Generation Next | Difference Makers Feature

(There are so many incredible organizations out there doing incredible things to change the world. The Difference Makers Features highlight some of the ones I love and support and want to spread the word about! Find previous entries here).

Hello friends! I have another fabulous post and Difference Maker Feature. I had the chance to read Riley’s book and I love the heart and mission of Riley and her organization Generation Next. I hope y’all are inspired!

riley-and-graham

Supplying underprivileged children around the world with the necessary equipment for life. From school supplies, to hygiene kits to young girls. Simply loving kids to Christ!

1. How did you get involved with this organization and what is your specific role?
I founded Generation Next was I was 14 after my first trip to Kenya when I was 13. While I was there I served in a classroom of 1st graders and while I was helping them spell English words on their paper I noticed they all shared one stub of a pencil. Generation Next was founded in the beginning to supply kids with school supplies and now also does hygiene kits to keep young girls in school, has a school that gives a free education to 40 students in Kibwezi, Kenya with a meal a day, and has just purchased a 7,000 square foot community center with 5 farmable acres that will be used to provide jobs and a feeding program in the area.

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2. What do you want people to know about the work that is being done?
I would like people to know that the work we do in Kenya allows so many opportunities for the people we are able to help. Many may not think that the school supplies or hygiene kits that we bring add up to much here at home but for the kids of Kibwezi it means a future.

riley-in-the-classroom-at-pamoja

3. What’s one of your favorite stories from recent work?
Just this summer we met a boy Named Muthoma who was ten years old and had never been to school because he had to take care of his baby sister while his mom went to sell produce during the day. As we spoke to his grandmother about him coming to our school and her watching the baby during the day she told us he had a “heavy tongue”. Which meant he couldn’t speak. As our translator talked to him more Muthoma, although shy, never had any sort of problem communicating with him. We were able to talk to the grandmother and work it out so that Muthoma could come to school and get a free education.

riley-with-one-of-her-students-at-pamoja

4. What are some of the best ways people can partner with your organization?
Some ways people can partner with Generation Next is through going on trips to Kenya with us during the summer, praying for our organization, by supporting us financially, or by collecting items for our backpacks and hygiene kits. You can also read more about my story and Generation Next in Riley Unlikely that just released.

riley-unlikely

I hope y’all enjoyed learning more and be sure to connect online!

Facebook | Website | Twitter

 

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Exile International | Difference Makers Feature

(There are so many incredible organizations out there doing incredible things to change the world. The Difference Makers Features highlight some of the ones I love and support and want to spread the word about! Find previous entries here).

Happy Friday friends! I’m soooo excited to bring you another Difference Makers Feature! It’s been oh just a year since my last one, so I’ve been on top of things (#mybad). But I promise this one makes up for it because I had the chance to chat with the Founder of Exile International, Bethany Haley Williams, PhD on the phone recently and not only is she amazing (just catch this video), but I absolutely love the work Exile International is doing. Y’all – it’s so awesome and so encouraging.

I hope you’re inspired as much as I was with this feature!

Denis - a rescued child soldier AND future peace leader. Now back with his family, he is driven to become a leader for peace to positively influence his community and country.

Denis – a rescued child soldier AND future peace leader. Now back with his family, he is driven to become a leader for peace to positively influence his community and country. Photo courtesy of Exile International

OUR MISSION
Restoring rescued child soldiers and children orphaned by war to become leaders for peace through art therapy and holistic, rehabilitative care.
Action
Restoring hope and empowering survivors through comprehensive rehabilitation programs, equipping local leaders and counselors to provide quality care programs, and providing a sponsorship program for children orphaned and abandoned by war.
Advocacy
Amplifying the voices of war-affected children. We are committed to raising awareness of war-affected children, child soldiering, and those oppressed in Africa by sharing their drawings, letters, and stories with national and international government representatives.
Awareness
Raising awareness of the wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda — wars that have oppressed millions. By introducing new audiences to the effects of these conflicts, we inspire action and promote involvement that will restore and empower war-affected children.

