Vulnerable Children

Our target popular at Ignite Change are the families of orphans and vulnerable children. But what makes a child vulnerable? A vulnerable child is one that is lacking adequate care. They could be living in extreme poverty, malnourished, not attending school or all the above. One of the most recent reports from Alternative Care Uganda shows that in the Northern region of Uganda, 98.8% of children are vulnerable (see chart below). That number to me is both staggering and heartbreaking. It means that almost every child I meet in Ngai are facing extreme challenges on a daily basis.

IMG-20170510-WA0019A vulnerable child walking 2 km to fetch water. Her mom went through our business training classes and was given soybean seeds to grow.

This is why I am choosing to move to Uganda. And part of the reason we felt God calling us to Northern Uganda specifically. To serve a community where the families often do not know where their next meal is coming from. Where they have to walk miles to get water that is dirty. Because what country you are born in should not determine if you have clean water, food, or receive an education.

  Critically Vulnerable Moderately Vulnerable Generally Vulnerable Total Vulnerability
Central 7.8 33.6 52.7 94.1
Eastern 7.5 45.5 43.8 96.8
Northern 9.3 56.6 35.9 98.8
Western 8.1 41.1 45.9 96.1
Average 8.1 42.9 45.1 96.1

 

I am excited and motivated to walk beside the parents and caregivers and work with them through business classes to find ways they can financially support their families. I am excited to see the children enter the Primary School and receive a quality education and be able to have dreams for their future!

Thank you for your prayers and support!

Emily

Exciting News!

I apologize for not writing a blog since being back in the US. I was waiting to be able to share some great news!

1. We have a name! Ignite Change  The short explanation for the name is that our mission is to go into communities to empower families – lighting a fire that they have inside of them. They may need some training or education, but we believe they have the drive inside them to be sustainable. Which leads me to point 2…

 

2. We are BUILDING A SCHOOL! When I went to Uganda in November, I knew the nonprofit would be helping families of orphan and vulnerable children become sustainable through business trainings. As we began identifying families to help in the community, we took a step back and said, how do you identify a vulnerable child? It is normally a child that is not in school and/or malnourished. Why is the child not in school? It could be distance, it could be the cost, or even not valuing education. So what would be the best action to get kids in school? Helping the families generate income is a start and educating them about the importance of education. Then the next question became, will they get a quality education? And the answer is probably not. I could not turn away from this need, so after feeling confirmation through prayer, we decided to pursue building a primary school!

I am completely overwhelmed and overjoyed of how God has worked this into our plans. My mom is a teacher and education “runs in my blood” as I like to say. This past August, my mom opened her own preschool. Living at home during the planning time of early 2016 and staying a few months past opening, I was able to help with the entire process. I had no idea that God was preparing me to open a primary school in Uganda!!

We have already purchased enough land to build the school on! The school will serve children from “baby class” (three-year-old’s) through Primary 7 (seventh grade). The first year will have classes from Preschool through Primary 4. Then we will add on as the students age. Our goal is to begin building by August (or earlier if we raise the necessary funds) and be open for the 2018 school year which starts in February in Uganda.

 

3. I also want to share our mission statement with you! Following Christ’s example of loving and serving others, Ignite Change empowers families to achieve a bright and sustainable future.

 

Thank you for all the prayers and support that have lead us up to this point! I am so excited for all that God has in store for many years to come!

-Emily

First Business Budgeting Class

This past week we conducted our first business budgeting class with the three families we have been working with. Some of the answers we received blew me away! I would like to share those with you.

 

We had a few baseline questions, then we read Psalm 89:11.

“The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it.”

-Psalm 89:11

This verse tells us that God owns everything – He allows us to use and enjoy things, but nothing truly belongs to us. We are stewards of God’s creation.

 

How do you feel about the idea we are managers of God’s creation and do not own anything?

Helen: We don’t need to worry because all items belong to God.

 

How might you spend your money differently if you always remembered that everything belongs to God?

Dennis: When someone helps someone else in the community, they go praising that person’s name. They should be praising God instead.

 

We then decided on chicken-rearing to work through the budgeting process. It turns out the current method used actually loses money over the six-month period from chick to sale. This is a common practice to try and raise money. It was an eye-opening example of why some people are stuck in poverty. This also gave us motivation to continue working with families to identify work that generates income.

 

WP_20170302_007

Helen with a few beautiful African fabrics!

In previous conversations, we discussed local market gaps that have the potential to make a steady income. Fabric was identified because it is only offered once a week at high costs. Purchasing fabric in the capital city, Kampala, is less than half the cost. Helen has now received 60 yards of fabric to begin selling in the local market. We are excited to see her progress and share an update in a few weeks!

A Letter From My Mom

I am so thankful for the support I have had from my parents! After arriving back in the US from my first time in Uganda, I mentioned that I wanted to go back. At the beginning they thought I was joking, but as time progressed and I continued bringing it up, they knew I was more serious. I am thankful that I had a cheap place to stay while I paid off all my loans and was saving and hoping for a more permanent return to Uganda.

I had my mom write a letter before I set off to Uganda to share on my blog. Here it is!


As I prepare to once again say “see-you-later” at the airport, my baby girl heads out to a part of the world where I have never been.

