Tuesday, September 06, 2016

ROTOM - More of a Good Thing

On Wednesday, September 7th I will be travelling to Uganda with an EMI team to serve ROTOM with a Phase 2 project team.

Reach One Touch One Ministries is a ministry to the elderly in Mukono, Uganda. In 2003 the founder of ROTOM, Kenneth Mugayehwenkyi, discovered the need of the elderly when he sponsored two young children and learned that their parents had died of AIDS and that their lone caregiver was their grandmother. She had great need in caring for both herself and her grandchildren and she was not alone; AIDS, war, and other factors have left many elderly to care for their grandchildren.

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In 2007, EMI Canada sent a team to Uganda to design an out-patient medical clinic and administrative offices for ROTOM. With the Project Report and drawings produced by that team, ROTOM was helped in its fundraising efforts and in the construction of these first facilities. In the master plan, EMI allocated space and resources to expand ROTOM’s capacity to serve the seniors, such as in-patient care, staff housing, and a community centre.

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With the initial proposal constructed and with the care of seniors now ongoing, ROTOM is ready to pursue Phase 2 and EMI is ready to return to assist in their process of planning, fund-raising, and construction but putting vision to paper and dreams into constructible form.

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I am extremely excited about the team God has put together during my recruitment efforts. Our architect, electrical engineer, and civil engineers are from the USA, our structural engineer is from the UK, our landscape architect is from Nigeria, and my two interns are from Canada. We are also looking forward to meeting and serve together with a Uganda architect who has helped ROTOM with detailed design and to navigate the local construction process.

For more information on ROTOM, see there introduction video by clicking here.

To see EMI’s constructed first phase, see senior’s being care for, and learn more about the next phase, see the awesome video my colleague Braden put together here.

Please keep us in prayer as we travel in the air and on the ground. We will first visit the EMI Uganda office in Kajjansi, where they share an office with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). We will then travel a little further, beyond the capital Kampala, to ROTOM’s location in Mukono.

Thank you to all our supporters and friends who make it possible for me to serve with EMI in this way!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Fresh Start

Fresh Start. What does it really mean, to have a “fresh start”? No one expects a life without pain or unexpected suffering. But what if that pain and suffering is thrust upon us, willful acts by others, purely for their gain…and utterly at our expense? Packing anger, hurt, guilt, pain, and resentment down, deep inside for years often forges incredible hardness and profound hopelessness. What chance is there for hope, what hope is there for change, and what change can bring restoration?
Change. Change is never easy, even when change means turning away from pain, because change often means moving toward the unknown, and perhaps a worse situation. When all one has heard and experienced for years are lies, to even recognize hope, sparked by a new promise, can be difficult. So, when women who have suffered abuse for years give hope a chance by entering the Ratanak Achievement Program (RAP), they have already “achieved”; they have taken the first and difficult step to embrace change.
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Challenges. However, even when those trapped in exploitation and human trafficking make a decision to seek wholeness and restoration, heart-break can still await. Years of subjectation can still trap both mind and body. A long anticipated reunion with family, following years of separation and suffering, may only bring scorn if returning home means failure to have gained financial security for the whole family.
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RAP. Understanding this, Ratanak International created RAP to be more than simply human effort or mere acts of kindness, as even the best of human intentions cannot heal what’s most deep inside, the human spirit. Instead, Ratanak staff love each woman deeply, as an expression and an extension of God’s love, and in recognition of her value as one who is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Through advocacy, counselling, and vocational training, each woman can regain her bearings as an independent, productive member in society, and where RAP ends with the practical and the tangible, God’s promise of full restoration continues the work of healing the spirit.
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Partnership. In February of 2016, Ratanak International hosted an eMi team to come alongside, learn about Cambodia and Ratanak, gain an understanding of RAP, and design a facility that will help women in their journey through RAP. The facility is to embody an understanding of their circumstances, facilitate their physical needs, and provide spaces where healing and change will take place. Some of these spaces will be private and quiet for counselling and grieving while other spaces will nurture community and mutual support. All together, the facility will provide and embody dignity, privacy, and security.
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The Facility. From absorbing the context that is post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia, visiting the current make-shift RAP facilities, listening to the leaders of RAP, and investigating various buildings under construction, the eMi team developed an understanding of the challenge and began to put pen to paper. As the facility took shape, the team integrated the characteristics of the property, accounted for privacy and security issues, and carefully arranged spaces for counselling, seminars and administration. Practical issues like making provision for back-up power generation, ensuring a fresh water supply, proper sanitation and storm water handling, and designing an efficient, economical building structure given localized conditions, were addressed.
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Next Steps. With the Final Presentation completed and members of the Ratanak staff satisfied that all key needs have been addressed, the eMi team has now returned to their respective homes to work remotely but together through communication toward a final Project Report and set of design drawings. Coordination will include the construction manager who will manage local building authorities in Phnom Penh, prepare the property and construct the building. For their part, Ratanak has quickly begun its fundraising efforts to see this proposed building become a reality as soon as possible.
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A Final Thought. The imminent challenge is both sad and wonderful; many internationally trafficked Cambodian women will return home in the coming days through repatriation agreements and RAP will be pushed to its limits. Though its need arises from crisis and the challenges are great, the opportunity for restored lives, to bring hope where it was essentially snuffed out, is exciting and a blessing.
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Photos. A new set of annotated photos has been placed in my Flickr Photo Gallery with various options to view it. If you want to browse the set, click here.
Thank you to all who make this work possible through your encouragement, prayer and financial support; you have been a part of making this project, and the resulting touched lives, a reality.
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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A New Home, A New Life

