published in Children • Christmas Action • COVID-19 • Disability • Education • Emergency • Family • Food Security • Gifts of Grace • Health / Healthcare • Human Rights • Refugees • Sustainable Development • Take Action • WASH • Water • Your Love At Work on September 30, 2020
COVID-19 HOPE Spots!
Everyone is talking about COVID-19 Hotspots – so let’s enjoy some COVID-19 HOPE Spots!
HOPE Spot #11: Wednesday 24 March 2021
Fire inside Rohingya refugee camp
You may have seen news reports of the massive fire in the Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh …
… and be worried about the people you help here through ALWS.
As you know, the Bangladesh Camps are now ‘home’ to nearly one million Rohingya people forced to flee their true home in Rakhine State in Myanmar.
Let me share with you what we know so far.
The UN reports:
- 15 people killed, including children
- 550 people injured
- 400 people missing
- 45,000 people homeless
- 10,000 shelters destroyed
Before the fire was brought under control, our Regional Emergency Hub Coordinator, Bhoj Raj Khanal, reported:
A deadly fire took place in Cox’s Bazaar Rohingya refugee camp # 8W, 9, 10 and 8E today. The fire is still out of control and it is spreading towards camp # 11, 7 and 17. RDRS Emergency Programme (LREP) working camps (Camp # 18, 12 and 2 East) are still safe but if the fire can’t be controlled soon, it might affect Camp # 12 which is one of LREP working areas.
YOUR ALWS ACTION
At this stage, it appears the work you support through ALWS can continue:
- clean and repair latrines
- clean and repair drainage
- ensure Tube Wells are operative
- WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) awareness-raising
- Dignity Kits for women (detergent, soap, sanitary napkins)
- Household essentials for people with disabilities
- Restoring camp environment with tree-planting
- Cash-for-work projects
- Training in poultry-raising
- Supplementary food for pregnant and lactating women
NB: Much of this work also supports protection against COVID-19
FIRE DANGER IN CAMPS
The risk of fire is an ongoing danger in crowded refugee camps. People cook over fires, and use oil lamps for light.
I remember meeting a family in a refugee camp the ALWS family supported in Djibouti. The mum, Kafia, told me what happened to them:
“Last year my house was burned. The wind blew over the lamp.
My child was badly burned, and my husband was burned too.
My husband was admitted to hospital, but now he cannot work because of the burns. My son is still affected.”
When Dad and son showed me their burns, it was horrifying …
… but even worse was the pain in their faces as they struggled to survive this extra challenge in their lives after they had to flee their home in Somalia as refugees.
Yet, in spite of all this, Kafia held onto hope you opened for her family through ALWS support for schools in the camp:
“I miss my future – but I am not going to miss my children’s future.
The most important thing for a better life is education.
This is the hope I have for my children.”
Meanwhile, people still in Myanmar continue to suffer after the military coup earlier this year.
Your ALWS work inside Myanmar is focused on Rohingya people forced to live in Displaced Persons Camps in Rakhine State. The team you support reported this week they have had to raise the Risk Level to Level 4, on a scale of 5. This means:
Your ALWS work inside Myanmar is focused on Rohingya people forced to live in Displaced Persons Camps in Rakhine State. The team you support reported this week they have had to raise the Risk Level to Level 4, on a scale of 5.
Extra precautions are being taken to plan for all contingencies. These extra security measures allow staff to continue to work safely alongside vulnerable communities, sometimes remotely.
Despite the risks, the team in Myanmar are committed to helping people without discrimination. Leaders have shared that ‘we are committed to doing as much as we can, for as long as we can wherever we can. We are here to serve the people of Myanmar.’
The team you support report that the Cease Fire in Rakhine has improved access to partner villages in rural areas, (though it remains riskier in urban areas).
The team asked ALWS to tell you:
“We are continuing our work in solidarity
with our partner communities and camps
and thank you all for your continued flexible support.”
These are tough times for the people of Myanmar – whether inside the country after the military coup, or as refugees forced to Bangladesh.
As Australia battles floods along our east coast, it can be easy for our country not to see the needs of others further away.
I thank God that you do.
Through ALWS, your kindness and generosity tell the people of Myanmar they are not forgotten. They are not alone. They can hold onto the hope that people care. And that is a blessing ALWayS.
On behalf of all those you help, thank you.
PS: If you’d like to help the people of Myanmar by supporting ongoing ALWS work in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, and Displaced Persons Camps inside Myanmar, you can donate here. Thank you!
HOPE Spot #10: Friday 19 March 2021
Your COVID-19 action in PNG … and Sister Joan
In a moment I want to tell you about Sister Joan …
… and how brave women like her on the front-line of Lutheran Health Services to the PNG community can inspire you and me, as we respond to the emerging COVID-19 crisis.
PNG COVID CRISIS
So far, 1,400 active cases have been officially reported, but there are fears the real number is much higher. (Testing rates are very low.)
News reports suggest HALF of pregnant women coming to hospitals have COVID-19.
That’s why ALWS welcomes the Australian Government directing 8,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for front-line health-workers. We also support the Australian Government seeking a further one million more doses for across PNG.
YOUR ALWS ACTION
Your ALWS work in PNG happens through a Church Partnership Program, commenced in 2004. The Partnership brings together:
- Baptist Union
- Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG
- Roman Catholic Church
- Seventh Day Adventist
- The Salvation Army
- United Church
Churches provide 50% of Health Services in PNG, and the Australian Government knows the effectiveness of churches working together in PNG to reach the most remote regions, and the fact that church leaders are a respected and trusted source of information.
Therefore, our prayer is the Australian Government will support the efforts of churches in this COVID-19 response. In particular, supporting churches to:
- Refer patients for COVID testing
- Conduct rapid COVID tests
- Treat COVID patients
- Where necessary identify ‘overflow’ and isolation spaces
- Administer vaccines
- Deliver key health messages via radio, TV and social media
- Provide rural and remote communities with items like soap so they can practice COVID-safe behaviour
- Provide health staff with PPE and training in infection control
- Coordinate churches’ response
This church partnership work against COVID-19 in PNG is supported by churches of different denominations in Australia, including coming together through CAN-DO (Church Agencies Network – Disaster Operations), of which ALWS is a founding member.
One in every six people in PNG identifies as a Lutheran – around 1.5 million people …
… and Sister Joan is one of them. She studied at the Lutheran School of Nursing in Madang.
When I met Sister Joan, she worked at the Tent City Clinic in Lae, and I remain inspired by her example of living her values in everyday life. I thought you might be too:
“When I was small, I was a sick child. My parents must often take me to clinics, so my parents told me I should become a nurse so I could look after myself.
In this clinic we see outpatients with respiratory infections, skin disease, fever and malaria.
We also care for pregnant mothers, and babies come for immunisation. We also do family planning.
There around 18,000 people in our catchment area. In one day we may see more than 100 out-patients, and more than 50 babies.
People pay 2 Kina ($1 AUD) to come here, children 1 Kina. There are still some who cannot come because they cannot afford this. When they do later find the money to come, they will be much sicker.
If I was in charge, I would tell people
if you don’t have money, still come.
We will help you.
We do not have time for morning devotions because people are already here waiting. If they have money, or no money, we just help them. We give our hearts.
I am sometimes challenged by the work when we are overloaded, but I chose to serve. That is my calling.”
What I see in Sister Joan, I see in people like you too.
You don’t make a fuss, you just get on with helping people. Even when you feel challenged, or overloaded.
That’s why, as I report to you today about your ALWS PNG COVID-19 action, I also just wanted to say thank you for being a Sister Joan in your own way.
The Church Partnership Program is supported by the Australian Government through the Papua New Guinea–Australia Partnership.
HOPE Spot #9: Friday 5 March 2021
Coffee takes the cake
You might wonder how coffee and cake can help in training for the 26 kilometres walk of Walk My Way?
(Especially after I told you earlier this week about Rachael and her Walk My Way Ability chocolate!)
Come with me, up to Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills, where a café is brewing up support for Walk My Way.
Hahndorf is where our first Walk My Way started. Part of the St Michael’s Lutheran ministry here is the John 3:16 Café.
Managing the 150 coffees the café serves to the community each week is Sarah.
She’s as passionate about helping refugee children go to school as she is about serving up great coffee.
Perhaps that’s because John 3:16 is across the road from St Michael’s Lutheran School.
“Each day I see the mums and dads dropping off their kids at school.
I know many make sacrifices so they can give the children the best education they can. That’s why it breaks my heart to know that children in refugee camps in East Africa are missing out, no matter what their mums and dads do.
That’s why I’m so excited about Walk My Way. To know that just $26 can support a refugee child in school for a year – that’s amazing. That’s not much more than a coffee a day here in the café!
We may be just a little local church café, but there’s no reason that we can’t have a global impact.”
Sarah has put up a big poster promoting Walk My Way, and is encouraging all her customers to add $2 to their bill to help refugee children go to school.
TAKE THE CAKE
Meanwhile, in the Barossa Valley, St Jakobi Lutheran Campus in Lyndoch is the finish line for our first post-COVID Walk My Way.
Right across the road, Ken Semmler is growing grapes for brilliant Barossa reds …
… and baking apples into pastry to sustain Walk My Way organisers.
Ken’s support of Walk My Way goes way back, as he supported his wife Helen in leading the Lutheran Community Sewing Group, where former refugees sewed Thank You gifts for previous Walkers.
Whether it’s coffee or cake …
… walking 26 kilometres or less
… joining the Barossa Valley Walk My Way on Saturday 1 May or doing it at another time or place that suits you better
… everyone can find a way to help refugee children go to school through Walk My Way.
So what will you do? You can:
- Register to do Walk My Way – in whatever way suits you best
- Sponsor me in my personal Walk
- Give a donation – $26 supports one refugee child at school for a year
- Volunteer – we need Traffic Marshalls, Breakfast Packers, Musicians, Cleaner-Upperers – we can find something that suits YOU
walkmyway.org.au * 1300 763 407
After all the challenges of COVID-19, it’s vital we get refugee children back to school, so they can again have the hope of the better future education brings.
That’s why the children need you to be part of Walk My Way.
Whatever you do, I am happy to volunteer to keep on tasting cakes and coffee and chocolate 😊
STEPPING OUT … SO REFUGEE CHILDREN CAN STEP IN TO SCHOOL!
HOPE Spot #8: Wednesday 3 March 2021
What is your Ability?
I never thought my training for this year’s Walk My Way would include eating chocolate – but I’m happy to take one (or a hundred) for the team!
Rachael, a wonderful young lady in the Barossa Valley, is making and donating chocolate with her mum Chris to encourage Walk My Way Walkers on Saturday 1 May…
and so help more refugee children go to school!
Rachael lives with a disability caused by Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder (one in 50,000 births) that can delay development and growth, and cause seizures.
At birth, Rachael weighed only 1.3kg.
When she was diagnosed at age 3, the doctors told Chris and husband Noel that Rachael’s ‘past was her future’, as children with this disorder generally have a very short lifespan.
Rachael is proving them wrong!
Now aged 26, Rachael completed school at various Lutheran schools in the Barossa Valley.
After that, she badly wanted to get a job like everyone else, but it was a struggle to find a job that matched her skills
That’s when an elderly gentleman
(90 year old chocolatier Bryon)
gave Rachael and Chris an idea …
… and recipes for the chocolate he sold
at Barossa Farmers Market, alongside their stall!
Bryon was looking to retire from his business, and suggested chocolates could become Rachael’s business. That’s where Ability Chocolates was born!
Now, Chris does the making, and Rachael does the packing, labelling and delivering. Chris explains the importance of Ability Chocolates this way:
“Everybody has ability, and sometimes we just need to find the right way to empower people to unlock that ability.
That’s why we set up Ability Chocolates, and that’s why we love the way ALWS empowers people in poor communities to start their own business – including people with disabilities.
It’s important in any business too that you give something back to the community.
That’s why we want to support Walk My Way. Rachael had the blessing of a Lutheran education, so it’s wonderful that through Walk My Way we can help refugee children have a Lutheran-supported education too.”
Chris uses their family’s nightly devotions to explain to Rachael about Walk My Way and the importance of helping refugee children going to school.
As for Rachael, she’s not only busy packing hundreds of chocolates, she’s very excited to attend the Walk My Way Breakfast & Blessing to encourage Walkers, and remind them there’s a delicious surprise waiting for them along the way!
So, what can you do to support refugee children go to school through Walk My Way?
- Register to do Walk My Way – in whatever way suits you best
- Sponsor me in my personal Walk
- Give a donation – $26 supports one refugee child at school for a year
- Volunteer – we need Traffic Marshalls, Breakfast Packers, Musicians, Cleaner-Upperers – we can find something that suits YOU
walkmyway.org.au * 1300 763 407
We are stepping out in faith on Saturday 1 May, after COVID-19 cancelled last year’s public Walks. Our hope is the Barossa Valley Walk My Way , and other Walk your Ways people do across the country, can support 10,000 children to step into school.
If you too, like Rachael, have the Ability to help – thank you!
HOPE Spot #7: Friday 26 February 2021
Our brother, Christian…
This is Christian – our ALWS rep for Queensland.
I’ve shared with you before about Christian’s journey after a cancer diagnosis 18 months ago.
All of us at ALWS consider you family …
… so want to let you know that on Monday 22 February our Lord took Christian home to be with Him.
It was a peaceful passing, with Christian’s wife of 15 years Tanya, and his mum and dad, at his bedside.
Christian was born on 28.6.1980, so his passing was too soon for all of us who knew and loved him …
… yet not too soon for Christian to make an impact on hundreds of lives through his service as a teacher in Lutheran schools in Nhill, Brisbane and Hervey Bay, and in serving the poor through ALWS.
Christian was always looking for new ideas to inspire people to help the poor.
He’d trek out to the most remote parts of Queensland to share at a church service or Ladies Fellowship …
… then front up the next day to deliver classroom presentations to students in Lutheran schools.
Christian created the Refu.Me Challenge where students could get a taste of what it was like to be a refugee.
When ALWS held Walk My Way, Christian was determined to do the full 26 kilometres, despite knowing the strain it would put on his body…
… and then still found the energy to sizzle snags for Walkers, and entertain them as he served – as you can see here!
You might ask where the ‘hope’ is in this HOPE Spot.
Quite simply, Christian’s faith sustained him through all the challenges his cancer brought.
Christian was confident a place was prepared for him in heaven. This hope meant that on earth Christian could keep loving and serving others, despite what he faced. He kept looking for ways to bring love to life, and help those we serve together at ALWS – especially those who faced being forgotten as the world focused on the COVID-19 challenge …
… like children in refugee camps.
As a teacher, Christian was passionate about the importance of making sure refugee children could go to school. So much so, that even in his final months, Christian found a way to help – using his passion for wood-working to make 80 x foot-shaped key-rings to promote Walk My Way!
Christian was a larger-than-life man, and so leaves a larger-than-life gap in our hearts.
Our thoughts now are with Tanya, and their 9 year old son Jasper. They can be very proud of what God has done in so many lives through their husband and dad…
… and all of us can take hope knowing that Christian’s passion for helping the poor lives on in what people like you do through ALWS. Thank you for sharing this special time with us.
PS: Christian is being farewelled on Monday 1 March at 9.30 (Qld time) at St James Lutheran Church in Hervey Bay. Tanya has invited people attending to wear an ALWS t-shirt (to make Christian smile) and to give donations to ALWS in lieu of flowers (to make Christian’s heart sing).
For now there are faith, hope, and love.
