Posted by: Beth A. | May 18, 2012

Nueva Ollantyaytambo

Nueva Ollantaytambo roof line

Corrugated metal sheets form the sole barrier to the elements high on the wind-swept ridge line of Nueva Ollantaytambo. © 2012 Rodney Rascona/Food for the Hungry

 

Guest blogger Rodney Rascona travels the world for Food for the Hungry, photographing the struggles and dreams of the people FH helps.  In this post his lens focuses on Peru.

Post Two from Peru: Nueva Ollantaytambo…

250 people living in 58 homes line a windswept ridgeback 2 hours from Huancayo – Earlier they’ve lived their lives for generations at the base of a valley thats been prone to unexpected and violent landslides due to heavy rains and now the local government has relocated these families to higher ground at their request.

A few thoughts…

FH has a new project just about to get started that’s centered around education for the villages children ranging in age from 6 to 15 years old and additionally, programs funded via child sponsorship have begun with over 43 children currently signed up.

My experience wasn’t an easy one really but in my defense, it was an 8-hour bus ride late Friday night to get us to the Huancayo region. I was completely out cold until the bus doors opened up and ushered in the bracing cold of the Andes. Thing is I love cold weather, finding it so refreshing, so good as opposed to sweltering desert heat. But we arrived at dawn and jumped into a taxi to music blaring on the radio from the Rolling Stones which was just a bit odd given everyone was in traditional Peruvian dress. Not to miss a beat, the “landscape” is always colorful no matter where I seem to end up and I was just very much awake and looked forward to the images which lay ahead with every image so green and cool to touch..so different from Delhi just a couple of weeks ago.

We visited three new project communities, each filled with smiling children eager to try their English out on someone, which was such a good fit because my Spanish is just about at the grade school level..consequently we understood each other and we all got along great.

After a special field lunch made up of whatever we could find in the local grocery store, which wouldn’t have lasting effects…once again white bread, peanut butter, jam, green olives…oh and tuna..were just the right mix…funny how the same products, not sure if they’re a food group or not, can be found across all hemispheres.

From field to field, home to home, and greetings of well-wishing I managed to accomplish a few of my must haves on my shot list and enjoyed the humble relationships I’ve created, regardless that they’re years old or 5 minutes fresh…it seems to work.

Coming full circle, aside the grand vistas of swirling clouds breaking over the montaña faces, we were at the end of the day with one more project to visit. Standing at the side of the gravel road, everyone pointed up…and I don’t mean like…up to the top of the stairs, I mean….UP a scree-covered rock face to the Nueva Ollantaytambo community to which I looked at my feet and tried to find a way to avoid climbing straight up this cliff face at what is already a region well over 4,000 meters.

I reflected on emergency services, forget that, but I can’t ignore the feeling, no surely the sound, of my heart beating dramatically and the limited oxygen molecules struggling to find their way to my lungs. Younger staff are strewn across the rocks with equally straining lungs yearning to breath free with the youngest casting a shadow over me, beckoning me to get up that they’re waiting for us. Ok OK…so without the painful and not very glamorous details, I looked behind me after my 7th stop for air and to once again ask “why are we going up there” – to find some 20 children sitting behind me in silence just looking at me…wondering what my problem was…so humiliating, it was all the motivation I needed.

So yes I met my Waterloo…time to get up and pretend I’ve the remaining strength to go the distance. Four hours later I can only say that it was worth every moment of agony to get up that cliff face to see what turned out to be a very special place.

On reaching the crest, green verdant hills like my beloved England rolled out in front of me to clouds blending the edge of the horizon. Stark contrast to this were row after row of corrugated houses with tethered horses, roaming sheep and pots of food on the boil. Children watched at the edges and peeked around the corners of the gleaming spacecraft-like housing as we were ushered to a school room. Once again an outstretched hand found mine, and with my inadequate Spanish, which proved to be adequate enough…mutual respect was felt, smiles exchanged, laughter ensued and I relaxed, all due to my working class English upbringing where a simple chair and a cup of hot tea were all that was needed to make everything possible in the world.