 

A part of me is jealous for the advantage that lies ahead. As a person who always has my head in the clouds, I can truly embrace the want to try something new and challenging.

 

However, another part is concerned that I will not be there to watch over her.

 

I found comfort in knowing Emily is in God’s hands and is guiding the decisions to be made. Not only for this undertaking, but in everyone’s life, we can be in no better place than to be doing God’s will and using our talents to further his kingdom on earth.

 

I can’t wait to see what happens and the direction this journey takes. I am sure Emily will do her best to accomplish the goal she has set for herself.

 

Hold on Uganda, here she comes!

 

Love you, Emily!

 

“Jesus guide me through the tempest;
keep my spirit staid and sure.
When the midnight meets the morning,
let me love you even more.

May this journey bring a blessing,
may I rise on wings of faith;
and at the end of my heart’s testing,
with your likeness let me wake.”

 “May this Journey” by Keith & Kristyn Getty

 

Meet Solomon Video

I hope you had a Merry Christmas!

It was nice to spend Christmas in Uganda – there was much less materialist expectations and more emphasis on spending time with family. We traveled to Northern Uganda to visit family members. It was a relaxing (and hot!) Christmas day celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

 

I am very excited to share this video with you!

 

We are looking to empower more families with income generating activities in the coming months. This is a passion of mine because it restores dignity to the families because they are empowered to work and provide for their family instead of continually depending on others. Additionally, this model is more sustainable. The chickens reproduce and can continuously provide income in the future. Stay tuned for us helping this family build a chicken coop to help protect the chickens.

How I Came to This Thinking

Around seventh grade, I fell in love with the idea of traveling internationally. I am not sure what set off this thinking – the furthest my family had traveled internationally was the Canadian side of Niagara Falls (back in the days when you didn’t even need a passport to cross the border). Fast forward to the summer before my senior year of high school, my youth group took a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Though this trip did very little to help the Dominicans we were visiting, seeing the extreme poverty found there changed all our views of how much we have been given. It also challenged my thoughts of how much I can help those struggling to survive.

Shortly after returning from our trip to the Dominican Republic, I began writing admissions essays to various colleges. The prompts for each school required you to explain your main goals in life. Though I wanted to get a degree in Accounting, I wrote that my main goal was to own and operate an orphanage. I have always loved children and seeing them struggle is one of the only things that brings tears to my eyes.

It still amazes me of the seemingly small instances God used that led to me arriving in Uganda for the first time. My freshman year of college was spent at High Point University. At that time, I was double majoring in Nonprofit Management and Accounting. We had to do a research project on a nonprofit of our choosing. While looking into this particular nonprofit, I saw that they had an international finance internship for college graduates. It was right up my alley! Three years later, I was accepted as a finance intern and was packing to go to Uganda!

During my five months in Uganda, I fell in love! (I will write a blog about this soon). I could really see myself opening an orphanage here. One of my Ugandan coworkers and I began hanging out. At one meal, I shared my dream of opening an orphanage. She started asking me some very hard questions:

“Where do you think, these orphans come from?”

Me: “Their parents die, HIV/AIDS is prevalent here.”

“Both parents dying from HIV happens less than you think. Even so, why should a child not go to live with their extended family?”

Me: “I don’t know.”

“The problem is more than you can see or imagine. 80% of the children in Ugandan orphanages have either one or both parents living. Most children in Uganda end up in orphanages due to poverty. If this is the case, why not empower their families to sustain themselves rather than adding more problems by opening an orphanage?”

I began thinking about these questions more and more. For those of you with children (and those of you imagining you have children one day) imagine you and your significant other both dying in a tragic accident. What will happen to your children? You probably came up with a list of 10, maybe even 20 or 30 people that would take your children before they ever ended up in the system. Why do we (myself included) expect differently of those living in poverty? Why does your income dictate whether your child should live in a family setting or end up in an orphanage? It shouldn’t!

And that long story is how I ended up quitting my job in corporate America and moving to Uganda for a second (and more permanent time)! Please see my first blog post or the About page for more information on the vision for a nonprofit.

It’s Finally Happening!

The Short and Sweet:
In a few weeks I am moving to Uganda! A close Ugandan friend and I are going to form a nonprofit. Our goal is to help vulnerable children impacted by poverty, death, or family and community structure break downs. Due to these circumstances, numerous children have ended up in orphanages who are not actually orphans. One of our objectives will be reunification of families through economic empowerment of vulnerable peoples. We would work with parents to find stable income so that they can support their households again. During this entire process we will teach them about God and His love and sacrifice for every one of us.

The Longer Version:
As most people know, orphanages are commonly built in third-world countries. However, many do not realize the effects orphanages have on the surrounding communities. (I am included in this as I have wanted to build an orphanage since Middle School). Parents who are struggling to provide food and other basic necessities give their children away in hopes of a better life. The children DO have food on their plates and most go to school. Yet these children grow up labeled as “orphans” without a family structure. A great option for these children would be adoption, however, most of these orphanages do not have legal barring to adopt.
At this point, I say enough is enough! Let’s empower these parents with job training and micro-loans so they are able to support their families. These children will then be raised as children (and not orphans) in their own loving home.

So please join me in prayer as I start off on this challenging journey. I know this is what God has planned for me and I know that I am not alone.
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; 
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
Isaiah 43:1 -5