But of these three, the greatest is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13 (CEV)
HOPE Spot #6: Wednesday 24 February 2021
13 cucumbers and one million loaves of bread
Yesterday I picked 13 cucumbers from the two plants in my veggie garden.
This follows the 13 I picked last week.
MORE CUCUMBERS …
Someone else who grows cucumbers is Shankar Prasad in Nepal, one of 10 farm families you support in his village through ALWS.
Before your help, these families had no land.
They were poorest of the poor, forgotten by nearly everybody…
… except you.
Through ALWS, you support these 10 families by:
- leasing land for them for two years
- supplying boreholes and pumps for irrigation
- training them in improved farming techniques.
During the two-year lease, the aim is to help farmers develop their businesses enough so they can continue paying the lease on the land, and in order to be secure. This is sustainable, long term development.
For Shankar, it means growing grows tomatoes, chillies and beans (just as I also do), along with the cucumbers and many varieties of local vegetables.
In the 4 minutes video you can watch here …
… you will see how the vegetables you help grow are transforming the lives of these 10 families – even leading to an Award for Excellence from the local government!
COVID-19 caused crop damage in the cucumbers and beans, because they couldn’t be picked when ready, and prices dropped …
… but Shankar is still hugely happy with the progress he has made, and wishes to thank you directly – Watch here
ONE MILLION LOAVES OF BREAD …
Just after I watched this video, I had a call from a farmer north of Adelaide.
The farmer told me he only had a small farm, but had this year harvested enough wheat to make one million loaves of bread!
They’d had Harvest Thanksgiving at church, and now wanted to turn that celebration into action to help people through ALWS – people like Shankar.
… FIVE LOAVES OF BREAD
Shankar’s vegetables …
… and the farmer’s bread
… made me think of the time Jesus fed the crowd following him, blessing five loaves of bread and two fish a young boy had brought along for lunch.
The story reminded me of you:
Just like Jesus, you see a need and want to help.
Just like that young boy, you may think your offering
too ‘small’ to make an impact on all the need you see.
Just like the crowd, you then marvel at how kindness
can grow and transform people’s lives ALWayS.
We call what Jesus did for the crowd a miracle.
When you see what your kindness does for Shankar, and the other farmers, and their families, I think you might call that a ‘miracle’ too! Watch here
PS: If you have any ideas on how I can use 13 cucumbers, please let me know!
(Someone suggested ‘Dill’ – but I think they may have been referring to me!)
HOPE Spot #5: Wednesday 17 February 2021
For five days she carried her little daughter on her back.
Walked 225 kilometres.
Leaving everything behind.
The conflict between Tigray and Ethiopia that began on Wednesday 4 November last year.
You may not have heard of this conflict.
It displaced nearly one million people, but barely made the news in Australia.
And now, after a summer of cricket and COVID and tennis, no one is talking about it.
These people are forgotten.
But not by you.
Through ALWS, with our partner LWF Ethiopia, you will be there to welcome and care for displaced people like this family, as they flee to Mekelle the capital of Tigray.
Security reasons mean I can’t tell you this mother and child’s names …
… but I can pass on what Mum told your LWF team as they planned your work on the front line.
Mum said they had no food or water on the road, and survived only because soldiers took pity and shared rations with them. At night, people would climb trees to hide from armed forces, and protect themselves from wild animals.
Despite all the hardships, Mum says:
“We were lucky we fled in the early days of the conflict,
and thank God that we did not see bodies
littering the highway, or witness heavy fighting.”
The family were separated from their relatives. Mum shared:
“I don’t even know where they are,
if they are dead or alive.
I don’t know if our house is still standing.
We have absolutely no news.”
This family now live with 1,606 other displaced people in a school turned into a refuge. There are 8 rooms, and only 4 wash basins for all those people.
COVID-19 is a severe threat.
Sophie Gebrayes from LWF Ethiopia visited the displaced people (that’s Sophie nursing another mother’s baby) and told me:
“I was astonished in Tigray that no one wears masks.
People told us masks had been in force before the conflict,
but now no one cares. Total complacency has set in.
I am so worried. This is a time-bomb
that could explode any time. On top of everything else.”
(‘Everything else ’ is drought, flood, conflict and locust plagues.)
With COVID-19, it’s not just the lack of masks that put people in danger.
Families have poor nutrition, lack water, live in overcrowded conditions, and health systems are stretched or broken. (Definitely not the Hotel Quarantine we argue about in Australia.)
This crisis is why ALWS has joined the actions of churches from around the world through ACT Alliance to welcome and care for 246,624 displaced people.
Your ALWS help is delivered by LWF Ethiopia, and is planned to include:
2,665 children under 15
Famix – therapeutic food.
WASH (Water & Sanitation)
Restore, extend and add water-points.
Across all arrivals
Plastic sheets, mattresses, bed-sheets, blankets, pillows.
Seeds and farm tools.
The world may look at the conflict in Tigray, and ask: “Who knew?”
Through ALWS, you are there to help make sure these people are not forgotten.
(Just as you are for Rohingya people displaced by the crisis in Myanmar.)
ALWS has committed an immediate $25,000 to help families cope with being displaced, and to protect them from COVID-19. We pray that soon peace will return so they can go home.
Thank you for your ongoing care to people through ALWS.
Your kindness and commitment are the reason ALWS can take your help straightaway to places like Tigray and Myanmar, where you are needed most.
That’s why you are a blessing ALWayS.
PS: Thank you for understanding the need to keep families safe in this situation by not identifying them by name. All people did give Informed Consent to share their story and photo with you. If you would like to give extra help, you are welcome. Simply donate here.
Photos: Sophie Gebreyes/LWF/2021
HOPE Spot #4: Wednesday 10 February 2021
Miracle in Myanmar
I don’t know how Showkat manages the smile you see here.
(That’s her on the left, with the sister who takes care of her.)
Before I tell you more about Showkat’s smile, let me update you on your ALWS work inside Myanmar. As you’d understand, we need to be very sensitive at this time about what we share in the on-line space.
The partner you support in Myanmar through ALWS updated us yesterday. These are their words:
Now, back to Showcat. Some would call her smile a miracle.
You see, Showkat lives in a camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP)
Myanmar, where a military coup last week has left people on edge.
For Showkat and her family, this comes after 8 long years of fear and uncertainty in the IDP Camp. They came here when conflict drove Rohingya people like them from their homes in Rakhine State in Myanmar.
The camp where they are forced to live now is severely over-crowded.
Sanitation is basic. COVID-19 is a real risk.
Before help from agencies like ALWS, there was little chance for any of the 30,000 children here to go to school.
Showkat has never had the chance to go to school.
The 15 year old has a disability that means she cannot speak, can barely walk, and has difficulty using her hands. Showkat’s mum Arefa explains:
“We tried Showkat once in kindergarten,
but the teachers couldn’t care for her,
as they have to watch so many children.”
No one yet knows what last week’s events will mean for the everyday people of Myanmar, let alone the 144,000 Rohingya people confined to IDP Camps.
Including 30,000 children.
Dozens with disabilities like Showkat.
Yet, Showkat has this miracle smile.
She has seen other children go off to the Temporary Learning Centres supported by ALWS, and finds a way to communicate with her family that she wants to go to school too.
Principal Yunus, who you see here with Showkat, says he would love to welcome Showkat into school – along with the 14 other children in this part of the camp who also have disabilities.
“The teacher would like to open a class for them, but does not know where to start.
We will need qualified teachers.
It would also be great if we had a proper classroom, together with physical assistance and mental support for them.”
This is where you step in.
Through ALWS, you make sure children like Showkat are not forgotten.
Partnered by the Australian Government, you support a 3 Step Program to help children with disabilities in the IDP Camps to go to school. You:
- Identify children with special needs
- Map the things that stop these children going to school
- Plan ways to overcome the challenges
What you do for children
Phyu Zin Thet Naing, an Education Officer you support to work in the camp, describes the kinds of help you give children like Showkat:
“These could include physical improvements to Temporary Learning Centres. The provision of assistive devices. Training for teachers on how to identify and support children with disabilities who are already in their classrooms.”
Your ALWS action also includes an Accelerated Learning Program for over-age students who have missed out on school, so they can catch up and integrate into mainstream schools.
When COVID-19 forced the closure of schools last year, your team found new ways to make sure children didn’t miss out on school.
They developed home-based learning materials, which were made disability-inclusive, to help children with disabilities get ready for mainstream school.
It is too soon to know what impact the current crisis will have on the Temporary Learning Centres you support inside the IDP Camps.
For now, Showkat (who you see here with her mum) must wait a little longer for school.
What I do know is that the education you support
is a precious gift to any child inside these IDP Camps.
When I visited a couple of years ago, the children told me how excited they were to go to school. They wanted to learn new things and make new friends and have something positive to do to fill their days.
Best of all, the education they receive is something
no one can take away – it is a blessing ALWayS.
Perhaps that’s why Showkat can keep on smiling despite all the challenges she faces.
Thank you for everything you do through ALWS for children like Showkat. And for all the other children you help go to school inside the IDP Camps in Myanmar. And the refugee children in East Africa you support through Walk My Way and 10,000 Back to School.
As we confront whatever happens next in Myanmar …
… your kindness and commitment will be more precious than ever … giving the miracle gift of school … so special children like Showkat keep on having a reason to smile. Thank you!
PS: If you’d like to support school for children in IDP Camps in Myanmar during this challenging time, you can donate here – thank you!
HOPE Spot #3: Friday 5 February 2021
When nothing is something
On Australia Day weekend, my wife Julie and I drove from Brisbane to Hervey Bay to visit our ALWS colleague, Christian.
While we didn’t go via V-Dub …
(the one you see here is Christian’s pride & joy, which he let me drive to remind me of my first car 40 years ago – a ’66 Beetle named Radish)
… the bumper-to-bumper traffic did make the journey seem a long way (four hours).
It’s even further from Hervey Bay to Portland in Victoria (23 hours and 30 minutes by car – if borders are open).
However, it is a much longer way still from both of those places to Trapeang Angkrong Village in Cambodia.
Yet, people (just like you) from Hervey Bay and Portland in Australia are coming close to people like Mrs Chann Moa who lives in Trapeang Angkrong.
Through ALWS, you are helping provide protection from COVID-19 …
Photo: LWD Cambodia
… and transforming life in a way that creates this kind of smile!
Mrs Chann Moa is a widow, and one of the poorest people in her community. Too often, people like her are forgotten, and their daily survival needs overlooked.
Before the help through Hervey Bay and Portland, (supported by the Australian Government), Mrs Chann had never had water near her house:
“Almost my whole life I have never had water near my house.
I must bring it from the stream or the pond far away from my house,
and must spend a lot of time to bring it.”
As she got older, Mrs Chann had to spend nearly a dollar a day to buy water.
This may not seem a lot to you and me, but someone in poverty in Cambodia may have to live on as little as $2 a day. That’s why Mrs Chann says:
“Thank you so much for your kind assistance. Now I no longer have to buy water like I did before.”
The clean water Mrs Chann now has comes because the people of Hervey Bay and Portland supported Mrs Chann’s community to build this water tower near a local dam.
Photo: LWD Cambodia
The tank holds 10,000 litres of water. Once the water is pumped in, it can then be gravity-fed via pipes to households like Mrs Chann’s.
If you look closely in the photo, you can see both the ALWS logo and the Australian Government logo, who support your ALWS work through Life With Dignity (LWD) in Cambodia.
When I look at the water tower, and Mrs Chann’s smile, it reminds me that kindness can bring us close, no matter what the challenges … and that means a better life for a widow like Mrs Chann:
“I really appreciate the ALWS donors and LWD
who have provided this water irrigation system,
even though this project is in a remote area
that most people in Cambodia don’t know.
I do not have anything to give back to you.
I have only my hand to wave, and wish all the people
who have helped develop and support this project
to be healthy, and have happiness in their family,
and be safe from COVID-19.”
The people you help through ALWS are the poorest and most disadvantaged in their community. Your kindness brings you close, and tells them they are not forgotten.
I hope you can see here how the practical help you provide can be a blessing ALWayS.
While Mrs Chann may worry she has nothing
to give back to you to thank you …
… you and I know her smile is thanks enough.
Her ‘nothing’ is really something! 😊
HOPE Spot #2: Friday 22 January 2021
How old do you have to be to change someone’s world?
I had a lovely experience after church on Sunday.
Was tossing around a ball with a 12 year old, talking about his favourite rap singers, and he asked me from his wheelchair how old I was.
I said ‘Guess’.
He said ‘40’.
I said ‘YESSS!’
(I haven’t been 40 for 21 years 😊 )
That little experience made me think about how old you need to be to change the world.
And that led me to the Foundation students at Eudunda Lutheran Primary School in SA…
Julie ran an Awareness Day for them a while back, before COVID stopped all that. The children’s teacher, Sue Denholm, shared:
“After your session with Junior Primary,
the Foundation students collected
spare change to buy Gifts of Grace.
They collected $10 over a couple of weeks
and chose to buy chickens and learning posters,
and are very excited they have helped families
who do not have all the things that they have.”
Around the same time, Nita Jansen celebrated her 100th birthday …
Instead of gifts for herself, Nita asked people to give gifts to help children at Kakuma Refugee Camp to go to school. The $1095 donated supports 42 children for a year.
“I have always loved children.
They bring goodness into our lives.
That’s why I wanted to help
the children in the refugee camp.
I’ve been a big supporter of ALWS,
especially at Christmas time,
with Gifts of Grace. It is dear to my heart
to help people in need.”
So, how old do you need to be to change the world?
Exactly the age you are now. 😊
Photo 1: Eudunda LPS, Photo 2: supplied, Photo 3: ALWS/Helene Wikstrom
HOPE Spot #1: Friday 15 January 2021
What floods can’t wash away
Here I was thinking you wouldn’t need any HOPE Spots this year as COVID-19 would be all sorted out, and life would be back to normal …
… instead, we still have Hot Spots, and don’t have vaccinations, and never quite know if borders are open or closed!
Yet compared to COVID disasters like the US and UK, we can count ourselves truly blessed.
Perhaps that’s why Australians are spending $19.5 BILLION in the post-Christmas sales (Australian Retailers Association)!!!
Your first HOPE Spot for 2021
starts in the floodwaters
of Panyagor in South Sudan.
Panyagor is the base for your ALWS work across Jonglei State, and you can see by the local church at Christmas how desperate things are.
LWF Program Coordinator in South Sudan, Collins Onyango, emailed us sharing:
As you may all be aware, this year we have had unprecedented array of challenges that have negatively impacted our project delivery. First it was the onset of the pandemic. As we were strategizing on how to adopt our actions to the new reality, Jonglei suffered major flooding due to the river Nile bursting its banks and going beyond all the dykes that had been erected. As I write, our team in Jonglei has now been relocated after the floods took over the entire Panyagor centre and indeed our entire office is now fully flooded to knee level.
You might wonder how there can be a HOPE Spot in all this?
The answer is INSIDE that church building surrounded by floodwaters …
Despite facing flood … COVID-19 … the threat of tribal conflict … uncertain peace after decades of civil war … ongoing poverty …
… the community still came together to celebrate the true hope of Christmas.
(This community in Panyagor in South Sudan is so remote that they have been safe from COVID-19, meaning they can still gather together in worship and praise God loudly and long – I know many of us in Australia will wish we could do the same!)