High on a mountaintop with children running wild, playing, laughing…food being cooked over open wood fires, washing in the stream by smiling women wanting to know your name and forgetting that my beating heart recovered from the arduous task to reach this new planet, at once it all seemed so familiar. Standing there as the clouds raced across the landscape, the air pure and cold, the smiles on humble faces, used to a hard life, for a moment it seemed like a commune of “travelers” or “gypsies” where everyone looks after each other, shares their meagre offerings, protection from strangers and enjoy the freedom of being left alone by the outside world.

FH is just beginning their work here and I’m optimistic that they’ll do what’s needed, do what’s right by these humble people. For my part, aside from a few images created to help put a face on a people, I mostly shook hands, spoke the best Spanish I’ve ever spoken and tried to understand a few of the issues and needs they have. It’s unprotected from the elements, this new Jerusalem with bitter winds delivering biting cold temperatures, especially at night. So over a meal of potatoes, cheese and prickly pear cactus fruit graciously given to us by one of its leaders, the FH staff and myself sat on sheep skins to think, to share…just what we can do as men and women to help them with the basics of life.

But to wind up this small set of thoughts, never easy for me, while waiting for the returning night train to Lima I’m reminded that their corrugated homes have no insulation from cold, rain or the noon day sun and just because they don’t complain doesn’t mean we won’t try to find solutions to help them – it’s what FH has been doing for decades now and while I can’t say I wanted to…I’m so glad I made it to the top of that hill…selfishly I’m so much better for the time spent, the handshakes enjoyed and yeah..a bit of the pain endured…

Posted by: Beth A. | April 12, 2012

From Lima, with love and memories

Lima homes on hill

A typical slum neighborhood in Lima, taken on an earlier trip

Guest blogger Rodney Rascona travels the world for Food for the Hungry, photographing the struggles and dreams of the people FH helps.  This week his lens focuses on Peru.

Before dawn breaks this morning at 3 am, I find myself in Latin America once again with my time here designed to use my photographic abilities to help raise awareness to the Lima communities of San Juan de Lurigancho and Villa Maria del Triunfo. Tomorrow we’ll take a 9-hour bus journey to Huancavelica to create a set of images to help FH Peru put a face on its work within this wonderful country.  Only last week I was on the night train to Lucknow, some 8 hours out of Delhi, where I was working with Hindu families in creating a poignant view of life from within India’s heartland – sharing my time with FH friends I worked with during the 2005 tsunami relief efforts.

But Peru is a special place for me as I began my love for FH and the greater FH family in this spot soon after my first journey to Africa in 2000. It seems so fresh in my mind…it feels like yesterday that we were in a long boat drifting downstream on an Amazon tributary, just outside Pucallpa, which given my global travels is no small miracle that I remember much of anything really.  But since that time, I’ve had a journey of a lifetime covering transformational projects on one end and endless human suffering amongst the world’s vulnerable on the other. Yet I’ve been so blessed by FH, its staff whom I consider to be good friends, and so many people I’ve shared my life with as a photographer in helping to raise awareness to issues affecting the human condition.

The blessings I’ve received are countless…made up of moments shared from one person to another across all hemispheres with many filled with laughter and more than not, sadness for what are at times vulnerable conditions for the people FH centers their projects on.  My work is personal, face to face and so I carry their voices, their gentle faces and at times the pleas of their heart with me forever…

The journey continues it seems…

Posted by: Wendy McMahan | August 2, 2011

The Manifesto of a Super Sponsor

Today’s guest post comes from Wendy McMahan, Mobilization Manager at Food for the Hungry

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: I’m not the Super Sponsor in the title of this post!  Most Super Sponsors won’t let on about how extraordinary they truly are. But to the children whose lives they touch every day, they are first class superheroes.

At Food for the Hungry, I’ve rubbed elbows with some true Super Sponsors, and they’ve taught me a few tricks to gaining superhero status. And although I’ll never brag about being a Super Sponsor myself, I can say I’ve made good headway by incorporating these tips. You can too.

