Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Formula in China

Recently we have all heard the horrible stories of children in China who have consumed formula tainted with melamine. This chemical is used in things such as wood adhesives, flame retardants, and various coatings. It has caused thousands of children throughout China to become seriously ill, and at least 4 have died.

Angel Covers purchases formula in China for the Huaibei, Anhui orphanage. However, Angel Covers only purchases Nestle formula, which has not been found to have been tainted with melamine. We have been very concerned about the children in our programs, as many of you have been, and have been asking for confirmation that the Nestle formula we purchase is safe. Nestle's formula has been tested by Nestle, the Chinese Bureau of Heath, and Civil Affairs with the same results. No melamine was found. Tests have also been conducted outside of China with the same results.

We are so relieved to know the children in our programs are not at risk. We will continue to do everything possible to protect the children in Huaibei and keep them as healthy as possible.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Helping Angel Cottage

Many people have been asking how they can help build Angel Cottage even though they don't have the funds to send a donation. I'm always so glad people ask me this! There are several ways to help without making a direct donation.

One of our wonderful supporters sells Party Lite Candles. A portion of her profits are being donated to the construction of Angel Cottage. Additionally, if you would be willing to have a Party Lite Candle party, all of the profits from your party will support Angel Cottage construction. All you need to do is email Caroline at aijdinsmom@yahoo.com and request a catalog. She will send you everything you need for the party.

Also, check out our Giving Works page on eBay. All of the items listed have a portion of the proceeds coming to Angel Covers. All funds raised will go to Angel Cottage.

Angel Covers still have greeting cards and will soon have holiday cards for sale through our website. 100% of the proceeds from these cards goes to Angel Cottage construction. All of these cards were designed by the children of Humble Hearts and are beautifully made. http://www.angelcovers.org/greetingcards.html Please remember to use these for gifts during the upcoming holiday season.

All of ideas will help build Angel Cottage and provide 80 children a home they can only dream of now. Thank you for being a part of this great work.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Angel Cottage

While in Kenya I promised more information and stories about my trip, the kids, and Humble Hearts. I thought I'd start by providing you details about the most important project we have going on in Kenya right now, building the Angel Cottage.

As you may know, the budget for Angel Cottage is approximately $90,000. To date $40,000 has been raised and the structure is being built as quickly as funds will allow. But while in Kenya, I learned many new things that have given me even more faith in this project.

Two years ago land was purchased for Angel Cottage. Soon after two additional plots of land were purchased for the future secondary school. We then decided to build Angel Cottage several stories high so that the new secondary school could occupy the second story, which will cost less to build than an entirely new building. Now the land is not only home to the developing Angel Cottage, but will also have lots of space for kids to play. In large part because of Beatrice's amazing work.

When construction began on Angel Cottage, local people in the area noticed this huge project and wanted to buy land close by. Seeing this opportunity, Beatrice contacted the land owner and convinced him to give Humble Hearts 4 additional plots of land for free. Not a marketing professional by trade, Beatrice convinced the land owner that by giving Humble Hearts the land he would be able to tell others what great work is happening there, which will increase the price the rest of the land can be sold for.

Additionally, Beatrice has been working with businesses throughout Nairobi to get free and discounted building materials. More than $7,000 in materials have been donated and dozens of bags of concrete and rods of steel have been purchased at discounted prices. For instance, Beatrice has been able to purchase bags of concrete for 585 shillings rather than 780 shillings, saving approximately $3 US per bag of concrete. Higher quality steel was purchased for almost $15 per rod less because they were purchased from the factory, something everyone in Nairobi isn't able to do. Next month a bank is visiting Humble Hearts and Angel Cottage. Last Christmas this bank purchased gifts for all of the children. This year they are interested in helping with construction costs. Keep your fingers crossed that they will decide to become a sponsor of Angel Cottage.

Financial accountability is of utmost importance to all of us at Angel Covers. These examples show that making the most of the money provided is as important to Beatrice. She works every day to get the best price on materials and works to find companies or individuals willing to donate anything needed.

Please continue to spread the word about this worthwhile project. Your donation will go as far as possible...we are making sure of that in the US as well as in Kenya.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sunday and Monday morning

Fortunately I'm able to send one last blog before I leave. It's Monday morning here and last night we sat down with Beatrice trying to talk about all of the things we haven't done yet. What a list that was. Today we will be finishing pictures of all of the sponsored kids, making sure we have all of the letters, writing more bios of unsponsored kids, and finishing the heights and weights for all of the kids who are now at school. It's going to be a busy day.