… and your LWF team in South Sudan, rather than give up, simply asked for an extra 3 months to implement all the work you support here through ALWS:
- 16 teachers for 4 x Early Learning Centres
- 10,390 children in Primary Schools
- 150 young people in Secondary School
- 325 people in 13 Farmer Field Schools
- 30 people in Fishing Groups
- 80 people in 4 x Seed Grower Groups
- Restocking (goats, sheep) for 600 families
You can buy a lot of ‘stuff’ in Australia with $19.5 billion of post-Christmas sales …
… but you can’t buy courage and resilience, and the faith to hold on even when it seems you have been forgotten by the world.
As we step into the unknowns of 2021, my prayer is you are encouraged by people like the Panyagor community in South Sudan … just as they are encouraged by the kindness and commitment of people like you.
Together, through ALWS, we can build confidence no floodwaters can wash away, and grow hope that is a blessing ALWayS.
PS: You can support a flood-affected family in South Sudan by supplying a Farm Recovery Pack :
- 3kg sorghum
- 3kg maize
- One seed sachet each of:
The investment for each Farm Recovery Pack is $97. Donate here
Photos: LWF South Sudan
HOPE Spot #41: Thursday 24 December 2020
My Christmas gift to you
(from somewhere you won’t expect)
In a normal year, where would you rather spend Christmas – New York City or Kakuma Refugee Camp?
Times Square, snow, turkey, Macys …
… dust-bowl, heat, food rations, shacks?
The answer is easy, isn’t it?
Or is it?
Take 3 minutes and 14 seconds now to watch this video
In this clip from the movie ‘God grew Tired of Us’, you’ll see former refugees from South Sudan compare Christmas at Kakuma to Christmas in the western world.
I think you might be surprised at the Christmas you choose.
This past COVID year many of us have thought again about what is most precious in our lives.
Family. Faith. Friends.
So, while this month Australians will spend $17 billion on Christmas …
… and next month have 10 million unwanted Christmas presents to get rid of (no more socks, please!!!)
… my Christmas gift to you is simple but, I hope, precious.
Let me introduce you to Mrs Pring Rorn.
She’s a widow. Landless. Has a son with a disability. The Cambodian Government has labelled her as ID 1, the poorest of the poor.
As COVID-19 hit Cambodia, the great danger was people like Mrs Pring Rorn could be forgotten.
“Before COVID-19 outbreak, my living depended
on collecting crabs, wild vegetables and morning glory
from rice field and small jungles to earn income.
Although I have some support,
I usually face food shortage
and found a difficult time living with starvation
due to the lack of food.”
That’s where people like you stepped in.
Through ALWS, supported by the Australian Government, Pring received help from our Cambodian partner Life with Dignity (LWD):
- 50kg rice
- 2 litres cooking oil
- 10 cans fish
- 4 bottles fish sauce
- 2kg salt
- 1kg sugar
“Through the support, I can have stable food
for at least two months during the hard time of COVID-19.
Nowadays, I have stored rice
and am not worried about a lack of food.
I am grateful for the support to improve
my food situation during COVID-19 pandemic.”
Safe from starvation, Pring still faced great danger from COVID-19.
At age 66, (in a country where life expectancy for women is only 72), Pring was in the highest risk category.
“When the weather became colder,
and the second wave COVID-19 came,
I was still afraid and scared …
I did not know what will happen to me.”
Your ALWS support through LWD showed Pring how to protect herself from COVID-19 …
“I keep applying personal hygiene and wearing mask,
cleaning my hands and staying away from groups.”
Your kindness to people like Pring goes even further than keeping them safe from hunger and disease …
… Pring has now become a Health Leader in her community!
“For the future, I have learned that awareness
and information on COVID-19
is important to me and my villagers.
I have shared this to my relatives and others.”
My Christmas gift to you is simply Pring’s smile.
That’s the smile of a life transformed.
Instead of Pring being forgotten, your kindness and generosity through ALWS has shown her she is important … her life worth protecting … her energy and courage gifts to be unleashed.
You show people they are precious – something no one can take away, a blessing ALWayS.
Pring’s village, and Kakuma Refugee Camp, are a long way from the life you and I live – but through ALWS we can be there, where we are needed, when our help matters most.
On behalf of Pring, and each person you have helped through this COVID year – thank you.
I pray you and those you love may be filled with the true hope of Christmas, not just tomorrow, but every day.
PS: What are you doing on Saturday 1 May? Like to go for a walk? Join our Walk My Way in the Barossa Valley – beautiful scenery, famous Barossa hospitality, Lutheran history, and lots of surprises. Best of all, each step you take, each $26 you raise, supports a refugee child at school for one year! walkmyway.org.au
HOPE Spot #40: Monday 21 December 2020
2.8 tonnes of rice
You probably haven’t heard of Mount Sinabung in Indonesia.
Or knew that it erupted on 20 August, bringing disaster to four villages.
Or that through ALWS you helped 413 families (2,065 people) recover from the disaster.
(And supported them to protect themselves from COVID-19.)
Through 2020, the ALWS family has been extraordinary.
Even as COVID-19 locked down Melbourne for months, terrified Adelaide for 3 days, and even now is causing new fears in the northern regions of Sydney …
… people like you have kept on reaching out to help others through ALWS.
There is not space here to list all the things you have done, but I wanted to share with you about Mt Sinabung so you can see how your kindness reaches even the smallest most remote communities …
… and makes sure the most disadvantaged people within them are not forgotten
… and that your help is monitored and tracked down to the last dollar, even when the total project is as targeted as $5,000.
Your Mount Sinabung Disaster Report
Center for Disaster Risk Management & Community Development Studies CDRM&CDS
Universitas HKBP Nommensen, Indonesia
Emergency Assistance to Communities affected by Mount Sinabung Eruption
Project Timeframe: 10 August 2020 – 31 October 2020
ALWS support: $5,000
Reason for Variance
Assessment & Distribution
Assessment & distribution carried out during the day with no overnight stays required
Rice @ 10kg
2,800kg rice required (cf to original 2,000kg) – help extended from 3 villages to 4 villages
That’s the dollar count.
Here are the people you helped:
Villages: Ndeskati, Sukatepu, Sukandebi, Kutambelin – Tanah Karo Regency
People: 2,065 (including 1,106 children)
Special needs: 64 people with disabilities (including 32 children)
This is what you did for each family:
- 5kg rice
- 5 x COVID-19 masks
Your ALWS help was delivered by our Lutheran partner in Indonesia, CDRM&CDS, working with the Disaster Management Commission of the Gereja Batak Karo Protestan (GBKP) church.
The Lutheran team you support report that because of COVID-19 the local government of Tanah Karo had prohibited outsiders entering the affected villages.
However, the partnership with GBKP allowed your help
to reach the affected people when no one else could.
In this week leading up to celebrating God’s gift of the birth of our Saviour, I just wanted you to know the gift you are to people through ALWS.
People in places no one else goes.
People with needs few people know.
People in danger of being forgotten.
You are there. Your kindness and generosity is changing lives. You are a blessing ALWayS.
HOPE Spot #39: Friday 11 December 2020
COVID-19 has cancelled a lot of things this year:
- interstate travel
- a Collingwood premiership (COVID’s my excuse anyway)
- the Walk My Ways planned for across Australia
… yet it has not cancelled people’s kindness and creativity!
Even though we could not Walk My Way together, 2,838 people found fresh new ways to Walk your Way …
… and succeeded in support for 6,390 refugee children in school for a year!
If all those children stood COVID 1.5 metres apart,
the line of children would be 10 kilometres long!
You can see what school means to children when you watch this 90 second video from Yvonne Baraza at Kakuma Refugee Camp …
The good (brave) news is ALWS is planning a brand new Walk My Way for 2021!
Where: Barossa Valley, South Australia
When: SATURDAY 1 MAY
You’ll walk through stunning autumn-hued vineyards … past more Lutheran churches and schools than you can count on two hands (especially when one of those hands is holding a sizzling snag from our Barossa Barbie under the gums at St Hallett’s Winery).
You can walk with old friends, meet new ones, try out a bit of Barossa-Deutsch, keep an eye out for Lutheran winemakers … simply chat and have fun!
Your Barossa Valley Walk My Way is 26 kilometres – but you can do less … or do it in stages before the day … or do it where you live … or do a Wheel My Way or Woof My Way … even try a (Sleep) Walk My Way?????
Each step you take, each $26 you raise,
helps a refugee child go to school for a year!
The 2021 Walk My Way builds on this year’s ALWS Christmas Action campaign to get 10,000 refugee children BACK TO SCHOOL in 100 days, as soon as COVID allows.
None of us knows what the new year will bring, or what COVID-19 will do …
… but all of us know that children in refugee camps who have lost so much, must not be forgotten. That’s why I invite you to save the date:
SATURDAY 1 MAY – BAROSSA VALLEY, SA
walkmyway.org.au * 1300 763 407
Whether you walk … or wheel … or support someone … or donate direct …
… your gift of school can never be taken away – you bless a child ALWayS!
HOPE Spot #38: Tuesday 8 December 2020
You might think this is a happy photo.
It’s my son AJ, 5 minutes after passing his Driver’s Test and getting his Ps.
But for me, despite the name on the chocolates, the photo is not my favourite.
You see, the Ps mean AJ no longer needs me to drive him…
… to work at KFC (breakneck speed because he ‘forgot’ and is running late)
… to his Under 17s footy Saturday mornings (planning sneaky game tactics on the way)
… to school (although there never seems to be any rush on this one)
Many parents might jump with joy knowing Mum & Dad Taxi Service is no longer needed.
But I will miss it – I like being needed.
Plus, now I have to worry about AJ on the road on his own, using his new independence to explore the world – without me protecting him!
What’s all that got to do with you?
I hope by now you have received your Count on Me Number Runner to send to Kakuma Refugee Camp in our ALWS 10,000 children BACK TO SCHOOL 100 days campaign.
Your kindness – $26 to support one child in school for one year – helps provide school-books, writing materials, training for teachers, school-desks and uniforms …
… and helps make sure no child is forgotten, whether they be an orphan, live with a disability, or have simply missed school because of what they have endured. Donate now
No one can ever take away the education you give these children …
… but there comes a time when they don’t need you and I anymore.
They must go on to make their own way in the world – and you might be surprised at what children from Kakuma have gone on to do:
- Aliir Aliir – AFL player newly signed to Port Power from the Swans
- Awer Mabil – Socceroo, goaled on debut
- Adut Akech – from Adelaide, now rated #1 model in the world
- Joseph Deng – holder of the Australian 800 metre record …
… all passed through Kakuma Refugee Camp, and all received the kind of education you give children now with your Back to School donation.
While you may know those names, you probably don’t know Yussuf Jeylaani Salah:
“When I lived in Sudan, I did not have much education so getting a job was difficult. My grandfather and other family members were killed in conflict. I came to Kakuma.
In 2010 I worked to help build the Mogadishu Primary School. This gave me a little money to buy some milk and meat for my family.
Then I started learning at this school.
Now I am very happy.
I have been school chairman of the Parent Committee for 7 years.”
You also don’t know Bhan Simon Paul:
“When war broke out in my area in South Sudan, I was with my mother, father and siblings.
One night the soldiers came and attacked us. There were mass killings in my area. Everyone ran. My older brother and I ran into the night. We didn’t know what happened to the rest of our family.
The next morning, we had nothing left, just the tears in our eyes.
We travelled by foot to the border and then the UN took us to the Camp. This was in 2010. But then my older brother left and so then I was all alone. I felt a bitterness in my heart of not knowing what happened to all my family.
Luckily there was a school here and I could attend.
I worked hard and finished secondary school with high grades. It was hard as I had no support. Then I came to teach to make a living.
I have been teaching here since 2018.
I enjoy teaching as it gives me knowledge and gives me hope and I am seeing people who have lost hope coming forward again in life. They have all lost loved ones but can now have hope because they know that people in Australia sacrifice to teach them.”
You also don’t know Alier Atem Gabreil, the Food Security and Livelihoods Project Officer for the LWF team you support in Panyagor in South Sudan.
Alier became a refugee in 1987 when he was 9 years old.
After trekking to Ethiopia as one of the ‘Lost Boys’, he was turned back, and finally arrived at Kakuma Refugee Camp in 1992:
“When I arrived I was in Grade 3 and when I left, Form 4.
I started school under the trees in 1993 and 1994. Then LWF came in 1995 and built some schools. There were not enough teachers, so there would be 100 students in class or more. When I was in Year 8 there were 136 in my class. It was so crowded in the room I felt I could not breathe!
I really wanted to finish my education.
I wanted to do this so that I could help others and help with development.
I completed my training in a HIV course in 2005 and came back to Kakuma in 2006 and worked as a community Health Motivator.
Then, in 2016 I went to South Sudan, working with LWF. I enjoy working with the farmers. It is work you can see, and you are feeding others too! I enjoy working with those who want to change. I want to mentor others.”
There are many other stories I could share with you of refugee children who received their schooling at Kakuma Refugee Camp …
… and who have now gone on to serve others as teachers, aid workers, community leaders, both at Kakuma Refugee Camp and back in their home countries like South Sudan.
That’s why the 10,000 children Back to School 100 days campaign is important.
Through ALWS, your $26 per child to support one year of school can be the start of a lifetime of service and contribution to the community.
As each child you help progresses at school, and achieves their Certificate of Completion, you may feel a pang they don’t need you directly anymore … and even a little worry about the world they must now face …
… but I hope these stories of success and service, started with the schooling you support, will inspire you, and show you just how precious you are. A blessing ALWayS. Thank you!
PS: Last night AJ asked me to drive him to work at KFC because his car had no petrol and he had no money! P – for Perfect! 😊
HOPE Spot #37: Thursday 3 December 2020
Let me introduce you to Damien Okello.
Damien is Audiologist at the Education Assessment Resource Centre you support at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.
The goal here is to help make sure refugee children with disabilities aren’t forgotten, and don’t miss out on school.
Damien is passionate about this work.
His son Basil was born with epilepsy, and while we in Australia understand this doesn’t mean a disability … Damien and his wife had to work very hard to make sure Basil received the education that is every child’s right.
Damien explains their challenge this way:
“In our African cultures, until now we don’t feel OK to let others know we have a child with a disability, especially if it is a mental problem.
A mental disability is associated with demons and evil spirits. Other people do not want these children to come to school because they fear it is contagious.
Even when I was at school, these attitudes were there.
Our classroom was old and had holes in the wall. One day a child collapsed and was convulsing. There was foam from his mouth, and he lost control and urinated. Children ran in all directions through the holes in the walls. The teacher was the first to go. Later, it was said that if you even stepped in the urine, you would catch the same disease.
Having this Assessment Centre starts to change these attitudes.
When parents see success and improvement, they bring their children, because they want the same for their own child.”
Today is International Day of People with Disabilities.
Here at ALWS we are blessed to see the difference you make in the lives of people who live with a disability, even as they also face the hurt of poverty, are forced to live as refugees, or struggle to survive in conflict zones.
At Kakuma alone, you help support 240 children with disabilities to attend school. Like 14 year old Meron:
“I came from Ethiopia in 2013. I became blind when I was very young because of disease. It is good to be here and have the machine because I can write like other learners.
I feel good to learn and I can get more knowledge from school. My teacher helps me a lot.”
Joash is Meron’s teacher:
“I have been working here at Kakuma for 5 years. I have a Special Needs Diploma which took me two years of study.
I love my work!
Before my training I met a blind person and I felt so sad for him. This inspired me to go to training so that I can teach and help those who are blind. It is like a calling.”
In the next day or two you should receive your Christmas Action pack.
