Sunday, November 24, 2013

Local Students respond

November 24th 2013
 
We are all aware of the tragedy brought about by typhoon Yolanda. This disaster caused so much suffering, pain, grieving to our “kababayan” in Visayas. Gratefully, the communities in which TIH currently works were not in the direct path of the storm and the empowering work of education, nutrition, and job training continues. Despite their poverty and the urgency of their own needs, these communities have told TIH that they want to help us help their neighbors. In fact, they are already doing so. Students at Harris Memorial College, our Philippine partner in Upper Javier, gave up meals (which are quite meager to begin with) and donated the money from their meals to pack relief bags for families in Visayas
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As of now DAMBANA volunteers are on their way to Eastern Visayas to give the much needed relief to the victims.Some students joined the caravan for delivery to the impacted area of eastern Visayas, approx 13-1/2 hour drive, or 839 km (521 miles).You can join the students at Harris and give families living in Visayas a relief package for as little as the cost of one meal. You can join our communities in the Philippines, by skipping one meal and donating th proceeds to Together in Hope. For as little as $18 you can give a family of 6 enough food for 3 days along with other necessary supplies. Donate the cost of your meal here: https://npo.justgive.org/nonprofits/donate.jsp?ein=61-1566852 and select 'Philippines: Typhoon relief and community development' under programs.

Typhoon Haiyan

November 21st 2013


On November 8th, Typhonn Haiyan hit the Philippines with sustained winds of over 195 miles per hour making it one of the strongest Typhoons to ever hit land.13 million people have been affected by the typhoon, according to a situation report by OCHA on Saturday. Of those affected, 4.9 million are children; 1.5 million are children under the age of five who are at risk of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM).Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, was historic in its scope, with experts including NASA concluding it may be the most powerful tropical cyclone to ever make landfall.Our communities in the Philippines were in the path of the storm. We are so thankful that the storm bypassed them and none of the community members were among the injured.

Together in Hope is working to provide assistance to those affected by the Typhoon. If you would like to support this mission please make a check payable to Together in Hope memo 'Typhoon relief' and mail it to Together in Hope, 1250 Wood Branch Park Drive, suite 625, Houston, Texas, 77079 or alternatively make an online donation through our website: https://npo.justgive.org/nonprofits/donate.jsp?ein=61-1566852 and select 'Typhoon relief' under programs.

Together in Hope will be helping with the long term efforts working with local Filipinos to rebuild the communities in the coming months. We are looking for runners to run in the Woodlands marathon on March 1st to help us raise funds for the ongoing work of Together in Hope in the Philippines and long term recovery work in Visayas. There are a number of different levels that you can participate in: 2k, 5k, half marathon and full marathon.! http://togetherinhope.org/Team.html

Thank you everyone for your emails, texts and calls regarding the Philippines and how you can help. Please keep all those affected in your prayers and thoughts.

World Food Day




October 16th 2013


Today celebrates the 32nd Annual World Food Day, this years focus is “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition.” This means that to live in a world free of hunger, we must create food systems that ensure a plentiful supply of nutritious food with minimal impact on our environment. According to WorldfooddayUSA *868 million people in the world are hungry 

*One out of every four children under the age of five is stunted.
*1.4 billion people are overweight. Of these, one‐third are obese. 
*Malnutrition costs the global economy $3.5 trillion per year or $500 per person.
*40 percent of food is wasted in the United States. Consumers have the power to create a more sustainable food system by minimizing their food waste.
These numbers are shocking, but if we can all come together, we can strengthen national and international solidarity in the fight to end hunger, malnutrition and poverty. You can start by building awareness and spreading the word via social media.

This World Food Day use the hashtag #WFD2013 to promote the day and key messages about hunger, nutrition and sustainability.  In addition, we hope that you will use the hashtag #hungerto to to share your passion for change with others.  We hope that twitter will be lit up with these statements of deep  desire and commitment to making a difference.  They can be an inspiration to keep the momentum of engagement beyond World Food Day.  Here are some examples of the wordplay that can be achieved with the #hungerto slogan:  
#Hungerto learn more about nutrition?  
We #hungerto create a more sustainable planet.  
I #hungerto do more. I #hungerto be the change.  

Be more aware of the products you buy and the amount of food that you waster. Together if we cut back just a little bit and support fair trade products we can help decrease hunger and poverty. Join the movement today! 


Women of Faith- Breaking the stained glass ceiling Katie Tong- South West Village News

Everyone knows a dollar doesn’t go far in today’s world, but that didn’t stop Pastor Diane McGehee, who spent the last month limiting her daily food budget to just that amount in support of 1000 Filipino Points of Light, a fundraiser for McGehee’s non-profit group, Together in Hope. McGehee co-founded Together in Hope with her husband in 2007 following a trip to Rwanda and Uganda where the poverty and devastation from the recent civil war left McGehee with strong impressions and overwhelming questions.“My husband and I, we have been very blessed, but we realized even if we gave everything we have, it wouldn’t make a dent.” From this realization, Together in Hope was born. According to McGehee, Together in Hope is about participating in “a conversation with the community”, letting them identify not only their needs, but their solutions.“We wait to be invited,” McGehee says “We don’t go in and try to fix people. They don’t need to be fixed. We want to find out how to empower the resources that you have.”

