About: Sarah Ponce

Posts by Sarah Ponce:

No more subsistence farming!

April 24, 2017 by Sarah Ponce

What happens when a farmer trains a farmer who trains a farmer who trains a farmer?

An entire community can change.

Most East Africans are dependent on agriculture. They produce enough to keep their families alive, but just barely. There is never quite enough to eat, and nothing left over to sell.

This is subsistence farming.

ELI Extension Training Coordinator Isaac Ruto conducts trainings that equip farmers over a period of two years to transform their farms into a business so that they are not only feeding their families, but they are also generating income. How does it work? Here are a few key ingredients to the program’s success.

Ingredient #1 What do you already have? Start there.

If you already grow vegetables on a small plot of land, start with vegetables and that small plot of land. Learn everything you can about the resources you already have. Many farmers want to head straight to big cash crops and large livestock. Isaac teaches them to start small, to start where they are, and to grow from there.

Ingredient #2 Build slowly over time.

Many subsistence farmers hope for a quick solution to their farming woes. But farming is complex, and most farmers are lacking knowledge more than resources. Over the course of the first year of training, the farmers learn which crops they are best suited to grow. They concentrate on that item until there is a surplus that can be invested in a new area, like chickens. From chickens, they can grow to sheep, and from sheep they can grow to fruit trees and cattle.

Timothy is a farmer who used the knowledge he gained from extension training to break free from subsistence farming and start operating a small business.

Ingredient #3 Train others as you are being trained.

Isaac trains and then oversees ELI coordinators who are assigned to a region. Each of these coordinators trains thirty farmers using short but powerfully practical lessons over a two-year period. After six months, these thirty farmers begin to train ten other farmers who in turn train another five farmers. After a few years of these exponential trainings, hundreds and eventually thousands of families are impacted!

This kind of practical agribusiness training is one of the key programs ELI has developed to fight the complexities of poverty in East Africa. Like Isaac Ruto, we are committed to helping people start where they are and grow over time. It is your prayers and generosity that are helping to bring an end to subsistence living for Timothy and many more families in need. Thank you for your partnership!

 

 

What does it mean to honor God with your life?

April 12, 2017 by Sarah Ponce

Meet Eliud, a quiet 19-year-old from our Ilula Children’s Home whose life honors God.

We want to share with you the story of Eliud, one of our graduates from the Ilula Children’s Home. Eilud was brought to the Home in 2004 following the death of his mother. When he arrived, he was 5 years old and very malnourished. He was so weak that his grandmother carried him tied to her back like an infant. Today, Eliud is in good health. He likes to run and help with the bread baking for the Home, and he has a constant smile on his face.

School is something that never came easy to Eliud, and over the years he struggled more and more to keep up with his classmates. His house parents, Priscah and David, became concerned that he would not be able to complete his education. Eliud was enrolled in a school for children with special needs, and he finished the 8th grade. In Kenya, it is vital that a student do well on the 8th grade final exams in order to be admitted into high school. Eliud was not able to perform well on these exams, prohibiting him from being placed in a high school.

One by one the other 8th graders at the Home received their acceptance letters from various high schools, but none came for Eliud. After months of searching and feeling like there may be no hope for further education for him, an answer came. Eliud was accepted as a student in the tailoring program at a vocational school near Ilula that has a good reputation. “His smile was so big!” said Eliud’s house mother, Priscah. “He said ‘Mom, I got a place!’ He is proud to be attending a good school.”

Children like Eliud can easily fall through the cracks in a country where there is a limited system set up for people with special needs. And they can also feel like there is no hope if they are unable to succeed in school. We are committed to giving each one of our kids a bright future. Whether they attend a top university or learn a trade, we walk with them every step of the way.

It is through the love and commitment of people like you that Eliud has been able to find a place to learn and thrive. Thank you for your dedication to these children that God has placed in our care. It is a joy to watch them grow up and to see the many ways that they are honoring God with their lives!

Meet 13-year-old Pius

March 16, 2017 by Sarah Ponce

Pius is one of eight children and his mother, Perris, is a woman who brewed illegal alcohol in her home for many years. Perris left brewing behind after attending an Empowering Lives training in 2013. In the past four years, 882 brewers like Perris have been trained in alternate occupations. The majority of these brewers have been women. As they return home to start their new lives, a ripple effect of positive change in their households begins.