The History. Ratanak International has been ministering and providing compassion in post-genocide Cambodia for 25 years with a diverse collection of medical, agricultural and literacy programs, along with a particular focus on one of the most disadvantaged and traumatized segments of Cambodian society - young women trafficked and sold into the sex trade.

The Vision. After working almost exclusively with girls and young women rescued out the domestic sex trade, Ratanak is has now established a new program and is constructing a facility designed to provide a safe, live-in reintegration home for older girls and women being repatriated back to Cambodia after having been trafficked internationally.

The Project. Ratanak International has approached eMi to design a secure home for its RAP (Ratanak Achievement Program) for those escaping a life of abuse. It is where assessments will be conducted and where residents will receive an education, job and life skills training, enabling them to live independent and stable lives. This new centre will also be Ratanak's “home base”, containing administrative, counselling, and program offices from which it’s work at the forefront of the human trafficking challenge in Cambodia can grow.

More Information. To visit Ratanak’s website to read more about their work, click here.

Please keep us in prayer as we travel in the air and on the ground first in the capital Phnom Penh and later in Siem Reap, centre of Ratanak’s upcountry work.

Thank you to all our supporters and friends who make it possible for me to serve with eMi in this way!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Caring for Abandoned Babies

Impact Ministries.  For more than a decade Impact Ministries has been furthering education, providing local health services and establishing churches in communities around the town of Tactic in rural Guatemala.  Today, some of the teachers and administrators of these schools are themselves graduates of these schools.  And while education and medical care have been the key development components of Impact Ministries, one major need has not been addressed: the need to care for abandoned babies.