Ready to go even deeper with your sponsorship experience?  Check out these five pledges of a Super Sponsor!

1. I pledge to get my friends involved.

There are people all around you who would love to sponsor a child just like you do. And they’re most likely to sponsor if they hear about it from someone they trust—that’s you!—than any other source in the world.

Give it a try. Share this web link with some friends who could be interested.

2. I will write to my sponsored child. Today.

When I served with Hunger Corps in Peru, I often saw children receiving letters from their sponsors. The joy and anticipation were priceless!

Super Sponsors know that their relationship with a child involves the emotional and spiritual support that letter writing provides.

If it has been a while since you wrote–or if you’ve never written–take a moment right now. Tell your sponsored child what you’ve been up to lately. Tell her what you had for dinner last night.  Encourage her to do her best in school. Enclose a photo of yourself.  (When you’re done, here’s our mailing address.)

3. I pledge to join the FH community.

Check out our Facebook page to “Like” Food for the Hungry!

4. I will learn about going on a short-term team.

Get a taste of how FH works by joining us on a mission trip. Watch for open teams coming up for 2012,  or learn how to take a team from your church.  You and your church can sponsor children in the community where you’re going and meet the children on your trip!

5. I promise to pay attention to how sponsorship REALLY works.

Even though FH carefully educates our sponsors through mailings, our website, and the Sponsor Impact blog,  many sponsors still believe myths about the way sponsorship works. Take a few minutes to listen to God’s Surprising Solution to Poverty and break the myth. Then share it with a friend!

What are some other ways you’ve found to be a Super Sponsor? Leave a comment!

Posted by: sponsorimpact | June 2, 2011

How are we to respond to poverty?

There is so much to the term “poverty” and how we are to respond. Wendy, a coworker of mine shares from Scripture and her own experiences when it comes to poverty. She shares specifically about the impact of sponsorship in the life of a child. Check out Poverty Unlocked and the most recent podcast for some important things to consider when we think of poverty and how we are to respond, you won’t regret it.

Posted by: kmayward | May 18, 2011

A sponsors visit to Kenya

Most sponsors never have the opportunity to visit their sponsored child, but some do have this incredible chance.

We recently heard from a sponsor who visited his child in Kenya. You can read about his entire adventure here.

Below is just a brief quote and photo from Josh’s trip.

I’m not sure what I expected to feel when I came his home, but I ended up just feeling so grateful they would let me in their home.  His mother cooked for us and we talked for a while about our families.  I showed him the pictures I had brought for him of my family back home.  Sorry Mama and Maria, somehow in my rush to get things together at the last minute (anyone surprised!)  I left out pictures of you two! I need to take some, because Umuro actually asked about that!  I told him I would send him some later.  I found out more about Umuro’s family and met his siblings.  His father evidently did not die in a massacre, like I thought, but two years after that, not sure how though.  The meeting was actually more awkward than I thought it would be.  Of course language was an issue, except for the English Umuro understood because of school.  He was quiet though, very shy.  Loise told me that might happen though.  I can understand…. meeting some stranger for the first time, not knowing how to act.  There were definitely visitors watching the first meeting as well.  Several children and mothers were in the house with us while we met for the first time.  It was just humbling and very down-to-earthy to just meet and talk.  We did not spend to long together, but his mother and aunt gave me jewelry as a gift for coming to see them.  My time online is about to run out so I’ll post this and see you soon hopefully.

Josh and his sponsored child Umuro

Posted by: sponsorimpact | May 9, 2011

Grieving

This morning I opened my e-mail and was greeted with some sad news. This news changed my day and saddened my heart.

I am the facilitator for a fund called the HEART fund. It was created to provide assistance for children around the world who need emergency and life threatening medical assistance. This fund has provided many surgeries and other life saving treatments for many children who otherwise would die.