How did you get involved with this organization and what is your specific role?
I founded the organization, so I was involved from the very beginning. I went on a trip to Congo in 2008 and it radically changed me life.

I’ve been involved in short term missions work off and on since I was 18. I’ve always had a heart for missions and for Africa and in 2008 I went over and was involved in a trauma care workshop for women who were sexually violated from the war in Congo. I also worked with kids who had been really traumatized from the war there, rescued child soldiers and heard some of their stories. I saw some kids who were so traumatized that they couldn’t speak because of what they had seen.

It broke my heart.

I had to go through my own journey of depression and trauma, PTSD prior to that so I think I connected to survivors there on a very personal level, even though the trauma I went through paled in comparison to what they’ve gone through.

There was just a connection there. I came back and I was just broken. I found out that for the kids there, the rescued child soldiers and children who survived war, there weren’t that many programs out there for them. So they would end up back on the streets.

I was only back a couple of weeks and then founded Exile International. I dove head first into it and didn’t know what I was doing and figured it out along the way.

What does the organization look like now?
It’s grown so much. It started out with just me and a couple of friends. We started by connecting with local leaders on the ground. Our sponsorship program started because it was my birthday. There were kids that not only needed trauma care, but also education, food and clothing. We quickly realized they needed heart healing, but they were also living in huts by themselves. They were street children, they didn’t have education, food or clothing or medical care, so that started the sponsorship program.

It started with five kids, and on my birthday I put out on social media to get the five kids sponsored and by the end of the day the five kids were sponsored. Now we have around 220 kids sponsored. We work with around 1,000 kids in our program in Northern Uganda and Eastern Congo.

Art and expression are empowering mediums, especially for children — they provide a safe avenue to express and process emotions and experiences that children do not yet have the words to share.

Art and expression are empowering mediums, especially for children — they provide a safe avenue to express and process emotions and experiences that children do not yet have the words to share. Photo courtesy of Exile International

What do you want people to know about the work Exile International is doing?
There’s so much, but I would say there’s such a beautiful story of redemption that is happening. Most of these kids didn’t even think they’d survive. They were captured in the bush and a lot of the girls captured were sex slaves.

What we’re seeing is that they’re not only surviving, but they’re going back into some of their villages and teaching others, teaching villagers, about peace and reconciliation and forgiveness. We have 17 in our program that are in university. Some of them are becoming counselors and they come back and work at the center.

It’s such a beautiful redemptive thread woven through the work that we do.

The cool thing we’re finding is it’s not only effecting the kids, but when people get involved and hear what God is doing in there and how their pain is becoming purposeful, people in the West see that in their own lives. They’re able to say “if God can do that in their lives, what can He do with my pain? And how He can turn that into purpose and meaning.”

It’s really beautiful to see what God is doing through it all.

What’s one of your favorite stories from recent work?
It’s Baracka’s story. Baracka means means blessing in Swahili. Baracka was abducted twice by two rebel groups. Once when he was 10 and once when he was 15. He came to our program in Congo really broken and really teary, but also just loved the Lord. He had a really really deep love of Jesus. He had a hard time graduating because he had a hard time with school because of the trauma he’d gone through.

Last year, my husband and I actually had a second wedding in Congo. It was really fun, it was a surprise wedding. It was a full on African wedding that went on forever, which was great! Baracka had come down from his village he was living in and of course wanted to come to the wedding.

So we welcomed him and asked how he was doing, he said he was doing good, but that he needed a bible. So I asked him, “Baracka, well what happened to your bible?” (We always give them bibles, that’s one of the first things we give since most of them have never had a bible). He said “Well, I gave my bible to one of the rebels that I was studying with and he wanted to know about Jesus and forgiveness, so I gave him my bible.”

After I asked him what he meant, he said “Yes and I’m actually meeting with a group of rebels and I’m studying the bible with them and the empower program [which is the trauma care and forgiveness program that we use]. I’m using that to teach them about healing their wounds of trauma and the power of forgiveness.”

