been increasing activity in their programs.    The Health Center, built by Shared Blessings 15 years ago, is still operating 24/7.  They have a part time doctor, a lab technician and 3 nurses who have been assigned to them by the government.  In addition, they employ a midwife and a delivery nurse.  Emmanuel writes us:  “The activities in the Health Center had gone down, but they are now starting to pick up again.  We are one of the few health centers chosen to carry out immunization of children, especially those below 4 years of age.  We also do blood transfusions, which is not common in the health centers in our area because their services are not approved. This makes us one of the major referral health centers in the area, especially when it comes to cases of patients who need blood transfusions.  On daily average at the Health Center, we have 20 outpatients and 10 inpatients.  Most of these are children and expectant mothers.”

One piece of equipment we would like to help them buy is a “Hemoque”.  This  would allow them to check hemoglobin in less than a minute and without drawing a big sample of blood.  It could save many lives, especially infants very sick with malaria, whose lives hang in the balance because of organ failure. This machine is $350 and should last for many years since it is simply constructed.

The news of ODISHA is good.  Shaila has written a report and included pictures.  You will be getting that in a separate email which will follow this one.
Blessings,
Audrey

September 2015 –


 

Dear Shared Blessings Friends,

Shaila has shared the news from Odisha and here it is. The whole community has made gains because of our sponsorship work there.

Blessings,

Audrey

A report on the work in Odisha by Shaila Rao

JOIN US IN SACRAMENTO!   SEPTEMBER 20

First on the news is our upcoming fundraiser on Sunday, September 20 in Sacramento.  The fun evening with food and silent auction is being held to raise funds for expenses for medical treatment, and for education funds to meet the growing need for higher education.  Lots of wonderful items will be available for the auction.  We are hoping to load the image of these on our website so people can bid on them – even if they can’t come to the event.  But if you are in Northern California, we would love to see you.  The event is from 4 pm to 6 pm at Kobasics Hall, 5324 Riverside Blvd. in Sacramento.  Call Shaila at (916) 442-2112 or email at sohailarao@sharedblessingsicm.org for more information.

News from Odisha:

As usual, the children visited their families during the summer vacation. This was the great opportunity for the children to spend time with their families.  Now that school has reopened, the children have returned to their normal schedules.  All were excited to receive new books and other school supplies.

The news that Amanath and Fakir got admitted to higher education institutes has been excitedly welcomed by the children and staff at AGPV.  This is especially Inspirational to the eight students who are gearing up to taking their final exams next March.  This batch of students will have our first girls ready to go to college.  This is such a thrill for all of us!  Behera tells us that both Amanath and Fakir are settling in nicely in Bhuvaneshwar at their respective colleges. They are a little homesick, and are already talking about going home for vacation to visit family and friends at AGPV.  Amanath is especially interested in learning English – so books have been bought to help him.  He will be ready to have a conversation with me soon, I hope.

Ashok Bhatra continues to go through the chemo therapy twice a month.  He travels to Bhuvaneshwar by train and returns home after spending two to three days at the clinic.  He is such a trouper, Behera says; he goes through this in a very positive manner.

Now that they are back at school the children have returned to tending the kitchen garden.  They proudly collected various vegetables like bitter guard, greens, radish, pumpkin, eggplant, chillies, and beans.  Of course growing their own vegetables is a great incentive to eating healthy meals.

Behera reports that monthly meetings with parents and guardians are held during the last week of each month.  At these meetings educational status of the all children and issues related to school and children are discussed. Looking at Amanath and Fakir’s success, the families are more motivated to encourage their ward to study with more interest and seriousness as great future is waiting ahead for them. Ms Bimala, senior teacher,  shared  the progress of   children along with the lesson plan prepared   with the parents.

During this reporting period, Behera informs us that the District Child Protection Officer, Ms. Rajasri Das visited school.  The purpose of her visit was to audit the documentation and make sure that the school is run as mandated.  She was pleased with the accountability as well as how well the children are doing.

Fifteen students of AGPV participated in voluntary sanitation program and cleaned Dasamantpur medical premises.  The children take pride in participating in these voluntary activities as it provides them with an opportunity to give back to their community.

It is not too early to think of Christmas.  If you wish for your child to receive a Christmas gift let me know.  We usually arrange for them to get new clothes, shoes and some sweets.  This Christmas, we are arranging the children to have a special meal to honor the memory of Rob Bohning.  While Rob did not travel to India, his family has supported a child there for many years.

I am planning  to travel to Odisha in January of 2016.  In addition to spending time at the school, I am also looking forward to visiting Amanath and Fakir in Bhuvaneshwar.   Photos and reports will be sent upon my return.

Shaila Rao

IA Director

Family Connections Christian Adoptions

1120 Tully Road

Modesto, CA 95350

Email: shailarao@fcadoptions.org

Tel: (916) 442-2112 / (209) 524-8844

August 2015

Dear Shared Blessings Friends,
Today I will share news from Keziya Children’s Home in Uganda, Dorcas Village in Uganda and Emmanuel Children’s Home in Myanmar(formerly Burma).

The rainy season in Uganda has brought an especially difficult outbreak of malaria. At KEZIYA, they have had to send several children to the hospital for treatment. We recently learned that they are coping without mosquito nets or spray and we hope to do something about that before the next rainy season. Since the nets must be chemically treated to stay effective, it is an ongoing expense, but worth it when it avoids mosquito bites that bring malaria.

On the happy side, Rev. and Otto and Filder have moved out of their mud hut and into a house. It is a very modest two room house, started by the older children at Keziya, who felt that their patron should not be living in a mud hut, while they enjoy the amenities of a brick dormitory that Shared Blessings built for them. The children earned money to pay for the foundation materials and built it with their own labor. Then they stopped because they ran out of money. Shared Blessings was able to send money for the rest of the building to be completed.

Another positive piece of news is that Douglas Olum has been added to the Keziya staff. He is in charge of the sponsorship information as well as other things, so we hope to be receiving more frequent pictures of the children and fuller progress reports. Douglas is a personable young man who, with the help of his Shared Blessings sponsor, graduated from University. As a child, Douglas was kidnapped by the LRA rebels and forced to be a child soldier. When he escaped, Rev. Otto raised him at Keziya, helping him to know Jesus and to learn to move on with life. Everyone who has visited Keziya and met Douglas remembers him, because of his great good humor and amazing vitality.

DORCAS also has had difficulty coping with the malaria outbreak. For a while they were turning away patients at the Health Center because they ran out of medicine, but a generous Shared Blessings donor sent enough money for a long lasting supply. Emmanuel sent us pictures of the large boxes of medicine on the porch of the clinic.

This weekend, the children at Dorcas will gather for a special party in memory of Rob Bohning, a Shared Blessings founding Board member who died last spring after a courageous battle with cancer. Rob was with the first group to make a mission trip to Uganda and is well remembered at Dorcas, where he spent two weeks. He was very moved by what he called “The Jolly Rancher War”. We were handing out candy (Jolly Ranchers) to mobs of children and they became so excited and overwrought that our distribution system broke down and there was complete bedlam. Seeing how much one piece of hard candy meant to those children was heartbreaking. Rob often mentioned it as motivation to help the children climb out of the devastating poverty.

The party on Saturday is planned for a couple hundred children, all those connected with Dorcas plus the village children. Since they rarely have treats, they have been looking forward to this for many months. There will be breakfast and lunch served outside, games, music and dancing (of course) and many treats. Emmanuel, the Director, has planned a time to gather and hear about Rob Bohning his inspiring life of caring about others and his generosity of spirit, which prompted our idea for the party. Donors made gifts in Rob’s memory and we were able to send over $1,000 for the party. I hope to share pictures with you when I get them.