Pius described the home he lived in before his mother attended the training as embarrassing. He would come home from school during lunch break and instead of finding food he would find a line of customers waiting for his mother’s home-brewed alcohol. One day at school Pius’ teacher pointed out that his uniform was becoming too tattered and she sent him home. When he asked his mother for a new shirt, she did not provide one for him. Perris was too busy with the demands of the alcoholics in her home to properly care for her children. Some days up to 100 customers would come through the door, and there was no time for anything but brewing.

After Perris attended the ELI training, Pius said, everything changed. Perris left brewing and began a small successful business raising chickens. She was able to spend more time talking with her children, encouraging them and giving them the attention they needed. She purchased a new uniform for Pius and began providing proper meals. She started talking about God. Perris encouraged the whole family to go to church, and they continue to attend church to this day. Perris became a beacon of light in her community, encouraging many others to leave brewing. Her influence has affected countless lives well beyond her own family and village.

This is a better life, Pius shared. There is hope for the future when once there was no hope. His performance at school has improved and he is able to attend secondary school, a privilege his older siblings did not have. Thank you, Pius said, and may God bless you!

We are committed to bringing positive change to all of our reformed brewers, and we are so encouraged when we hear stories like this. As we conduct follow-ups with brewers this year, we will also be providing events that foster healing for their children. If you would like to partner with us in the mission of giving brewers a new path to freedom through training, click here.

Thank you for being a part of the journey. Together we are empowering lives!

Equipping the Poor – An Interview with Colleen Costigan

February 28, 2017 by Sarah Ponce

You have joined us in the journey to equip the poor to live sustainable lives that honor God. Today, we want to unpack what working with the poor looks like in Kenya by talking with Colleen Costigan. Colleen has been with Empowering Lives for the past four years at the Kipkaren Children’s Home and she also works with people living in extreme poverty in a nearby slum community.

How would you define “the poor” in Kenya? Are “the poor” different in Kenya than in the US?
I think it’s important to differentiate between physical poverty and spiritual poverty. Physical poverty is when a person does not have enough resources to get basic needs met like food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare. Spiritual poverty looks more like hopelessness and despair and is often a lack of awareness of how much a person needs God. I’ve met many people in Kenya who at some point in their lives have had to rely on God for food, water or shelter or to provide for school fees or money for an overwhelming hospital bill. There is an element of faith and trust in God that is built into the culture in order to survive. And I think this helps cultivate a reliance on God.

How have you seen physical resources not being enough to lift a person out of poverty?
I have been involved in a situation where I’ve tried everything to offer a person a way out of poverty. I’ve tried empowerment through education, empowerment through a farm project, a Christian 12-step rehabilitation program, and continuously sharing the gospel message. That person (and family) remains chained to addiction and trapped in poverty. The only thing left to do is pray and wait and pray some more and wait some more and trust that God has a plan.

Is there a way to combat poverty that you have found to be most effective?
I don’t think there is an easy or “best” solution to combat poverty. I think you have to try different combinations of things and be willing to fail. It’s important to try to be open minded and flexible. I do think education is an incredibly powerful tool to break the cycle of poverty, and education needs to be coupled with the word of God and prayer. The hope through education is that people are empowered to know their worth, value, and purpose for being on earth.

What are your hopes for equipping the poor with ELI this year?
I am very passionate about the counseling program for the Children’s Homes. Over the last two years it has been a tool to educate and equip the caregivers at the Children’s Homes to learn about the most loving ways to care for the hearts of orphans and vulnerable children. The counseling program has also served as a tool to educate the children and staff on issues related to child safety and protection and minimize risk of any potential harm.

To learn more about the counseling program, click here!

We are so grateful to Colleen for sharing with us about the work God is doing through her and through ELI in East Africa right now.

Empowering lives together,
Sarah Ponce
Communications Manager
Empowering Lives International

A story of loss and redemption in the Democratic Republic of Congo

February 22, 2017 by Sarah Ponce

Each of our 600+ students at the ELI Christian Academy in the Democratic Republic of Congo has a story. Today, we want to share with you the story of 13-year-old Musayi Maombi.

Musayi is the youngest of four girls. The father of the three older girls disappeared during the war, and shortly thereafter Musayi’s mother was raped by soldiers and conceived Musayi. When Musayi was born, the family rejected her, only recognizing the three older daughters. Seeing this injustice, Musayi’s maternal grandmother took her into her home and did her best to care for her. When Musayi reached primary school, her grandmother died. Having no other option, Musayi went back to her mother’s home where she was abused by her family. Her three sisters attended school, but Musayi was denied an education.

