Posts by Sarah Ponce:
July 18, 2017 by Sarah Ponce
We’ve said it time and time again. Poverty is complex. The issues behind poverty are complex. The problem of brewing illegal alcohol is complex, and it is our mission to address the whole problem, and not just part of it.
We are doing this in many ways: through follow-ups with brewers who have been through the ELI training, through support groups amongst these former brewers, and through community outreach programs like Give a Child a Chance.
Give a Child a Chance is an event where reformed brewers and their families gather to continue the healing process that has begun in their lives. Hundreds come together to play games, share testimonies, and engage in community building activities.
How does this help the issue of brewing illegal alcohol and the growing problem of alcoholism in Kenya? Our Training Center Manager, Dennis Kiprop, shares:
“You can’t change an entire community by only changing the mom. A community is a collection of families. You change the community by changing the family, and you access the family through that one member.”
The Give a Child a Chance events are whole-family and whole-community events. The goal of Give a Child a Chance is healthy homes that help build a healthy community.
“We want to multiply impact,” says Dennis. “For change to be sustainable, there must be unity. A changed family can change another family. Train a husband, a wife and a child and the three of them together will now show others the new way forward.”
Thank you for being a part of the mission to bring healing to families and communities that have been broken by alcohol. It takes many hands to bring about transformation, and we are grateful for your partnership!
June 22, 2017 by Sarah Ponce
Hillary was the very first child brought to the Ilula Children’s Home in 2004 when he was seven years old. There were no relatives who were able to care for Hillary and his siblings when his mother passed away in 2003. They were without hope until they learned about the Children’s Home through Laban and Angelina Rono, the Directors of the Home.
When Hillary arrived at Ilula, he came barefooted with only the clothes on his back. At first he was scared and uncertain of his new environment, but over time it became home, and his foster parents and adopted brothers and sisters became family.
“When Laban, the Director, told me that these are going to be your parents, I heard it like a voice from God. God was saying, ‘Now this is going to be your mother and father.’ And that voice has never stopped. When I think of a mother and father, I always think of them. I still feel that connection.”
Today, Hillary is thriving. He studied journalism and mass media at Kisii University, and is currently working for the government. He visits the Home frequently and stays in contact with the family he has there.
His life has been deeply impacted by Empowering Lives.
We are currently in the process of bringing sixteen new children to the Ilula Children’s Home! Nine are still awaiting sponsors. Help bring these nine remaining kids into the Home where they will be adopted into a forever family just like Hillary. $35 a month will transform the life of a child in need! Click here to learn more about how you can help give a child a home.
June 8, 2017 by Sarah Ponce
In February, my team and I went on a follow-up visit to meet Sikuku, one of the hundreds of men who has gone through the Kenya Anti-Alcohol Training provided at Empowering LivesInternational. I would like to share with you some of his story.
Drinking from the age of 10
Sikuku’s family used to brew alcohol, and he began drinking at the age of 10. He made it to grade 7 in school, but did not continue because of his addiction to alcohol. Sikuku continued to drink illicit brew until 2007, when alcoholism drove him to madness. He began hallucinating and thought people were chasing him, trying to kill him with machetes. At one point while intoxicated, he jumped down a deep quarry thinking it was shallow. He could have died, but God had big plans for him!
Sober for a decade
Sikuku came in 2007 to a one-month rehabilitation program after being convinced by his friends who had gone through the same program a year before. He showed up drunk. Although he didn’t have any money to pay for the training, nobody asked him about finances and he completed the 12-step program. Sikuku has now been sober for 10 years!
Becoming a businessman
Sikuku started a small business by using a borrowed tractor to plow fields and make deliveries. In 2011, Sikuku opened his own store, called “Umoja (Unity) Workshop”. Along with his wood shop business, Sikuku also owns a large poultry business and leases farms. He puts the money that he is getting from the workshop straight into sustaining the poultry business. Sikuku’s vision and dream is to sell 4,000 hens a year at $10 each.
In the future, Sikuku desires to send others through the Kenya Anti-Alcohol program. It is due to the diligence and passion of the KAA staff, and your partnership, that I got to hear many stories from people like Sikuku who have found freedom in Christ.