I was blown away! He went on to say he needed more bibles because the rebels wanted more bibles to learn about Jesus. So we gave him more bibles!

Now he’s meeting with a group of rescued child soldiers all on his own. He’s leading them through the very program that he had been a part of.

It’s great because the other kids in the program can look to him as an example of what their lives could be like and how they can actually change the nation and be young leaders in their country.

What are some of the best ways people can partner with your organization?
We have a couple of different ways. Prayer is always number one. We take that very seriously. Our kids live in a war zone in the Congo and Uganda and are recovering from war. Our kids and our staff live off of prayer. So please be praying.

We also have an Ambassador Program. The Ambassador Program is for people, wherever they are, who want to get involved and tell the stories of the kids. They can invite their community, their loved ones together to hear more about our work and see how they can get involved. Some of our Ambassadors have fundraisers – they have a “Party with a Purpose.” They provide food, show some videos and amplify these kids voices.

We also have our child sponsorship program. This is making sure the kids in our program are able to have everything that they need. We look at it like these could be our children. 80-90% have been orphaned and we take that very seriously. So that child becomes the child of the church.

Finally, there’s Restore partners. Restore partners give as much as they can each month. Sometimes that’s $5.00 and sometimes that $700.00. That helps us do what we do on a regular basis.

Thank you soooo much for sharing! Wasn’t that the best readers? I love stories of redemption!

Also!! The lovely Bethany released a book (and it’s in my TBR!), The Color of Grace and I think y’all should go and buy it right now. I know you’ll be incredibly encouraged by God’s story through Bethany and the children of Africa. Plus the book has letters the kids wrote and every single one of them talked about forgiveness. The best.

Where to Buy: Amazon | BN.com | CBD | Goodreads

Northern Uganda

Northern Uganda. Photo courtesy of Exile International

Thank you Bethany again SOOOO much! I hope y’all we’re truly encouraged as I was! If you want to find out more, support, and all that good stuff, you can find them around the web below.

Where to connect
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube

"Every child should belongs to someone." Bethany Haley Williams, The Color of Grace

“Every child should belong to someone.” Bethany Haley Williams, The Color of Grace Photo courtesy of Exile International

Mocha Club | Difference Makers Feature

Eight years later and I still remember every detail of my trip to Africa. I was in Zambia (and a couple of days in Botswana) and it was life changing, to say the least.

Zambia-2007

Circa July 2007

There’s something about that place, there’s so much hope and joy. Around the same time as my trip, I connected with Mocha Club through one of the sponsored artist concerts and have been a supporter ever since. Today, I’m chatting with Fallon Klug, Manager of Community Administration, who I got to meet just last week at the Dave Barnes/Matt Wertz concert in Austin! It was so much fun!

Mocha Club is a community of people giving up the cost of a few mochas a month to fund development projects in Africa. We work in five main project areas: Clean Water, Education, Economic Freedom, Orphan Care, and Healthcare.

Our vision is to provide a way for people who don’t have hundreds or thousands of dollars to make a difference in Africa. Our community-based website allows members to start a team and invite friends to join them in giving up the cost of a few mochas a month to support their chosen project. We know that today’s tech-savvy generation can have a huge impact by using the viral nature of the web. So we decided to equip Mocha Club members themselves to grow awareness and support for Africa by inviting friends.

We’re aware of people’s general lack of trust that their money is being effective, and we address that by providing regular updates. We update our Mocha Club members regularly on how their money is helping the people of Africa through videos and blogs of the specific projects they are supporting.

Mocha-Club

Photo courtesy of Mocha Club

1. How did you get involved with this organization and what is your specific role?
I actually first heard about Mocha Club back when I was in college in 2007. (Go Dutchmen!) I was a fangirl at a Matt Wertz and Dave Barnes concert when they shared about an organization called the Mocha Club. It was all about giving up $9 a month to support development projects in Africa. As a college student, I could sacrifice $9 and provide clean water for an African for a year! To me, this was incredible. I definitely could give up a couple “decaf americanos with steamed milk” a month in order to provide basic clean water for an entire year. My heart was on fire for Mocha Club and I joined that night. Throughout the years, my passion for Mocha Club and Africa grew and at the same time, I discovered a desire to work in the non-profit realm. The Lord is the great Orchestrator : in 2013, I moved to Nashville and am now the Community Coordinator for Mocha Club. Plug your nose for the cheese: dream come true!