Susan Hey, our Sponsorship Manager, is planning a trip to Uganda in mid October. She will begin her visit at CHILDREN SAFE UGANDA (CSU) and then spend a few days at Keziya. She also hopes to meet with Emmanuel, from Dorcas, if he can meet her at CSU. Susan would love to hand carry letters from sponsors of children at any of those three places. A photo tucked in with the letters would be extra special. Send the letters to Shared Blessings at 1120 Tully Rd, Modesto, Ca. 95350 and I will see that Susan gets them. Weight capacity for the trip is very limited so she cannot take individual presents. However, soccer balls for the groups would be very welcome, so if anyone would like to donate a soccer ball or two, let Susan or me know.

This has been a highly emotional summer for Joel, the young and competent Director at EMMANUEL CHILDREN’S HOME in Myanmar (ECH). Within a 2 week span, his beloved mother died and his wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. The twenty children at ECH continue their wholesome routine of schoolwork, household chores, happy playtime and a joyful daily worship time. The six new children have settled in really well and now they just need sponsors to ease the stretched budget.
This month, we were able to send a second installment of $10,000 on the mortgage on the home they are all living in , so out of $40,000 we have paid half! This commitment started in March, 2015, and we thank God and the donors for moving it along. A garage sale run by Mike and Marlene T. helped greatly by contributing $4,000 to the payment.

We will be sending an update on ODISHA soon, but in the meantime I will give you a “save the date” message about a Fund Raiser for our India program. A party and Silent Auction will be held in Sacramento at a lovely venue on Sunday, September 20, 2015 starting at 3pkm. Watch for more details.

So many good things are taking place in other parts of the world because of the money you send to Shared Blessings. Thank you. This is truly love in action–wonderful to behold.
Yours in God’s love,
Audrey

 

Email Update May 2015.pdf

May 11, 2015 – Child Ashok Bhatrawith Hodgkins Lymphoma

Twelve year old Ashok Bhatra is a sweet and happy child who has been at AGPV, our residential school for tribal   children in Odisha, India, for almost six years.  This sixth grader wants to be a doctor when he grows up so he can treat children who are sick.  Now Ashok himself needs treatment; he has has been diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma.  As there are no facilities available near Dasmantpur, he has been transported to a cancer institute in Cuttack, a city near Bhuvaneshwar, capital of Odisha. The doctors at the cancer institute are conducting further tests and analysis to determine whether to treat Ashok with radiotherapy (XRT) or systemic chemoimmunotherapy.  Behera and IDS have borrowed money from other programs to pay for the initial expenses.  At this time, we are not sure how much Ashok’s treatment will cost, or how it will be funded; but we are convinced that God will show us a way to provide for Ashok’s care.  Please keep this little boy and his family in your prayers.  If anyone wishes to help, contact Shaila Rao at shailarao@sharedblessingsicm.org for further information.

April 2015

Dear Shared Blessings Friends,

This update is long overdue and there is a lot to report. I will try to keep it within reason. The ODISHA news will come in a separate email and so will the report from CHILDREN SAFE UGANDA (CSU) because both of them contain many pictures.

In March, we lost a well loved friend and a founding Shared Blessings Board Member. Rob Bohning, age 47, went to be with the Lord on March 16, 2015. Rob fought a courageous battle against cancer for three years. He endured way past the doctor’s expectations, toughing it out through multiple surgeries and procedures because he wanted to be present every possible, precious minute for his wife, Lori, and children, Andrew, age 9 and Olivia, age 7. Rob was part of the first ministry group to go to Uganda in 2005 and he and Lori sponsored children from there and from Odisha, India. Rob prayed regularly for our work and stayed involved with Board business up to the end. My husband Tom and I are personally going to sponsor a “Rob Bohning Celebration Day” at Dorcas, Uganda where Rob visited and had so many memories. This will give a couple hundred skinny, ragged children from the village a day to remember, with special food, candy treats and games. Wilber and Elizabeth, the orphanage directors when Rob was there, loved Rob and have been praying for him over these difficult years. They will be happy to organize this event, with the help of their son and present director, Emmanuel. If anyone would like to join Tom and me in putting on this party, you can send a check to Shared Blessings, designating it for”Rob’s Party.” We will send a note to Lori about any contributions made in Rob’s honor.

Joel, the energetic, young Director of Emmanuel Children’s Home (ECH) in Myanmar, has been keeping us very well informed with monthly reports and many pictures. Because of our aid, he has been able to add a new child to the group of 14 orphans, a 12 year old girl named Grace, who is shy and looks very sad in her picture. I expect she will be smiling soon, now that she is surrounded by the love that permeates that home. In late January, our Board members Mike and Marlene, with their adult daughter, Jenny, visited ECH. Their reports of daily life at ECH are glowing. Joel and his wife treat the children as their own. Beginning each day with prayers and devotions, the children have a good breakfast, complete their simple chores and are off to school. After school they do homework and help with the animals and the upkeep of the big house and the huge garden which supplies them with many vegetables. Mike is so impressed with how happy the children are, no matter what they are doing. The children were thrilled with the gifts that our visitors brought them, backpacks, clothes and other items. Shared Blessings is now working on a building fund for ECH. They must either buy the building where they presently live or move to another location. Since the price is good ($40,000) and the house is more than adequate, it is a good investment. We have a running start with over $7,000 of the $10,000 down payment already donated!

At KEZIYA Children’s Home in Gulu, Uganda, Rev. Otto continues to rely on the grace of God as he ministers to desperate needs in difficult surroundings. Gulu is still suffering from the 20 year civil war that ravaged the countryside and destroyed families. The crime rate is extraordinarily high there and just operating on a daily basis is difficult. Rev. Otto faithfully prays and then works as hard as he can to provide his best for as many people as possible. In his last email, he thanked us profusely for the money we sent for farming. His goal is to grow enough to feed all the children at Keziya, plus street kids, and then to have some to sell so they can become more self sufficient. He is a very loving man who inspires love in the children, so they work hard with him to accomplish goals. One of his most important goals is to see that each child in his care has an education that will give him or her a means of support for later years. Our sponsorship money is helping him to achieve that and he sends his deep thanks to all the faithful sponsors.

With all the needs staring us in the face, it is sometimes hard to know what to do first. We are all doing something and I think that pleases God. Thank you for sharing this passion to bring some joy to hurting hearts.
Blessings,
Audrey

 

February 2015 Shared Blessings Update

 Dear Shared Blessings Friends,Here is an update on a couple of our projects. Now that we have five, I will stagger them so I don’t overwhelm you with too much information.Moses, director at Children Save Uganda (CSU) writes that they have been very, very busy these last months. When the new school term began at the end of January, over 50 new children showed up at Shared Blessings school. Moses and his staff have been praying for an increase, and now that it is happening, Moses says “the number is alarming and we have no where to put them. The sauce pans for cooking are not enough and the staffing is not enough. The firewood is not enough!”While Moses wryly states that you need to watch what you pray for, he adds, “In fact, we are grateful for the response of the parents and what we have to do is ask God for His provision.” In the past some of the poverty stricken guardians of the children have not sent their children to the new (and only) school in their village because they would be required to take an active part in the education plan. That includes attending adult classes to improve their own lives and providing “sweat equity” in school projects. Now that they see the amazing benefits to the children and families who attend Shared Blessings School, many want to be part of it.At KEZIYA, there was much rejoicing last month, when Gilbert Sunday Odoch took his oath as a medical doctor specializing in surgery. He was one of the first young orphans to be taken in by Rev.Otto and his wife over 15 years ago. Another young man from that first group, Joseph Oloya, will soon receive a diploma in education and begin work as a teacher. Dennis Akena, the very first orphan they gave a home to, finished computer school and has been working as Rev. Otto’s administrative assistant for over a year now. It is rewarding to see these young people and many others at Keziya with the drive to make something of their lives, in spite of the tragedies in their early childhoods. Their love and appreciation for Rev.Otto and Filder are always obvious.The Trade School which Rev. Otto wants to start has been slowed down by unexpected financial difficulties. There is a great need for this school which will give young people a trade and Otto is committed to getting it started. He has shown himself to be a very competent school administrator. The Shared Blessings primary school which he started 3 years ago is very successful and in the few years it has been open, it has become self supporting. Besides providing a quality school for the Keziya orphans, it is open to the public and their fees provide enough to pay for the upkeep. I will send some pictures of the school and their end of year festivities in a separate email.The HIV project at DORCAS is going well. We continue to support 2 social workers who visit each child several times a month to make sure they are taking their medicine and eating properly. They also address any social difficulties the children may encounter because of the disease. The quality of life for the 11 HIV children we support is infinitely better than what it would be without our help.Thank you for the part you play in comforting children in difficult situations. More than you ever know, it is making a difference.In partnership with you,
Audrey