About a month ago we were contacted by FH staff in Uganda about a 14 year old girl named Nasta with a severe heart condition. After many consultations with doctors in Kampala and test after test, it was decided that the surgery that Nasta needed could best be provided in India as it was not yet available in Uganda. We worked closely with Nasta’s family, her doctors and FH staff in Uganda to do everything needed to make these arrangements. As of Friday the ball was quickly rolling.

The sad news that I received this morning was that Nasta passed away over the weekend. She had a very bad stomach ache on Saturday night and went to sleep. When her brother tried to wake her Sunday morning, he found that she had passed away in her sleep.

I have spent the day thinking, even grieving about a girl that I never knew. Nasta was 14 years old, the same age as some of the youth group girls that I minister to every week. How could a young girl who is just beginning her life be taken so suddenly? The sad reality is that if Nasta had been living in the US or in another developed country she could have quickly received the surgery and medical attention that she needed.

My heart is sad today. I know that ultimately God is in charge and it is all according to His will, but it never makes a life cut short any easier.

My prayers are with Nasta’s family during this time as well as the FH Uganda staff who worked very closely with Nasta’s family and labored diligently to do everything that they possibly could.

Posted by: kmayward | March 7, 2011

How do children become part of our sponsorship program?

As I was preparing for my trip to Guatemala, I thought a lot about some of the key things I wanted to see while I was down there. One of these things was the registration process for sponsorship. I got an incredible look at the process that the fields go through when registering new children into our Child Sponsorship Program. This has always been something that I was interested in seeing and understanding. I have always wondered how do they explain sponsorship to the parents and the children? Who does the actual taking of information from the children and who takes the photos? Who helps the children sit down and write their Introduction Letter for their sponsor?

As I stood there and watched this whole process, I was blessed by everything I saw. It truly helped me understand my job better and how from beginning to end this information is received.

So I thought it would fun to share all of this process with all of you, our sponsors! Here goes:

This process all starts a few days ahead of when the staff are actually going to do the registering. They normally send letters home with the children and make an announcement in the community that they will be registering new children and give the date and time and which documents the mothers need to bring. The mothers then come to the school the day of registration and bring all the documents that the staff need. They start by gathering the mothers together and one of the staff explaining the process of sponsorship, the commitment, the requirements of both the children and the mothers and then how the rest of the registration process will go.

The mothers who agree to everything they have heard begin to line up. They one by one bring their child up to the table where an FH staff is sitting. This staff person asks the children and mother a series of questions like, name, age, birthday, favorite color etc. They take the copy of the child’s birth certificate that the mother has brought and have the mother sign or if they can’t write, thumb print on the agreement. These documents are then stapled together and the child is sent to get their photo taken.

The staff person taking the photos has found a spot to take them that is in good lighting with a good background. They sit on a chair and put the child in front of them. This staff person then makes sure that the child’s face is clean and hair is neat. They usually tell the child a series of jokes to try and get the child to smile. After taking 3 or 4 photos of that child, they record on the child’s documents the numbers on the camera of that child’s photos.

The child then goes into a classroom where another staff is waiting to help them write their first letter to their sponsor. This introduction letter is usually just a drawing or something similar as at this point the child does not know who their sponsor is. Sometimes, if the children are really young or really shy, the mothers, teachers or staff will help the children draw or write.

After all of this information is gathered, the staff take these documents back to the office where they enter the information one by one for each child into our system called World Link. This is the system that I use to review the child’s information and photo before I make this child available for sponsorship. I got the incredible opportunity to sit down and enter some of the children’s information into WL in our office in Guatemala. It was amazing to be able to sit on the other side of what I do. I have never fully understood how the information about each child gets to me, it just simply has. My co-worker Katie, also got the chance to translate a few of the children’s letters from Spanish into English. 

I was so glad that I got to see this process. Sometimes it is easy for me to get frustrated that a photo is not good or that a child that is clearly a boy has girl marked on their file. But I got a glimpse of the vast amount of information that our staff process daily and the sometimes chaotic atmosphere of registration. There are children running around everywhere. Any mistake in information is not because the FH staff are being lazy or not paying attention, it is simply an honest mistake because of the amount of children they see in a day.