I’m the director of our members and love getting to know the Mocha Club community! I also work with partners, artists, and events to share our common passion for Africa and get others to join our community.

2. What do you want people to know about the work Mocha Club is doing?
The best part about the work that we do is that it’s all about the people. The relationships we have with our African partners across the continent are long lasting and impactful. These partners are leaders in their community who we come alongside to help with what THEY say they need. They are the experts. They know their community and what they need – we are there to help alongside them. The Mocha Club is all about small sacrifices making a big impact. The work we do in Africa is done by a community of people coming together to do their small part and in the end, making a huge impact. It’s the thing you tell your friend about who tells their friend about so we can all do it together!

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Photo courtesy of Mocha Club

3. What’s one of your favorite stories from recent work?
This is a story of Kidist (find the full story here) – one of the women who was a former prostitute and is now enrolled in the Women At Risk program receiving counseling and job skills training in order to restore her dignity and lead to a better life for her. The way she describes the staff and other women at the program as “being among family” is just beautiful. Her story is an inspiration to me of strength, perseverance, and hope.

4. What are some of the best ways people can partner with your organization?
We have different ways that people get become part of the community at Mocha Club: first, become a member! Giving up $9 a month and getting your friends to do so too is an easy way to become part of the Club and make a direct impact in Africa. Be an advocate! Share about Mocha Club with your family and friends and grow our community together. Volunteer! If you live in Nashville, we have events coming up that we would love to have you be part of. Check out Ellie’s Run for Africa (elliesrun.org). It’s a 5K race that raises money for our education project at New Dawn high school in Nairobi, Kenya. Or if you want to volunteer on the road, we have multiple artists that go out on tour and talk about their partnership with Mocha Club. We would love your help at the Mocha Club table to share what we are all about and get others to join!

Where to connect with Mocha Club
Twitter | Facebook | Website | YouTube | Pinterest | Instagram

Thank you so much Fallon! Loved hearing more about Mocha Club and hope you readers enjoyed the awesomeness as well! If you’re interested in joining, you can check out My Team, Love Connects Us, or start your own!

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Photo courtesy of Mocha Club

(There are so many incredible organizations out there doing incredible things to change the world. The Difference Makers Features highlight some of the ones I love and support and want to spread the word about! Find previous entries here).

Amani Ya Juu | Difference Makers Feature

Internet!!!

I’m really excited today because I’m kicking off a post that I hope many like it will follow! Having this feature was a big goal of 2015 and now I can share the first one. Yay!

I want to change to world. I want to partner with folks who are also changing the world for better and I’m thankful to be able to use my voice to spread the awesome work and stories of amazing people around the world!

To kick things off I’m featuring a long time favorite – Amani Ya Juu!

Amani ya Juu (“peace from above” in Swahili) is a sewing and training program for marginalized women in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and Liberia. Women at Amani are learning to work together through faith in God who provides a peace that transcends all cultural and ethnic differences. Amani portrays a unique picture of diversity, with women coming from Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Mozambique, and other African nations.Amani began in 1996 with four women sewing placemats together in Nairobi. Since then, Amani has grown to over 100 women representing ethnic groups and experiences from all across Africa. As women return to their homelands, they carry Amani with them. Amani has established a presence of peace in five African nations and two US cities (Washington, DC and Chattanooga, TN). Each Amani center is locally registered and independently managed with support from an international leadership team.

Amani-Ya-Juu

Lovely ladies! Allie Gonino at the Pass the Light premier, Martha and Jerita, Beatrice and (bottom row) Susan

I had the chance to talk with Amani’s Marketing Director Emily Kirwan, so let’s get to it (and thank you Emily for taking the time!)

