Tag Archives: Honduras

Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes

6 May

photoLast week at Feed The Children we went One Day Without Shoes to bring awareness to the fact that shoes can save children’s lives by preventing debilitating diseases. All our staff in Oklahoma joined together with our partner, TOMS to go shoeless and remember stats like this: Over 270 million preschool-age children and over 600 million school-age children live in areas where these parasites are intensively transmitted. They need treatment and preventive interventions.

One condition, called podoconiosis, is very debilitating, causing extremely painful swelling of the feet and legs. Podo affects more than 4 million people in at least 15 countries. (Source: WHO, 2013)

Podo can be prevented by wearing shoes and practicing good foot hygiene. Feed The Children gives shoes along with health education to children at risk of podo.

It was even more moving because I’ve met the precious child that I walked in honor of. Meet my buddy Oscar in the picture above. Because of donors like you, he gets shoes. I know because I’ve put them on him myself. Oscar just began school recently in his community in Honduras.

Last time I saw him, I heard from his mother that she’s so proud of him. He’s doing great in school, getting high marks on his papers. His mom said she’s so thankful for the impact that Feed The Children has had on his life. Though spending one day without shoes of course will not solve the great problems of the world– we have so much more work to do– I am glad I participated for the second year in a row. My feet were quite dirty by the end of the day but in my house I had clean water to wash them in.

When I woke up the next morning, I thought twice about the blessing that my shoes were to overall health and wellbeing. And I said a prayer for Oscar. If you want to know more about what you can do to get involved with this wonderful campaign, follow the updates over at TOMS. We’d love to have even more organizations, individuals and corporations join with us next year in one day #withoutshoes

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Going to the Field

14 Mar

photo copy 3One of my favorite and most important things I do with my job is travel. Though there are a thousand tasks calling my name regularly at the office and sometimes folks lined up outside my door with questions, I know I need to regularly get out of the office and into the field where our programs are located.

I need to see with my own eyes the impact our feeding, education, water and sanitation and livelihood development projects are having within the communities.

I need to be able to shake the hands of the field staff– some of the greatest saints I know who are changing the lives of children every day.

I need to be able to hear the cries of mothers who are pleading us to do more for their babies.

Because of all of these experiences, I come back with a different kind of leadership focus. I want to do everything I can to do right by those under my care.

Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to El Salvador and Honduras. It was my first time in El Salvador since becoming the President of FTC and I was impressed with the good work I saw, particularly the innovation.

It was wonderful to see the water project we have going on in El Guayabo. In this community, fathers, brothers and uncles are gathering together to help Feed The Children build a water line through their community that will provide 2,500 people clean drinking water for as long as the pipes hold up (which should be at least 40 years!). This clean drinking water will assist 600 children, all of which are a part of our school feeding program.

Men often get a bad rap in some parts of the world as being lazy or unmotivated, but not in El Guayabo! These men were working hard providing not only a better life for themselves but for their families too. They even got me involved in the action as seen below. In a couple of months it will be finished. I can’t wait to travel again and see the progress!

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Then, when we arrived in Honduras, one of my favorite things awaited me. I was given a couple of hours with the boys of Casa del Nino. This home is the orphanage that we run for 38 boys aged 6-16 in La Ceiba.

I love these boys as if they were my sons. And what a privilege it was to take the whole group to dinner at the boys’ favorite restaurant, Pizza Hut. We laughed, we smiled and I was able to introduce them to Tom and Phil, two of our new international staff that recently joined our Feed The Children team. See Phil below being silly with two of our boys.

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These boys have such joy in their life, even with all of the challenges they’ve faced. All of them come from communities with little food security. Most of them have lost one if not both parents. Many of them came from the streets or abusive situations. Yet they smile and they tell me, “Mr. Kevin, I love it here at Casa del Nino. Thank you for being my family.”

How can your heart not melt at this?

My goal is to visit one or more of our field programs once a quarter. Sure others on staff could visit (and some do), but I go not only to see and experience our programs and encourage our staff, but I go for myself. I go to find energy for the big tasks that lie ahead. I go to get my spiritual boast that this truly is God’s work and I’m just one instrument in the larger mission of what we’re seeking to accomplish together. I go to come back and work even harder.

What I Saw in Honduras and Nicaragua

12 Dec

imageLast week, the Feed The Children Christmas tour continued as Elizabeth and I packed our bags for Central America.

We went to see the field programs that seek to feed children, provide better opportunities for education and livelihood development– many of which I had seen before (in Honduras last December) and in Nicaragua (which I had not). We went to share Christmas gifts with the kids in our programs on behalf of the rest of the staff in Oklahoma. We went to do what we could to encourage the good work of our field staff in these countries.

[As an aside, Elizabeth when she travels with me pays her own way to go. She is so excited about the work and mission of Feed The Children that she currently volunteers her time to support the work of our communications department and build relationships with staff as I travel. She recently wrote about what this experience has been like for her in case you are curious here].

As we rose at early hours in the day and traveled down bumpy roads and drove up the hill seeking to not get stuck in the mud in other communities, I couldn’t help but think about how great our reach is an organization.

I know I share the statistic all the time that we feed over 352,000 kids every school day. It sounds like a nice number. It is a big number (but of course I think we could feed more). But, when you begin to see with your eyes what this work looks like as I have in back to back trips over the past three weeks on multiple continents, you can’t help but say wow.

In the past at FTC, we haven’t been as upfront as we should have been about our international field work. There has been more that we should have done to communicate the message of who we are and who we are serving to our staff in Oklahoma as well as our donors. But, it is a new day and a new conversation. And I am here to tell you, I am so pleased at what I see going on in Honduras and Nicaragua.

image copyI saw children in a Honduran community, where the major income producer is collecting trash for recycling, coming to school with TOMS shoes on them (distributed by FTC) eager to learn.

I saw children in FTC’s care at Casa del Nino (a boy’s home for ages 5-18) in Honduras who were among some of the most well-behaved boys I’ve ever met with hearts wide open to love and give back to those in need in their community.

I saw children in a Nicaraguan community with mothers who so desperately want a better life for their families that they’ll come to parenting class and spend time learning out to bake bread in our community development center that they can sell to their neighbors.

I saw so much poverty. I saw so many dirty faces. I saw so many babies who needed their diapers changed.

But, I saw so much hope: hope that our field staff is bringing to these communities everyday.

It’s hope that looks like a hug, going the extra mile to enroll one of the children in one of our programs, and the look of delight when a child gets a plate full of rice, vegetables, and chicken.

I know Christmas is days away– but for me, my heart is already full. I’ve had my Christmas. Honduras and Nicaragua were places that brought the icing on the cake that Kenya made for us weeks ago.

I’m so proud to lead this team. And, in you should be proud of one another too.