Beatrice told me last night that there are at least 7 kids who need glasses and an eye exam, there is at least 1 boy who has typhoid, and 2 deaf children who need hearing tests and aids. This of course doesn't include the children who have asthma or other respiratory problems. The good news is that children who have looked so sick in the past, now look great. Karen, Samson looks wonderful! He's still very small, about the size of a 9 year old and he's 15, but he's clearly much stronger. He's filled out, doesn't look sickly, and has put on enough weight to keep his pants up. :-) The milk and other nutrition he's getting is certainly working.

I learned so much about Angel Cottage and what Beatrice is doing here to make the construction go faster. I'll post more about this later, but know she's getting incredible donations from businesses here of materials and staff. She's amazing.

Later this week more posts will be coming about our trip. In the meantime, keep spreading the word about the needs. I've already seen donations for Angel Cottage and of band-aids. What a blessing!



Saturday and Sunday in Kenya

Unfortunately I wasn't able to post, but there wasn't much to tell you about Humble Hearts and Angel Cottage though. Since Jane is also here from England with her son, we decided to take the day off and go be tourists. Oh what fun that was. i haven't been kissed by a giraffe before or shaken hands with a baby elephants truck. The boys had a blast and we got some much needed relaxation.

Sunday has been spent purchasing items for our upcoming auction. That's always great fun because I know the items will bring such joy and needed help to our education programs. The auction is in November, and check the website for specific dates so you can mark your calender. The rest of the day will be filled with paperwork, and errands. Not much fun, but very needed.

I will not be able to post about Monday before I leave, as we leave Kenya at 9:50pm Monday night. Just know that many more posts will be coming when I return. There is so much to tell everyone...much more than I can get in any blog.

Thank you all for your support! You're changing the world.



Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday in Kenya

What a busy day! Today was filled with gathering as much information as possible on unsponsored children, interviewing teachers, taking pictures of kids already sponsored, buying food for Angel Cottage, and organizing books in the library. The list of unsponsored children is very long and full of need. Two girls stood out to me yesterday. One is a little girl named Claris. She is approximately 6 and deaf. Claris has never been allowed to attend school and was never taught sign language. She came to Humble Hearts this week and is curious about everything. She seems to be very bright and is picking up on the routine, a few signs, and classwork quickly. Another girl I learned about is Laureen. She has been at Humble Hearts for 2 years with no sponsor. She is in Form 2 (a sophomore in high school) and seems to have asthma. She loves to participate in sports, but it's hard because of her difficulties breathing. We will be sure she is able to see a doctor about this. If you would like to sponsor either of these girls, please contact us at patricia@angelcovers.org. As soon as I return, I can send a full bio and picture.

The dedication of the teachers was obvious during the interviews. I had the privilege of interviewing 5 and all love their jobs. They are working for approximately $90 a month, compared to 4 or 5 times that in government schools. One of the deaf teachers was told her entire life by her father that she could not go to school because she was partially deaf. She would sneak out of the house to go to school and when caught, would be locked in. She convinced the neighbor child to rip his textbook in half and give her half his pencil so she could study. After being severely beaten by a teacher because she didn't understand what he was saying, so lost all hearing in her left ear and for years had puss coming out of the other ear. After not passing the national exams to attend college, she worked in the rural areas growing ground nuts to pay for another year of high school in order to fulfill her dream to be a teacher. Against all odds she eventually attended teaching college and is now working at Humble Hearts. We are BLESSED to have her.

These are just a few of the stories I learned yesterday. The dedication of these great people is beyond compare. I'll post more stories when I return, but know you are a part of great things.



Thursday in Kenya

The day was started by sorting the 3 huge suitcases full of school supplies, maps, pens, pencil sharpeners, stickers, toys, medicine, and countless other things we brought the kids.  The teachers said over and over again it was like an early Christmas.  The children had huge smiles on their faces and we were thrilled to be able to provide them with things they can't get in Kenya or cost too much to buy.  The teachers were completely out of pens, and seeing their faces light up because of something so simple was great.  We also recorded the heights and weights of all of the kids in school.

One thing we learned is still needed are bandaids. So, if any of you would like to purchase a box and send it to Humble Hearts by yourself, or send it to Angel Covers and we'll mail it for you, that would be great. All sizes are needed.

The afternoon was spent at the Dagoetti School. This is a school of approximately 590 children with very little outside financial support. Another suitcase full of items was given to them and they were equally pleased. Angel Covers has started chicken projects and purchased cows for the school, which were feeding 300 of the children 3 days a week. However, with the recent post election violence, the cows were stolen and most of the chickens have died due to disease because vaccines had to be missed because of the turmoil. The stories the men tell of tribal members hiding in the woods to burn houses, churches, and kill individuals just for the sake of killing are simply beyond anything I've ever heard before. The teachers are grateful to be alive for sure. The cow shed and the chicken coops remain, but funds are not available or another cow and there are only funds for 100 chicken, rather than the 500 they previously had. If you would like to help with this great need, please go to the donation page Textbooks and funds for teacher's salaries are also needed.