Empowering Lives International
To learn more about the Kenya Anti-Alcohol program, click here.
June 8, 2017 by Sarah Ponce
It seems like we wake up each morning and the world is a different place–bombings, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, heartbreaking famine–poverty happening all through the night, making each day a little less steady than the one before.
Even as Christians we become fatigued with the mission laying itself out before us. How can we make a difference when the darkness seems so much greater with each passing day? How can we instill hope in someone else when our hearts are themselves feeling hopeless?
The truth is, the mission laying itself out before us is hard; it’s complex. The poverty that is drowning our world is not just physical, but emotional, spiritual, and social. How can we make a difference when poverty is so deep, so entrenched in cultures, traditions, cycles, and addictions?
Isaiah 58:6 says, “Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen; to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”
At Empowering Lives International, we seek to loose these chains by addressing poverty in its many different forms. It is easy to see physical poverty, but it is often connected to much deeper issues like alcoholism, witchcraft, and spiritual warfare. The answer is not to simply meet the physical needs, for those will still be there tomorrow. Instead, we seek to address poverty at its core, the foundation of pain and suffering, with the light and hope that is Jesus Christ!
As you partner alongside us, more brewers are trained, orphans are adopted, and clean water is provided to parched communities. But even more, the depths of poverty are being broken at the core as men, women and children face their own darkness, their own poverty. They begin the difficult journey towards a freedom found in Christ.
It is easy to feel hopeless in our chaotic world. We pray that you truly understand and embrace the magnitude of your partnership—the depths of poverty are being broken! And the Kingdom of Heaven is growing exponentially! Thank you for standing alongside us as we dig deep into these cores of poverty and seek to bring His light.
Empowering lives together,
U.S. Administrations Manager
Empowering Lives International
June 7, 2017 by Sarah Ponce
And the answer is…
Two dedicated youth pastors, eight sets of loving parents, two directors, two assistant directors, one accountant and YOU.
In Kenya, the vast majority of high schools are boarding schools, so this is a big step for our kids! We asked ELI’s two youth pastors, Silas and Ezra, (who are dedicated to caring for our high schoolers) about the monumental task of preparing so many kids for school.
How do you prepare one child for boarding school?
When a child has been accepted to a high school, an admission letter comes with a list of school supplies. The house parents carefully study the list to make sure all the requirements are captured in the shopping list. When the shopping list is ready, parents or youth pastors are assigned to either purchase items or pay school fees. School fees are paid through each school’s bank account, so, we might have to visit 8-10 different banks over a course of a few days. As you can imagine, it is a lot of coordination to purchase supplies and pay school fees for 96 children.
What kind of supplies?
Eating bowl and utensils, blankets, bed sheets, mattresses, washing basins, padlocks, soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, shoe polish, sanitary towels, body lotion, uniforms, shoes, under garments, books, stationery, and a metallic trunk to store everything. This is just to name a few.
Where do you get them?
We purchase our supplies in town. For Kipkaren, we drive about 48km (about a 1-hour drive). These purchases may take more than one day because some of the items may not be available and you need to place an order and go back another day. We can spend days on end battling traffic and lines to get everything.
How often are the kids visited in school?
Follow-ups to schools are usually once a month or when the school has different functions like academic days, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Parent’s Day. During these visits we usually take gifts to the kids, like food and personal effects. Parents or youth pastors will have to do some consultation with teachers over the academic performance of the kid and general behavior. Then the parent or the youth pastor will have some time with the child for encouragement and discussion on matters of academics and general life in school.
You have seen a glimpse into what it takes to care for our 96 high school children. There are many more details that go into preparing our kids and following up with them while in school.
We are so grateful to Ezra and Silas and the rest of our staff for making it happen. And we are thankful for YOU and your partnership that provides these wonderful caregivers for our kids.
Empowering lives together,
Vulnerable Children Program Manager
Empowering Lives International
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!
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!
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!
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,
Empowering Lives International
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
Empowering Lives International
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org about joining a chapter or starting your own chapter in your area.
Interview with Val Roark by Sarah Ponce
Empowering Lives International