Our goal this year is to get 10,000 children in East Africa back to school as soon as COVID-19 allows. It costs on average $26 to support one of these children in school for one year, and our aim is find the help needed in the next 100 days. Donate now
When you give your help, you can be assured
children with disabilities like Meron won’t miss out.
Just as Jesus specially sought out those overlooked or ignored, rejected or forgotten, so through ALWS do you…
… and your kindness and generosity are a blessing ALWayS. Thank you!
PS: You still have time to order your Gifts of Grace – on-line here or by calling 1300 763 407. Do it this weekend to make sure ALWS volunteers like Wilma and John can pack your order in time for pre-Christmas delivery…
… and remember, because of COVID-19, this year ALWS didn’t print new Grace Cards. Instead, the ALWS family said it was fine to recycle unused Grace Cards. You can have as many Grace Packs of 7 cards as you wish PLUS the first 500 Gifts of Grace orders receive an African fabric COVID-19 mask, as modelled by Wilma and John. These were sewn by former refugees at the Lutheran Community Sewing Group.
HOPE Spot #36: Tuesday 1 December 2020
Count on Me to go back to school!
Do you remember being in Grade 3?
I’m not sure I do (nearly 55 years ago) … but I’m certain I couldn’t draw as well as the Grade 2/3s at St Michael’s Lutheran School in Hahndorf SA, and Geelong Lutheran College.
Look what they have created!
This is a Number Runner, designed to help younger children learn to count …
… and what’s exciting is you can sign your name on it, and ALWS will pass it on to children at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya! (Yours will arrive in the mail … or you can find them in Lutheran churches across the country … just in time to help make Christmas special.)
Your Count on Me Number Runner leads our ALWS Christmas Action campaign. Our aim is to support 10,000 children in 100 days to get back to school in East Africa (as soon as COVID allows).
Your donation of $26 per child can support school for one year – school-books, stationery, training for refugee teachers, whatever a child like Masega needs most.
Last time I was at Kakuma, I asked the young children to draw pictures of what they wanted to be when they grow up. (Again, they were much better artists than I was!)
The Top 4 Jobs:
- Helicopter Pilot
The reason is helicopters brought in emergency food aid when floods cut roads in South Sudan.
So, the children you support through ALWS all plan jobs that help other people!
10,000 children in 100 days is a big goal.
I worried it was too big – until Trinity Lutheran School in Mildura sent a video of their Grade 2s after a Zoom ALWS Awareness Session.
… and you’ll see, just like the children at Kakuma, the children at Mildura want to help people too!
Thank you for all do to help people through ALWS (including Gifts of Grace).
Please enjoy sending your Count on Me Number Runner for children at Kakuma Refugee Camp … it will be a burst of joy you deserve at the end of this COVID year!
When you do, please know the school you give a child today is a blessing ALWayS!
PS: If you don’t receive your Count on Me in the mail, or at church before Christmas, let us know so we can send one – 1300 763 407. Join the 10,000 children BACK TO SCHOOL in 100 days here – just $26 to support one child in school for one year. Thank you!
HOPE Spot #35: Friday 27 November 2020
Grandparents, Gifts of Grace and Georgia
change the world with chocolate chip cookies
Yes, I know, that’s a mouthful of a subject line…
… but this HOPE Spot is all about how Year 9 student Georgia used a project at school to turn choc-chip cookies into hot meals for refugees!
CHOICE JOURNEY REFLECTION
For my Choice Journey I chose to make Bake-Mix jars and sell them to raise money to buy hot meals for refugees in Kakuma, Kenya.
I chose this project because I always reflect on, and feel guilty about, how my life is so easy compared to people that live in poverty-stricken countries. An example of this are refugees, trying to escape from unsafe or war-torn areas.
I know that the Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS) runs a program called Gifts of Grace, where you can buy a present on behalf of someone that actually helps someone far away. This is an alternative to buying meaningless mass-produced gifts/presents for people you know.
I know about this because every Christmas
my grandparents’ present to me is money
donated directly to Gifts of Grace, in my name.
The Bake-Mix jars I made were essentially jars, filled with exact measurements of all dry ingredients for a recipe, so that when you want to bake it, simply add the jar contents in a bowl and add the ‘wet ingredients’ then bake in the oven according to the label.
At times it was challenging because making all 72 of the jars was tiring and stressful, and then selling them also consumed a lot of time, effort, and planning.
I wanted to create something that served a double purpose – to the people buying, and the refugees. My project also served a wider purpose- my grandmother purchased 10 jars and then donated them to Bayley House (disabled care). She thought the people there would love to use my jars in cooking classes.
I also received an extra $500 donation from a member of my church, and purchased different Gifts of Grace like Child Clothing Packs, Goats and School Supplies.
This experience definitely transformed me and now I’d be open to doing something similar in the future. I’m so thrilled with the outcome of my project, every bit of positive feedback and all the people it affected who benefited from it, including myself morally.
I’m sure you want to join me in thanking Georgia for being so creative and kind in this year of COVID challenge … and her grandparents for inspiring her with their ALWS Gifts of Grace.
Now you’ll have to excuse me – I hear a biscuit barrel calling! 😊
PS: If you haven’t ordered your ALWS Gifts of Grace for this Christmas, you still can – online here or simply call 1300 763 407! Thank you!
HOPE Spot #34: Friday 20 November
Hi from SA Lockdown!
I’d started to feel a bit sorry for myself – but then thought of the people you help in refugee camps through ALWS, the challenges they face, and all they have lost.
It’s interesting, when you go into a refugee camp, you learn a lot.
You see all the wonderful things people like you do …
… children smiling and singing and all sticking up their hands at the same time in the schools you support
… new arrivals being welcomed with food and blankets and ‘slippers’ (what we call thongs)
… people who have suffered trauma receiving care
… and so much more.
You see resilience and courage and faith (amazing faith).
This Sunday, at the Lutheran Church I go to, the Gospel reading is Matthew 25:34 – 40.
This is where Jesus talks about feeding those who are hungry, giving a drink to those who are thirsty, welcoming the stranger, caring especially for those who are forgotten by the world. (All the things you do through ALWS.)
I’m doing the message at church on Sunday, on video because of our SA COVID lockdown.
I’ll be sharing how I saw Jesus
at Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.
I thought you might want to watch the message, given this work in the refugee camp is your work.
Be warned – it’s 18 minutes long, and you’ll have to look at my COVID-weary face way longer than anyone should have to …
… but it’s mostly stories of the people you help, and what you and I can learn from them about life. If you don’t come away humbled and inspired and excited by these amazing people, I’ll be surprised.
For those of us in SA, the video uses up 1/500th of the time we are in 6 Day Lockdown 😊
For all of us, the video is a chance to see what your kindness means to those you help – regardless of where they come from, what they believe, who they vote for.
This is what happens when love comes to life, no strings attached.
As you watch, I pray you will see Jesus, just as I did.
PS: Even if you don’t watch the video – thank you. You are a blessing.
HOPE Spot #33: 6 November 2020
I reckon you would have liked my Auntie Melva.
She did the best Potato Bake on the planet, and would always make sure she cooked enough that everyone could have seconds.
Cooking was only one of Auntie Melva’s acts of service.
Well into her 80s, she’d still be busy looking after ‘the oldies’ as her personal Christian ministry.
Right now, as two senior gentlemen loudly and publicly vie for the power of being President of the United States …
… I want you to meet two senior ladies in Indonesia who you support to quietly serve their communities, helping protect against COVID-19.
Armaulian is 70, and a Village Health Worker on Mentawai Island.
Armaulin distributes masks, soap and posters, and goes door-to-door teaching people how to protect themselves from the virus.
“At this elderly age I am proud and happy being able to help communities prevent COVID-19.
I am not only a Village Health Worker, but am also engaged in Church service in my village.
When I see the community’s indifference toward health protocols, I remind people to wear a mask when they go out of their houses.”
Kartina (below) is 68.
Kartina helped create a Village Disaster Preparedness Map for her community, supported by ALWS and the Australian Government.
“Elderly people, particularly women, used to be neglected and never engaged.
We were seen only as passive recipients.
The elder women used to be considered as a burden and useless in this community.
Now our contributions are recognised in social activities like this COVID-19 health campaign.
It’s a pride at this elderly age that I can contribute something to my community.”
In our age-obsessed world, society too often ignores the value of seniors’ wisdom, fails to appreciate their generosity, and underestimates their energy.
Here at ALWS we are blessed to see those qualities in people like Armaulian and Kartina …
… and in supporters who humbly and sacrificially donate time and money to serve others.
That’s why today, no matter what happens in the US, I thank God for Seniors.
Interviews: Fared Sirilelelu
HOPE Spot #32: 28 October 2020
What great news!
Finally, after so many months, Melbourne is finally coming out of lockdown.
All I can say is thank you to everyone who has endured so much, with such patience and grace, to protect the rest of us in other parts of Australia.
Talking to family in Melbourne on Monday night, they told me that as well as feeling excited, they are also a little anxious about going back to work, and resuming some of the life they had before.
So, it’s no time to stop our prayers and support for Melbourne just yet.
Our support is needed too for the workers delivering your ALWS help in some of the toughest parts of the world – like South Sudan.
As you can see below, it’s not just the normal challenges your team faces, and not just the impact of COVID-19 …
… but now the teams you support face floods too!
Heavy rains have caused the Nile to flood, putting 150,000 people in Jonglei State (where you work through ALWS) at risk.
Lokiru Yohana, Regional LWF Coordinator for East Africa, told us:
“Farms and crops are damaged. Settlements are under water. Roads, schools, latrines are all submerged. Many domestic animals have died.
The extremely poor sanitation conditions are exposing people to water-borne disease at a time when they are also battling COVID-19.
The floods also destroy crops, setting up the risk of a food crisis next year.”
Yet your LWF team keeps working to get help through, aiming to provide:
- sand bags
- plastic sheets
- fishing sets
- food for young people, working as volunteers to repair dykes.
Tragically, it’s not just South Sudan where floods are making it a challenge to get your help through – Cambodia is suffering severe flooding too.
This is the office of our ALWS partner, Life with Dignity (LWD), in Bavel District. Two of the hardest hit provinces in Cambodia are Battambang and Pursat, where our Aussie-supported work is focused.
Poverty. COVID-19. Locusts (in South Sudan). Now floods.
While the challenges are many, your help continues to get through.
The workers you support through ALWS live in the communities they serve. They quickly see what is needed most – and can make sure it gets there.
For example, in Cambodia, your LWD team emergency response can include action like:
- truck in clean water
- supply Hygiene Kits
- distribute food, kitchen sets and blankets
- repair water-pumps and provide water storage containers
- restock small livestock
- kick-start agriculture.
You can support ALWS emergence response wherever it happens here.
You may also be interested to check out this 10 minute video.
It’s simply an interview my wife Julie and I did for our church (Seaford Lutheran) on ALWS 70th Sunday on 18 October.
(The interviewer is our Pastor, Mark Kaesler. Mark is living with the challenge of a very tough cancer diagnosis, yet somehow still finds the strength to serve our church community when the chemo side-effects allow. Amazing courage and commitment.)
In the interview, you will hear more of the behind-the-scenes challenges in getting your care through to the people you help …
… including a very embarrassing story about me and a toilet stop in the middle of nowhere in Kenya at 3 in the morning with two guards carrying AK-47s!
(The smiles of those guards were almost as big as those you will find in your new Gifts of Grace 😊)
Speaking of which – don’t forget that the first 500 Gifts of Grace orders receive a FREE souvenir COVID mask!
These are made from beautiful African fabric, and sewn by former refugees, supported by volunteers, at the Lutheran Community Sewing Group in Adelaide.
Thank you again for all you do to help others through ALWS.
I don’t know what challenges you have faced in this very tough COVID year…
… but I know your courage to keep on being kind and generous is a real encouragement to the workers on the front-line.
Whether they are waist-deep in flood waters … gloved and masked teaching about COVID in remote villages … welcoming scared and exhausted people seeking safety in refugee camps … your commitment is a comfort, and reassurance their sacrifice doesn’t go unnoticed.
Thank you for being there when you are needed most.
PS: I hope you received – and enjoyed – your ALWS 70th edition of The Lutheran. A number of people asked why my name wasn’t in there anywhere. It’s simply because ALWS is you and what you do. I feel privileged to work for you, as together we seek to bring love to life for the world’s forgotten people.
Photos: LWF South Sudan & LWD Cambodia
HOPE Spot #31: 21 October 2020
Before you do anything else
watch this two minute video
(Have tissues handy.)
I hope I’m wrong.
I hope I’m like my Dad, who even at 85 still tells people:
“I thought I made a mistake once
– but I was wrong.”
What I hope I’m wrong about is COVID this Christmas.
More and more I fear I won’t get to see my kids in Melbourne. There’s no sign of border restrictions lifting any time soon.
No doubt, there are loved ones you are missing too.
This Christmas, when COVID-19 is keeping us apart, we need to find fresh ways to stay connected. Not just to those we love …
… but to people in the world’s poorest places – forgotten, and threatened by poverty, conflict and COVID-19.
That’s why this year your ALWS Gifts of Grace is different.
Printed catalogues will arrive in letterboxes across the country next week …
… but you can sneak-peek here the special Gifts of Grace features to help you come close this COVID Christmas.
First thing you’ll see are smiles.
41 of them.
Whether you keep a Baby Strong ($10) …
… supply a refugee child with School Lunches for a year + clean water to stay safe from COVID-19 ($15)
… set up a mobile fertiliser factory with a Super Pig ($61)
… your hands-on help will bring smiles of joy and make you 😊 😊 😊 too!
Second things you’ll see?
- the 21 gifts are based on the words of Jesus in Matthew 25
- with 5 gifts under $10 (perfect for children to give)
- and all are tax-deductible (meaning you can do more!)
What’s exciting is you give real practical help that makes a long-lasting community-wide difference – rather than sending boxes of ‘stuff’ that is too soon tossed away.
- First 500 orders receive a FREE African fabric COVID mask
These are sewn for you by former refugees who are now part of the Lutheran Community Sewing Group in Adelaide.
Aminata, who you see here, fled Liberia.
There she was a heavy diesel mechanic. Now she’s sewing for you!
Fourth (yes there’s more!)
To make sure you can connect with everyone this COVID Christmas, you can have as many Grace Cards as you wish!
They come in a Grace Pack of 7, with a range of cards showing gifts that reflect the powerful words of Jesus in Matthew 25 (You fed me, you gave me a drink …)
To make this possible, ALWS has recycled unused Grace Cards.
(ALWS supporters told us in a survey they were happy with this idea.)
Now, no one need miss out on receiving a Grace Card from you, no matter how many actual gifts you give! Order now
Friends of ALWS have already put together your Grace Packs.
When you place your order, more ALWS volunteers will pack and send your order within 48 hours!
So, that’s this year’s Gifts of Grace.
I hope I’m wrong about COVID border restrictions and lock-downs, and that all of us can see face-to-face those we love …
… but in case those safety measures remain, I pray Gifts of Grace can bring you close.
To your family and friends.
And the forgotten people you help in the world’s poorest places through ALWS. Thank you!
HOPE Spot #30: 16 October 2020
On Wednesday night I was pleased to see the return of Gruen on ABC TV, looking at how advertising works.
They had a piece on Tik-Tok – an online place designed (it seems) for tiny videos people make showing themselves doing silly things.
Anyway, today I have a tiny video for you too.
In fact, it features you.
Not doing silly things …
… but the wonderful things you do through ALWS to change the lives of people like Nget Son from Cambodia.
Click here for 3 minutes of pure joy!