The organization focuses on developing programs specific to the needs of individual communities. These include Jessica’s Table, a nutritional program in Malis, three preschools and two sewing centers in Rizal and Bicol in the Philippines, a community center in El Salvador and a youth center for at-risk children in Ethiopia. McGehee calls the construction of the sewing center a “typical model.” Rather than build the center themselves, Hope brought only a single engineer and contractor from the outside, using the fruits of their fundraising to train and hire local labor. We don’t want to do for people what they can do for themselves,” McGehee explains. “That takes away their dignity. We want to help them do for themselves what they didn’t have the opportunity to do...so that they can determine their own future.” 

Dignity and self-empowerment are critical issues to McGehee, who was exposed early to the realities of inequality and the underprivileged. “My father was a pastor in Georgia during the Civil Rights movement, “she relates. “He marched on Selma. We had a cross burned on our lawn one time... it really served to form my fundamental understanding of faith and justice.” Following in her father’s footsteps, McGehee enrolled in Princeton’s School of Divinity, leaving one year short of graduation to pursue a different career path with the same goal. “At that time, there weren’t many programs at Princeton Seminary,” says McGehee of her desire to find an active outlet for her ideals. On the advice of mentors at Princeton, McGehee applied to Harvard where she earned her law degree. As a lawyer, McGehee says, “I was able to pursue faith and justice in a practical way.” She credits her move to Houston in the early 90’s to the city’s “extremely progressive legal market,” which allowed the then single-mother to support herself while raising her four boys. These days, while McGehee is still a licensed attorney, she has since returned to a role in the ministry. In addition to working as Hope’s executive director, McGehee served as pastor of Bellaire’s United Methodist until recently accepting a position as the church’s Director of Missions for the Houston area. The 1000 Filipino Points of Light campaign is her latest project, with a goal of raising $50,000.00 by the end of September. According to McGehee, that amount will fund Hope’s educational, nutritional, and job training programs in the Philippines for an entire year. “Half the world’s population lives on less than a dollar a day,” McGehee points out. As for her attempt to relate to that experience, living on a dollar a day with a diet primarily made up of rice and beans, McGehee says “This was a chance to enter that space.” Although, she is quick to add, “I knew I could quit at any time. I knew I had a choice. I can’t ever fully enter that space of knowing what it is to be hungry.” Still, McGehee says, it allowed her to raise the question of what it would be like. “I have a new appreciation of what it must mean to eat out of a garbage can,” she says, recalling one day last month as she watched a diner throw half a meal into the trash can. “I thought, I could have eaten that. At one time that would have been repulsive to me. But if that’s repulsive for us, why do we think it is acceptable for someone else?” 

One of the hardest aspects of her dollar days, she says, was not having enough calories to function well when both body and brain were lacking the necessary fuel. “It was mentally exhausting,” she says. “In order make the money go, you go for what fills you up, what will give you the most calories. Very often, that is not what is nutritious. My body craved nutrients.”She describes the day she spent 69 cents of her daily quota on a banana as an “extravagance,” going on to describe how crucial proper nutrition is to brain development in children. “You know the expression, teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for life...” McGehee says. “I believe in that, for the most part. But while people are learning to fish, they still have to eat. And they have to have access to the pond. That is a lot of what Together in Hope is about, helping provide access to the pond.” McGehee describes her dollar -a- day experiment as “a faith journey, “her personal means of deepening her understanding and fueling her desire to fight for justice. But if McGehee’s efforts do spread awareness and encourage empowerment in others, traveling from deep inside a heart and all the way to the Philippines, then perhaps a dollar a day can go pretty far after all. bDonations for 1000 Filipino Points of Light can be made online at www.razoo.com/story/Filipino- Points-Of-Light-Campaign or by mail to: Together in Hope, 1250 Wood Branch Park Drive, Suite 625, Houston, TX 77079 (Memo line: “1000 Points Campaign”).

The Jessica Pottinger Memorial Tournament was a great success

September 18th 2013

On September 14th, Together in Hope was a benficary for the first annual Jessica Pottinger Memorial Golf Tournament. The event was a great success with 104 players taking part and over 40 guests for the lunch reception. A huge thank you to Heidi and Travis Pottinger for putting the event together. We would also like to thank all who sponsored this event; People’s Mortgage, VW Avondale, Summit Resources, New Age Cosmetic Surgery and laser centre, Cropper’s Nogales, The Hoffman group, Gary Pottinger Real Estate & Construction, The Pottinger Group at Keller Williams; Jim Click Automotive Team, Westmark Wealth Management; Chevron Rio Rico, Horne Ford.
Thank you to all involved and for a wonderful day!

Together in Hope honored as 2013 Top Rated non profit

 August 28th 2013

Together in Hope announced today that it has been honored with a prestigious 2013 Top-Rated Award by GreatNonprofits, the leading provider of user reviews about nonprofit organizations. “We are excited to be named a Top-Rated 2013 Nonprofit,” says Laura Power, Program Director, Together in Hope. ‘We are proud of our accomplishments this year, including our recent trip to El Salvador where we provided free medical and dental care to over 500 patients who had never seen a doctor or dentist before' 

The Top-Rated Nonprofit award was based on the large number of positive reviews that Together in Hope received – reviews written by volunteers, donors and clients. People posted their personal experience with the nonprofit. For example, Dr Teresa Duryea who recently travelled to El Salvador wrote , ‘I was one of the volunteer team that recently traveled to the community of Alta Mira Flores in El Salvador to provide health care, dental screening, exercise fun, and education to the children and families in the area. Together in Hope is a wonderful nonprofit that focuses on giving educational and nutritional support, plus offers access to health and dental care to communities in El Salvador, the Philippines, and Ethiopia. One of the great features of this organization is the longitudinal relationships built with these communities’ 