I left Guatemala with so much respect for our staff in the field. They work so hard. Even as I sit at my desk today, work on photos and information I remember that today is Friday, so many of the staff in Guatemala are in the office. Fridays are their one day in the office after spending 4 days in the communities.

I am a better person because of what I learned and saw. I am better at my job and have a greater appreciation for everyone around the world that is on the other side of everything that I do.

Posted by: kmayward | February 28, 2011

Guatemala Reflections

How do I begin to capture all the thoughts and feelings from such an incredible time? I only wish I was able to take everything home with me. The sights are easy, I have them all in pictures, but it is the spirit that I cannot capture. How do you translate smells, smiles, waves and every other little thing that you can only experience in person? I battled all week long with being both present and yet hoping to capture my experience so that I could share it with family, friends and sponsors. Most of the time being present won and therefore there are things that I only have captured in my memory.

How would I describe Guatemala? The most beautiful place I have ever seen. Not simply because it is green and lush but because the people are beautiful. They are strong and resilient. They are passionate and hardworking. These people have an incredibly history. Many of them live in extremely remote communities with very little access to anything. Everything that they do they do by hand. They make nearly everything that they have. Their families have been living there for generations and very little has changed in all these years.

The FH Guatemala staff are incredible. They give so much of their lives to the vision of FH which they believe with their whole hearts. They live out this vision every day as they encounter the rawest forms of poverty each step of the way.

These men and women love with their entire beings, they hold nothing back. They welcomed us with open arms and hearts. They shared their time and energy with us. They drove hundreds of miles to give us a picture of what life is like in these communities and show us the work that is being done. And all they could do was thank us for coming to be with them. It was we, who should be thanking them and yet, they never seemed inconvenienced or impatient.

Over the last 3 years I have spent thousands of hours at my desk, reading hundreds of letters to and from the children and sponsors, I have photo-shopped thousands of photos of children and reviewed more information than I can possibly remember. But nothing has impacted me the way the last week of my life has. I can sit in meeting after meeting and hear about the work that FH is doing around the world, but it will never compare to driving up windy, bumpy, muddy, and rocky roads into a community that welcomes you with open arms. To see the beautiful children run up to the vehicles to welcome us with their big brown eyes and shy smiles. To hear men and women share so proudly what they have learned from FH staff and their mouths flowing with thanks and appreciation. My life will never be the same.

I couldn’t believe some of what I saw in these communities. The poverty was so real, so evident and yet such a paradox. Most of the men in these incredibly remote communities had cell phones; even some of the children had them. They had access to some of the newest technology and yet they lacked some of the most basic of needs as well. Most of the families in these communities have no latrine. At least not one that is adequate and sanitary. The children are often sick with diarrhea because of poor sanitation and access to water. One of the main teachings that FH shares in the classrooms is about proper hand washing because it is one of the biggest ways that the children and their families can stop the spread of disease, germs and bacteria.

FH Guatemala’s main focus is on chronic malnutrition, specifically for children under the age of 5. The statistics in Guatemala are astounding. One in every two children under the age of five is malnourished. Guatemala is the worst country for malnutrition in Latin America and third in the world behind Afghanistan and Yemen. Most of the children are eating enough food they are just not getting the adequate nutrition to grow properly. Because growth in the first two years is so pivotal to the rest of their lives, many of these children are therefore behind before they even truly begin. They do not receive the nutrition for key brain development and then years later do not do well in school. Not because they are not trying but because their brains are simply not capable of learning at the normal pace. These children then drop out of school and never receive more than a primary education.  Ironically most of the people in Guatemala do not look malnourished. The children would not tell you that they are hungry. Their malnourishment is reflected most often in their height and their brain development. Where I am of slightly above average height for women in the US, I towered over nearly everyone in Guatemala, both men and women. Many of them were now where close to being five feet tall. The children can often be seen eating snacks and junk food, I even witnessed a child around 8 months sucking on a sucker. Their most commonly grown and eaten foods are corn and beans. The parents do not know how to grow or prepare healthy vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, carrots and other items that will help their children receive the nutrition they need. So the work that FH is doing is critical to combat this. The staff are working hard to bring agriculture programs to these communities. We got to see many areas where FH staff have taught key community leaders how to prepare the soil and plant seeds for crops like radishes, broccoli, chard, cabbage and carrots. These programs are initially targeting families with children under the age of 5.