While you may not see your face …
… you will see your kindness reflected in the smiles of the
people you help through ALWS!
In this year when COVID-19 has brought so many challenges, and such despair for people living in lockdown, I pray seeing your achievements through ALWS will lift spirits.
This weekend 16 – 18 October is when we mark 70 years of ALWS service.
Here you can explore stories from ALWS’ beginnings at Bonegilla Migrant Centre in 1950 – told by people who were there …
… plus read messages of thanks from around the world, and even from Government here in Australia.
Yesterday the Border Mail newspaper in Albury featured what you do through ALWS, plus joined in the cutting of a big 70th birthday cake – read here!
You can also join Pastor Stephen Schultz, Assistant Bishop for Mission in the Lutheran Church in South Australia, as he reflects on his visit to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya … one of the places you help refugee children go to school through the ALWS GRACE Project.
While none of this is how we planned to celebrate with you 70 years of ALWS service …
… I hope you see you are part of something wonderful, bringing love to life for people the world has forgotten. Which is why ALWS gives thanks to God 70 times over for people like you!
Now go watch yourself on the video, if you haven’t already 😊!
PS: If you’d like to give a special ‘70’ gift to give thanks for 70 years of ALWS service, click here. Thank you!
HOPE Spot #29: 7 October 2020
My mate Mark is Chaplain at a Lutheran school in Melbourne.
Because of COVID lockdown, Mark’s been doing on-line devotions for staff, and hangers-on like me. Today’s devotion had a sentence that jumped out for me:
Where there is great love
there are always miracles.
Mark, like me, is a Collingwood supporter, so I thought he may have been referring to our Saturday night victory over West Coast 😊 …
… but seriously, those words ‘Where there is great love there are always miracles’ really remind me of what you do for people through ALWS.
That’s why I hope some time this week you will find this in your letterbox:
2020 is the 70th anniversary of when ALWS began – in the Bonegilla Migrant Centre, near Albury, welcoming refugees and migrants fleeing Europe after World War 2.
We’d planned a bunch of public events to give thanks for 70 years of service through ALWS (public dinner, Walk My Way, tours of Bonegilla) – but COVID cancelled all that.
Instead, we received a grant to put together the special edition of The Lutheran magazine you should have received by now.
The magazine is packed with stories of the ‘miracles’ people like you make happen when you bring love to life through ALWS. Let me tell you about just one – Khoun Tha, the Cambodian lady on the front cover:
Before your help, Khoun Tha and her husband Ouern Von could grow only cassava and sweet potato on their poor soil. They could not earn enough money to survive, so had to labour for others. They feared they would always be poor.
Thanks to you, through ALWS and local partner LWD, the couple learned about composting, mulch, and organic fertiliser (from animal manure).
According to Ouern Van:
“… we now plant all around our house – banana, coconut, mango, watermelon, peanuts, corn. We grow to plant rice. Our plan is to keep planting crops.”
Their community has Deep Wells, a School, a Community Building (they built themselves), a Cow Bank, Bio-Gas supplies and a Savings Group.
In this village alone, 233 families are blessed by the benefits your ALWS kindness planted. As Khoun Tha says, they now have hope for a better future – and the confidence and resources to stand up to COVID-19 now
For these families, it’s a miracle …
… started with your great love.
That brings us right back to the early days of ALWS at Bonegilla Migrant Centre (pages 10 & 11 of your The Lutheran).
Pastor Norman Sander, the Lutheran Chaplain there from 1960 – 1970, said this about the work at that time:
“The language of love prevailed
in spite of general language difficulties …
we were not concerned as to what religion
the people followed, we all just wanted
to help them in their need.”
Exactly what you still do through ALWS today.
PS: If you’d like to give a special ‘70’ gift to give thanks for 70 years of ALWS service, click here. Thank you!
HOPE Spot #28: 30 September 2020
I know your last HOPE Spot was only a few days ago – but this news from Nepal says so much about the kind of help (and hope) you give through ALWS, I wanted to share it with you straightaway.
While COVID-19 has forced changes in what you do …
… you keep on bringing little bursts of joy to people the world has forgotten.
Like the 225 women in Jhapa Region in Nepal we will go and visit now …
These 225 women face at least four challenges:
- they are women (too often not listened to)
- living with a disability (rejected, shut away)
- in country regions (far from city facilities)
- poorest of the poor (some may even be former bonded labourers).
Your help here is just like you – humble, practical, hard-working.
Through ALWS, partnering with the Australian Government, each of these 225 women receive a Dignity Kit, containing:
- COVID-19 surgical mask
- re-usable Sanitary Napkins
- bathing soap
Things the rest of the world takes for granted…
… but for these women, your kindness and real-life care tells them they are precious, and deserving of respect.
It proclaims that same message to their community. (You can see this in photo below where men are in the audience as women are taught about the re-usable Sanitary Napkins.)
Your help has an impact beyond the immediate challenges, and the COVID crisis.
You support these women with disabilities to receive proper recognition from the Nepal government, so they can receive all the services that are their right. (ALWS has spearheaded global action in the communities where you work to uphold the rights of people with disabilities.)
As you can see in the photo below, you also teach the community that domestic violence must be stopped, and that all lives are precious.
For me, as a Christian, in all this work you do through ALWS, I see Jesus.
Going to the poor, the sick, the rejected – the forgotten.
Welcoming them. Helping them. Bringing love to life.
Others may see only soap and nail-cutters and comb – you and I see hope.
My prayer is this brings you your own little burst of joy today!
All photos: LWF Nepal
HOPE Spot #27: 25 September 2020
I read a marketing blog this morning that proclaimed aid agencies shouldn’t talk to people like you about hope.
The blog said hope is too vague.
I can’t help but think about Melbourne.
I have two children, one sister, three ALWS team members and many friends there.
I so admire the courage and perseverance of people across Melbourne for the sacrifices they are making to protect the rest of us across Australia from COVID-19.
Talking to them, I hear them hoping each day for lower infection numbers, and a way out of lockdown. That hope doesn’t sound too vague to me.
Now, what about what you do in people’s lives through ALWS?
Is it only delivering ‘things’ – food, water, improved seeds, training against COVID-19?
Yes, you do all that – wonderfully – but is there hope in there somewhere too?
Let’s see. We’ll head first to Nadapal, a rough little town sitting on the border between South Sudan and Kenya … and into the Transit Centre where the LWF team you support through ALWS welcomes refugees the moment they cross the border.
(This is people’s first stop before they are taken to safety at Kakuma Refugee Camp.)
We will also head into Adelaide, into a Year 8 class at a Lutheran College.
You’re there too, teaching students about justice and generosity and faith lived in real life, through ALWS Awareness sessions. There you will meet student Kate.
Your work here is carried out by people like Sarah Ewoi, mum of four, Social Worker, speaker of 11 languages.
If you look closely, you can see your ALWS logo on Sarah’s jacket. So, let’s ask her how she spends her day delivering your help:
“I report to the office at 8:00am. My job starts with supervising the cleaning of the Transit Centre. I then conduct psychosocial assessments of new arrivals, I explain to them what is expected
of the refugees and asylum seekers during their stay at Nadapal.
I also educate them on their rights and entitlements, conduct psychosocial first aid for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence then compile and send daily reports.
I love the fact that every day I make a difference in the life of a person in need.”
Sarah’s 11 languages are English, Swahili, Turkana, Arabic, Tira, Toposa, Jie, Dinka, Diddinga, Logir and French …
… but perhaps the most important language is the one you speak too – kindness.
“When I meet children, especially those who are unaccompanied, I’m able to speak their language, which quickly connects me to them, and gains their trust. Being a mother helps me create a home environment for them.”
When asked if there is any person she has helped who touched her heart in a special way, Sarah shares:
“I once met a 14-year-old girl who had run away from home when her parents wanted to marry her off to a 50-year-old man.
The girl had been physically abused by her father and had fresh wounds all over her body after she declined to be married off.
She then ran away, walked for 5 days, slept in the bushes with no food and water just to get to the transit centre.
She was rescued, cared for and is now pursuing her secondary school education. She wants to be a humanitarian lawyer in future.”
This brings us to Kate, the Year 8 student at a Lutheran College in Adelaide. With no knowledge of Sarah’s story of the 14 year old girl, Kate wrote this poem:
She walks away from her home.
Only carrying what she could grab,
She carries Hope.
They have no set path,
Just away from the war.
She kicks the stones.
Her old and tatty shoes collect the dust,
Her skin is as cracked as the ground.
The boy in front weeps like the rest,
For he has lost his mother and father to the war.
She passes a sign but it doesn’t matter,
For she can’t read.
The sun burns her back for her clothes are torn.
She takes a sip of water it makes her feel sick though.
She sees a sign and someone screams
She has arrived with what she has and,
I don’t know how you are feeling today.
If COVID is pressing you down. If it all feels too hard. If being apart from those you love hurts too much.
No matter how you feel, the fact is a refugee like that 14 year old girl at Nadapal can dream of being a human rights lawyer because of what you do …
… and a new generation here in Australia can be fired up to carry on your caring because of the education and inspiration you help provide.
For me, that makes a HOPE Spot big enough for today. I pray it is for you too.
PS: Thank you to Yvonne Baraza from LWF Kenya for interviewing Sarah … and to all the Year 8s in Adelaide who wrote stunning poems welcoming refugees.
Photo: LWF Kenya
HOPE Spot #26: 4 September 2020
By now you’ll know COVID-19 has caused us to cancel the public events we’d planned to give thanks for 70 years of ALWS of service.
I thought 70 years was a long time to be helping others – but then we met Nita Jansen!
Married for 53 years, widowed since 1991, this year Nita celebrated her 100th birthday!
Instead of gifts on her milestone, Nita asked guests to give a donation to help refugee children go to school through ALWS.
Nita and her birthday guests now support 42 refugee children to go to school!
“I have always loved children. I have cared for many children over the years. They bring goodness into our lives.
How have I made it to 100? I have always kept busy and I walked everywhere. Walking works! My father always said, “Slow down Nita, you walk too fast!
I was always ‘head down and bum up’!
I have been called Florence Nightingale as I enjoy nursing and caring for people. Even when I worked in a café, people would call me ‘nursie’!
I’ve always had a soft spot for children. That’s why I wanted to help the children in the refugee camp. I’ve been a big supporter of ALWS, especially at Christmas time with Gifts of Grace.
It is dear to my heart to help people in need.”
If you’re doing it tough because of COVID, I hope Nita’s smile and kindness will lift your spirits. While you may not yet have made 100 years, or even 70 years, of service …
… thank you for sharing Nita’s heart for helping others!
HOPE Spot #25: 21 August 2020
This HOPE Spot is not from me Jonathan. It is from Mr Sohel Rana, who is delivering your ALWS help to Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.
Sohel will give you a first-hand eyewitness account of the impact your kindness is making for people who have lost everything.
“I am happy I can serve the forcibly displaced Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar.
This fulfills both my religious faith and personal humanitarian virtues, as I am joining the contribution to reducing the suffering of human beings.
Right now, I am leading a team of 17 project staff and camp-based volunteers who are devoted to support the Rohingyas to come back to a healthy and peaceful life in their camps.
The fact that my work helps distressed people to come back to the normal and healthy life satisfies me both professionally and personally.
It is a great gesture of the most of the Bangladeshis intended to welcome the forcibly displaced Rohingyas from Myanmar where they have been facing violence and discrimination in Bangladesh despite the country being overcrowded already.
“This gave me a realization that humanity comes first while we deal the crisis.”
What I have experienced has made me more open and filled with more commitment, motivation and compassion …to support people of all backgrounds, origin, color, religion, ethnicity, caste and political conviction.”
HOW YOU HELP PROTECT REFUGEES FROM COVID-19
“Even before COVID-19 came, WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) was an essential service in the refugee camps.
We have been teaching Rohingya refugees on WASH practices and distributing hygiene kits among the targeted refugees.
The hygiene kits help refugees convert their knowledge into practices.
Alongside this, we clean the drainage channels in the camp to improve the overall hygiene.
When we started, the program was small. I self-vowed to make this a bigger one to serve more people … in an impact-focused, efficient and cost-effective manner.”
HOW THE TREES YOU PLANTED ARE GROWING FOR REFUGEES
“The Rohingya camp used to be a forest reserve before August 2017.
The forest had to be cleared to shelter the Rohingyas when they arrived in 2017. This created new problems – frequent landslides in the monsoon season, extreme heating, and depletion of water levels.
Our project has already planted more than 10,000 locally adapted saplings, and we look forward to planting 20,000 more saplings this year.
The fast-growing trees we have planted have grown big already, giving shade to Rohingyas from sun. It satisfies me a lot when I see people resting under the shade of our plants. Also, when they thank us for saving them from landslides, it makes me proud.”
This is all your work through ALWS, so I only need to add two words to what Sohel has shared with you – thank you!
HOPE Spot #24: 7 August 2020
I blame my neighbour.
If it wasn’t for his stupid back verandah, my back would still work.
The few muscles I have would not be knots.
I could bend down to untie my shoe-laces.
You see, over the weekend I saw my neighbour removing old pavers to put in a new verandah.
So I stuck my head over the fence and asked if he needed a hand.
He said no, he was fine …
… but meant yes, please please please.
So I put on my tradie pants, and tradie boots and flannie shirt, and went over.
My job was to lever out the old pavers with a spade, get down on my knees to stack them, and then my neighbour could barrow them away.
My neighbour said if we got half done, that would be enough.
When we had got half done, I was three quarters dead.
So, on that mathematics, there was no way I could complete the job.
But the end was in sight.
And I liked looking like a tradie.
So we decided to go for it.
My son AJ brought in another barrow and his teenage muscles.
We pumped up the music and punched each other in the arm.
An hour of sweat and stumbles and grunts and groans later …
… we’d done it. Every paver lifted and shifted!
(50 square metres of pavers. Each paver 20 centimetres square. Therefore, 25 pavers per square metre. Thus, 1,250 pavers. And 1,250 levers and lifts. By a 61 year old body.)
Helping your neighbour can be hard.
(If you look at the example of Jesus, you see this over and over.)
Right now, as the battle against COVID-19 is so close to home, it can be hard to think of others further away – let alone help them.
Sometimes it seems there is no end in sight to the challenges.
First COVID-19, then …
Last week, the LWF front-line team in South Sudan told us of a huge plague of desert locusts approaching Magwi County – where you work through ALWS.
These hungry monsters eat their own weight in food per day. (Just like teenage boys.)
Already, 60% of the crops due for harvest next month are destroyed.
These crops are people’s prime food and income supply.
Without help, people are in danger from hunger.
On your behalf, ALWS has said yes, we will help our faraway neighbour.
It will be hard. So the plan is to work with other churches from around the world. I will give you more details as soon as I can. (You can give an emergency donation now.)
You might not see it on the news, but monsoon rains in Nepal have killed 150 people, with 57 people still missing.
The areas where you work through ALWS have been badly hit.
In Kailali District alone, 6,455 families are in danger. For many, the only place safe from the floodwaters has been on road embankments.
COVID-19. Locust plague. Flood.
You may wonder how there can
be a HOPE Spot in any of this?
It seems our world (our neighbour) faces disaster after disaster (paver after paver).
You and I are tired (untied shoe-laces).
It can feel like we have given all we can, done more than anyone could possibly expect.
So how can we keep helping when it’s so hard?
What I learned from my neighbour and his pavers is:
- It’s fine to take a rest. (Me between barrow-loads.)
- Others can join us to help. (My teenage-muscled son.)