January 2015 Shared Blessings Update:

Dear Friends at Shared Blessings,
Here comes part 2 of the January 2015 Email update.  Instead of telling you about Children Safe Uganda (CSU), I am going to send you the yearly report we just received from Moses.  It is packed with pictures and information, letting us know what our money accomplished there.  I am amazed at how much the staff at CSU has done.  They are working hard to help people become self-sufficient.  I haven’t filled you in on Keziya yet, but that will come soon.
Blessings,
Audrey

 

Dear Shared Blessings Friends,

I am sorry there was no update in December, 2014.  There was no lack of things to tell you about–just a shortage of time. Many special events took place at each of our projects, the results of your outpouring of money for Christmas.  I will try to catch you up on them now.

Our newest project:  EMMANUEL CHILDREN’S HOME, in Myanmar (formerly Burma) is flourishing. More than half of the children have sponsors;  we have been able to send them over $6,000 and Pastor Joel has used it for many good things.  The fifteen children in his care are enjoying hearty meals of rice, meat and vegetables.  All except 2 year old Caleb have new school uniforms and their school tuition has been paid without strain.  They have new, warm blankets on their beds, a good supply of vitamins and plenty of soap to use. The household has new and much needed kitchen utensils and plenty of firewood for cooking.   For enterprise, Joel has purchased two pigs, with hopes of a future litter.  Seeds and plants for the garden promise crops for the table and some to sell. Desks for the children are being constructed and Joel is preparing to buy solar panels to increase the electricity use at the Home.  Their Christmas celebration was especially joyful this year because of our help.  Here are a few pictures from their party.

Playing games at Christmas party

Playing games at Christmas party

Refreshment time

Refreshment time

At the end of this month, two of our Board members Mike and Marlene, with their adult daughter, Jenny, will travel to Myanmar to visit ECH.  They will carry supplies for the orphanage and while there will assess ways in which we can best help.

 

ODISHA

Our children in Odisha celebrated Christmas with much happiness and excitement.  The celebrations started with the dedication of the Kitchen/dining hall building on the 23rd.  Jirimio Digal, who is a well- respected Christian leader in Odisha and a board member of IDS, led the Christian dedication services with prayers and Scripture reading and he explained its meaning to the children.  He talked about how important it is to learn that nobody can ever think of building any house of his/her own, unless God’s grace is bestowed upon it.  It is exciting to see the children learning Christian teaching.

Christian teaching

Christian teaching

Sushrutha reports that the children took the initiative to bring a Christmas tree to the school and decorated it themselves.  The seventy four children living at the school all received new clothes, blankets and a bag with school supplies.  They also enjoyed a delicious cake!  All of the arrangements and the program were produced and overseen by the older children who are definitely emerging as leaders.

Cake

Cake

Several children also received bicycles.  We now have over twenty children with bicycles, which they do share with others.

 

New bicycle

Tula Jani with her new bicycle.

 

 

 

During this time, a Child Welfare Officer, also visited the school to assess the school and  the children.  Sushrutha reports that after speaking with the children and seeing the facilities,  she was quite impressed . She praised  the way the children conducted themselves  and complimented all at IDS for creating an environment of friendliness, learning and being happy.

 

DORCAS

At DORCAS, two more HIV children have sponsors, making a total of eleven children being helped by this project.  The newest ones are two little brothers, Sam and George.  They live in grinding poverty with their elderly grandmother because their parents are too sick with AIDS to care for them. These boys often visit the Dorcas compound in hopes of a good meal and they are sharp enough to pick up on the good fortune of the nine HIV children with sponsors.  For the last year they have been pleading with Elizabeth for a sponsor.  I wish I could have been there to see their faces when she told them they are now part of the program.

Olga See has agreed to take charge of the Education part of our program at Dorcas.  Olga is passionate about seeing that the children get an education that will help them to support themselves in the future.  She will oversee the Boarding School program, our one student at University, and the local need for pencils, paper and school uniforms.

Julius , a student at the University, is ecstatic upon receiving a computer from a Shared Blessings donor.

Julius
, a student at the University, is ecstatic upon
receiving a computer from a Shared Blessings donor.

 

 

 

Audrey

 

Recent email letter from Moses Ssebaggala, Director-Children Safe Uganda

Dear Mama Audrey and Susan,

Hope all is well with you. I will try to attach some few photos to you but the main report will have a narration of what was inspired on the christmas party and speech day for the children. Children participated in different activities i.e. singling, reading and writing competition, eating, cutting of the cake, winning prizex given out clothes to sponsored children among others. We were happy to see parents, community leaders and religious leaders taking part in all that took place. They participated in most of the games and talks of encouragement were done.

You people you may not realise how much your contribution is doing in Makukuba, but it was amazing to see where the Lord is taking us and where we have come from. During this function, I was remembering how i used to go into communities begging parents to bring their children to school. I was remembering the negative attitudes i was incurring in the community with people who were like Sanballat and Tobiah (Nehemiah 4 vs 1 and 3). I was amazed to see them participating in all that. I was also amazed to see those who even took me to police when they were opposing the work that we were about to begin in the community. They were claiming that I had come in the community to kidnap children. I was amazed to see that they are fully participating in the community work more especially at school and one of them is the teacher. Some community members were opposing that he should not be on the teaching staff because of the act that he did to me, but I told them I forgave him and I don’t keep records on my heart. He is now doing well and very committed in serving the community and the school. I was also extremely happy to see how the leaders were participating in serving their own children and also playing with them. In fact on that day I was seeing them participating in almost everything.

This is very amazing to see what the Lord is doing in Makukuba through you. The pastor who officiated the celebrated preached about the Love of God that He has on children. All went well and we are praising the Lord for your support in all ways. Keep on praying for next year’s plan.

Let me take you through in what was inspired on that day. we had over 500 people who came over.  Click on images to enlarge.

Moses Ssebaggala
Director-Children Safe Uganda
P.O. Box 2506
Kampala, Uganda, East Africa Phone +256 772 437615
www.childrensafeuganda.org
Facebook:childrensafeuganda
Youtube:childrensafeuganda

DSCF3040

Cake cutting

Children are taught how to prepare food at school. This time they were doing a competition in preparing local food.

Children graduating from nursery to primary one.

Competition in reading by themselves.

Competition in reading by themselves.

Competition in reading and writing

Competition in reading and writing

Community leaders, Religious leaders and parents getting involved.

Community leaders, Religious leaders and parents getting involved.

Children watching fellow children.

