Monday, April 25, 2011

Brief Work Update and Birthdays

Weather:  We have had three significant rain falls in the last week, which have been great.  Along with the much needed rain comes cooler temperatures, great wind, and a break from sweating. 

It's been a while since I gave you a general update on the work that is happening in our partnerships.  Allow me to give just a brief overview, and then I hope to bring more specific stories over the next couple of months.

Liberia:  LEAD has been engaged in several new projects since I last wrote about them.  They are:
Beginning work at research farm
  • Research Farm - LEAD has begun planting, building and planning for a 25 acre research farm in Nimba County, in the North of Liberia.  This farm will be a place where new crops, new opportunities, new methods, and new technologies will be researched and then moved out to farmers who are interested and willing to engage. LEAD already works with over 60 farmers and the needs in Liberia for agriculture improvement is significant.  Things like irrigation techniques (currently farming only occurs during the rainy season), composting, higher yield seeds, hoop houses, and many more ideas are being brought to this research farm.  New ideas to Liberia, like mushrooms, snail farming, high quality maize, ground hogs, and others are making their way into the plans for this farm.  It is exciting and so full of potential.  Brett Pfister, our intern, from Indiana, is working hard with the LEAD staff to get this going.
  • Capital project - After two years of having seven plus LEAD staff members in a office that is 15 x 20 feet, LEAD is finally going to build an office building and has secured the land for this project.  We are 6/10ths of the way to our fundraising goal so far!  The project will also have some space to rent, so it is an income generating project as well to help LEAD reach sustainability.
  • In a partnership with a Canadian NGO, called Hope for the Nations, LEAD has begun bringing business training and Business as a Mission to a local high school in Nimba County, training 17 students in how to run a business.  These students will be given a small loan to work for the remainder of the semester (which goes until the end of July), while getting ongoing support from LEAD staff in managing their businesses.  The youth are our future and LEAD wants to invest in them now!
Cote d'Ivoire:  With the capture of President Gbagbo, the city of Abidjan is beginning to be restored to order, although occasional violence is still being reported. We thank God for the positive movement toward peace in the country and pray that people will be able to return to their homes soon.  In the meantime, Dea Lieu, our Affiliate manager, continues to await a kidney transplant in Iowa.  It looks like some prayers have been answered and they may be able to begin moving forward soon with the surgery.  In the meantime, we continue to pray for Dea and his family, as well as all the businesses in the Danane area whose lives have been so interrupted in this past year.

Renita, Fanny, and intern Tina Oh
Ghana:   Hopeline has completed the training for their 3rd batch of business owners and commissioned 22 more business owners as Marketplace Ministers.   They are now preparing to start again with a 4th batch on May 11.  Fourteen new mentoring relationships have been created, with the help of Tina Oh, our intern from Partners Worldwide.  And the SME business owners have started their own savings and loan groups to save and loan to themselves, while Hopeline builds capacity to meet loan demands.  We continue to work on capacity building by getting ready to begin a loan software training and shoring up loan policies and procedures.

Jeremiah Yongo
Nigeria:  We are thankful that the Jos area, which has experienced so many difficulties in this past year, has been spared the post-election violence that has been taken place further north.  We continue to pray for peace for the country and that the 40,000+ people who have had to flee from their homes can return soon.  The work in Nigeria has been proceeding well under the guidance of Jeremiah Yongo.  Jeremiah will be making a learning visit to Ghana and Liberia at the end of May to see what our other West African partners are doing and how we can learn from each other.  On our West Africa call last week, Jeremiah shared about the food grain banks that three different communities have begun, where farmers are gathering together to store their grain in a safe, dry place, to sell when the market isn't flooded and there is greater need.  This is an issue being faced in all of our partnerships and so the dialogue was lively and fruitful.

Birthdays:  I don't know about the rest of you, but the last half of April is a very busy birthday month for us.  Let me wish a few people "Happy Birthday".  I don't have pictures of everyone, but here are some.
Hannah Reed - turns 18 today, April 25!!!  As usual she wakes us all up at her birth time, 5:30 am, saying that no one should sleep through this very important moment:-).  I can't believe she is now legally an adult.
Dale and Janette VanderVeen - Dale, my brother-in-law, shares his birthday with Hannah today.
Keith and Lucille Mosher, Bob's mother and step-father.  Keith turned 88 years old on April 18.
    My brother, Henry, celebrates his birthday this Saturday, April 30.  Marnie, his wife, is sitting next to him.
    Rachel Bronsveld, my very first niece, turned 30 on April 22.  I was 12 years old, in the 8th grade, and remember that day clearly!
    Adam Schenk, nephew, turns 20 on April 29.

    Sister-in-law, Carolyn Reed, celebrated her birthday on April 23.
    Sister-in-law, Patty Reed, celebrated her birthday on April 20.
    My nephew, Peter.  He's the one with the big mouth.  On the left. Birthday on April 24. 