- We encourage each other. (Arm punch.)
That’s why I want you to look carefully at the photo below from the flood disaster in Nepal…
See the banner on the back of the truck?
And the logos at the bottom?
Your past kindness means the LWF team you support can go direct to the 1,505 people most in danger …
… and give your life-saving support:
- 750kg rice
- 75kg pulses
- 15 litres mustard oil
- 15 kg salt
- 30kg sugar
- 1,080 litres fresh water
- biscuits for children
- 120 sets of tarpaulins and ropes for temporary shelters
Yes, there is more we must do together – emergency donate here …
… yet today people are safe and fed and dry because of what you do through ALWS.
People who might otherwise be forgotten in the flurry of COVID-19 now have HOPE.
And that means, so can we.
So, today’s HOPE Spot for COVID-19 is not about COVID-19 at all …
… but simply about you.
And how you help your neighbour.
Even when it’s hard.
Now, as I slip on my Ugg Boots (no laces that need tying), I’ll open the wine my neighbour gave me in thanks …
… and because I can’t offer you a glass
… I hope it’s OK if – on behalf of the people you help – I simply say thank you:
Last two photos: LWF Nepal
HOPE Spot #23: 24 July 2020
Fred was a very sneaky badminton player.
He’d get a glint in his eye behind his sweat-fogged glasses and put the shuttle-cock exactly where you didn’t want him to put it.
For the 5 years I worked with Fred in the centre of Melbourne in the early 90s, badminton was the Friday lunchtime de-stress ritual of the Creative Department.
Fred died last week.
A victim of COVID-19.
When a mate told me, it brought me to a stop.
Suddenly those reports each day of someone in their 80s or 90s dying from COVID had a name. A face. A family.
A His Story.
Fred’s story was shared in a tribute his son wrote, listing some of Fred’s achievements over his lifetime. His extraordinary gifts to the world included taking God’s Word into Afghanistan, helping bring Billy Graham to Australia, serving the poor in his career for more than 30 years, loving his children.
Just as each victim of COVID-19 has a history …
… so does each person you help through ALWS.
The people whose lives you touch aren’t just statistics in a report, or clients in a program.
They are mums and dads. They have people who love them. They are blessed with gifts, and inspired by dreams. They sweat and hug and joke and love and cry and hope.
Your kindness brings you into their lives.
Your generosity means you sit with them wherever they may be.
Your help is hands-on, even when it’s mask-on too.
In my previous HOPE Spot 10 days ago, I invited people to share messages of encouragement to the people of Melbourne.
You’ll find them here in this simple inspiring e-Picture Book.
I pray this will encourage you wherever you are, and however COVID-19 affects you right now.
PS: If you’re waiting for your ALWS Annual Donation statement for FY 19/20, they were mailed last Thursday – it’s up to Australia Post now 😊
HOPE Spot #22: 10 July 2020
Community Action Manager Jonathan has a message about the burdens we bear – and those you help carry.
The news out of Melbourne with the 6 week lockdown is hard, isn’t it?
Talking to friends and family, I could hear how flattened they feel.
When hope is snatched away, it’s doubly hard.
That’s why today I thought 15 month old Hazel might lift spirits a little.
You might recall Hazel is toddling her Walk My Way.
It’s taken many weeks but Hazel has just one kilometre to go to complete her 26 kilometre walk.
Hazel has raised enough money
to support 138 refugee children
through ALWS to go to school!
You and I know Hazel couldn’t do this on her own.
She needed mum and dad alongside her.
To guide her, protect her from danger, supply food to keep her going, pick her up when she stumbled, comfort her when she was tired, be ready for emergency nappy change when necessary 😊
Encouragement. Support. Protection.
Knowing you’re not on your own.
This is what you do for the people you help through ALWS.
Like 6 year old Akech, who I met at Kakuma Refugee Camp just days after she arrived with her mum and little brother from South Sudan. Akech told me:
“I came here with my mother and my uncle. My father was killed in the violence. My mother was beaten.
I am always thinking about my father who was killed.
We ran away to Kenya. We come for safety, and also for food. We were two days on foot. We were very tired. I was frightened.
Then the UN pick us up. I felt good when we get here. We get beans and maize here.
I am in Class One at school. My favourite subject is writing. I like collecting water, and I like playing.
I want to be a teacher.”
You can see Akech here with little brother Lang.
What you can’t see are Lang’s feet.
I didn’t notice them at first, then saw this…
Who knows where they found that shoe.
Or how it stays on.
But you can see how precious this scrap is.
When I think about Akech, and how she piggy-backed little Lang to safety, I hear that old song by the Hollies He ain’t heavy … he’s my brother (listen here)
Love gives us strength to carry all kinds of burdens.
Yet, even better is when someone helps us carry that burden.
Last night I watched our church’s on-line COVID-19 service (Seaford Lutheran). The Gospel from Sunday had this verse from Matthew 11:28 where Jesus promises:
“If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens,
come to me and I will give you rest.”
Through ALWS, you make the same promise to refugees like Akech.
You welcome them at the Reception Centre. Make sure there is food. A place to sleep. Clean toilets. Soap and water to protect against COVID-19.
I know that helping carry the burdens of others can be hard work.
It takes courage to give up your own comfort.
Generosity to give.
Thank you for being the kind of person who humbly does exactly that.
Now, as the people of Melbourne carry the burden for Australia of going into lockdown against COVID-19 …
… I pray all of us can be inspired by little Hazel. Draw strength from refugee Akech. Take confidence knowing we don’t have to be alone, as step by step we journey together to walk this way.
Messages for Melbourne
Would you like to send a message to the people of Melbourne? An encouraging Bible verse. A personal thought. A little prayer. Even a photo that lifts spirits. Simply email us. We’ll put them all together in an e-Book, and share it so people in Melbourne know they’re not alone in the burden they carry now.
HOPE Spot #21: 3 June 2020
Community Action Manager Jonathan talks about what draw us together, even when we’re apart…
These new COVID-19 lockdowns in Victoria have left me feeling flat.
I have two children in Melbourne, and it’s horrible not knowing when I will see Glen and Alli face-to-face again.
They feel so far away.
Yet, I think of the people in refugee camps you help through ALWS.
They had to leave everything behind. They don’t know when – or even if – they will ever be able to go home.
Now, with COVID-19, they live where the threat is most dangerous.
Crowded conditions. Little clean water. Only basic sanitation and health-care.
How frightening must that be?
That’s why today I want to share two drawings with you, created by children on opposite sides of the world, living through this time of fear and confusion.
You have touched the lives of both
these child artists through ALWS.
This poster was created by a Grade 3/4 student at Faith Lutheran College in the Barossa Valley. The school, along with Lutheran schools right around Australia, are finding ways to Walk your Way to help refugee children go to school.
Already more than 4,000 children have been supported!
Where do you think this poster was created?
When you see the paved road, and the shiny car, and the flourishing trees, you might think it’s a scene drawn by a child in Australia.
But you’d be wrong.
HINT: Look at the four coloured objects underneath the car, alongside the girl. These are rubbish bins, designed for recycling.
These bins for ‘wastage’ are part of the better life 13 year old Kristina, a Bhutanese refugee in Nepal, dreams …
“This picture is my dream camp. All the place is clean and tidy. The basic amenities are also well managed and properly used by the people.
The camps are not that much clean because of the wastage inside the camps. I would like to teach people through my picture so they can make clean of their house and camp.
I also want to make people aware why they have to manage lights in the roads inside the camps and on the edges. This will help girls and women like me to be safe while moving around at the evening and early morning.
We are at the edge of forest so we also need to be careful about possible attack from the wildlife. Good lighting can protect us more.”
13 year old Kristina aiming to improve life in the refugee camp where she must live …
… and that Grade 3/4 child in the Barossa Valley, fired up to help refugees
… are drawn together by your generosity through ALWS.
You inspire action in Australia that results in practical support – including COVID-19 protection – to people in camps in Nepal, Somalia, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Kenya.
You especially support refugee children to go to school. See more here
Today, I simply thank you for your generosity and commitment – for thinking of others when it would be so easy as we miss our loved ones, to only think of ourselves. Thank you!
PS: I hope you are doing OK through COVID-19. I know how tough it is to be separated from the people we love. If you need a chat, feel free to give ALWS a call on 1300 763 407, or simply email me. Thank you!
Photo of Kristina: LWF Nepal
HOPE Spot #20: 26 June 2020
Community Action Manager Jonathan Krause feels a little sheepish…
Last time I was in Africa I did something very silly.
I was thinking about a School Chapel presentation based on Matthew 25*, talking about the Sheep and Goats in how we serve the poor.
There are lots of sheep and goats in Africa.
Trouble is they look alike.
I got out of the 4WD to take a photo of what I thought was a sheep.
Turns out it was a goat.
(My colleagues had fun pointing at me and saying it was not the only goat. Silly Billy?)
The only difference I can tell between sheep and goats is that on sheep the tail hangs down, and on goats it sticks up.
That put s a whole new perspective on Jesus’ story of Sheep and Goats, doesn’t it? (A thought I plan to use for a video message for my church for 20 July.)
As you can see below, goats are part of your ALWS COVID-19 action in South Sudan …
Goats live on scraps, breed well, and produce milk and meat. So they are a great way for you to help families left in trouble by the impact of COVID-19 and poverty. (Already 256 goats have been provided to 128 families in Twic East.)
Alongside this, of course, is getting COVID-19 safety messages out to the community. A quick efficient way is using radio broadcasts …
Then, you bring together key leaders in the community, and train them, so they can take the COVID-19 health messages out to the community.
Training starts outside, washing hands …
… like here in Magwi, on the border with Uganda, where our ALWS family is supporting 5,667 refugees to return home.
(A 9:1 Matching Grant means it costs just $18 to help one person, with flow-on benefits to another 20 people. Donate before 30 June to claim your tax benefit this financial year.)
The front-line LWF team you support in South Sudan through ALWS uses a range of community buildings to meet people for training in COVID-19 …
… and other work (teaching farmers new skills, supporting women to start businesses, building peace)
… to help people rebuild their lives after they lost so much to conflict, drought and flood.
Come with me now so you can see
for yourself where you are working …
This building in Duk County looks to me like a church. (You can expect Sunday service to last a loud joyful dancing 3 hours as people feel they have so much to praise God for!)
Your team also uses school classrooms, like this session for teen girls in Maban …
… while sometimes, with COVID-19, it is better for training to happen outside with plenty of room for social distancing, like this session for young people
… or simply in community halls (again in Magwi, where you support refugees as they come home – 9:1 Matching Grant)
… or with full-time medical students working with Camp Leaders in Ajuong
… or at Secondary Schools, where teachers are briefed on distributing Home Learning Packages so students can keep up with their education
This is your work through ALWS. Thank you!
Going back to Jesus and the Sheep and the Goats …
… and thinking about what you do through ALWS
… I hope these photos inspire you as you see your kindness supporting so many ‘sheep’ to work in South Sudan! (No need to be ‘sheepish’ – you are a ‘sheep’ too!)
Reminder: You can still help 9:1 for South Sudan – donate before 5pm (AEST) Tuesday 30 June to claim your tax benefit this financial year. Thank you!
* Matthew 25:34-40 (The Message)
34-36 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
37-40 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
All photos except first one: LWF South Sudan
HOPE Spot #19: 19 June 2020
Community Action Manager Jonathan Krause reflects on shearing sheds, soap and smiles…
When I was a kid on my grandparents’ farm, it seemed the most fun came when you got most grubby.
Building forts. Crawling under the shearing shed. Playing frisbees with dried cow-pats.
Trouble is, come sunset, we weren’t allowed inside for tea until we were scrubbed clean.
That’s when mum produced the SOLVOL soap.
Do you know it? It’s super gritty, and as a kid I thought it took off as much skin as it did dirt.
The other brand soap I remember is LIFEBUOY.
I don’t know if you can still buy LIFEBUOY in Australia these days …
… but it’s the antibacterial soap your ALWS-supported team in Indonesia is supplying to the families you serve
… along with face-masks…
… and lessons in proper hand-washing
… all delivered with the kind of friendly smile that tells you that even though you are poor, you are important …
… and though you may be far away, people care enough about you to come close and make sure you are safe.
That’s why this LIFEBUOY soap – supplied by you with the 10:1 Australian Government Grant – couldn’t be better named.
Your soap is a lifesaver for people
in danger from COVID-19.
You’re a lifesaver in Somalia too – where supplying soap calls for courage and commitment.
The Australian Government bans Aussies from going into Somalia because of the danger from terror attacks that target aid workers. The people needing your help live inside Camps for Internally Displaced People. The Muslim community you go to has suffered conflict and poverty for far too long.
Yet here you are, finding a way to make sure those most in need don’t miss out:
Somalia, Indonesia … Cambodia and Nepal too – all these are countries where your kindness through the 10:1 Australian Government Grant makes you a lifebuoy of hope in a sea of troubles.
Thank you for getting grubby to help others stay clean and safe!
PS: I hope you can see the smiles behind the face-masks!
HOPE Spot #18: 12 June 2020
Over the last couple of months we’ve seen Australian businesses adapt to COVID-19 …
… breweries making hand-sanitiser
… restaurants doing take-aways
… manufacturers making masks.
This week is Refugee Week so we thought you might be interested to know exactly the same thing is happening in refugee camps where you help people through ALWS.
First stop today is Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya, ‘home’ to 217,000 people. Then we’ll head to Nepal to meet an inspiring Bhutanese refugee lady.
Tinkering with Tailors
The refugees you help at Dadaab have fled conflict and famine in Somalia.
One of the key things you do through ALWS is train people as tailors, helping them gain the skills and build the confidence to start their own businesses.
During COVID, instead of beautiful dresses, shirts and school uniforms, the tailors you train are producing face-masks – 300,000 of them!
Line up the 300,000 masks in a row – it would be 60 kms long!
Already, 53,000 have been produced and distributed to front-line workers, the local host community and to the refugees.
As you can see from the photo below, it’s a production line AND a partnership – a partnership that starts with YOU. Thank you!
Lifeline and Life-saver
When Australian businesses had to close during our COVID-19 lockdown, the Australian Government stepped in to support people with JobKeeper and JobSeeker.
For Ms. Bimaya Rai, a Bhutanese lady now living in a refugee camp in Nepal, support was harder to find. Before COVID-19 hit, she owned a Tailoring Centre in the camp. As well as providing for her own family, Bimaya’s Centre employed six other refugee women.
The future looked bleak until the ladies came up with the idea of sewing face masks!
Through ALWS, you provided the materials – the ladies the sewing skills. More than 3,000 masks have already been produced. These are used by refugees, the local host community, construction workers and volunteers inside the camp, and even sold at local markets.
Bimaya told the LWF team you support inside the camp:
“We were in dilemma about how to manage the household expense
for the prolonged lockdown situation.
The idea of managing the existing tailoring centre
became a lifeline for all of us seven families in the camps.
Before, so many people who were not able to find a mask
can now get it at the camps and are protecting themselves
from the possible infection.
I feel proud for this contribution.
The refugee camps itself are very prone
for the possible spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.
We are contributing for the protection of the people at the camps
as well as making money for our family.
I suppose my business is making dual benefit –
to the community as well as to my family.”
This COVID-19 work of yours with Bimaya in the Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal is supported by the Australian Government 10:1 Grant.
Thank you for everything you do for others through ALWS.