While the Top-Rated Awards run through the end of October, Together in Hope was part of the inaugural group to qualify for the year.“Savvy donors want to see the impact of their donations more than ever,” said Perla Ni, CEO of GreatNonprofits, “People with direct experience with Together in Hope have voted that the organization is making a real difference.” Being on the Top-Rated list gives donors and volunteers more confidence that this is a credible organization. The reviews by volunteers, clients and other donors show the on-the-ground results of this nonprofit. This award is a form of recognition by the community

What if "each one took one"

August 15th 2013
 
I am blessed to have lots of loving family, friends and colleagues who care about my health. They are all interested in this campaign and how I am faring on $1 a day. In fact, more accurately, they are all quite concerned that I might be risking my health by eating on a dollar a day for 30 days (with 4 feast days spread throughout). Nutritionally, it is a close call, but I am healthy and this will be over in a couple of weeks. So, unlike those actually living in poverty, I am going to be fine - a little bit skinnier perhaps, but I can make it up when I am done with this fast. The poor cannot - their health is impacted. Some of my friends and family have asked - "well if we bought it for you, it would not cost you anything so you could eat it right?" Not really - that would be cheating, I think. But their suggestion, combined with their concern for my health, did give me an idea - What if each one of us decided to be concerned about the nutritional well-being of just one person living in poverty in the world and made it our business to provide enough food for the both of us - "each one takes one". I am a United Methodist pastor and there are over 7 million United Methodists in the United States. Some of those United Methodist members are probably living in poverty, but even if we took two-thirds of that number, it would be 4.6 million people - what if 4.6 million United Methodists in this country made it their business to make sure that one other person in the world living in poverty had enough to eat for their lifetime - that would change 4.6 million lives! And then if you spread that to all the members of the other Christian churches in the United States and then to other religions, whose members also care about the dignity and God-breathed sacredness of every life, and even if only 2/3rds of that number were wealthy enough to support the nutritional needs of one other person - we would make a huge dent in changing the world. That is the idea of Together in Hope - we all have a part to do and if we all just do our part - we don't have to do it all, we can impact the well-being of the whole. Together, we could change the world - it is certainly something to think about.

Calories Count

August 12th 2013

I was at the low end of my healthy weight when I started this fast of eating on a dollar a day a little over 2 weeks ago. I have lost weight that I don't need to lose, even with 2 feast days included. (Unlike my brothers and sisters who don't eat this way by choice, I can gain it back in a couple of weeks when this is over - they can't.) How do kids grow when they don't have enough to eat? I am hungry most of the time - my body feels like its "eating itself" looking for calories. It makes me understand why people with few resources eat lots of white rice, potatoes, and heavy carbs, even though they don't have much nutritional value - they fill you up and they have calories! When buying highly nutritional food takes most of your income and means you don't get enough calories, you have to buy the other stuff just to make it. No wonder kids struggle in school. How can you sleep or pay attention when your body is struggling to find enough caloric energy to just maintain? There is enough food in the world - we have to find a way to share it.

Blowing a Whole Day's Budget on a Banana

August 8th 2013


I am hungry tonight. It's my own fault. I had my breakfast portion of rice and beans before I headed off to an all day seminar. I had with me my container of rice and beans so that I would not be tempted to eat the box lunch that I knew they would have for me. I stopped for gas about 45 minutes later and there was a banana sitting on the counter - $.069. My body really wanted the banana (nutritionally that is probably accurate); My taste buds wanted the banana and my stomach wanted the banana. The banana won. That meant that I was done eating for the day. Not a good choice - or was it? It does mean that I am hungry tonight, but I think my body probably did need something in that banana and it tasted so so good! Today made me think about times when I have seen the poor eating things that seemed a bit extravagant and perhaps unfairly wondering why they would be so foolish as to spend what little money they had to eat that. After today, I think I at least have a different perspective. My take on it? Sometimes we need to indulge in foolish extravagance. When life is tough all the time; when every day is a struggle to just get by; when every penny has to be counted day after day after day; sometimes life requires that we blow it on a banana - tomorrow we may go back to struggling every day to make it on a little rice and a few beans; Tonight we might be hungry; but for one moment, we knew the pleasure of a delicious banana. That was a good thing.

Joining in

August 5th 2013
 
A friend called me today and said, "Diane, I don't want to just write a check - how can I participate?" We talked and here is what she decided to do. I think its a great idea - so feel free to join her. My friend Mireya is going to try to eat for a dollar for as many meals as she can, maybe just one day, maybe just one meal for several days. Whatever she saves by eating for just a $1 that day or meal, she is going to donate. Even if you don't want to eat for $1 or can't for many good reasons, health being one of them - DO NOT do anything like this unless you are healthy enough to do it without harming yourself - you could eat a little less than you normally do and donate whatever you saved by eating less. The most important thing, however, beyond NOT DOING ANYTHING THAT WOULD CAUSE YOU HARM, is to eat intentionally and with gratitude for all the hands that brought that food to our table and to pray for those who as we eat, don't know when they will eat again - not as a guilt thing, but to help us stay conscious and because I believe that God answers prayer.