DSCF3061

 

 

 

 

December 2014 Shared Blessings Update:

Dear Shared Blessings Friends,

If you are wondering if there is still time to send a Christmas gift for the children in the Shared Blessings projects, the answer is YES. The program directors in Uganda, India and Myanmar do their best to stretch the money we send so that every child receives something and there is a special meal for all on Christmas day. Thanks for those of you who feel moved to help.

At Children Safe Uganda (CSU), school is out for the holidays. To end the school year, Moses planned a party for November 23. This year besides parents and teachers attending, Moses invited community leaders from Rotary Club, the churches and the larger community. About 400 people were expected to come eat a special meal and play games with the children. The community groups have chipped in to cover expenses, so that is helpful. Coming up in December will be the smaller and more intimate Christmas celebration for the Makukuba village children. Because of our sponsorship program, this poverty stricken group has experienced a special Christmas meal and gift giving to mark the birth of Jesus. They are anticipating this year’s celebration with special joy.

The good news from KEZIYA CHILDREN’S HOME is that Rev. Otto had a successful surgery and is recovering well. For the Christmas celebration, KCH (unpaid) staff will make sure that a festive party is planned and that there are gifts for the children. Rev. Otto has the help of several young men, whom he and his wife raised as their own and for whom they provided an education. The young men are loyal and loving, recognizing the sacrifice that Rev. Otto and Filder have made for them; they are now are ready to give back what they can. As always, the “street children” will be invited to share the Christmas meal. Plans for starting the Trade School are still firm for January, 2015, with classes being offered to cover four vocational trades.

The group at SHARED BLESSINGS at DORCAS VILLAGE will swell in numbers as the children return from Boarding School for the long holiday. About 12 of them make their home in the dorm building on the grounds. The rest live in the village with relatives. All know they are very fortunate to be receiving an education past elementary school, since a year’s tuition and expenses ($900) is more than the yearly wages of an ordinary Ugandan worker. At Dorcas there will be a Christmas celebration with music and dancing, gifts and special food. A cake will be the big treat of the meal, since they only have it on rare occasions.

This is our first Christmas to sponsor EMMANUEL CHILDREN’S HOME in MYANMAR. Joel and his wife, Sui, are absolutely thrilled that this year they will be able to provide something extra special for the 15 children in their home. Here is what Joel wrote about their coming Christmas day celebration: “We will invite our neighbors who need the love of Jesus to come and worship the Lord together with us on this day…We would like to bring the joy of Christmas to others through our children…The children will recite Bible verses and present Christmas songs to the audience and then Christmas special dinner will follow after the worship service. After our night prayer meeting, the children will exchange gifts with wrapping and we will provide cold drinks and snacks to them all. Jonathan and David would like to have a Bible recitation and and short speech on Jesus’ love. Sara and Naomi will also present a duet song on this night. It will be very exciting for the children.” Besides caring for these orphans, Joel also ministers to refugees living in camps on the border of India,not too far from his home. With the money we send for Christmas, he will bring joy into their lives, too.

At our school in ODISHA, INDIA, there is also preparation going on for a Christmas celebration. While there are many faiths represented at the school, an effort is made by Christians there to share the gospel; the Christmas program presents a good opportunity for this. All the children really get into the special spirit of Christmas, enacting the nativity and decorating Mr. Behera is very adept at stretching the money we send for gifts, so the children look forward to a new outfit plus other items that delight their hearts.

My heart is full as I think about all these places where the spirit of Christ is moving, with love made tangible by your gifts. Thank you for sharing in this work. May your blessings be too many to count as you remember them on Thanksgiving Day.

With love,
Audrey

 

November 2014 Shared Blessings Update:

Dear Shared Blessings Friends,

I don’t like to rush the seasons and it is still October BUT we need to think about Christmas now for our projects in Uganda, India and Myanmar. It takes a while to collect the money and get it there.

If you are sponsoring a child and want to buy Christmas clothing, a gift of $25 will cover that. If you have more to spare, there are always the children who don’t have sponsors. Also, we like to fund a Christmas party at each place. This is the highlight of the year for many children and all contributions for that will be very welcome.

Don’t forget the “gift that keeps on giving” and that is a donation in honor of a special someone. We will send a lovely holiday acknowledgement card to the person being honored, letting them know of your gift.

Now for some news of Shared Blessings:

Shaila, our ODISHA project director tells us that for the second year in a row, Odisha, which is on the eastern coast of India, was hit hard by a cyclone early in October, disrupting the lives of many tribal people there. The damage to our school was not heavy and life is slowly returning to normal in the area. The children are settled into the new school year schedule, with the older children studying hard in preparation for their high school exit exams. Secondary education in India goes to the 10th grade.
Behera tells us that in November, two volunteers from the Czech Republic will visit the school and prepare a ten minute video of our children and the school. They will interview the village elders, the children, their parents and the IDS staff to document the drastic needs there. When the video is ready, we will post it on our website and let you know. Finishing the kitchen project just needs funds for plumbing, electricity and floor work. Behera is optimistic that it will be ready by the time of our annual Christmas party for the children. We hope so!

At CHILDREN SAFE UGANDA (CSU) a main goal is to help families to become self supporting so they can feed and clothe their children. Recently, Moses took 60 people to a training to learn how to grow onions commercially. They will add that to their self-help projects of raising pigs, raising chickens, a chair rental business and more. It is great for the children to see their elders working at income producing projects.

KEZIYA CHILDREN’S HOME rejoiced at the sum of money we sent to start the long awaited Trade School: a little over $27,000! It will take at least another $9,000 to cover the year’s expenses to run the school, but the school will open January 2015. We have faith that enough money will come in to sustain it. Potential students have volunteered to take care of janitorial services, so that cuts one item from the budget. Rev. Otto plans to start with four trades: 1) a carpentry class that will produce marketable items to bring revenue to the school. This is a wonderful idea, since there is no furniture store in northern Uganda and the market is wide open. 2) a brick laying and concrete course 3) tailoring and garment making 4) hair dressing

Please pray for Rev. Otto. He has been in and out of the hospital with a painful urinary stricture problem, but has continued to work in between. He badly needs surgery for which he had no money. Today, we were able to wire him the $1500 it will take and pray that his problem will be taken care of.

At DORCAS, the focus is on educating the older children who have grown up in their care. Most are away at Boarding School, so things are fairly quiet until they all return on school holidays. Good work is being done with the nine HIV children, whose health has made an amazing turn around since we started sponsoring them. They all live with relatives in the village, but the Dorcas staff provides their food, making sure they get the high quality of nutrition they need to survive. They also monitor their medication, which must be taken daily to be effective.

Our new outreach at EMMANUEL CHILDREN’S HOME in Mynamar is humming along. We have received money for several projects. One is to buy desk/tables. The children have been doing their home work sprawled on the floor, so this should be a great help. Also, there are sponsors for 5 of the 14 children and several generous gifts have come in for special projects. Joel has dreams of caring for more children and it looks like this may soon be a possibility. He also has a long tern master plan of becoming self supporting by acquiring land and farming rice. Now that we have come along side them to give a helping hand, their prayers of thanksgiving and praise to God are more fervent than ever.