Musayi was confused by the treatment she was experiencing. She asked her mother why no one cared about her, but she did not get a response. Finally, when she could not bear her situation any longer, Musayi confided in a neighbor. The neighbor shared with Musayi the story of her conception, and explained to her why she was not considered a legitimate member of the family. Musayi wept at the news and returned home. A week later, the same neighbor brought Musayi to the ELI Christian Academy. The neighbor presented the girl’s case to the school, and a social worker was sent to her home to verify the situation.

Musayi was able to join the school and was finally treated as a person of worth and value by teachers, staff and students. It took her a long time to open up to the love and care she was not used to receiving. Musayi met other children with similar backgrounds to her own, and slowly she began to enjoy life at the school. She is now in her third year at the ELI Christian Academy, and the school has become like a second home to her. Musayi sings in the choir and is working hard at her studies.

Sadly, Musayi’s story is not an unusual one in the DRC. Our goal is to give each of the children at our school a safe haven to learn and grow, and to teach them about their intrinsic worth in the eyes of God. We believe that every child deserves a bright future. Thank you so much for your partnership in this important mission. We could not do it without you!

Learn more about how you can provide an education for children in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Sarah Ponce
Communications Manager
Empowering Lives International

 

 

Drilling wells in Tanzania

February 9, 2017 by Sarah Ponce

Bringing clean water to Tanzania is transforming lives!

Where is Empowering Lives drilling wells, and why that area?
Empowering Lives has been drilling water wells in the dry, rural areas of the Mara region of Northern Tanzania for 3 years. Water is very difficult to access in this part of the country. The ground is too rocky and the water too deep for local hand dug wells or small machine drilling, so many existing shallow wells have gone dry in this year’s drought. Most communities rely on existing water sources that are far from their homes. These sources contain bacteria and are parasite-ridden. Households spend up to 25% of each day fetching water.

There are a lot of organizations drilling wells…What makes the ELI well drilling program different?
One of our core values is giving a hand-up, not a hand-out, and so we partner with communities to raise the $7,000 needed to drill a deep well. People in the community are mobilized to work together and unite to contribute towards the cost of the well. Some will sell a chicken, some a goat, and others contribute from the $1-$2 they make per day. In the end, the community will raise about $1,000, which will in part be used to purchase a heavy-duty hand pump for the well. This encourages the community to take ownership and pride in their new water source and is a big step towards future development. Empowering Lives provides for the drilling rig and the drilling team, and covers the remaining cost of the well. Water drilling has opened up doors for ELI to cultivate meaningful relationships with people and families who live in difficult, rural areas

How can I get involved in the fight against the water crisis in Tanzania?
We have a 2017 goal of drilling 20 wells in partnership with communities! Open up another door for the Gospel message by fully sponsoring a well for $6000, or by making a donation of any amount that will be pooled together with others towards a water well. Learn more about drilling wells in Tanzania.

Watch this brief video to see what collecting water is like without a well, and to see the well drilling process in action:

 

A Community that Spans an Ocean

January 27, 2017 by Sarah Ponce

Meet the Women of Change.

Women of Change is network of women who are committed to supporting the movement of change happening among brewers in East Africa. Val Roark is the coordinator of Women of Change, and she shares with us today about the importance of community on both sides of the ocean.

How do you feel community is important to Women of Change?
Community is important because it gives us emotional support and accountability. If you want to really champion a cause and champion what God is doing in other places, having someone with you who is excited alongside you is so encouraging.

How do you feel community is important to the brewers?
The groups there meet sometimes weekly, sometimes once a month. They do merry-go-round or table banking together so they’re not only supporting each other socially, spiritually and emotionally, but also supporting each other financially to some degree. Because they come from a village together and are trained at ELI, they go back home with that support system. And that support is paramount to their success; I saw it for myself over and over again.

Do you feel the Women of Change community in the US is connected to the communities of former brewers in Kenya?
That is what I want to see happen. We can embrace the change they are making and recognize and look at ourselves and think how does that impact me personally. What does God want to change in my life?
Also they (the brewers) are realizing we are all in God’s world and His kingdom, and they have these friends who are sisters of change who are far away but care about them. For the women in Africa to feel this connection is huge. I saw on their faces what it meant to them, even just to think we are praying for them. And then for them to say we’ll pray for you…when I see the faith they have, I want people like that praying for me!

Interested in getting involved with Women of Change? Contact Val at womenofchange@empoweringlives.org about joining a chapter or starting your own chapter in your area.

 

Interview with Val Roark by Sarah Ponce
Communications Manager
Empowering Lives International