If anyone ever asks you ‘So what difference do you make to refugees?’, now you’ve got the answer all stitched up …
303,000 face masks
to keep refugees safe
PS: You might also enjoy this 4 minute video showing the Lutheran Community Sewing Group in Adelaide teaching former refugees how to sew as they make new friends. Warning: Tissues essential!
Photo 1 and 2: LWF Kenya / Djibouti, Photo 3: LWF Nepal
HOPE Spot #17: 5 June 2020
Yesterday Jonathan had to help do a little video.
It’s for an online Chapel for a Lutheran School doing Walk My Way.*
He got a pair of his son’s smelliest thongs (think chook-yard / mud / teenager) …
… and shared how the refugee children you help go to school through ALWS often arrive barefoot
… having walked for weeks through stones and scorpions and snakes
… (not to mention attacks by bandits and rebels and wild animals).
One of the first things you do for these refugee children is provide what they call ‘slippers’ and you and I call ‘thongs’.
That led Jonathan to share with the students how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.
Those feet would have been filthy, sweaty, stinking, plastered with donkey poo …
Yet Jesus got down on his hands and knees and washed those feet.
Then called on us to do the same.
“And if your Lord and teacher has washed your feet,
you should do the same for each other.
I have set the example,
and you should do for each other
exactly what I have done for you.”
John 13:14, 15 (CEV)
What do you think about that?
While COVID-19 means we need to wash our hands clean, at the same time we need to get our hands dirty! That’s what you do through ALWS…
The dirty work – ‘slippers’ for battered feet, food for hungry bellies, toilets for protecting against disease.
The difficult work – caring for people with disability in communities that have never before regarded such people as precious and important.
The dangerous work – in places like war-torn South Sudan where ALWS has secured a new 9:1 Grant to help returning refugees ($18 per person).
Sometimes that dirty, difficult, dangerous work can leave you feeling worn-out and weary.
That’s why today we take you to Nepal to meet a young mum keeping her family safe because of the 10:1 COVID-19 help you give.
Ambika will inspire you:
“I was hearing the radio message
for the frequent hand washing.
However there was no soaps in my house
due to the lockdown situation,
and no income source to me
to bring to my family.
I was so happy to see the 4 pieces of soap
for me in the relief package …
… I heard that the soaps
were managed by the Lutheran
which has been supporting for us
for our income generation.
I would like to thank to the Lutheran team
and local government
for this support to me.”
That’s YOU Ambika is thanking!
Not just for the soap … also the ‘radio message’ … also the ‘income generation’ … and also what you see in the back right of the photo – a Lutheran Long Drop Loo!
When we look at Ambika washing her hands…
… we may think of Pilate when he washed his hands of Jesus, allowing him to be taken away and murdered.
Right now, it seems we are living in a time of chaos and confusion, hate and hurt.
As the world’s eyes turn to the horrors happening in the United States, we thank God that people like you continue to watch out for people in the world’s poorest countries.
You have the vision to see the people still in great danger from COVID-19, still threatened every day by poverty and injustice, still forced from their homes to flee as refugees.
You DON’T wash your hands of people like Ambika …
… instead you get your hands dirty
… and ‘wash feet’ with your humble acts of service.
What a blessing is your kindness – thank you!
* You can watch Jonathan’s message for online chapel at the Lutheran School in the 6 minute video here
HOPE Spot #16: 2 June 2020
When you help people through ALWS, you spend a lot of time in 4WDs …
… that’s because you go where people need you most, and it can often be tough work getting there!
Here you are reaching out to South Sudanese refugees in LWF-supported camps in northern Uganda. With you, on the loudspeaker, is Bishop Reverend Emmanuel Murye.
How refugees can best protect themselves against COVID-19 inside the crowded camps.
People here have suffered so much already, lost everything … how terrible if they were forgotten by the world at this time of COVID-19.
Many South Sudanese refugees now feel it is safe to return home …
… and you can be there to meet them to help them start a fresh new life!
ALWS has secured a new 9:1 Grant with German aid agency Brot fur die Welt, kicking off on 1 July 2020 for two years!
Working through our partner LWF, our aim together is to help 5,667 refugees build a safe, secure and sustainable life back home in Magwi County in South Sudan.
What’s exciting is the 9:1 Grant means you can help one person like Ayen for just $18!
Starving and scared … to restaurant-owner!
You might not realise just what a difference you make in people’s lives through ALWS, but read Ayen’s story and you’ll see how important you are:
BEFORE YOUR ALWS HELP
“I was taken out of school by my parents when I was 14 to care for the cattle in the bush camps. This meant I did not know the importance of education.
Remembering these days makes me feel very sad. Sometimes we would hear the guns. We would run away to hide and then come back. It was frightening for the children, especially to see people being killed. It is hard to see your young children starving.”
YOUR ALWS HELP
“I had been dreaming if I could start some sort of business. When a woman told me about the LWF training for cooking, I was very excited. I learned how to make soup, meat stews, fried meat, zambuzza, mudazzi, chappati – even a wedding cake!”
AFTER YOUR ALWS HELP
“I was so excited I wanted to start my business straight away! I collected firewood and saved the money to buy a bag of sugar. Then I started making tea to sell. After a short time, I had money to get ingredients to cook some food.
What encouraged me was that people would come and eat and then bring others back. I started small, but then it was growing. Now I have a restaurant and hired four women to help me in the business!
I feel so happy with the knowledge I have from this training. And I feel happy I OWN something. I have food for my children. I can pay their school fees, and I encourage them to complete school. Thank you for upgrading my life.”
Ayen x 5,667 = what we can do now!
1. EDUCATION – support children to go to school, in secure classrooms, with schoolbooks, and trained teachers
2. WATER – hygiene at school (protection against COVID-19), clean water at the Health Centre, farmers’ irrigation
3. LIVELIHOODS – you teach people skills so they can build a business and support their children at school
4. PEACE – South Sudan suffered horribly through conflict, now it’s time for repentance, forgiveness and healing
We’ve put together an e-Book of more stories just like Ayen’s – enjoy now – so you can see with your own eyes how you step into the lives of people forgotten by the world …
… and support them through ALWS to build a fresh new life.
This is why you jump onto 4WDs and head out on rocky roads into places like South Sudan – to meet people at the time they need you most …
… and if someone like Ayen offers you a plate of fire-grilled chicken and mudazza, enjoy it, because this gift for your tummy is a gift of thanks from the heart!
First photo in post: K. Logi / LWF
HOPE Spot #15: 29 May 2020
No talking from us today.
Instead, let us introduce you to Tita Sipau, part of the team in PNG raising awareness about COVID-19 to people living with disability.
Once you’ve had a chat with Tita, and heard the amazing way he plans to raise money to build a home for his family, plus his bag of groceries …
… you’ll meet Melany, who has a smile you’ll never forget!
“My name is Tita. I am physically impaired and depend on my wheelchair for mobility.
I was an active member of the disability self-help group in my village until my wife found a job in Lae as a housekeeper. The idea of being separated from my wife and children was not possible because I depend highly on them, and so we all moved to Lae to be close together.
I was unemployed and until now depended mostly on my wife for financial support.
In Lae, I became an active member of the Morobe Disabled Agency and was picked by the PNG Red Cross team to do COVID-19 awareness-raising.
My family and I were given a space at the disabled homes where we live in the open space in a tent and share a common room with four other families.
Life here is challenging and often difficult.
“There is no privacy and often no peace at all.”
Water is a problem and we must depend on water from the well to do laundry, cooking and bathing.
Hygiene is also a problem, but if I leave this place, where will I go?
It is difficult for such people like me with family to live with wantoks (relatives) in Lae.
Since hygiene was a concern, I really wanted to be part of this COVID-19 awareness team for people with disabilities, so I can learn and teach other people like me to practice hygiene.
I have learnt a lot.
My attitude towards cleanliness and hygiene is changing and so is my family because I keep on reminding them every day! I hope to take a trip back to my village and carry out awareness on hygiene practices in our self-help group.
My dream is to build my own house so my family and I can have our individual rooms with proper shower and toilet, without sharing common space with other people with no privacy.
I am saving the meal money
I receive from the Lutheran Church program
for the work I do on COVID-19 awareness.
I will use this to buy a small refrigerator
so I can store drinks and sell them
to raise funds to build my dream home.
If I was the president of the Morobe Disabled Agency, I would lead life skills training and awareness for people with disabilities and their caregivers. Then we all can raise up and do our own things without depending on other people for support.
I will advocate for the rights of people like me for better shelter, education and employment.
I want to thank the Lutheran Church program and ALWS for this experience. There are some things I learned which I didn’t expect and will not learn if I was not part of this COVID-19 awareness team. I will follow and support this work wherever it goes from here.
You put a smile on my family’s faces every time I go home with a shopping bag full of groceries.”
Tita’s family are not the only ones with smiles.
Meet Melany, from the Benong Parish Disability Group. When she received a COVID-19 Hygiene Pack, she thanked the team by saying …
… “I am happy” in tok pisin!
PSST: Take a look at who is sitting in the background – Tita!
Already the COVID-19 Awareness team supported from Australia has reached 576 people. This awareness is protecting lives PLUS bringing happiness to people like Melany!
You are part of this through ALWS, supporting the Lutheran Church work to implement the Australian Government-funded program.
Tenkyu Tenkyu tru Tenkyu tumas!
HOPE Spot #14: 27 May 2020
OK, so it looks like no one will be heading off overseas any time soon.
Instead, let us take you on a quick trip to four of the most fascinating countries in our region of the world.
You won’t need a passport, or needles, or quarantine exemption …
… because you are already there, through ALWS, helping protect people threatened by COVID-19.
First stop is NEPAL – to Morang, in the east, bordering India.
Sorry about the bumpy ride on the back of the ute …
… but don’t worry, it’s not your luggage your LWF team is unloading.
In fact, this is equipment you helped supply for the medical centre at Morang:
- one X-ray machine
- two electronic suction machines
- one Oxygen concentrator machine
- Personal Protection Equipment
- N95 and Surgical Masks.
This life-saving medical equipment was handed to the Honorable Minister for Social Development, Mr Jiban Ghimire by Pastor Joseph Soren of Lutheran Community Welfare Society, our LWF partner.
The Minister noted as he thanked your team:
“We always respect the international donors and their support for our priority and humanitarian and development initiatives …We are planning to establish more quarantine centres for migrant workers as they come to the country before they move for their village. I really appreciate that the medical items provided are from the list that has been shared.”
This medical equipment helps people alongside your other COVID-19 protection activities in Nepal, which are supported by the Australian Government 10:1 Grant:
- health messages in local language on radio
- posters in strategic public places
- food and sanitation for quarantine centres
- food for migrant workers returning from India
- water, sanitation and hygiene items to vulnerable families
- food for Bhutanese refugees
- psychosocial support for those most in danger.
Now, it’s time to head to CAMBODIA, 4,000 kms south east.
Because flights are out, I asked Google Maps how long it would take to walk.
No answer yet – it seems there are some rather large ‘hills’ in the way!
Here in Cambodia, your 10:1 Grant work is helping protect people in:
- Kampong Chnnang
- Kampong Speu
- and Pursat Provinces.
Already you have distributed:
- 19,000 posters on preventing COVID-19
- 19,000 posters on proper hand-washing
- 450 litres of cleaning alcohol
- 94 boxes of masks
- 739 boxes of gloves
- 206 bottles of hand-sanitiser
- 5,338 packets of soap
You also trained and equipped 334 community promoters to develop Action Plans for villages in 41 communes.
Your kindness protects 18,841 people.
After all that, you probably need a breather.
So let’s head down to INDONESIA.
While this billboard you helped erect tells you to ‘Stay at home’, I can assure you the people here welcome your COVID-19 support.
Through ALWS you have for many years supported training of Lutheran churches to support their communities through disaster risk reduction, and building livelihoods.
Now, during the time of COVID-19, churches have organised to distribute food to districts hit hard economically.
Due to the governmental shutdowns, many people have experienced reduced incomes, or lost their jobs completely.
The Christian Protestant Church in Indonesia (GKPI) developed a delivery service for the community to encourage people to stay at home while helping merchants make an income.
Meanwhile, the Protestant Christian Batak Church (HKBP) gave 100 chickens to establish a chicken farm to increase family income.
A fish pond was stocked with 2000 tilapia fish as a means of income for families in need.
After all that eggcitement, it’s time to head to PNG …
… to see Aussie goggles and gum-boots at work.
Here in PNG, ALWS provides expertise and energy to help the PNG Lutheran Church implement the programs the Australian Government generously supports (more than $1 million each year!)
The COVID-19 crisis has forced the church to pivot activities to protect lives.
The focus is on people in rural areas including and surrounding Lae, Finschaffen, Nawae, Markham and Menyama Tewai-Siassi. The innovative work includes:
- 12 day campaign reaching 576 people with disability (see photo of the Awareness Team below)
- 500 boxes of gloves and hygiene materials for 5 Lutheran Health rural hospitals
- 600 sets of overalls, gum-boots and goggles for hospital workers
- training for 18 Lutheran Health service staff
- support for Lutheran Development Service to prepare two Seed Bank sheds to provide seedlings for backyard vegetable gardens
- pastoral support through national newspapers
- COVID-19 awareness sessions on ELCPNG Kristen radio 89.1 FM
- 500 brochures, 1,000 posters, 3 public banners in Lae City.
Now it’s time to head for HOME – your bag packed with souvenir memories of all you do for people through ALWS …
… and while riding with hygiene materials in PNG might not be the most comfy way to travel, the fact you protect precious lives should make you feel FIRST CLASS!
HOPE Spot #12:
Sometimes it feels our world is so broken …
… it seems there is no way it can ever be put back together again.
Right now, we think of COVID-19.
It feels like it’s shattered everything we took for granted.
(Though here in Australia we are blessed with resources, health-care and leadership to protect us just about better than any place on earth. Even footy’s coming back!)
Last Friday ALWS received an email from the team you support in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, caring for Rohinga refugees in the world’s largest refugee camp.
The Camp now has its first cases of COVID-19 – and people are scared.
Exactly one year ago Jonathan from ALWS visited Rohingya people forced to live in Displaced Persons Camps in Rakhine State in Myanmar.
He saw how wonderful the people are, how eager children are to learn …
… and also how dangerous a disease like COVID-19 could be when people live in crowded camps, with only basic sanitation, unreliable water supply, not enough food, and minimal health-care.
All that seems a world too broken for us to put back together.
Yet here at ALWS every day we see how acts of kindness from people like you can spark hope where all seemed lost.
A while back Jonathan wrote a little book – come to life – about trying to live as a Christian in this mixed-up falling-apart broken-down world.
Right now, ACR who sell the book have agreed to work with us to use come to life to help fight COVID-19.
Simply buy the book for $20 … and $10 helps people threatened by COVID-19.
($10 covers printing and sale of book – Jonathan receive’s nothing, ACR gives a kind donation.)
The $10 that goes to ALWS supports the 10:1 COVID-19 campaign, so you actually support $100 worth of life-protecting action (PLUS you get the book!)
There are stories in come to life that show your kindness supporting people to put their world back together …
… proof that when we each do our bit, even in the hardest places hope can come to life.
HOPE Spot #11: 13 May 2020
Today we’re going to take you somewhere you can’t go.
Nor can we.
Nor can any Australian.
Even before COVID-19 stopped overseas travel, the Australian Government warned:
Do not travel to Somalia
due to the high risk
of terrorist attack, kidnapping,
armed conflict and violent crime.
Yet, through ALWS …
… and supported by the Australian Government 10:1 Grant
… YOU are in Somalia right now!
The lady you see in the photo is a Community Education volunteer practicing social distancing to protect against COVID-19.