What wonderful things God is allowing us to take part in!
Thank you for your partnership in all of this.
Blessings to you and yours,
Audrey

August 2014 Shared Blessings Update:

Dear Friends of Shared Blessings,

This is a busy summer and so much is happening! Please pray for the ministry team going to Uganda September 4th to 19th. They are “The Iron Men” from First Baptist Church, Merced, led by Kevin Borges, pastor of Family Ministries at First B. They will work with Moses at Children Save Uganda in Kampala and will also fly up north to Gulu to the Keziya Children’s Home. God bless your mission, Iron Men.Shared Blessings has officially added Emmanuel Children’s Home in Myanmar (formerly Burma) to the projects we are sponsoring! Last week,our representative Mike returned from there and has only positive things to say about Pastor Joel and the small, family style orphanage he operates. Joel and his wife Sui Sui are giving excellent care to the 14 orphans they have incorporated into their family. The children, 7 boys and 7 girls, range from age 7 to 13 and each has a heart wrenching story to tell of the past. Now they are safe, with a roof over their heads, rice and vegetables to fill their tummies, and a caring Christian couple showing them God’s love daily. Mike tells us that they are happy spirited children, very industrious about doing their chores as well as their school work. Somehow, Joel finds the money to send them to school (education is not free). Presently, there is room for 6 more children and with our support, Joel and Sui Sui will be able to heal more broken hearts. Sponsorship of the ECH home is $30 a month.Here is an excerpt from Mike’s report on his trip: “The Lord’s presence is palpable at Emmanuel Children’s Home. The children are very well behaved..their smiles and good dispositions reflect their overall contentment as they live in harmony with one another. Considering the despicable conditions they came from, along with the suffering they endured, it is truly a miracle ….. Joel shared with me the recurring struggle he faces each time he has to choose to help one child over another, when a desperate mother or grandparents beg him to take care of the young one…..Joel’s vision is to care for many more children (60 if possible).Summer is over in ODISHA, INDIA and school has begun later than usual because of bad weather. Heavy rains wreaked havoc over much of Odisha. Being inland, Desmantpur did not have the extensive damage seen by the coastal regions, but it too was deluged by the monsoon. The rains brought assorted ailments to the children. Several suffered from malaria, colds and high fevers. All were treated by the doctor and have slowly recovered. Behera reports that the vegetable garden, which was producing plenty, was heavily damaged and they are repairing it to grow new crops. This garden is tended by a group of girls who take a lot of pride in producing food that all can enjoy.As usual, the older children living at our boarding school attend the local government school, while the younger ones study at our school. All received new clothes and shoes to start the new school year. The older ones also got umbrellas and lunch boxes.The kitchen project is still not finished; weather and lack of funds have stalled the work. Thanks to El Dorado Federated Church in Placerville and sponsor Margie Bryant who spearheaded a fund drive, a large amount was raised for the work. Another $1500 is needed to finish the job. Behera is hoping they can complete the construction by Christmas. Once completed, it will serve the children well for a long time.At Keziya Children’s Home, Gulu, Uganda, Rev. Otto continues to work on income generating ideas to support the work he is doing with orphans. When the Iron Men visit from Merced, Rev.Otto will send back with them another batch of hand made jewelry that we can sell for Keziya. Each bead is painstakingly made of rolled colored paper that is shellacked to give it a hard finish. The result is stunning earrings and necklaces. Rev. Otto also has plans to extend their farming efforts if we can help with buying seeds and renting equipment. He writes that “there is a need for hoes, slashers and panga for clearing the field in places near trees or ant-hills where tractor ploughing cannot reach.” (I have never seen a slasher or a panga, but somehow I can picture them). He hopes God will give him the strength to plant ten acres of rice, which will be a cash crop to supplement their income. Going on faith, Rev. Otto is making plans to begin the Trade School in January, 2015. So far, we have about $21,000 out of the $38,000 needed and we are praying that the rest will come for this very needed and helpful project. Skill training can provide a future for the children growing up at Keziya Children’s Home.The Education Fund at Shared Blessings Children’s Home, Dorcas Village, Uganda has taken a huge leap, under the enthusiastic guidance of Olga See of Trinity Anglican Church, Bakersfield. Fund raisers and awareness campaigns by Olga have brought in thousands of dollars to send children of all ages to school. As the original group of children at Dorcas is aging out, their training for the future becomes a major focus. Some are on the brink of independence. It is heartwarming to see Doreen getting ready to graduate from Culinary School and Steven from Forestry School. Both grew up in the care of the Children’s Home.At Children Save Uganda (CSU), in Kampala Uganda, there is so much progress, I only have room to report a small part of it. Their philosophy of Family Empowerment is blossoming! Starting with the families of sponsored children, they have pulled together “Self Help Groups” and empowered them with skills and products to get started. There is a group raising chickens, which now has 110 birds laying eggs. The group feeds their children one egg a week and sells the rest, Some money goes back into their business and some to help start another group in business. Raising pigs is another group project that is bringing income, self esteem and purpose to the poverty stricken village.At the Shared Blessings Junior School (the only school in the whole district), here are some of their reasons to celebrate:

  1. Children and teachers have lunch every day. This may not sound like much, but for most it is their only good meal of the day. Thank you,sponsors for this!
  2. The school has a roofing of iron sheets. Before this, children could not attend school when it was raining hard because there was no protection.
  3. Over half of the children have school uniforms–which in Uganda means they are a “proper” school. 
  4. The children went on a field trip to the zoo; for most it was their first time to be in a car and to go out of their village. Such excitement!
  5. Moses will be sending us a report with pictures and I will share that with you on our website when it come. Our little bit of help goes such a long way with faithful stewards like Moses working so hard on the other end. It makes me want to do more!

With a grateful heart for ALL your help,

Audrey

July 2014 Shared Blessings Update:

Dear Friends of Shared Blessings,
There is a lot happening in Uganda and India at each of our project sites, but I am going to save their news until August.  Today, I want to tell you about two things.  The first is a short piece of “business” and that is to let you know that our Board was unanimous in their opinion that we should not sign up for Amazon Smile.  This program would have given us an extremely small amount of money for qualifying purchases made through Amazon. The hassle surrounding this would not be worth the small return on our efforts.  I am very sorry if this has inconvenienced any of you who may have signed up.  When I first heard about the program, I thought they were saying they would give a five per cent return, but it is really one fifth of one per cent.  That seems more like a sales promotion for Amazon than that company’s generosity to non-profit agencies.
The second thing is something I am eager to share with you…it is about embracing another project.  Once again, we feel that God is moving us to say yes to a small grass roots orphanage–this one in Myanmar (formerly Burma). Believe me–our faithful Board and volunteers are really not looking for more work!  We turn down at least one request a month from needy places that find us on the internet and beseech us to help them.  But this time the series of circumstances grabbed us and would not let us go.
Here is the picture:  A young pastor, Joel, lives with his wife and baby in a war torn Myanmar city near the border of India. Many refugee camps have sprung up there, filled with internally displaced people who have lost their homes under a government of destruction. Joel’s heart is broken by the orphans who are left with no one to shelter and feed them, so he and his wife have taken 14 of those children into their household.  While they struggle to feed and clothe them, they deeply desire to open their arms to more children.  To do so, they would need outside help.
Joel emailed one of our Board members, Terry Dwyer, and asked for Shared Blessings to consider helping the Emmanuel Children’s Home in Myanmar.  Joel sent us much information about himself, gave us references to contact, and wrote about the work he is doing, illustrated with many photos.  As our Board prayed and deliberated over many months, we felt moved to say yes on the condition that first someone here must go to Myanmar and see the work.
But who would go to visit a small orphanage in this troubled little country that is in the midst of strife and unrest?  Well, God sent us just the right person!  Mike T, seasoned traveler and missionary, will be on his way to Myanmar on August 8th.  He will meet Joel, his wife and all the children, pray with them, assess their needs, learn about their goals and bring home a report. After Mike’s return in August, Shared Blessings expects to start a sponsorship program in Myanmar.  Mike and his wife plan to put Emmanuel Children’s Home on the list of their mission projects and then will visit there once or twice a year to stay in contact.
So, where will the time and money come from to support this new ministry?  I don’t know exactly where it will come from, but I do know that every time God has moved Shared Blessings to “add on”, He has provided.  So, I know that it will come.  Let’s see how God works it out this time.  In the meantime, would you keep Mike in your prayers for a safe journey?  And if you have room in your prayer time, please add Emmanuel Children’s Home.
Warm Blessings,
Audrey

 

June 2014 Shared Blessings Update:

Dear Friends,
Summer is over in ODISHA and the children are getting ready to start the new school year. They are very excited to be back at school, although they had a good time being back in their villages. Rainy season will be arriving soon so. all efforts are being made to gather finances to finish the kitchen construction. Unless the roofing is done before the rain comes, the project will go on hold.

