Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A giveway to benefit Reeds of Hope and share about a damaging fire in eastern DRC

As many of you know, I work closely with Reeds of Hope, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and their families in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Roughly two weeks ago, a house in Bukavu where many of these children lived caught fire.  Thankfully, no one was injured -- but the house was destroyed.  The interior, roof and ceilings are gone; only the walls remain.  Everything in the house was lost, including furniture, bedding, appliances, dishes, linens, books, and all of the kids' belongings. The children are pictured below, standing on the steps of the house, along with photographs of the damage to the house.  Many of them are currently living on the second floor of the house; the rainy season combined with no roof is creating flooding on this already damaged floor of the home. 

Reeds of Hope is committed to rebuilding this home to ensure the continued safety and well-being of the children who lived there.  Estimates for this job are currently at $26,000. In one week, I will be hosting a raffle at the Reeds of Hope website, with the goal of raising $10,000.  75% of the money raised from the raffle will go towards construction costs. The remaining funds will be applied towards our work in Congo. This week, I am hosting a giveaway to raise interest in the raffle.  Read on to discover how you can participate in the giveaway -- and to learn more about our organization! 

What do we do at Reeds of Hope?   Reeds of Hope supports orphaned and vulnerable children and their families with in-country solutions in DRC. 

Currently, our projects in Eastern DRC include: 

-School fees, uniforms and supplies for 85 primary and secondary students in Eastern DRC: all of these children reside in a home run by an older couple for children who have been orphaned or whose family cannot care for them.  This couple has been caring for children for over 20 years, and have adopted many of the children themselves.  These kids are supported through individual sponsorships.  Starting in January 2016, we will be seeking additional sponsors for these children.    Please see our website for more information.  www.reedsofhope.org

-University fees for 8 teens/young adults:  These teens and young adults have grown up in the home described above.   Faced with extremely high unemployment rates in Eastern DRC, they have the drive and passion to pursue higher education so that they will be able to find a job.  All of the students' educational costs have been funded!

-Social Worker in Eastern DRC:  in the past year, Reeds of Hope has hired a social worker to work with our Congolese partners to implement family reunification programs or other long term permanent housing for some of the children.  Donations to our organization help to fund this work.

-Staff Training:  Family reunification work is new in Eastern DRC, and we believe in Congo as a whole.  For this reason, we wanted our social worker and manager to attend a training program outside of Congo to better prepare them for their work.   Many thanks to Abide Family Center for their help on this project!  
This project is funded by one time donations as well as monthly donations from interested donors.  Please see our website to contribute to this essential role.  www.reedsofhope.org

-Reunification programs: We strongly believe that, where possible, children in orphanages should be reunited with their birth families. Our organization is committed to family reunification, and has successfully assisted a grandmother in raising her grandmother.  This boy was placed in an orphanage as an infant, and identified as a candidate for international adoption.  He was ultimately reunited    She struggled with her ability to support her grandson, so Reeds of Hope helped her restart her business.  He is doing well and his grandmother is successfully working to support him. Most importantly, they are thrilled to be reunited and living together as a family. These efforts have been supported through one time donations.

-Long term quality foster care programs: When children cannot be adopted or moved into their adoptive homes, our organization has found capable foster parents.    For example, two small children who had been adopted by a family in the U.S. were unable to leave DRC to join their family (for many complicated reasons).  We were able to help the adoptive parents locate a  loving, long term quality foster care program for these children, and our manager is assisting the adoptive parents in supporting them.  

-Short-term emergency shelter for children in crisis: Due to a lack of maternal health care in Eastern Congo, far too many women die in childbirth.  Reeds of Hope provides short-term housing and care for the babies who have lost their mothers.  For example, Reeds of Hope was able to facilitate the care of a small baby in the Family Bethlehem home.  The mother of the baby had died and the extended family could not take care of such a small infant.  The baby will be returning to the extended family once she is strong, eating solid food, and healthy.   This project is funded by one time and regular donations, usually on a case by case basis. 

Our projects in Kinshasa include:

-Supporting vulnerable mothers:  Reeds of Hope supports a sewing training center to help at-risk mothers support themselves and their families.  The center provides education and training to the women, and further assistance starting their own business.  Upon completion of the program, the women are provided with their own sewing machines. 

-Supporting older children:  Once children "age out" of an orphanage, they are at risk of ending up jobless and homeless on the streets of Kinshasa.  Reeds of Hope provides support to boys and girls who have grown up in a large, well-known orphanage and are closing to "aging out."  We have partnered with a local organization to help these teens receive an education, specifically in English language skills and working with computers.   Our goal is to set these young people up with a small shop in Kinshasa, to provide a secure income and future. 

And now....the giveaway!  To raise interest in our upcoming raffle, I am giving away a great package of items from Eastern Congo:  handmade Christmas cards and Theo Chocolate bars (pictured below)! You can enter below, limited to one entry per person. You can earn additional entries by visiting our facebook page, visiting our website, and sharing the link to this post on Facebook or Instagram, and tagging Reeds of Hope with your entry.  The winner will be announced 10:00 a.m. (Tanzania time; 5:00 a.m. EST) on Sunday, November 15th.  Good luck, and thank you for your support!

NOTE:  You do not have to wait for the raffle to help support the rebuilding project!  You can always make a tax-deductible donation to our organization via our website. To ensure the funds go to rebuilding the house, simply note "HOUSE" when making your donation.

(Christmas cards made in Bukvau, DRC out of banana leaves.  10 cards of each design (no envelopes).)

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Guest Post: When adopted children linger in DRC indefinitely, should we still respect DRC laws?