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The Challenge.  Extreme poverty and already large family sizes have resulted in newborn babies being abandoned at hospitals (or even thrown out with the trash) once the mom has given birth.  These babies enter the care of Guatemala’s social services with no guarantee of proper care, a chance for adoption or access to proper education and future opportunities.  So in 2013, Impact Ministries assembled a committee to develop a proposal for an orphanage.  In the fall of 2014, a parcel of land was purchased for the orphanage and immediately, eMi was contacted about providing a design team.  On February 6th of 2015, our team of 13 arrived in Guatemala City and after resting their for one evening, made our way to Tactic.
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Getting Started.  Walking the land and simply getting to know Impact Ministries were our first tasks.  Context is everything so we listened intently as we learned about the Guatemalan culture, witnessed the every day life of families, discovered the rules and regulations that govern the care of abandoned children and connected personally with the Guatemalan members of Impact Ministry’s Orphanage Committee.
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Meeting the Kids.  Morning devotion at 7:00 am at an Impact Ministries school was where we met students and heard their stories.  In Canada we joke about walking miles barefoot through snow to school but for many of the children, if not for the one pair of shoes they receive through child-sponsorship, they would indeed walk barefoot for miles to school, through rain and mud from their small shack home on a distant hill.  And yet they smile big toothy smiles, express their thanks to God for their school, worship with songs sung at the top of their voices and give us bear hugs around our waist in thanks for coming from afar so that orphans, children even worse off than they, could be cared for.
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My Travel Buddy.  Having Cameron with me on this trip was special.  In 2011 Caitlin came to Haiti with me and now it was Cam’s turn.  Cam and I have been travel buddies to his soccer tournaments for years.  But this trip was for him to see what dad does; the reason we left family and friends behind in Vancouver ten years ago to join eMi in Calgary.  If he was nervous, he didn’t let on…too much.
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Lay of the Land.  Land surveying is a demanding job.  It is physical and conditions change with the weather (hot/cold/wet/dry), terrain (hilly/flat) and plant cover (trees/brush).  Tactic is hilly and cool but for most of our time there, it remained dry.  Hiking boots and fleece is not usually a part of Cam’s “urban” wear but he was a great sport, never complained and became a solid help to David, navigating tough terrain and standing still despite the many spiders he encountered along the way.  Dad stopped by every once in a while to provide a "beef jerky break”.
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The Orphanage Committee. The Committee is made up of mostly Guatemalans who are already involved with Impact Ministries but who also have a burden in their heart to care for abandoned babies.  Sandra, a member of our team who also attends Foothills Alliance Church (my home church) in Calgary, is a many-time volunteer with Impact Ministries.  She has also been on the Orphanage Committee and so became both a catalyst for our conversations as well as our team’s translator of both language and culture.  We had both an envisioning meeting as well as a follow-up meeting during the week with the Orphanage Committee.  By week’s end at the Final Presentation, what they saw presented was a weaving of ideas from both the eMi team and the Orphanage Committee.
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It’s About the Kids.  The eMi team proposed a phased development, a master plan that unfolds as the children grow and Impact Ministries welcomes a few more children into its care each year.  Each year new house parents are trained and the land that is now quiet will come to life. Community will grow and together, children and house parents will dwell in the goodness and sufficiency of Christ; in Him they have hope and life and in Him they will represent this hope and life to their community and far beyond.
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Final Presentation.  Our Final Presentation was held on a Saturday morning following six days of master planning, surveying, designing and redesigning building layouts, digging & watering soakage pits, analyzing water & power supply distribution and establishing a structural design approach to combat earthquakes.  Whew!  When we see tears...of joy…in the eyes of those we came to serve, we are thankful and relieved.  God is good!
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A Final Thought.  For our debriefing time, souvenir shopping and general winding down day we ended our week with a couple nights in Antigua, the old capital of Guatemala.  Quaint and picturesque though it was, it was impossible to miss the evidence of forced colonial rule, syncretic beliefs and clashing cultures: colourful, laid-back latin ambience set against an imposed order, a rigid grid of streets.  But I realize that this represents me as well because I too am a mixture of brokeness and hope, a story of what was, what is becoming and what could be.  Although our past may be unalterable, our future is not set, our stories are not complete.  I’m glad this part of my journey included my son, good friends and an opportunity to serve an amazing ministry and the beautiful people of Guatemala.

Photos.  A new set of annotated photos has been placed in my Flickr Photo Gallery with various options to view it.  If you want to browse the set, click here.

Thank you to all who make this work possible through your encouragement, prayer and financial support; you have been a part of making this project, and the resulting touched lives, a reality.