Behera is looking at a couple of options for getting solar battery packs to provide electricity for the children. They study under dim lights at night and the electricity system is unreliable. We will keep you posted on his progress with this project.

At DORCAS, with a large group of the children now in their teen years, education has become a more important factor than ever. Thanks to the contributions of people from Trinity Anglican Church in Bakersfield, many children with potential are attending high school. Many Ugandan laborers don’t earn in a year what it costs to go to high school–about $900. For orphans to have this opportunity is a special privilege.

Emmanuel writes us about one high school graduate, Julius Wekesa, who has been in their Shared Blessings program since he was 5 years old. Julius lived with his extended family, who were very poor and could not spare even the money for pencils and paper to keep him in elementary school. Although Julius was an excellent student, he kept being dismissed from school because of this. “We had noticed that Julius, a very promising boy, was about to lose his chance of attaining education,” writes Emmanuel, ” so we included him in the group of children who get money from the education fund provided by Shared Blessings. This has supported him throughout Primary and Secondary School.” Now Julius is ready to go to University, using the scholarship money sent by a Trinity Church member. Emmanuel states that it is very rare for any child in Dorcas Village to achieve such a high level of education, due to the poverty of this village. He tells us that now many children look up to Julius; it is thanks to the Shared Blessings program that these needy children have a chance for a future they could never have dreamed of before.

A beautiful thing is happening in KEZIYA. Rev. Otto writes that the children living in the dormitory that Shared Blessings built for them several years ago have become concerned that while they live in a permanent building with furniture, Rev. Otto and his wife, live in a grass thatched hut which can burn down easily if good care is not taken. So during the school break they decided they would undertake to build a three room house for their beloved caretakers. They raised money by selling produce they have been growing–rice and ground nuts– and by selling 4 goats and 19 chicks from their animal compound. With the $382 this brought, plus their labor, they managed to lay the foundation. To encourage the children, we sent them $300 with the June wire so they can buy more materials. They know how to make their own bricks and have been doing so for a long time.

Rev. Otto was proud to report that two of the orphans who were sponsored for many years by Shared Blessings are now in college for teacher training. (Somehow he ekes out the money for their tuition). When they graduate in May, 2015, they will become productive members of their community.

At Children Safe Uganda (CSU), Moses is very busy as usual with many projects. (Check out his great report with pictures on our website: sharedblessingsicm.org) The CSU Baby Home continues to be a resource for the local police. Recently they dropped off Sebastian,a one year old who cried inconsolably through the night. After a medical exam the next day, they learned that he had a broken hip bone and promptly had it repaired at the hospital. Shared Blessings was able to send funds to cover the cost of the surgery so that other necessary funds would not be depleted. Their government takes no financial responsibility for orphans and abandoned children.

When Moses was here in March, a group of men at First Baptist Church Merced recognized CSU’s great need for a van and sent him back with a sizeable part of the cost. Moses just emailed today that he was able to purchase a used van in good condition. This will help greatly for many functions, such as taking children for medical appointments, transporting food supplies, traveling to distant locations for business, etc.
Mosquitos are now swarming in thick clouds and malaria is on the rise at CSU despite the great care being taken to avoid it. Moses is grateful for the medicine we sent back with him that keeps those afflicted with lighter cases. He and his family take their turns several times a year patiently enduring this dreaded sickness as do most who live in Uganda.
I am so thankful that together we have the means to take action to help our brothers and sisters across the world. I thank you so much for our partnership in this.
Yours,
Audrey

May 2014 Shared Blessings update:

Hello dear friends of Shared Blessings,

Today, I want share something that is on my heart concerning KEZIYA Children’s Home. Rev. Otto has developed a very practical and wonderful plan to improve the lives of children in the Gulu area (northern tip of Uganda). The plan is to begin a trade school that would impart vocational skills to young people, especially orphans, so they can support themselves. The school would begin by teaching carpentry. This is a great idea for several reasons: there is no other trade school of any kind in the wide area surrounding Gulu. The objects from a carpentry class would be in great demand, because there is very little furniture sold in and around Gulu. A successful furniture store would be the natural side development of the trade school and graduates of the school with carpentry skills will be in great demand.

Other vocational classes would be added to the curricula as time went on, with the idea of the school becoming self-supporting after the initial start. Rev. Otto has community support for this idea and has formed an 11 member Board to spearhead the plan. The details of operation for the first year are carefully spelled out; Rev. Otto’s background in education and being headmaster of a school gave him the practical knowledge he needs to execute the plans.

Cost of beginning the school is $36,000. The community has no money because they are still recovering from the twenty years of civil war which devastated the area. I think that somehow Shared Blessings can get this project going. To start, we have received a matching grant of $5,000 with $3,700 currently in to match it. I am praying that there will be another grant out there or maybe a foundation to give a big boost to the Trade School. Please pray with me about that.

We are happy to hear that Moses, director of Children Safe Uganda (CSU) arrived safely back to Uganda after his 5 week visit to the U.S. While he was here, he had some pro bono medical attention to his leg, which has been giving him a problem since he was injured several years ago. The treatment resulted in a great relief from daily pain–and Moses sends his grateful thanks to the doctors involved. In a recent report, he let us know that with the money given to him when he was here, he is attending to urgent issues: buying supplies for the school, paying the teachers, providing meals for the children, getting clean water for an area of the village, and starting income generating projects for families of sponsored children.

At DORCAS our new system for sponsorship of many village children as a group instead of individually is working well. The children especially benefit when they have a medical need. Last month’s sponsorship money for FEM (Food, Education, Medical) helped 25 children at the medical center: 15 with malaria, 3 with diarrhea, 3 with skin rashes, 2 with typhoid, 1 for a cough and 1 with an injury. Without your help, these children would have been left to recover on their own.

Soon we will be posting pictures on our website of Wilber and Elizabeth attending church in their new “open air” structure. St. Luke’s church building has been falling apart for many years because of termites and storm damage. It finally fell down (no one was in the building at the time) and cannot be restored. So they are using the new building that has been under construction for several years even though it lacks walls and a roof.

Behera has been quite sick since returning home to ODISHA after his quick visit to the US. He still managed to visit the children in Dasmantpur and sent us an update.  All 73 children did well in their final exams, and were promoted to the next grade. When school starts again, 45 children will be attending the government school, and 28 little ones will stay at our AGPV school attending first through third standards. All children are being provided with new books and learning materials for their new classes.
Children who will be attending 9th and 10th standards did not go home for the summer but are going through special summer tutoring.

Their guardians decided this at their monthly meeting. The children are studying the curriculum for the next school year and planning to get through most of it during the summer break The older children will be taking statewide exams so it was decided to get a head start by reviewing the material this summer. Excess heat in the region has caused a great problem for the children. Several of them have gotten very sick with one child being hospitalized. The children may have to be brought back to our school from the villages if the heat wave continues, as health and sanitary conditions deteriorate in such weather. The heat has also stalled the construction project of the school’s expanded kitchen but it will resume when the weather cools down.

As it has been the norm, children were given a complete physical exam prior the summer break. Younger children were given immunization shots to bring their status up to date. Most of the children continue to be healthy. The older children are very proud of their garden as the vegetable plants are beginning to flower. Everyone hopes that these plants will provide plenty of vegetables during the rainy season. Behera shared the details of his visit to the U.S. with the children, who were so happy to hear about his experiences and his meeting many sponsors. Behera gave them the gifts sent by their sponsors and there were many smiles.