After visiting Dagoretti, we went shopping! It became clear that the children of Angel Cottage are in great need of boots for the rainy season. We were able to give each of them a new backpack yesterday morning, along with many of the secondary kids. So, the evening was spent buying rain boots, more backpacks, toys, and sanitary pads for the older girls. Many of you have asked me how much those are. Right now the cost is 70 or 75 shillings depending on what is purchased and the exchange rate is 68 shillings per dollar. So, for just over 1 dollar a girl can stay in school each month.

Tomorrow will be spent gathering bios and photos of children who still need sponsors, interviewing teachers, sorting textbooks, and taking pictures of sponsored children. Even though school started for the term on Monday, not all of the children have reported. We are hoping they will all report by Monday of next week so we can get pictures of everyone.

Internet is spotty at best, but feel free to email any questions or comments to kari@angelcovers.org I'd love to hear from you!


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Wednesday in Kenya

After buying more than $400 worth of textbooks and office supplies for Humble Hearts, we went to see the Angel Cottage construction site. Recently we were able to send funds for the purchase of a cow and construction of a shed. This shed is
being made of concrete in order to provide greater security and will not only house the cow, but will also house the chickens and have a room for the caretaker to live it. The construction of the shed is next to a new garden. Frequently Angel Covers is given funds that can be used for anything Humble Hearts needs. Being a forward thinker, Beatrice has leased land for a garden and has planted kale and spinach for the children of Humble Hearts. Although the plants are small now, it's clear that this garden will produce a lot of food for the children.

Angel Cottage construction is truly amazing. Much bigger than it seems on paper, Angel Cottage will be a wonderful home for at least 80 children. Walls are up and the next step is to put the 'slab' or roof on the top. Angel Cottage is being built in a manner that 3 additional stories can be built on top to house even more children. Beatrice has already started mapping out where all of the names will go on the bricks and it's going to be lovely. All of the names will be located next to the play area for the children so they always see each name as they are outside playing. Please tell all your family and friends about this great opportunity. each brick can be purchased for a minimum donation of $10 to Angel Covers and will completely change a life.

Paying for Angel Cottage has to be a top priority. 36 children are currently crammed in 2 rooms and Beatrice knows of at least another 20 who need a home. The day the new Angel Cottage opens, at least 56 children will move in. we will soon be sending out a newsletter telling you how you can help this exceptional cause.

Today we will organize all of the supplies we bought and go to the Dagoretti school, where we have started chicken and cow projects.

Please spread the word to everyone you know. Your efforts are changing lives!


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Tuesday in Kenya

Ok, so today is actually Wednesday here, but I thought I'd write about yesterday mostly. First I'll say I'm sorry for not posting pictures. I've been lucky to be able to post a blog at all given how slow the Internet is, and pictures have been impossible. I'll keep trying though. Promise!

Yesterday was wonderful. After exchanging money, we shopped for all of the food for the staff appreciation party. And what a fun party that was. Way too much food was made, and of course we just had to eat it all. The staff of Humble Hearts are all wonderful. They love the kids and they love their jobs, despite the fact that they are under paid and working in less that optimal conditions. We give them gifts of hand made wooden pens and they couldn't have loved them more. Everyone was so grateful and I was quick to tell them that without all of them working hard for the kids, the school would be nothing. The evening ended well after dark after lots of singing and dancing. It couldn't have been more perfect.

Today we will be buying textbooks for the school (we ran out of time yesterday), visiting the Angel Cottage construction, and sorting through all of the school supplies we brought. I walked around HH yesterday and realized how much things have changed in the past 2 years since I was last here. The water tank purchased 2 years ago is invaluable. The garden planted by a wonderful group from Oregon make everything look so fresh, and the concrete on the floors of some of the classrooms make it possible for the children to learn without sinking into the mud.

There is still lots of work to do though. 7 1/2 classrooms still need concrete on the floors, roofs need to be fixed, and there are never enough textbooks, desks, or supplies. Please spread the word as much as you can about these great kids, staff, and needs. Everyone who talks about this school to others is helping is a huge way. Once again these children have stolen our hearts and I hope they will steal yours too.



Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Day in Kenya

Justin and I arrived last night in Kenya after 24 hours of traveling. To say we are tired would be a huge understatement, but we are thrilled to be here. Every time I come I'm always shocked at how poor the school is. We were only at Humble Hearts for a few minute, but the need is just overwhelming. We will be shopping for new textbooks and food for a staff appreciation party tonight. I will post more as I can, but know that everyone you are doing to support this school is making a difference for these kids. They have so little and everything you do for them changes their lives completely.