If you frequent our blog, you probably know that we do a lot of work in Southern Africa working with orphaned & abandoned children. If this is the first time hearing us talk about that, click here or here to read about some of our trips over the past year. Or click here to read about the awesome friendship bracelets that our friends/readers of this blog made and that we hand delivered to the kids in August of 2010 :) Today we are so excited to share with you the BRAND SPANKIN' NEW website for Houses of Hope Africa. Please click here & browse around the new site. A big thanks to Todd of Todd James Photography for doing the site.
To celebrate this exciting milestone we are auctioning off items from the "A Night For Hope" benefit concert last year (If you don't know about #anightforhope click here to read about the awesome concert we had last December). We will be auctioning the items via eBay & all of the proceeds will go directly to help the kids in Southern Africa.
Since we have been doing so much work on the website and looking at which pictures to put on the site, etc. the kids have been heavily on my mind. It seems every conversation I find myself having I find someway to bring it around to Africa...and the kids...I cannot help but think about it all the time. I thought I'd share one story about why I believe in the work that HOHA (Houses Of Hope Africa ;)) does...okay...well....actually two little stories.
The first story is this:
Our last day of being with the kids last March was a Saturday and we were having all sorts of fun playing with the kids--it was a beautiful, hot African day. We were making such a ruckus that many of the surrounding neighborhood kids came to play with us as well. When I looked around at some of the neighbor kids and then looked at some of the kids living at HOH--I compared a bit. I wondered if the kids at HOH were in better hands...I knew they were getting three meals a day, they had a warm comfortable place to sleep, they were getting their AIDS/HIV medicine if they were positive, they were seeing a counselor once a week, they were going to school, they were involved in a church, etc. As I looked around and surveyed for a bit--the kids at HOH were happy. Don't get me wrong, these are kids that have seen horrific nightmares I cannot begin to describe or imagine, but because of the work that HOHA's are doing...they are doing better. Possibly better than some of the surrounding community children. Right then and there on that Saturday it hit me...WE NEED TO BUILD MORE HOUSES!!! There are SO many children that are displaced...and we can have a place for them.
Okay--second story--when we went last August to visit the kids, a little thirteen year-old girl had been dropped off at the home hours earlier. Both of her parents had died, she has AIDS, she was living with a relative who was raping her and physically abusing her and finally had been brought to one of Houses of Hope. She was frail both emotionally and physically. Her cheeks were sunken in and she didn't have much meat on her bones. I kept thinking to myself--holy crap--hours ago those terrifying things were a reality to her and now she's here. Safe. Warm. Fed. It was haunting to me that she had just been to hell and back and now she was standing in front of me. The week with her has stayed with me and I've re-told her story to many people because these are the stories of many of these kids.
But the story doesn't end there. When we recently went back in March, she was still there and I almost didn't recognize her. Seriously. She has gained weight so her cheeks have filled out, she was generally arm-in-arm with another girl as they giggled and laughed at pretty much everything while walking across the property. I seriously could not believe my eyes. Seven months at one of the HOH's had changed this girl. She is getting medicine to help with the terrible disease her body is fighting, she was surrounded by new friends, she had a warm bed every night. I seriously cannot express how different she not only looked, but acted.
As I left in March, tears abounded from my eyes and down my cheeks. Every time I have to leave the kids it makes my heart ache, but the tears this time were also happy ones. These kids were doing well. They were happy. They laughed. They sang. They hugged. This was working. Houses of Hope were truly living up to their name and giving hope.
I once heard someone say, "If you have hope, you have everything."
-kate (and jill)