Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Happy Birthday Youth Release

Happy 1st Birthday to our sister organization Youth Release, it is officially one year since the Youth Release youth center opened in Dire Dawa Ethiopia. Last year a small team from Together in Hope traveled to Ethiopia to meet with the local Ethiopian staff and meet the children that Youth Release works with. When we went to visit the youth center, it was an empty building with great potential, but no one could imagine how perfect it would be for this program. The youth center officially opened on August 1st 2011. By the end of August, there were 250 children coming to the youth center to attend the various programs being offered. For many of these children, it was the first time they had a place to go where they could meet friends, play and just enjoy being children.One year on, and this number has risen to 275 children! Since August 2011, the youth center now has two classrooms, a small office, a play area for the children and this week the new library was opened. 

The majority of the children that attend the youth center live in extreme poverty and schooling and education is beyond the reach for most families. The center is offering outreach support programs to give the children access to schooling, health education, health support, educational support, and counseling services. Along with educational and health support, the youth center also has a number of recreational programs such as art, music, circus (Ethiopian form of gymnastics) and theater. The children love all the different programs are as eager to learn as they are to play!

For many young adults in Dire Dawa, they have never had the opportunity to receive an education. The majority of local schools will not allow children over the age of 12 to start school. For these children, they have very little opportunities to break the cycle of poverty and are forced to beg, or work on the street. In honour of the youth center’s first birthday, a new exciting program is being launched. The youth center is now offering a vocational training program that will give these children an alternative, so that they can create a better future for themselves and their families. The youth center will offer training in a number of skills for adolescents aged 14-18 years old. Children enrolled in the sponsorship program will enjoy all the services offered by the organization. The following are some of the proposed practical skill training types: wood work. metal work, hallow block and brick making, mechanic or vehicle repair, hotel and catering, tour guide, hair dressing and barberry, driving licenses, waste management and recycling, plumbing, secretarial science, weaving and  tailoring. Children who have completed one of the above training schemes will be supported with finding employment opportunities. 


Do you want to give the youth center an amazing Birthday Present?

We have 50 young people on the program that are awaiting sponsors, and to gain invaluable skills to become self sufficient.  You can help by sponsoring one of these youths for as little as 60 cents a day for 18 months. For $25 a month for 18 months you will allow these young adults to get the chance they deserve and make a huge difference in the lives of their families. YOU can help children get off the street and give them a brighter future, for less than 60cents a day. For $300 over 18 months, you will give these children the chance they deserve to create a  better future for themselves and their families.Won’t you give the children the chance they deserve? To sign up just click here

Congratulations to Youth Release on the youth center reaching its first official birthday, we are so excited to be a part of this wonderful project and cannot wait to celebrate many more birthdays with you!!! This is just a small snippet of the Youth Release newsletter, if you would like to read the full newsletter and see how far this project has come in a year click here :)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Why El Salavdor is part of my heart...

Together in Hope has been off the radar for a couple of weeks, well you’ll be glad to know that we have been extremely busy. Back at the beginning of July, we were short listed to submit a full proposal to a certain foundation (we can’t name them yet) so we’ve been like busy bees trying to get that done along with a few other grant requests. It has tied up a lot of our time, but if we get the funding it will all be worth it and we will be able to launch a new counseling program in El Salvador, so keep us in your thoughts, it would be such a boost for us. Thank you to everyone who has reviewed Together in Hope on greatnonprofits.org, not only have we gotten enough reviews to qualify for the 2012 Health Awards but we are also a featured non profit on their home page! For a small organization like us, this exposure is invaluable so thank you to all of you who have taken the time to help us by writing reviews. If you would like to help us just click here.

I cannot believe it is the end of July already, is it just me or is 2012 flying by? It is 6 months since our medical trip to El Salvador,  and 3 months since we traveled to the Philippines,it feels like only yesterday we were preparing for these trips. I have been thinking a lot about what to blog about, and I think for the next few weeks I am going to focus on some of my personal experiences in the places where we work. I am going to start with El Salvador....

I have a special place for El Salvador in my heart, it was the first place I traveled to when I began working with Together in Hope. El Salvador is a beautiful country with amazing scenery and beautiful people. It has a horrific history, that is still extremely apparent as many of the historical sites are places where people were terrorized and murdered. Yet, instead of being bitter, the people here are some of the most beautiful people I have ever met.

One of my favorite memories from this trip was playing with little Ernesto, this boy is physically disabled and is unable to use his hands and legs. All the children were playing soccer with the Southwestern University soccer team, and he just had to watch. We starting playing a game of catch with the ball, it was amazing to watch some of the children give up their time to help Ernesto catch the ball and play with us, instead of playing the soccer games. It is so surprising because for many of these children it was their first time playing soccer, and they gave that up to help a friend, it was incredible. We played every day during this trip and every day different children would come and help us, and catch the ball for Ernesto and teach him how to throw it. By the end of the week, he was able to throw the ball to me without any help :)

El Salvador has a fantastic rich culture, while we were there, we went to a little street festival. At this festival they reenacted El Salvador's battle with the Spanish, with everyone dressed in colorful costumes, others were dressed as mythological figures.Every person who lived in the little village was in the parade from young children to the elderly. It was astonishing to see the whole community involved and coming together.

Many people view El Salvador as a poor, war devastated country and while it is, it is also a beautiful country with a rich culture.This culture is evident as soon as you step off the plane. The people are some of the most caring, loving people I have ever met. In Alta Mira Flores where we work, the people are extremely impoverished, yet they have been kind enough to invite us into their homes, share their stories with us and let us work with their children despite cultural differences. El Salvador is a place that stays in your heart forever, and the children and families become part of your life. Many people ask me 'How do you do it? How do you work in such poor places?'Honestly I feel so blessed to work in such a wonderful place, with such wonderful people and I cannot wait to return and continue our work there.