I was recently asked, “What is your favourite country you’ve visited”, and without even thinking about it, my response was Rwanda.
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It was the afternoon of a typical day in San Martin, an urban town east of Mexico City. It had been raining all day and the families in the community of Salidaridad were involved in their regular activities.
Suddenly the neighbors started yelling, “The river! The river is growing!”
Angela and many other mothers came to the edge of the river and saw that the flow was growing to a dangerous level, at a frightening speed. They hurried home to get their children and brought them outside to the highest parts of the community or onto their neighbors’ roof.
After the first night they came back and found the streets filled with piles and piles of mud, their homes full of mud and debris that the current had brought.They stayed a couple of hours there, but after a huge wave of water hit their homes, they were taken to a public shelter organized by the government at a nearby gym.
They lost everything.
The water rose so quickly that one 17-year-old older brother pulled his younger siblings to a safe place, and then came back to help his mother. When they left the home the water was almost up to their waist.
They could not save anything; they lost their most important papers like birth certificates and school reports. From the top of a neighbor’s roof they saw how the river took everything away.
Angela, who is 7 months pregnant, lost some of the clothes that she had kept for the baby. She says,
“Sometimes, when I had to save money, it was only possible by saving from the money for our meal… I would not eat just to save some money for this baby.”
Now it is all gone.
The church was the first to respond to this disaster.
As soon as they heard the river had rose, they went to look for the families of the children they serve in their community.
They were also the first to bring clothes to the families, and have raised a campaign among their members to bring the affected families not only clothes, but kitchen supplies, blankets, and even toys.
Compassion first heard of the incident through the news and immediately contacted the project staff from the area to confirm that all children were accounted for and well.
Two days after the river overflowed, Compassion staff walked the area to offer support. Families expressed their gratitude to know that many people, including their sponsors, were concerned for them and willing to support them in this time of need.
Compassion supported programs have also helped with materials to repair the damaged homes. For the children who lost most of their belongings, the programs have been able to provide school uniforms and school supplies, as well as new mattresses and new beds. Through the partnership with the church, these affected families have also been able to receive groceries and kitchen supplies to recover.
“What can we do against the power of nature?”.
Fortunately, when we stand in front of such chaos, the power of God, shown through the church and through Compassion, is a special blessing that has encouraged and served the most needy in this time of despair.
Story and photos by Cesiah Magaña, ME Field Communication Specialist
Compassion and churches across Kenya are establishing demonstration farms and introducing a special breed of goat to help communities.
Kenya has experienced the worst drought for more than 60 years. The millions of people who make a living from farming have been worst impacted, with many becoming more and more dependent on food aid.
Amongst those worst affected are the families of nearly 75,000 Compassion sponsored children who attend projects run in partnership with more than 285 churches across Kenya.
The Anglican Church in the Diocese of Mbeere has seen the small three acre demonstration farm it established with Compassion in 2005 develop into a 20 acre business. Initially the farm was set up to teach families the best techniques to farm the land, manage crops and plan for times of drought.
“We started a demonstration farm for the caregivers to learn from and help them utilize the available resources,” says Kathiga, director of the Kamwaa Child Development Centre.
The farm sells produce at a reasonable price to local people, provides employment and training for adults in the region, and nutritious food for children who attend the Compassion project.
The farm initially relied on the local river for water, but recently installed irrigation and water storage tanks help sustain it during excessively dry seasons. The recent drought certainly had an adverse impact on production at the farm, but results have not been as devastating as in previous years.
Another Compassion project, the Ngaamba Child Development Centre run in partnership with St. James Church, is also operating a demonstration farm and has introduced a breed of Toggenburg goat to provide families with an additional source of income and nutritious milk.
“Our beneficiaries have talked a lot about missing harvests due to failed rains, worsened by poor water infrastructure in the area,” says Judith, accountant at the project.
“As a result, they have become perennial beneficiaries of government food aid and relief efforts from well-wishers.”
The project started by teaching caregivers of Compassion sponsored children about goat rearing and plans to expand the scheme to the wider community in the near future. The project hopes that the health improvements witnessed in many of the children now drinking milk on a daily basis will be extended to the whole community.
Poor harvest will undoubtedly continue to plague the region, but as Compassion expands its demonstration farms to more and more church partners, an increasing number of communities will be better prepared to cope with the impact.By Kate Sharma