When I hear about the multitude of good things done with the money we send for our across-the-world friends, my heart is full of gratitude. Thank you so much for your part in it.

Warmly,
Audrey

www.sharedblessingsicm.org

April 2014 Shared Blessings update:

Dear Friends of Shared Blessings

A question came up this week from one of our long time donors. He was asking what percentage of the money he sends to Shared Blessings goes to the mission project and what percent goes to our administrative expenses. I decided it was important to address this for all of you, so you are clear about it. One hundred per cent of the money you send is passed on to the project you designate.

We can do this because: 1) there is no paid staff. All of the work is done by dedicated volunteers. 2) Family Connections Christian Adoptions gives us free office space and also absorbs most of our administrative costs–paper, printing, postage, etc. 3)the remainder of our costs are paid for by specific donations. This is a good reason to donate to Shared Blessings–you know that your every dollar is helping

Now for the news. At DORCAS, Emmanuel reports that they are holding Saturday gatherings for at least 100 children every week. It is a chance for each child to get a nourishing hot meal (cooked outside by the Shared Blessings staff), sing rousing hymns, hear Bible stories, dance and do crafts. The children also delight in putting on “a drama” and they devise plots based on everyday life. When I was there and watched some of these dramas, I sometimes laughed so hard at their humor, and was often was touched to tears at the poignant situations. It is the FEM sponsorship money that makes these Saturdays possible, so thank you, all who support this.

We are hoping and praying that a trade school will become a reality at KEZIYA. Children’s Home in Gulu. In all of that region there are only 2 community vocational schools and both are far away from the Gulu Town area. Rev. Otto has developed community support for the project, including a committee of 11 people to spearhead the plans. They have a blueprint for the operation of the school, with a plan for teachers and tools needed. The only thing they need is money! We have a start on the $36,000 needed and a $5,000 matching grant is in place. So, if you want to double your money, you can give to the Trade School.

We had a power packed visit from Moses, director of CHILDREN SAFE UGANDA (CSU). He was in the U.S. for 5 weeks in March and April, speaking at schools, churches, service clubs, a Boys’ Detention Home, and small groups in private homes. His impact was great and he, in turn, took away many good ideas as well as 3 suitcases full of items for the poverty stricken village he serves. Some other results of Moses’visitwere:

* new sponsors for the children of Makukuba Village
* funds raised to replace CSU’s broken van
* monthly donations pledged for staff salaries at CSU
* a Men’s Group from First Baptist Merced will go to Uganda to visit CSU in September.
* affiliation with a California Rotary Club to partner for clean water in the area

From Shaila: A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of a visit from Devendra Kumar Behera, director of our work with disadvantaged tribal children in ODISHA, India. He was here on a scholarship to an adoption conference in San Francisco and was able to spend several days with us. While it was a very short visit, Behera had the opportunity to meet with Shared Blessings Board members as well as any sponsors and supporters.

There was a joint reception in Modesto for Behera and our guest from Uganda, then one for Behera in Sacramento. At both places people heard him speak about the work IDS is doing in the tribal area and the desperate need for funds to undertake much needed projects. Top of the list is to finish up the new kitchen building, for which construction is going full swing. Behera shared that the school board decided to expand the kitchen plan to accommodate the future growth of the school with additional children; this will help avoid problems of how to fit in more children when they come. Other plans he discussed were:
digging a new well to supply clean water to the school, building additional bathroom facilities
getting a generator to address the problem of frequent disruption in the electric supply
adding solar lamps a curriculum to develop trade skills for the older children.

At the receptions, Behera showed a short documentary about the school, which we will upload this to our Shared Blessings website so you can see it. He also brought artwork from the children for their sponsors and these will be mailed out. Behera graciously extended an invitation to anyone who would like to visit the school, with a promise that IDS would make the visit as comfortable as possible.

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That is the news for today. Thank you for sharing in this work with us.

Blessings,
Audrey

 

March 2014 Shared Blessings update:

Dear Shared Blessings Friends,

I hope many of you will be joining us at a reception for our guests from Uganda and India on Friday, April 11 at 2pm here at the Family Connections Office. Moses Ssebaggala will be here from Uganda and Devendra Behera from India. Both men are selfless and hard workers, spending their lives for impoverished children. There will also be a reception in the Sacramento area for Mr. Behera on Saturday. Shaila will elaborate on that below.

Moses, from CHILDREN SAFE UGANDA, is here now and has been speaking to many groups about projects his organization is undertaking with the money we send. Clean water has been a priority and his six minute video shows the villagers reveling in the water gushing from a newly installed pump. Before that, they retrieved their water from a dirty stream they shared with the animals. Having clean water will greatly reduce diseases they are prone to. Local police respect CSU, so they often give them abandoned children to care for. There is no government money to subsidize this, so Moses must stretch his resources to cover. Just before Moses left to come here, he picked up five siblings ages one year to seven. They were sleeping in a small, filthy jail cell for lack of a better spot. They are now living installed in the clean and cheerful CSU Baby Home, while things are sorted out.

At KEZIYA, the children are now back in school after a holiday where they were very active working the gardens that produce much of their food and helping construct a new kitchen building. Their kitchen is a separate structure from the huts where they sleep. Built of mud and homemade bricks, their buildings have dirt floors and roofs of straw. They are surprisingly cool when you step into them from the heat of the day. Filder, Otto’s wife, keeps their large hut clean and neat. I have fond memories of sitting on a couch in their “living room” and having refreshments served gracefully by shy teen age girls. Since there is no running water, one girl poured water over our hands while another caught it in a basin. It was sweet and gracious hospitality, which touched me. Rev. Otto wrote that the children are practicing praise songs, hoping they can record them on discs and send them to us for our website.
Now here is some good news about Keziya! You know that we are hoping to start a trade school at Keziya. Starting with carpentry, the potential is great for providing skills that young people can use to support themselves. Besides that, Rev. Otto has a plan to sell the furniture built in the classes. There is no other furniture business in the large city of Gulu or the surrounding area, so the market is truly huge. We recently received a matching grant of $5,000 for this project.and now $1,000 just came in to be matched. We are on our way!

The program at DORCAS continues to improve as Emmanuel, son of former directors Wilber and Elizabeth, becomes a seasoned veteran in running the program. He is very popular with the children, who swarm over him and love it when he is playful with them. The work with the HIV children continues to be encouraging. All of this month’s reports on the children show them in stable health. This is the result of much attention from the Dorcas staff and the special nutrition they receive from sponsorship money.

Emmanuel is already thinking about Easter and how they will make it a special holiday celebration for the children who look to his program for most of their recreation. We are hoping to have money to send them for this.

Shaila writes that “Summer is almost her in ODISHA, India and our children are busy with their final exams. They look forward to summer vacation back in their villages with family. At our school, the kitchen construction is in full swing. The walls are up and it is hoped that the final work will be done by the time the children return in June. This addition helps a great deal as it frees up the room for the children in the main building,and will create a new dining area.

The next immediate need is to construct one or two more bathrooms, since the number of children at the school has increased. Plans will be made after the funding is secured from both India and here.

Behera tells me(Shaila) that in February, several of our children competed at state level in a cultural program organized by the government of Odisha. There were children competing from 30 districts (counties); our children took first prize in group dancing and overall won third prize!