What to do When the Beans Go Bad


August 3rd 2013

On Thursday evening I opened the refrigerator to an awful smell. What could that be? It smelled rotten. I looked to see if there were any old leftovers that my son and husband had not eaten and could not find any. I was stumped, until I opened the pot of beans to prepare my evening meal. I had prepared a weeks worth to make sure that I stayed within my $1 a day limit for the whole week. But the beans had gone bad. I didn't know that black beans could go bad that quickly in a refrigerator. I had brown rice, a few tomatoes and a little bit of greens for dinner, but no beans. I survived it, but what does one do when all one really has is $1 a day for food and you've spent your whole week's worth and the beans go bad? The poor with whom we work in the Philippines don't have refrigerators and so how do you store things without risking the little food security that you have? For us who don't have to deal with that kind of reality, if the beans go bad, you just go get more beans. But what if you couldn't?

Eating out of the trash

August 1st 2013

I am 6 days into this "fast" of eating on $1 a day and now that I am feeling a bit better (not so sick anymore), I am getting hungry - I can't say that its the "I'm truly starved for nutrients" kind of hunger - I am not sure I would even know what that was - the closest thing I can imagine to what that might feel like would be times of hunger when I was pregnant. Toward the end of my pregnancies, there were times when I felt like I was in a "hostile takeover" situation and if I did not eat at that moment, it was not going to be pretty! As those close to me can attest, when I said, "I need eat," I meant NOW and it had an urgent feel to it. But the hunger I am feeling in the midst of this is not even that - its a "my stomach is growling" kind of hunger - uncomfortable, but not life-threatening. And I know a reprieve is coming - Saturday night - Sunday night is a 24 hour feast day. But right now, I feel hungry a good part of the day. Yesterday, in the midst of my feeling "hungry," I surprised even myself as I watched someone throw half of a perfectly good hamburger into the trash. As I watched, I thought to myself, "I could eat that. It would taste good and it has lots of protein." I didn't do it, but I thought about it! Maybe for the first time ever, I can imagine a scenario in which I would be willing to eat out of the garbage. I don't want to ever have to do that - so why do I find it acceptable that others have to do that? That one is going to take some chewing on....

Bellaire resident takes challenge to eat on $1 a day

July 31st 2013

BELLAIRE, Texas -- Could you eat on $1 a day?

Bellaire local, Rev. Diane McGehee, is taking the challenge! For 30 days, Diane is eating on $1 a day to help raise awareness and funds for the work of Together in Hope among poor communities in the Philippines. Diane founded Together in Hope, a 501(c) 3 public charity, with her husband Jack in 2008. Diane shares, “In 2008, Jack and I had the privilege of setting our feet on the ground in Africa, the Philippines, and El Salvador. We fell in love with the children and their precious smiles and open arms, despite the horrendous poverty and other circumstances that define their lives. Our hearts were broken and our faith challenged. We asked ourselves, ‘How could this be in a world of such abundance!? No child should have to live this way. But,what could we do? We are only two people. Even if we gave everything we had, it would not begin to address the need.’ Yet, among this atmosphere of unrelenting obstacles, the possibility of ‘what if’ was the answer that emerged from deep within our souls. ‘What if’ we worked together in hope - together with these communities to empower their gifts; together with others who live in material and other forms of abundance that could be shared and joined with the rich abundance of survival, strength, endurance, and spirit of these children -, we could make a difference; we could, together, change lives and communities so that they too know fullness in all aspects of their lives – body, mind, and spirit.” And thus was born Together in Hope.
Diane has just returned from the Philippines with Together in Hope (TIH) and has launched a new campaign ‘1000 Filipino Points of Light’ to raise funds for Together in Hope’s programs there. TIH is working with four communities in the Philippines providing nutritional and educational support, as well as livelihood and leadership training. Together in Hope began working in Malis in 2008 establishing the Jessica’s Table program, a feeding and educational support program for children living in marginal communities. This program feeds over 400 children each week. Together in Hope has also assisted with the opening of three preschools and two sewing centers in Rizal and Bicol. Diane will live on $1 dollar a day, eating only rice, beans, vegetables, fruit and water. This is the amount on which many of the Filipino poor live each day. She will do this for 30 days with one feast day a week, July 26 - August 28, 2013. Together in Hope is looking for 1000 donors who will each donate $50 between now and September 1, 2013 to help their brothers and sisters living in poverty in the Philippines.
The $50,000 raised with your donations will fund Together in Hope’s work in the Philippines for one year. You can donate online at the below address or mail a check made out to: “Together in Hope” 1250 Wood Branch Park Drive, Suite 625, Houston, Texas 77079, (Memo line “1000 points campaign”) Follow the journey: http://togetherinhope.org/Corporate_Sponsorship.html and support Diane. For more information see www.togetherinhope.org See the story in full here: http://bellairetoday.com/npps/story.cfm?nppage=1323

Day Four - How Do Sick People Get Well on this Much Food?

July 30th 2013

When I was a kid, my grandmother used to say "Starve a cold, feed a fever." I don't know whether or not that was good advice, but I can tell you this, I don't know how people, especially children, who are not healthy to begin with because of lack of nutrition, get well when they get sick and are eating on a dollar's worth of food a day. I feel terrible - not because of the amount of food I am eating but because of this virus I have picked up. It laid me flat for two days and even today, working was a struggle. I was healthy and well-nourished when I got sick so I don't think my eating less is causing me to stay sick longer, but it definitely has challenged my energy level - trying to function and get well at the same time takes energy and I would think at least adequate nutrition. I am getting adequate nutrition for a short term fast. I have the luxury of actually choosing brown rice with far more nutrients than the nutrient depleted white stuff that most of the poor in the Philippines eat and I'm eating beans that are high in protein. And this is a short term fast - it will end.What do you do when you can't choose nutritious food, even in limited quantities? What do you do when the "fast" has no end? I know this is short term and so its tolerable and I have plenty of clean water with which to flush my system - my body will do its work - but what if I didn't have plenty of clean water and my body was already worn down from just fighting to survive each day? When there are no reserves from which to draw?