She is one of dozens of volunteers you train inside Internally Displaced Persons Camps in Kismayo in Jubaland in the south of Somalia.
This is where our Australian ALWS family supports 1,500 displaced children to go to school.
It’s dangerous work.
There is only a 15 kilometre wide safe zone. Terrorist group Al Shabaab is a constant threat. Just last July a hotel in Kismayo was bombed and 26 people killed.
Yet here you are, hands on, helping people.
Each child you support at school receives 600gms of soap, as you can see here.
They then take their soap, and COVID-19 training, back to their shelter in the Camp and teach their families how to protect themselves.
Of course, soap without clean water can’t protect against disease …
… so you also support our LWF team to provide an extra 57,900 litres of clean water for hygiene and sanitation for the 600 girls and 900 boys our ALWS family helps!
You’re welcome to keep using the 10:1 Grant to help children go to school and support this life-protecting ALWS COVID-19 work in Somalia …
… or simply smile, reach out, and join our special
Soaped-Up Social Distancing Somalia Samba!
Thank you for having the courage to be kind to people you don’t know, in places you can’t go … that’s how hope grows.
HOPE Spot #10: 8 May 2020
Surfing is the main reason Australians go to Mentawai Island in Indonesia. It has some of the best surfing waves in the world!
Through ALWS, you’re here not to surf … but to save lives.
In ‘normal’ times, you support our partner CDRM&CDS, working through local Lutheran churches, to help communities protect themselves from natural disasters (like the Boxing Day Tsunami).
Now, you are teaching people to protect themselves against the disaster of COVID-19.
Just last week you put up this Billboard in the centre of a local village …
… and in coming days will put up 250 more in Mentawai, Nias and Pakpak regions.
If you look closely, you can see your ALWS logo … along with the Australian Government logo, supporting your work here with a 10:1 Grant. Donate 10:1 now!
Billboards are just the start of your life-protecting work in Indonesia.
Field staff (using mask, physical distancing, and multiple hand-washings) go door-to-door to distribute 7,000 smaller posters to villagers.
The posters are printed in the 3 local languages used by most people – Mentawai, Nias and Bahasa.
Your Field Staff (using mask, physical distancing, and multiple hand-washings) teach what the posters outline.
Already 1,955 villagers have been reached:
- 656 males
- 556 females
- 63 people with disability
- 330 boys
- 350 girls
After the villagers have been shown how to wash their hands properly,
and why, you support them with soap + plastic or bamboo water tanks …
You then support local village governments to create a COVID-19 Action Station:
- a Team Member volunteers to lead village preparations:
- check body temperature of people arriving from outside the village
- spray disinfectant
- register visitors
- Provide disinfectant to spray public places:
- village hall and office
- churches and compound
- local school
- Health Post
- Community Centre
- Provide hand-washing kits:
- plastic water tank
All this is your work through ALWS, supported by the Australian Government 10:1 Grant.
You don’t have to be a surfer to want to go to this beautiful part of the world…
… you simply need to care about families struggling against poverty, disease and the threat of natural disaster.
That’s a wave of kindness we can all ride – thank you!
HOPE Spot #9: 6 May 2020
Take one minute right now to come into the refugee camp at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, where you care for Rohingya refugees through ALWS.
This is the largest refugee camp in the world right now, and the threat of COVID-19 is terrifying. Through ALWS (working in a 11:1 partnership with the Czech Republic), you support:
- local production of hand sanitiser
- distribution to front-line health workers
- distribution to refugees + local communities
- livelihood support to people on lowest income
See for yourself the impact you make, by watching the 1-minute video below:
HOPE Spot #8: 1 May 2020
BOM says it will be cold and wet in the Barossa Valley tomorrow morning.
Yet dozens of people will be pulling on blue Walk My Way T-shirts, social distancing, and walking up to 26 kilometres to help refugee children go to school.
While that’s amazing, that’s not the surprise. (Here at ALWS every day we see how wonderful people can be in their caring.)
YOUR DOUBLE SURPRISE
This week an ALWS supporter couple, with a teaching background in Lutheran schools, offered an amazing dollar for dollar ‘match’ for this w
eekend’s Walk My Way.
The offer runs for the 48 hours from midday Friday to midday Sunday … and is valued at $12,500 – enough to support 480 refugee children to g
o to school!
It costs $26 to support a refugee child in school for a year … but now, your donation of $26 can support TWO children. Simply click here to have your donation DOUBLED!
How is this a COVID-19 HOPE Spot?
This wonderful DOUBLE offer is a COVID-19 HOPE Spot because school is where refugee children learn why and how they must wash their hands properly!
That’s protection against diarrhoea, water-borne disease and COVID-19!
(PLUS, the children teach mum and dad too!)
Your DOUBLED donation will be a big encouragement to our brave Walk My Way walkers this weekend PLUS a lifetime blessing to the children you support go to school.
HOPE Spot #7: 29 April 2020
Today’s HOPE Spot is only 20 seconds long …
… and is brought to you by the kids at Calvary Kindy in SA (voices)
… and the children you help through ALWS (soapy hands and sunny smiles).
Enjoy – this life-protecting work is yours. Thank you!
HOPE Spot #6: 24 April 2020
When you meet Ciza from Burundi – one of the five poorest countries in the world – and hear her story about COVID-19, you might wonder where hope can possibly be.
“I’m CIZA Anastasie, 28 years old, from Kabingo Colline, Gisuru Commune, Ruyigi province.
I already know about the disease and its symptoms like fever, cough, and physical pains.
I have so much fear.
I think that whenever it will reach here at the field, we would die massively because we are already vulnerable and our country is so far behind other countries worldwide where the covid-19 killed so many people.”
You can hear Ciza’s terror, can’t you?
The reason this is a HOPE Spot is because you are already working here in Burundi. You’ve taught her, and her community, how to wash hands properly.
See that FLM on the bicycle?
That stands for Federation Lutherienne Mondiale – French for Lutheran World Federation, our ALWS partner.
The two regions where you work through ALWS – Ruyigi and Cankuzo Provinces – are the poorest in Burundi. They border Tanzania, from where many Burundian refugees are being forced to return home.
People go into quarantine – but you can see the danger as people are crammed in together.
There can hardly be a place on earth where your kindness is needed more.
Mrs. Emelyne Ndakiriye, who you see here, is the LWF Manager in Cankuzo.
“There are many deaths as there is not enough infrastructure, equipment, medicine or specialised health workers.
There is also not enough food for adequate nutrition, which means people have less strength to resist the coronavirus. 90% of people live from agriculture, but farming has had to stop.
There is no selling of harvest in order to cover other basic needs because markets are closed. Many products are imported and prices have increased, which people can’t afford.”
You can keep supporting ALWS COVID-19 action here.
Because of your kindness, people in Burundi are being taught to properly wash their hands. People do hear COVID-19 messages over the radio, and from loudspeakers on cars.
Most important, thanks to you, people know they are not forgotten.
When they see that FLM bicycle, they know someone cares enough about them to come to them and help them.
This is YOU. This is your work through ALWS. This is the HOPE Spot you create.
On behalf of Ciza, front-line staff like Emelyne, and every other person you help to hope – thank you!
HOPE Spot #5: 21 April 2020
You’ll be inspired to see what Samir, a refugee at Kakuma Refugee Camp is doing since COVID-19 has begun threatening the camp.
A young designer, he has started sewing face masks – 100 a day!
Samir readily admits his masks are not surgical quality – but aim simply to discourage people from touching their faces.
Samir sews the masks on a foot-powered treadle machine, and uses African fabrics of many different colours, each representing the different nations living in the camp.
(One of the many activities you support in Kakuma Camp through ALWS is teaching sewing skills so people like Samir can set up their own tailoring businesses.)
Sewing doesn’t stop at Kakuma though.
Each Friday morning (in non-COVID times), the Lutheran Community Sewing Group in Adelaide welcomes former refugees, now our new neighbours, and teaches them how to sew – while making new friends and having fun!
There are 37 ladies on the books, and another 5 waiting for a sewing machine to become available. The ladies come from Iran, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, South Sudan, India, Iraq and Eritrea.
Mai, (on the left), fled war in Liberia to a refugee camp in Guinea. She recalls:
“It was terrible at the war. We ran away with nothing.
It was strange arriving in Australia. If you don’t speak good English, it is very hard to get a job.
Back in Liberia, I had a business. I could buy and sell. But here in Australia you need much more to start a business.
I came to Sewing Group with a friend. Everyone here is lovely and welcomes me.”
Helen Semmler, (on right), played a key role in starting the group in 2002. She says:
“I love seeing the women go forward. They often come to us quite traumatised, or with very low self-esteem because they come from cultures that don’t value women.
We take a photo of even the smallest item a lady makes – even just a pin-cushion. We all stop and clap because we want to affirm the progress people are making.”
The Sewing Group could not happen without the support of volunteers – like this group from the Barossa Valley, an hour’s drive away!
In total there are 17 volunteer teachers, three more volunteers in the kitchen, four in the creche for 12+ children, plus four drivers …
… and all these volunteers have had a big job this year supporting the Sewing Group to sew 800 African Carry Bags for Walk My Way – now Walk YOUR Way (because of COVID-19).
Why the ‘carry’ on?
The Carry Bags are a simple way to say thank you to Walkers like Maya, who walk 26 kilometres to raise money to help refugee children at Kakuma go to school. (Each $26 raised supports one child – donate here.)
Maya lives in Melbourne but comes from Perth – so just before the WA borders closed, she flew home to be with her family during lockdown.
Maya did her Walk over the weekend, and explains why she walked:
“Freedom – just what the refugees I’m fundraising for also crave.
My ALWS ‘Walk My Way’ was extra special because I finally had the freedom to leave the house after 14 days of self-isolation/quarantine!
I couldn’t wait to go for a walk further than the front lawn! And to be able to do it all for a great cause made it all the sweeter!”
Sew what next?
Watch a 4 minute video of the Sewing Group here (you’ll need tissues).
Register or donate for Walk your Way here (each $26 helps a child go to school).
Use 10:1 Government Grant to multiply 10 TIMES your ALWS COVID-19 action here.
What a blessing it is that despite the challenges, of COVID-19, all of us can find a way to work together to help people hold onto hope!
HOPE Spot #4: 14 April 2020
This ute is taking supplies to set up a Quarantine Room for COVID-19 patients to a hospital in Jhapa, on the Nepal border with India.
As part of the ALWS family, you helped load this ute – thank you!
We’ll show you more below, but first we have GOOD NEWS for you …
… the Australian Government has approved ALWS for a 10:1 Grant to fight COVID-19 in our projects in Nepal, Cambodia and Indonesia!
DONATE HERE so your help is MULTIPLIED 10 TIMES!
ALWS has already kick-started your COVID-19 action … which is why the ute is on its way! Your kindness (multiplied 10 TIMES) helps supply:
- 20 plywood beds
- 20 mattresses
- 20 sets of bed sheets
- 20 pillows
- 20 woollen blankets
- 20 mosquito nets
- 20 dustbins (1 per bed)
- 20 pairs of slippers
- 20 sets of plates and glasses for kitchen at the quarantines
- 400 pieces of soaps (for quarantine only)
You can see the supplies being handed over here …
… and below is one of the 20 quarantine beds you supply:
No, there’s not a lot of comfort – but before your help, there was not even this!
See the ‘ALWS’ marked on the bed-frame?
This is part of the accountability process, to make sure your help can be monitored all the way through … so you can always trust your donation ‘gets there’!
Your 10:1 donation also cleans up!
Soap for proper handwashing is critical – not just at the Quarantine Room, but for families living in threatened areas…
… so your ute also delivered 2,000 bars of soap – enough for 500 families!
ALWS is very grateful to the Australian Government for supporting our COVID-19 action in Nepal, Cambodia and Indonesia … and for the 10:1 Grant that multiplies your help 10 TIMES!
This (bea)uteful way of helping people in danger from COVID-19 is your HOPE Spot for today! Thank you!
As we take this very different Easter into our daily lives, we leave you with some words we hope will encourage you:
When I am hurting, I will find comfort in your promise that leads to life.
HOPE Spot #3: 9 April 2020
Come to South Sudan and share in the joy your kindness brings, and see how your handwashing lessons for families are saving lives!
Check out this amazing ‘tap dance’ …
Simply push the stick down with your foot … and the string tugs down the jerry-can … and you are hands-free to wash with soap!
You’re protected from COVID-19, and other diseases that threaten when you live in poverty and only have basic sanitation, like this toilet:
Despite the challenges the people of South Sudan face, their faith is strong. Below you see a local tukul decorated to celebrate Easter:
Girma Gudina heads up the LWF team you support in South Sudan.
He shared with us the challenge of fighting COVID-19 here:
“God is there, everywhere, as always … I hold on to hope by keeping trust in the unfailing love of God, and doing the best I can in the circumstances. Even in difficult times, I believe God has a plan for us, plans for hope and a future.”
As we celebrate the victory of Easter, we leave you with the verse our partner LWF has chosen for their 5 year strategic plan. May this be your HOPE Spot too:
I will bless you with a future filled with hope – a future of success, not of suffering.
Jeremiah 29:11 (CEV)
HOPE Spot #2: 7 April 2020
You don’t know Phatima.
You will never visit the remote village in Nepal where she lives with 31 families.
Yet life is safer here because of a message from the front-line LWF team you support through ALWS. The message explained the dangers of COVID-19, and how Phatima’s community could protect itself.
You deserve to know how much Phatima valued this care and concern:
“I feel some emotion when I receive this message.
“We feel great that Lutheran has expressed their concern about us and our safety.
“We also hear the message through FM radio in Santhali language. This has better impact in the society for those who do not understand Nepali language.
“Before, we were in a dilemma about the rumour and also the fake news spread all over the village about the consequences of COVID-19.
“Now, we are hopeful that Lutheran is with us for our support, and to give us authentic information, and help us to prepare against the risk.
“We are practising the social distance, frequent hand-washing, covering the nose and mouth with elbow while sneezing.
“There are 31 families in my village, and some of them cannot read. I have asked them to get support from their school-going children. Our children catch the message easily, and they tell us if we are not following the instructions properly!”
As Australia works to protect ourselves from COVID-19, we hope you can feel a sense of joy knowing your generosity keeps on working hard in places like Phatima’s village.
While we have a wonderful health system, good education and quick access to care – people in poor communities like Phatima’s don’t. So it’s vital we are quick and creative in how we work to protect them from COVID-19.
So, as well as messages to community leaders like Phatima’s, through ALWS you also provide posters like this one …
… and radio messaging in Nepali, Tharu, Doteli and Santhali.
You also support front-line teams with masks, surgical gloves and goggles to protect them while they distribute soap, and provide handwashing lessons, to local communities.
Your kindness through ALWS brings love to life for people who might otherwise be forgotten.
Your generosity helps make sure no one is left behind. Thank you!
HOPE Spot #1: 3 April 2020
Your kindness through ALWS changes children’s lives.
The children in the photo above are three of the 44,000+ refugee children supported to go to school by last year’s ALWS GRACE Project.
They live at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.
The Kenyan Government has now closed down schools – including the 21 Primary Schools at Kakuma – to protect children against COVID-19.
Your HOPE Spot is that all these children have already learned the life-protecting power of washing hands properly.
They were taught this skill to protect against diarrhoea and other diseases that can easily spread in a refugee camp – but now it helps protect them against COVID-19 too!
PLUS, these 44,000+ children teach mums and dads how to wash their hands properly too! Hooray!