We are eagerly waiting for Behera’s visit in April. After the joint reception on a Friday in Modesto, there will be reception the following day for Behera in Sacramento. It will be held at the Family Connections Sacramento office on Saturday, April 12 from 4 to 6 pm.The office is located at 1111 Howe Ave. Suite 660, Sacramento, Ca.95825 We will provide light refreshments and an opportunity to hear Behera talk about the school,our children and future plans. This is a wonderful opportunity for people to hear first hand from the man who had dedicated his life to improving the lives of the tribals–especially our children at the school. For more information, call me (Shaila) at 916 442 2112 or email me at shailarao@fcadoptions.org”

Now, dear friends, that is enough news for tonight. I hope to see many of you in April.

Blessings,
Audrey

 

February 2014 Shared Blessings Updates:

Dear Shared Blessings Friends,

Here is a date to put on your calendar: FRIDAY, APRIL 11, 2014. On that day, at 2 o’clock here in the Family Connections “Big room”, we will have a reception for not one, but TWO of our Shared Blessings project directors. We have known about the visit of Moses Ssebaggala from Children Save Uganda for a while, but recently were happily surprised to learn that Devendra Behera, director of our Odisha, India project will be in California over some of the same time period. Behera has won a scholarship to come to a conference in San Francisco in April. Both of these men are amazing individuals, giving their lives to better the lives of disadvantaged children in their countries. We are privileged to partner with them.

I hope it will be possible for you to join us on that Friday to welcome Moses and Behera and to hear about the amazing progress they are making. With limited resources they accomplish so much. We will enjoy delicious refreshments and a chance to speak with them informally; then at 2:45, each of them will take about 10 minutes to tell us about the Shared Blessings projects they administer.

Meanwhile, at DORCAS village, Uganda, Emmanuel writes us that they are continuing to minister to as many children as possible with the FEM money we send (for Food, Education and Medical). They were able to treat 22 of those children at the Health Center during the past month. Most had recurring malaria, but there was also typhoid fever, a fearful illness. How great that our money can provide medicine and treatment to protect the children from sickness that can take their lives. Most of the 9 HIV children we sponsor are in fair health because of the daily medicine and extra nutrition they receive.

At Keziya, Uganda they are upgrading their Shared Blessings “Nursery School”, which really is not what we think and goes up to third grade. The school is on a busy road so they have put in a gate to protect the children from speeding vehicles. They have also bought some text books, some workbooks and blackboards for the walls. Each month, Rev. Otto sends an accounting of how they have spent the money we send and it is fun to read down the list of food items: 4 bags of Posho (a popular grain that is filling and cheap), 79 K. of beans, some sugar, some meat and tomatoes. They supplement with the food they raise in their garden.
Rev. Otto continually asks me to let all of you know how grateful they are.

Aren’t we so fortunate to be in a position to help all these children in India and Uganda.? Many of them are eating daily because of you and your generous hearts. I thank God for you and I thank you for sharing what you have.

In the love of Jesus,
Audrey

 

January 2014 Shared Blessings Updates:

Dear Shared Blessings Friends,

It is a pleasure to share with you some of the reports we have had from Uganda and India about Christmas celebrations, graduations and more.

Emmanuel, Director at DORCAS wrote that there were about 200 children at their Christmas party, plus parents and guardians who came to be entertained by the children’s presentations. The children sang Christmas songs and acted out the drama of the birth of Jesus. All were served a special breakfast, a very rare treat that was so appreciated. Then, wrote Emmanuel, “A preacher told them about the word of the Lord and advised them to move on the right path to enter the kingdom of God.”

After the preaching, they cut their Christmas cake (mmm, a sweet concoction baked by Elizabeth and the older girls). They were also served a soft drink and candies and given Christmas balloons.

Emmanuel tells us, “It was a very exciting moment for the children because most of them do not get a chance to have a nice meal or a soft drink like soda throughout the year. Thank you very much for your effort to provide funds which facilitated this Christmas party that turned out to be the most memorable day for the children at Dorcas. God bless you all in abundance.”

The children at KEZIYA also enjoyed a great Christmas party with the funds we sent. Before that event, Keziya Children’s Home held a special ceremony for the first graduating class of their Shared Blessings Nursery School on November 30. (Uganda’s “nursery school” usually has grades for children up to 8 or nine years old). Rev. Otto sent us wonderful pictures of the children in tiny caps and gowns receiving their certificates. They were surprised to receive gifts with fancy wrapping for graduating and for special awards. Tins of biscuits were inside the wrappings, a treat they could share with family.

The children recited poems, did group dances (it looks like the audience could not resist joining in the dancing) and sang songs like “Heaven heaven Jesus held me”. When you hear these children sing vigorously with all their natural talent, it is like a taste of heaven. Several Gulu town dignitaries gave speeches and presented certificates. This gave a special aura to the whole affair and emphasized how important the leaders hold education.

It is Rev. Otto’s dream to start a trade school for the older orphans. He has the skills to do it and a good plan for the students to build and sell furniture in Gulu, where there is none to be found. We have started a fund for this and have $3,000 of the $36,000 needed to buy equipment and hire teachers. As God has brought so many of Shared Blessings projects to fruition, I am praying that He will direct this one, too.

At CHILDREN SAFE UGANDA (CSU), they enjoyed an end of the year “Children’s Party and Sports Gala”. It was held at the Shared Blessings Junior School, where the children impressed their families and guests with songs, dances and sports. This school is a beacon of light in a community that is drenched in dark poverty and mostly illiterate. It was started by CSU in February 2013 with 100 children and now there are 115. Moses, Director of CSU, mobilized the Makukuba community to build the school themselves. With our funding help, the school offers four grades: Baby, Middle, Top and Primary One. Children who attend get a little something for breakfast and then a simple but filling lunch. For most, it is the best, maybe the only meal of the day.

The theme of the end of year party was “Educating a Child is the Best Future Investment for your Family, Community and the Country.” It’s hard to imagine that we would choose such a weighty theme for a party, but then we take for granted our education system and all the benefits.

With the money we provided them for Christmas, every child in the school received a gift, which included a basin, bar soap, sandals and a toothbrush. Moses called the gift giving time “a moment of smile for both parents and children.” The twenty children sponsored through Shared Blessings also received Christmas clothes.

Our children at ODISHA enjoyed two Christmas celebrations this year. The first one was a week before Christmas when they decorated a tree and then assembled in the front yard to light candles to begin a ceremony. Special guests were Shaila’s nephew Shrutu, who traveled a long way from another part of India, the local Christian pastor and another pastor, Raiman Digal who was there to give out gifts from Shared Blessings. Rev. Digal spoke to the children about the importance of Christmas. The visitors were treated to songs and skits with a Christmas theme and then gifts were given out. How the children loved getting their gifts of clothing and school supplies! A festive lunch followed and then the foundation stone was laid for the new kitchen building, which is expected to be finished in a month or two.

On December 25, the Christian staff of IDS spoke to the children about the birth of Jesus and the importance of the day. Special treats of sweets were given out, to the delight of the children.

It is heartwarming to me to hear about celebrations in the places where Shared Blessings is giving material help. With our gifts of money for clothing and simple treats, we have shared Christ’s love and it was deeply appreciated. What a blessing it is to be able to give.

warmly,
Audrey

Upcoming Events:

  • Moses Ssebaggala, Director of Children Safe Uganda (CSU), will visit California in March and April 2014.  Watch this site for dates and places to greet him and hear him speak.

                                                 – Audrey Foster, August 21, 2014

  • Douglas Olum has dealt with many challenges in his life, having been abducted by the LRA when he was just nine years old and forced to be a child soldier for several years.  The horrors he witnessed and was forced to take part in took their toll.  With the help of the Rev. Otto Naptali, Director of Keziya Children’s Home, Douglas learned to count on God to free him from the past.  He has written a book about his abduction, Child Soldier, which we will alert you about when published.  Here is his account of achieving a dream. My graduation was like a dream.pdf

                                                            – Audrey Foster, August 21, 2014