Struggling Through Day 2

July 28th 2013

Yesterday was a tough day. I have been traveling a lot and woke up yesterday with what felt like flu symptoms with diarrhea. Not fun! I had the luxury of staying in bed all day and drinking lots of clean water to stay hydrated - I don't have to buy clean water. I can get it out of any public or house faucet. It made me stop and think about those in the Philippines who have the choice of drinking non-potable water or having to buy it - thus reducing what they have available for purchasing food and other things. I also thought about the fact that I can go to a pharmacy and buy something to help with my flu symptoms and the diarrhea - which I did. I also did not need to be on the street selling products or otherwise trying to earn today's income so that I and my family could eat - I actually get a day off and a paid sick day if needed. I wept (yes, probably partly because I felt bad, but also because of the realization of the great privilege in which I live and how much I take it for granted.) Thank you to all of you who are praying with me. I am a little better today. The diarrhea has stopped. I still have a bad head cold and cough but I have enough and time again today to rest and clean water with which to stay hydrated. Thanks be to God!

What does $1 a day look like?

July 27th 2013

I went shopping last night for a week's worth of food for $6 - that was a challenge. I can't imagine how families with only $1 a day to spend per person figure out what to buy. Here is what I will be eating for $0.99 a day this week: 1 cup of cooked brown rice three times a day, 1/2 cup cooked black beans three times a day, 6 cherry tomatoes and 1/2 cup of mixed greens three times a day - that gives me protein, carbohydrates, some vitamin C and some leafy greens. I still have to figure out how to get some calcium. (I bought bulk rice and beans which cut down on the cost and bought mixed greens and tomatoes that were getting close to going bad so they were marked down for quick sale. Here is the breakdown of costs per day:
3 cups cooked rice: $.018
1.5 cups cooked black beans: $.018
6 cherry tomatoes: $0.34
1.5 cups mixed greens: $0.29
Total: $0.99 per day

Launch of the Filipino Points of Light Campaign

July 26th 2013

Today we are launching the ‪#‎Filipinopointsoflightcampiagn‬, to raise much needed funds for the communities we work with in the Philippines. Pastor Diane McGehee, our Executive Director will live off $1 dollar a day eating only rice, beans, vegetables, fruit and water. This is the amount on which many of the Filipino poor live each day. She will do this for 30 days with one feast day a week, July 26 - August 28, 2013. Together in Hope is looking for 1000 Filipinos living in the United States who will each donate $50 between now and September 1, 2013 to help their brothers and sisters living in poverty in Bulacan, Bicol, Rizal, and Obando Philippines. You can donate online here: http://togetherinhope.org/Corporate_Sponsorship.html Follow her journey at: http://tihpointsoflightcampaign.blogspot.com/. We will be posting Diane's blog [posts each day to keep up to date with her journey.

Day One - Eating on A Dollar A Day
'It's Friday morning, July 26, 2013. I have to admit that I enter this fast with some degree of trepidation: Can I do it and stay healthy? Can I do it and maintain the exercise routine that I need to maintain to be ready to run the Tyler Rose Run Half or Full Marathon in October to help raise money for free immigration clinics? Do I have the discipline to do it? What do I do when I am asked out to eat for a business lunch or other important meeting? How do I explain without offending people or seeming puffed up? And finally, will it make any difference? Will people give? Will they care? As I struggled with all of those questions this morning, I was reminded by the Spirit, that this is God's work, not mine. I offer it as a prayer that I and all of us will learn to live more simply and as faithful stewards of the incredible abundance which is ours as Americans, so that all of God's children throughout the world can live with sufficiency and thrive as God intended for all people and creatures of the earth. And so I begin, trusting that my efforts will not be in vain and will in fact make a difference, starting with making a difference in me. I invite you to pray with me and give, if you can. Diane (or as my friends and family in the Philippines call me), "Pastor Di"'

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Together in Hope returned safe from El Salvador

The Together in Hope team arrived home safe from El Salvador on Saturday, it's hard to believe that the week went by so fast! It feels like only yesterday we were trying to put the team together, now it's all over. We could not have asked for a better or more dedicated bunch of folks, every single person gave 110% to the mission both the medical staff and the volunteers. We saw over 700 patients including the children who got their teeth cleaned by Rosa our dental hygienist! What an amazing number!! We couldn't be happier and either could the community of Alta Mira Flores community.

The last day is always the hardest yet the most fun. At the school, the children painted the last of the canvases and played food bingo learning about the different healthy foods.After bingo and painting each of the classes got a pinatas as a surprise! It was so much fun watching the kids try knock down the pinata and then run to get the candy!
The children surprised the team with a beautiful song and dance as a thank you! We all said our goodbyes which is always very difficult, as the kids tell you they don't want you to leave and when will you come back. For most of us, we don't have the answers but promise the kids we will see them soon. 

At the clinic, things were moving fast as it was the last day for patients to get free medical care and treatment! While we were cleaning up and packing our medicine away, a family from the previous day came in looking for treatment for the husband. The doctors said it was no problem to see one last patient. It turned oyut he was our oldest patient of the week- 103!! Here he is with his wife and their youngest son! It was pretty exciting for Dr Ward as he is a pediatrician and he was his oldest patient ever! Not abd end to a wonderful week!