The other important program that we learned so much about is the Monitoring and Evaluation program for the children under 5 years old. The FH staff have identified key leaders within each community to be in charge of weight checks every month for all of the children under 5. They have a scale where they weigh the children and then record the weight.

These leaders have a copy of the weight of the child from the previous month so that they can see if the child has gained weight. They compare the numbers with a chart that FH has provided them with showing how much weight the child should have gained. Then depending on whether the children have gained adequate weight or not they meet with a community leader for counseling. Children that have gained enough weight the last month are congratulated and the mothers are encouraged to keep up with what they are doing. For the children that have not gained the appropriate amount of weight, their mothers receive counseling as well. The leader tries to find out why it would be that the child has not gained weight. Maybe the child has been sick or they do not have enough food. These mothers are counseled and given more ideas of how to feed their children more healthy food.  For these special situations, these families are “flagged” and will be visited in their homes in the coming weeks by community leaders and FH staff for follow-up counseling.

As I have now had a few days to process what I have seen and learned I have come to a few conclusions. People have an incredible capacity to love. Love is not simply about a feeling, it is far more than just the emotion. Love becomes real when it is followed with an action. The community facilitators don’t simply say that they love the people in these incredibly remote communities, but they follow these words with their daily presence. Their love is shown in sacrifice and hard work. I may complain that I have a lot of work or that I work hard, but I don’t even begin to have the devotion that these people have. All of them know two languages, some three and four. Some of these staff travel up to 2 hours one way just to reach the office. Then they must travel another 30 minutes to an hour to reach these small remote communities. They spend all day in the communities and come back around 4pm with a mountain of paperwork to do. Some are away from their families often.  The only thing that I can say is how much respect I have for these people. As we concluded our time with them they blessed us with gifts; as if they had not blessed us enough already. They gathered around us to pray for us, they all prayed at once and so passionately, I was humbled. We then prayed for them and their work. I believe that I saw a few of them wipe tears from their eyes as we said “amen”. As we said our goodbyes I was only comforted by the fact that we will one day see these people again, of that I am sure. When we are truly “home”, all of us, from every tribe, tongue and nation, we will find them in the crowd and finally understand each other completely, there will no longer be a language barrier. I cannot wait for this day. May it be soon, Jesus come soon.

Posted by: kmayward | February 18, 2011

Our week in photos

I don’t really have the energy to write about everything we have experienced this past week. There is so much to process and reflect on so I will save all of that for when I have more time to do this. But I did want to share some photos of our trip. Check back later for more reflections, photos and videos.

But I can say, what I have seen this week has truly changed my perspective on nearly everything.

Posted by: kmayward | February 16, 2011

A day in Campat, Guatemala

I don`t have much time to write as I am writing this from the computer in the lobby at our hotel. But we visited Campat today. We travelled up the steepest, muddiest and rockiest roads I have seen in a long time. This community is very high up in the hills and is sometimes right in the clouds. We were able to be there for the registration of more children into the FH sponsorship program. It was incredible to see the mothers line up with their children to get them registered. The staff gathered the information about the children and then took a picture. Then the children were taken to a nearby classroom where they drew a picture for their soon to be sponsor (they drew because they do not know how to write, most of them are 5 years old). I have photos of all of this and I will post them when we are back in Guatemala City.

I am so glad that I got to see this process. I spend my days photoshopping and reviewing the children´s information, so to be able to see the very beginning of the process was incredible. It is surely something I will never forget.

I also have a number of videos that I hope to post as well. My hope is to share with you sponsors something that some of you may never get to see.

But my encouragement is that if you ever have a chance to visit your child and see the work that FH is doing in these communities, take it, do not hesitate.

More later.

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