Today I have the pleasure of hosting another guest on my blog. Amanda Bennett is an American lawyer passionate about obtaining justice for vulnerable families and children. Amanda has a JD from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, Illinois and now lives in Kigali, Rwanda with her husband and son. She serves on the board of directors for Reeds of Hope, a non-profit serving vulnerable families and children in DRC, and she blogs about Jesus, adoption, orphan care, and life at AfterAllItsASmallWorld.com. She is the  co-author of In Defense of the Fatherless, Redeeming International Adoption and Orphan Care, which will be published in early 2015 by Christian Focus Publications.


The DRC international adoption situation has, as many predicted, descended into chaos.

On a regular basis, we hear stories of families faced with an impossible choice – wait forever, pay forever, in complete uncertainty or go to any lengths necessary – even breaking the law – to get “their” children home.

Most recently, several American families were caught in the middle of such a decision. Apparently, escorts attempted to bring their children across the border without valid exit letters from DGM in Kinshasa. As a result, the adoptions were invalidated, and the families arrived home empty-handed.

A heartbreaking result for everyone involved. We don’t know the circumstances that led to this result, and we likely never will. Whether we agree with the decisions that these families made is irrelevant. As Christians, we are called to walk alongside them, weep with them, comfort them in their distress.

But how can families still in process move forward in this continued uncertainty? In many ways, it appears that a corrupt and violent government is holding their children hostage? Why should they respect the laws of such a place?

We can think of extreme circumstances where people stood up to evil laws and have been heralded as heroes – Germans who hid Jews in their basements, mothers in China who saved their daughters, Iranians protesting a harsh regime. Were these people wrong? Should they have just followed the law?

Far be it from me to suggest that laws should always be followed under any circumstances. I will also refrain from suggesting that it’s no big deal to break the law.

But I will argue that to equate a DRC immigration law with the extremes just described is unwise.  We have to look at the facts and circumstances here and not our emotional reactions to the situation.

DRC Immigration (DGM) has made a decision to suspend the issuance of exit letters to legally adopted children while they consider re-writing adoption laws and conduct investigations into adoptions. They cite worries about trafficking and re-homing in the adoptive countries.

We can surmise and hypothesize about other, more sinister motives, and we might very well be correct. But the law and the reasons are what they are.

It’s also confirmed that there have been illegal adoptions conducted, that children have been removed illegally, that documents have been forged, birth families have been lied to and coerced, and children have been re-homed in the United States after being adopted in the DRC.
It’s my opinion that to pay bribes, sneak children across the border and to forge documents is to contribute to the suffering of real people and real children rather than alleviate. With every bribe paid, the corrupt officials are emboldened to ask for more. With every document forged, the lesson is that being honest is irrelevant, and it gives DRC more evidence to keep adoptions shut down. With every child snuck across the border, we make the decision that the end justifies the means.

I urge parents facing this choice to respect the law, however arbitrary it seems. The only way that international adoptions in DRC should continue is if they are done ethically. If we don’t follow the laws of the country from where we adopt, then we are doing nothing to help the people of DRC. Rather, I believe, in this circumstance, that following the law, is to respect the people of DRC and stand with them against the widespread corruption in their land.

I am always willing and interested in speaking with parents who desire to follow the law and want to discuss how to proceed in this uncertainty. 


If you would like to contact Amanda, her email is delighted.bennett@gmail.com.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Changes for the New Year (a Reeds of Hope Update)

As we come to the end of 2014, we at Reeds of Hope, have been reevaluating all our programs and looking at the future of our work in DRC.  Over the past couple of years we have seen our mission shift from direct care of children living in an orphanage to caring for vulnerable families.  Moving forward, we have come to realize that family reunification -- and family strengthening -- work is where our hears lie.

In moments of crises, in times of extreme poverty, or in tragedies -- such as the death of a mother during the birth of her child -- families often break apart.  We have seen Congolese men and women come together during these times and care for each other, either preventing the family fracture, or caring for the children when it does break.  We want to partner with programs and projects that do this hard work --groups that keep families together in the vulnerable moments when they are at most risk of falling apart. Walking alongside someone in the midst of their suffering brings hope.  

We also want to help Congolese women and men who have been supporting vulnerable children in their communities by providing family structures for those who don't have families or need new families.  We support and applaud the amazing work of the Congolese women and men who have been doing this work for years in their local communities.  It is humbling to consider the amazing networks that reach out to each other in times of insecurity, extreme poverty, violence, lack of infrastructure, lack of justice, and lack of basic human rights.  We believe in supporting these efforts and that in building up the capacity of local programs to care for each other, families can get the support they need when they are threatened.  Keeping families together and supporting new family structures brings hope.

We believe in education.  We know that for many children who have returned home to their families, paying school fees can be an insurmountable barrier.  We believe in helping these children continue their education as long as they want to attend.  We also believe that the groups that are supporting children in family units often need help to send all their children to school.  And older children need job trainings and job skills.   Education brings hope.

We are excited about the work we will be doing in 2015 in DRC.  We support the amazing work of the heroes of DRC -- Congolese men and women who make an impact in their daily lives as they reach out to those around them that are passing through a vulnerable fragile times.  We are thankful for the opportunities we have had to serve in the past and we look forward to the new ways we will be serving in DRC in the future.

Most of all we are thankful for the support of those who have come alongside us for so many years and continue to walk with us today.  Thank you for your continued belief in the Congolese people and their strength, beauty, resiliency, and courage.

If you are a regular donor with Reeds of Hope, please check your inbox for more details on changes to our projects and our future work in DRC.  We will be updating our website over the next month to reflect these changes.  www.reedsofhope.org   Also, follow us on facebook!   We will be sending updates of our new projects!

If you are working with an orphanage in DRC or want to learn more about what we consider important and essential components to our work in DRC, please read these two posts--found here and here.  These posts are close to my heart and I consider them very important.