We really cannot thank everyone who made this trip possible enough! You guys have made such a difference in the lives of  over 700 people, how incredible is that. As for our team, I am speechless, you guys rocked! You did amazing work and we are so honored to have worked with you all. We hope you will return to El Salvador so we can continue this great work! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you, thank you, thank you <3






Thursday, July 18, 2013

Medical Mission Day 4

Wow what a day! We started the day a little different today...we forgot to mention that one of our medical students, Ellen is a zumba instructor. As soon as the teachers learned she was an instructor, they asked us would she do a class with the kids, so we picked today as the day. We started with the three younger classes, the kids were a little apprehensive at first but after a couple of minutes they were all dancing and trying to be the best. They absolutely loved it, the team didn't seem to mind it either...can you spot a few doctors in the picture?




After Zumba, the children started painting canvases, Steve had this fantastic idea of getting the children to paint a canvas and then auctioning them off back home (keep an eye out). Of course, nobody knew what to expect but they are all amazing, from the youngest class to the oldest. Each class was allowed paint two canvases each and all had to come up with their own ideas of what to paint. For the younger classes Steve and Sarah had already painted the bark of the tree so they had to decide on what to paint for the rest of the picture, they came up with some amazing ideas! I would show you the pictures but I think you should wait for the auction :)




At the clinic, the doctors continued doing great work and saw over 80 patients today! The Together in Hope staff cannot believe the amazing work of the medical students, they are working so hard and learning so much each day. If it wasn't for them we may have only seen half the patients, as for our amazing translators and staff at the pharmacy, they are incredible!!!!! This trip would not be doing as well without them! Thank you so much to everyone on the team, you guys (if you read this) are amazing!!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Medical Mission Day 2 and 3

Wow! What a great couple of days, the trip just keeps getting better and better! The doctors have seen almost 200 patients over the last two days, over 30 children have gotten their teeth cleaned and around 60 children have gotten physicals at the school. That means that almost 300 people have received health support in some shape or form. I think by the end of the week, we will see a much higher number and a lot more people will benefit from the service.





We asked the team to share some of their personal stories today and give us some feedback about their experiences in the community. Patti was working with some of the children at the clinic who were waiting for their mothers/fathers doing some basic art and exercises. All of a sudden as we were wrapping up for the day, a mother came over and gave her a picture. She thought the child had drawn it, but it was actually a picture the mother had drawn with the words of a simple blessing to thank her for taking time with the children and doing some art with them. Diane (who has been working with the children all week at the clinic) reflected how the children get so excited about something so simple as a page and some colors. For most, they have never had their own. Diane has asked the children to draw their houses and write what they want to bee when they grow up, most say a doctor, a footballer, a nurse or a teacher. It is great to see all their dreams and ideas and we can only hope that true Together in Hope we can make them come through!

                                       
Today (Wednesday) to give the team a break from work, we surprised them and brought them to the Salvadorean Symphony. Many of the volunteers struggled with the idea of us working in such a marginalized community and afterwords going to the symphony! Dr Recinos told us the story of the symphony. During the civil war much of the Salvadorean culture was suppressed, buildings were destroyed, people couldn't play music, it was war time therefore a lot of the culture was lost. The people of El Salvador have been trying to bring back their culture and little by little, they are doing it. The symphony is just one example: World famous conductor German Caceres has worked all over the world but has returned to El Salvador to bring back his native culture. The group of musicians come together to form the symphony and non receive any salary or any compensation, they play for peoples enjoyment and to regain their culture. Afterwords, a group of us met one of the musicians and thanked him for such a wonderful performance. His eyes filled up and he said 'no thank you, I cannot believe a group from the United States came to see us preform, it means so much to us' 

                                        

Being in El Salvador always humbles us, we take so much for granted and don't focus enough on the simple things in life- people always think we come and help the community, but we actually learn a lot from them.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Medical Mission- Day 2

Well the first day is over, I think most people were apprehensive and didn't know what to expect but boy did they do amazing.From the doctors to the med students to the translators to the volunteers at the school, everyone did fantastic and once again nothing went as planned but went great.

Alta Mira Flores

Let's start withe the clinic. The doctors did amazing work, we have three professional doctors seeing the patients, there are also two medical students and our nurse Ruth doing intake along with our pharmacists. They all did great work and saw more than 50 patients today, don't worry, we warned them that number is going to get much higher :) It is amazing to see how happy the patients are just to have some one to talk to and listen. They have opened up to each doctor with great trust, we couldn't have wished for anything better. 
Basic Physical

The other half (us non medical folk) went to work at the La Rosa Blanca school. The kids greeted us with two wonderful traditional dances. After their wonderful performance, the group divided in 3 groups, two of the medical students came with us to the school and did basic medical exams on the children. They saw a total of 28 children and thankfully there were no big problems. 


Traditional Dance

The rest of the group did art with the children, we made bracelets from different colored beads and shared stories of what each color represented- Yellow= light/sun, blue= sky and sea, we even got to teach them some English.  After school time we packed 28 kids plus some parents but the 6 team members of TIH into a small bus and  brought the kids to a big open space where we played soccer, basketball, and frisbee. The kids loved playing the different games and learning some new ones as did the volunteers. All round it was a lot of fun, and everyone got to know each other and the kids got to know the team. 
The older kids with their bracelets

After today and how well it went, we are so excited to see what the next few days have in store and how great this medical/outreach mission will be. Thank you to everyone who has made it possible for us to be here.
Making Kites for tomorrow

Medical Mission to El Salvador- Day one

It has taken over a year to plan and a lot of hard work but we are here! We made it to El Salvador safe and sound with all of our medicine intact and all of our team members :) We are so excited to have a group from Bellaire United Methodist Church and six students from University of North Texas Health Science Center at Forth Worth Texas volunteering with us on this trip.