1. How did you get involved with this organization?
I first “met” Amani in 2010 when I was studying abroad in Rwanda. A former Amani employee in Kenya had started a center of her own back in her home country. There were women working alongside each other from opposite tribes. Literally, one woman’s husband could have killed another woman’s husband during the 1994 genocide. But these women worked, sang, prayed and ate in fellowship with one another despite painful ethnic histories. And of course, they made stunning products!

I was so in love with the beauty of the organization. Every piece of that experience, from the business-as-a-mission strategy to the high-quality products, made me hungry to be part of it. A year later I was interning at their DC center, which was the US warehouse at the time. I went to Liberia the next year with Amani to volunteer and was then hired to do marketing and resource development.

2. What do you want people to know about the work you’re doing?
In the past 30 years, over a trillion dollars of development-related aid has been given to poor countries in Africa by rich western countries. Most countries are worse off. Throwing money at a problem without accountability creates nothing but a system of dependency.

Amani ya Juu is a non-profit AND a business. The ladies are trained in a skill that allows them to improve their standard of living. They are empowered to provide for basic needs of their families because their are paid a fair wage. We are all about holistic healing. That means that in addition to the physical needs like money for food, the ladies participate things like group devotion or counseling. They are being nurtured spiritually and forgiving people who wronged them. You can almost see a visible transformation. After woman has spent some time training with us she sits a little taller, smiles more, laughs as she works with other ladies, etc.

Also, everyone should read a book called When Helping Hurts. Its all about ways to alleviate poverty without accidentally hurting the poor…and ourselves. Amani ya Juu tends to identify with this philosophy of poverty development.

Amani ya Juu – Beyond Fair Trade from Amani ya Juu on Vimeo.

3. What’s one of your favorite stories from the work y’all have been doing?
Recently, we asked some ladies at Amani Kenya to share on the theme for forgiveness (see here). A huge part of our work focuses on reconciliation and forgiveness. A lot of the ladies are refugees who have fled from civil conflict or other tough situations.The responses were incredible. When I think about the things I struggle to forgive compared to the responses we got from the ladies, I am amazed.

Another cool thing about Amani is that we love it when people leave us for bigger and better things! Sometimes when ladies graduate from our training program, they are given a loan or scholarship so they can start their own businesses or go to college. My favorite of these stories is Rahab, who moved into a slum so she could employ young women (mostly single mothers) by teaching them to make paper beads (see here). When we did that interview Rahab invited me into her home in Nairobi. I had outstanding fried chicken and was able hear the stories of the Rahab and the other young women.

Rahab actually has breast cancer right now so please keep her in your prayers. She is an incredible person who has overcome a difficult past.

4. What are some of the best ways people can partner with your organization?
There’s 3 ways anyone can help change the lives of the ladies in Africa!
1) Shop online at amaniafrica.org. We have fair trade bags, accessories, home goods, jewelry, clothing, baby items, and more—all ethically made in Africa!

2) Volunteer to host a box party. We send a box of products, you sell what you can, and you ship what doesn’t sell back to us! It’s a free, fun way to empower ladies in Africa without leaving home, and it’s pretty easy (right Jamie? 🙂 ). Email volunteer@amaniafrica.org for details. (I agree! These parties are the best!)

3) Donate online to programs for sewing machines and scholarships.

A visit to Amani Kenya – Amani ya Juu from Amani ya Juu on Vimeo.

Where to Connect with Amani:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest 

ladies-in-white-amani-ya-juu

Ladies in White (L-R) Top Row: Emily, Nikki, Jocelin, Lindsay | Bottom Row (L-R): Huguette, Jess | Beautiful photos by Molly Gardner Photography

Thank you so much again Emily and Amani and I’ll most definitely be praying for Rahab. Dear readers, thanks for joining in! Now let’s hear from you! Who inspires you? Whether a person or organization, I’d love to hear about them!

(There are so many incredible organizations out there doing incredible things to change the world. The Difference Makers Features highlight some of the ones I love and support and want to spread the word about!).