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    April 2011 Update

    Weather:  With the anticipation of cooling temperatures and the rains beginning, we continue on with the current conditions of low-90s, feeling like low 100s with humidity staying pretty consistently at around 80%.  As I write this at 7 am on Saturday morning, it is 82F with a humidity of 84%, and it feels like 91F. 

    West Africa Political Update:  The last few months have certainly deepened my appreciation for democracy - maybe that's true wherever you live while watching all of the revolutions, but living in Africa while country after country undergoes protests and fighting, and the ramifications of that turmoil affects neighboring countries, the appreciation begins to go very deep. In West Africa, with the countries as small as they are, it would be like Michigan having a civil war - all the neighboring states would be affected significantly and quickly.  Here is an update on the four countries with whom I work.

    Cote d'Ivoire - we are truly thankful that with the arrest of former President Gbagbo, it appears that Cote d'Ivoire will begin its recovery.  There is much to do in the way of reconciliation and peace building, however, and that needs to be in continual prayer for healing to take place.  There are accusations of atrocities on both sides. UNHCR is reporting over 130,000 refugees have fled into Liberia from Cote d'Ivoire; over 1 million persons in Abidjan had to flee from their homes during the fighting.  All of this causes difficulties as it relates to water, food, shelter, and health.  [As an aside, the president of Burkina Faso just sacked his government because of protests due to rising costs of food prices.  The reason is that as a landlocked country, the turmoil in Cote d'Ivoire has affected them, as well as other landlocked countries, like Mali and Niger.]

    Nigeria - One of the countries that falls in my portfolio is Nigeria - I haven't spoken much about it yet because they do pretty well on their own and haven't required a lot of time from me.  However, Jos continues to struggle for peace - it's been a year of on and off violence, which has caused significant disruptions in life and business there.  Additionally, Nigeria is currently undergoing elections and faces the test of democracy, with 70 million registered voters and 20 candidates.  The run up to the election has not been completely peaceful, with bomb blasts and assassinations.  It looks like Goodluck Jonathan will win, but if he doesn't, will he step aside or refuse to leave as other recent incumbent leaders have?

    Liberia - This is election year in Liberia as well.  It's hard to believe that it was just six years ago that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won the election.  A number of candidates have thrown their hat in the ring, and President Sirleaf is also running for another six year term.  Liberia has enjoyed peace and significant development in the last six year - we hope and pray that this election will be fair and will allow this progress to continue for another six years.

    Ghana - In the middle of all this turmoil, sits Ghana, peaceful and continuing to grow economically.  Next year is an election year.  There is a demand through ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) for Ghana to continue to get involved in the turmoil around them by sending troops, mediating, and intervening, and they do get involved, but it is a continual drain on manpower, time, and money.

    So we ask for your continual prayers for democracy, civil rights, wise and honest leaders in West Africa.  And if you are fortunate to live in a country that experiences free and fair elections, thank God for it!

    Hannah's soccer team
    Family Update:  Hannah and Noah have a late spring break this year, with the first day of Spring Break falling on Good Friday.  Directly after spring break, the seniors (all six of them) will be going on their senior trip.  The destination?  Rome, Italy.  No, that was not a typo.  They have been doing fundraisers all year and have raised enough to spend a week in Italy, visiting the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, Pompeii,  as well as working in a soup kitchen with the Sisters of Charity.  They then have school until the end of May, and then exams, so the end of the school year is in sight.  Noah and his friends, who have a slightly larger class of eleven, have started to dream about their senior trip and fun destinations.

    Some of you have asked about the puppies - thanks in large part to Dusty and Jack's puppies, Hannah has raised enough money to pay for her portion of the senior trip.  The puppies have all gone to their new homes, much to the dismay of Noah.  But he is hoping for his own batches of puppies next year to help him with his senior trip!  Here is a very brief video of the cuties - they were all playing and fighting over a slipper (sorry, Mom!) but when I came out some of them decided to attack me instead.

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    Announcing the graduation of Hannah Reed

    On Thursday, June 9, 2011, Hannah Reed will be graduating from the American International School of Accra.  Everyone is welcome to attend!  We will also be having two open houses for her to celebrate with friends and family who have been praying for her and encouraging her throughout her elementary and secondary schooling.  The first will be in Ghana, on Saturday, June 11 from 2-4 pm at our home, #8 Kose, East Legon.  The second will be on Saturday, June 18, 2011 from 2-4 pm at Hannah's Aunt Janette and Uncle Dale VanderVeen's home in Grand Rapids, MI.  

    Below are some of her senior pictures as well as the official invite for the Open House in Grand Rapids.  

    Please come and join us in thanking God for the blessing of education and for His provision for her over the years, starting at Oakdale Christian School, to Jefferson Elementary School, to homeschooling in Liberia, to Potters House Christian High, to the American International School of Accra, Ghana.