                                                (Don't we all look pretty at 5:30am?)

After a day of getting adjusted, and the group getting to know each other, we did some sight seeing. First, the team went to see the location for the clinic and also the school so we could plan activities. After we drove around Alta Mira Flores and learned a little bit about the community, we visited the tomb of Oscar Romero. The civil war started after Romero was shot at the alter in 1980. (for more information see https://www.un.org/en/events/righttotruthday/romero.shtml). After visiting the tomb of Romero, the team met with Bishop Gomez, an amazing man who despite all odds survived the civil war. Bishop Gomez received numerous death threats from the government as he opened his church to all citizens that were in danger. His most interesting story is that of his cross. During the war, he asked the community to write the sins of the government on the cross, they wrote things like 'hunger', 'death', 'persecution'. When the government came to arrest Gomez he was in hiding but they found his cross and arrested the cross and 'put it in jail'. It remained 'in jail' until the end of the war when the bishop came out of hiding and asked the government to give it back. It now hangs in his church beside the alter and is a reminder that good always overcomes evil. The Bishop inspired us all, and really showed us why we are here. 

(The team with the x convict- the cross)
The rest of the evening was spent doing some serious team bonding.....by sorting supplies :) After two hours, all the medicines and school supplies were ready to go. The team worked extremely hard and had a well deserved late dinner.  Everyone is pumped for tomorrow and can't wait to see what it brings but for now..buneas noches. 

(Sorting medicine brings such joy)



Sunday, June 16, 2013

Making Progress

It has been a HOT productive, wonderful time in the Philippines working with the children and families who have invited us into partnering with them as they seek to build a new future with hope.  In Upper Javier, the sewing center is being expanded and Alan Miller, our construction supervisor, is employing local labor, creating jobs and stretching the budget like only he can - he barters for every penny we spend to make it go as far as possible.  The expanded sewing center will create more jobs for more community members and the construction is also employing and training community laborers in need of work. The pre-school has a new floor and our teacher, Ate Olive, is excited about school starting again on Monday - the parents are so grateful and contribute by keeping the building clean and preparing the meals that are served each day to the children - for some, the only real meal they have each day. Thanks to the generosity of our donors we have funded another full pre-school year with the Jessica's Table feeding program included.  Bellaire United Methodist Church and St. Stephens United Methodist Church have been particularly generous in this regard.  Thank you!



In Malis, we have three young people finishing  college through Strings of Hope: Rosette is getting ready to take her teacher's licensing exams, Jenny is in her 3rd year toward a degree in education, and Jesusa is in her 4th year at Harris Memorial College.    Rosette and Jenny are also supporting their families as their parents cannot find work.



Jessica's Table continues with 205 children regularly attending and registering and usually 300 children total attending each week.  These children are receiving education and leadership training, as well as nutritional support.The young people from Malis who first participated in this program are now helping to lead it and the mothers and father's in Malis go early to the market to buy and prepare the food.  It is a program fully lead by the community in which it was born.  Because of our reputation in the community, we were also invited into the elementary school for the first time and were able to donate volley ball equipment as well as soccer balls, school supplies, and provide a nutritious meal for children that had not eaten all day - the government here offers public schooling but cannot provide meals, school supplies, uniforms or transportation.   



I have been accompanied on this trip by Rev. Tori Butler and 5 youth from Bellaire United Methodist Church, Elizabeth from St. Stephens United Methodist Church (who is working in Upper Javier for 3 months as a volunteer) and Alan Miller from Memorial Drive United Methodist Church.  We are so grateful for our faithful volunteers! 


The Philippines 2013

Our team has arrived in the Philippines, June 8th 2013

Yesterday I went with a team of college students to the Mallolos Juvenile Detention Center where 95 young men ages 17-24 are house in very close quarters and never get to go outside.  Many of them have been there for years and abandoned by their families - some for serious crimes and others for crimes born out of poverty and simply wanting to eat or addiction.  Here in the Philippines also, a generation is being destroyed through and criminalized for addiction. We are looking at what it might mean to bring healing and hope to these young men whose choices have taken their future and also young women who are victims of abuse of all kinds - both these young men and women are some of the poorest of the poor when it comes to a future with hope.



It is not even the rainy season yet, but here in Obando, a very poor fishing village on the coast, the streets have flooded from last night's rain - entering into the first floor of the houses and the people simply live in the water, even the animals are living up to their bellies in water.  When the typhoons come in the fall it is devastating for those without first floor houses.  Even those with high enough homes are separated from services, food, and drinking water for over a month.  My pastor friends Jordan and Malu, and their two young girls - my goddaughters - are living and serving in this community.  This place, like places in El Salvador, rings with the groaning of all creation that is hoping for restoration and redemption. 


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Launch Charity Challenge

Together in Hope is delighted to announce that we won the Reason2Race Launch Charity Challenge. For the last number of months, 10 athletes have been working extremely hard to run in the Woodlands Marathon/half marathon and 5k. Not only have they been working hard physically but each person has been fundraising to raise much needed funds for the Alta Mira Flores development program in El Salvador. Their motivation for fundraising...other than helping people living in poverty? The Launch Charity Challenge.

<em> 'This program is an avenue for athletes of all levels, to challenge themselves in setting and achieving your goals by sharing your racing journey with family, friends and community. Sharing goals makes them a reality, and with this challenge. As you train for and compete in The Woodlands 5K, Half or Full Marathon, you also get to make a difference in our community, spreading awareness and raising funds for one of their official charities or any organization represented below.'</em>




Each of our athletes put  a minimum of $1,000 as their fundraising goal. Almost all our athletes reached their goal, our Executive Director Diane McGehee raised a whooping $14,035 putting her in first place to win the Launch Charity Challenge! The Grand prize was $3,000 bringing our grand total to $23,460. This money will be used to purchase the land in the Alta Mira Flores community, San Salvador, to build a new community center, medical clinic and school! Thank you to every who gave their support and helped us achieve so much!





Friday, February 15, 2013

Run for a cause

In 2.5 weeks on March 2nd 2013, 10 athletes are running in the Woodlands Marathon to raise funds for the Alta Mira Flores community in El Salvador.


'I run for the forgotten children of Alta Mira Flores, El Salvador: children who have never run in an open field of fresh green grass, in well-groomed sport fields, along a beach, up a mountain path or in an organized race. I run so that these children can have nutritious food to eat, the chance for an education, and access to medical care when they need it. I run to help you see them and to respond. I run in hope: the same hope that sparkles in their eyes, dances in their laughter, and warms their welcoming embrace of a life that should not be lived like this and yet they live it- in hope.

I run to make that which seems impossible possible- one step forward at a time, step after step, toward what for me was an impossible dream when I started – running a full marathon. Eight months ago, at 56, I was so out of shape that I could not even run a single mile and didn’t even dare to dream of running 26! But step by step, one day at a time, pushing forward with a slow and steady focus, not quitting even when it felt too hard, that impossibility is becoming possible. I run not only to make my impossible dream possible, but also to make their impossible dream possible: the dream of a better future - a future that is sufficient with enough food to eat, enough opportunity for an education so that they can learn and be able to work well in the world, enough medical care and nutrition to stay healthy, and enough space between the hard places of life to love, laugh and live fully. I run and, with every step, I pray that one day their dream will be a reality. I run to help make that dream a reality – one child, one family, and one community – this community of Alta Mira Flores - at a time. As I run, I find myself changed by their presence in my heart and life. And so I keep running toward that future where not only you and I have enough of what we need to thrive, but they do too. I run with them, together in hope- Diane McGehee Executive Director of Together in Hope.

If you would like to support Diane as she reaches her goal of running a full marathon, you can support her here: https://my.reason2race.com/DianeMcGeheeDannyFeiler

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Return from Ethiopia...

It's hard to believe that this time last week I was still in Ethiopia, and that the two weeks have come and gone. For the first time, we got to see the project in real life, up to now we have been envisioning what it would look like, making changes, meeting with the necessary people to make sure it was going to happen.
Some of the community members and children at the celebration day
To be able to meet the community and see that they are so involved in the project is much more than we could have asked for. Not only are there 15 local staff working in the community, but there are also local volunteers, part time teachers and even a parents committee! On paper there are 200 direct beneficiaries this means that 200 children get educational support (schools supplies) psycho social support(counseling services) and tutorial classes, but after spending two weeks at the center every day, it is clear that there over 200 children using the youth center. This is what we always wanted, a youth center where children can come and play, use the library, join the clubs, no matter what their back ground is and the youth center is just that. Along with the 200 direct beneficiaries, we have 17 young adults on the vocational training program. Eight young women have already graduated, and nine boys will graduate in the coming months. As they graduate more adolescents will be added to the program. We will be bringing you some stories about these young adults soon and also stories about their employers.
One of the adolescents on the vocational training program

We hope through the blogs you got to understand a little bit more about the project and what we are doing! Thank you so much again for all your support and encouragement! If you are interested in supporting Together in Hope's project in Ethiopia you can make a donation online www.togetherinhope.org or send a check to 
 
Together in Hope
1250 Wood Branch Park Drive, Suite 625
Houston, Texas,
77079
memo:Ethiopia

If you would like to contact us please send an email to laurapower@togetherinhope.org and we will get back to you as soon as possible.Thank you so much and thank you to our wonderful team on the ground! You guys are AWESOME! 
 Laura with the Youth Release team from Ireland and some of the children from the culture club at the center

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Painting the youth center

18th-19th January


So after a five day debate of ; what color would we paint the youth center? What should we paint on it? Does purple go with blue? Decisions, decisions. Eventually we decided on yellow, purple and blue.

The youth center before

Some of our local friends came along to help us as we thought it would just be us and them, to our surprise half the community showed up to paint the youth center. Every one grabbed a paint brush and got to work. First people were painting the wrong wall the wrong colour, so there was a little bit of direction needed but all in all it went great. 




By lunch time we had 3 of the four sides done, and the staff even decided to paint the trees purple. After that, every thing in sight was painted the gate, the trees, the side wall, the windows every one just went for it to get the job done! Every body got a chance to paint from some of the children to the elderly women, they were the ones taking the paint brushes from us!! It was incredible to see the community take ownership and how proud they were to be the ones painting it. The first day we had the first coat done on the four sides of the youth center,  and half of each and every tree was painted purple.



We arrived at  the youth center at 10am on Saturday morning to continue painting. When we arrived the we found the community had been there for a couple of hours painting without us. It was fantastic to see such a great group effort and that everyone played a part. We painted the windows blue and drew some games for the kids to play with.


After a couple of hours and a lot of hard work, the youth center was finally finished! 






The new and improved youth center :)