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ZOE Ministry Partner: Rise (or Rising) to Win group, India

Rise (or Rising) to Win Working Group, India, 2015-2017

Partnered with the First United Methodist Churches of Hickory and Hendersonville

The following report highlights the activities and achievements of two members of your working group. Although each child is unique, most of the children in the Rise to Win Working Group have faced similar challenges and are making comparable progress through the ZOE empowerment model. The first section is a transcription of the youth’s testimony, followed by specifics regarding their experiences with ZOE and ending with general information about ZOE’s “Dream” approach to helping the young people set goals.

 

YuvarajYuvaraj’s (age 19) Story: My family belongs to a poor class. My father died when I was very young, and no one gave me any money for food or school. I am the only one in my family. I did not know what to do. Having a sickly mother who was not able to work and earn, I had to leave my studies and move to search for a job. I ended up working construction in Chengalpattu. With my earnings I still was not able to get medicine for my mother and we had only one meal a day, which was food left from the houses I worked on. That was the time I heard about a project called ZOE, which was working among the orphans. Expecting some food and clothing, I attended the first meeting.

At one of the first meetings, the children are led through the process of writing their Dream sheet – more information about this process is below. To the left is Yuvaraj with his Dream sheet and these are his responses to the guiding questions:

Yuvaraj2Yuvaraj’s Dream

What makes me sad: My father’s death.

What makes happy: To help others in my community.

What I do not like in my community: Drinking alcohol.

My dream for the future: To own a big goat farm.

Guiding Principles: Doing hard work to achieve my goal.

Of his achievements through ZOE, which are discussed below, Yuvaraj says, “God helped me find and grow my own food and be able to care for my mother and my goat business. I ask for prayers for my mother and my dream.”

 

 

Nisha’s (age 15) Story:

NishaMy family is very poor. As my father had kidney failure, so he could not earn money for food and school for us. Then one day my mother died because she had jaundice. I am the eldest child in my family (she has two brothers, Manikandan, 13 and Kotti, 9 and a sister, Arthi, 11). I had to leave my studies and move to find a job and ended up working as a maid in a house in a nearby village. With my earnings I was not able to get medicine for my father, and we had only one meal a day. The food was leftover from houses where I worked. My earnings were not enough to provide schooling, food, and clothing. That was the time I learned about ZOE which was working with orphans. Thinking that I would get some food and clothing, I attended the first meeting.

Nisha’s Dream:

Nisha2What makes me sad: My mother’s death and family situation.

What makes me happy: Watching TV.

What I do not like in my community: When others tease me.

My dream for the future: That I can help others.

Guiding Principles: Don’t be sad. That with working hard every day I can achieve my goals.

Nisha further notes, “I have a dream to own my business of selling goats, taking big orders, and placing lots of orphans and poor children like me in a job, and helping children like me. Please pray for my father and my family.”

 

 

 First Year Achievements and Activities

income generationIncome generation: Within the first year, ZOE tries to help all the heads of households find a way to earn money. The youth of the Rise to Win Group were provided training on how to start a business, manage money, and handle government regulations. They were then shown a list of 200 different business ideas. Both Yuvaraj and Nisha decided that they had the skills to raise goats. The other members of their working group agreed and allocated ZOE funds so that they could purchase goats. They have already bred their goats and are currently earning about four to six dollars a day. As their herds increase they will be able to sell the goats as well as the milk. Goats have the additional benefit of providing manure to improve their gardens.

Food security:   Since joining ZOE’s Rise to Win Group, both children have been working to lift themselves and their families out of poverty and to improve the quality of their lives. Previously Nisha and her family’s meals consisted of rice or wheat and as a result all the children suffered from malnutrition. Similarly, Yuvaraj and his mother ate one simple, starch based meal. With seeds and hoes from ZOE, both Nisha and Yuvaraj planted gardens with vegetables such as eggplant, pumpkin, and tomatoes. Both have harvested their first crops. Now that they understand the importance of a balanced diet, have money to purchase additional food items, and have learned how to properly cook their food, they are eating two nutritional meals daily.

Health and hygiene: After their group learned about good hygiene practices, members helped each other build latrines, so both Yuvaraj and Nisha now have a proper and hygienic facility to use. To further help the children improve their health, ZOE provided initial supplies of soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, mosquito nets, blankets, and sleeping mats.

Child rights: Training on child rights helped the group understand what constitutes child abuse and labor and how to protect themselves from mistreatment or discrimination. ZOE helped Nisha’s siblings return to classes by supplying school fees and materials. Additionally all children in the group were assisted by their program facilitator to obtain birth certificates since many were missing this important documentation.

Beyond the training and the grants, the children have found a peer group who understands them, supports them, and prays with them. This is providing them with hope and strengths to achieve their dreams.

 

Focus on: The Dream

thedreamMost orphans and vulnerable children entering the ZOE empowerment program face a daily struggle to survive. With their energy consumed by the need to find food for themselves and their siblings, there is neither time to think about the future nor reason to hope for something better. But through ZOE and your partnership, the children learn to imagine a new life and prepare to make it a reality.

During one of the early working group meetings, the ZOE program facilitator leads members through an exercise called the Dream process where they explore their current situation and then consider what they want and how to get it. After discussing hopes and goals with their siblings, the family leader creates a poster of responses to a standard set of questions from the ZOE program facilitator.  To the right is an example of the Dream document.

The head of each family presents their Dream to the rest of the working group members who express support and give feedback. These Dream documents help the program facilitators better understand the conditions of the children’s lives so they can address specific needs or traumas suffered. The family keeps a copy of their Dream, often displaying it in their home to provide daily motivation as they strive to create their new life.

  

Focus On: Working Group Formation

risetowin

Poverty often means a life lived in isolation, unconnected even from those who share the same struggles and challenges. A ZOE working group provides orphans and vulnerable children a community where they experience understanding, compassion and acceptance. Together, they begin their journey towards a better life.

To form a working group, ZOE program facilitators first contact community leaders and local officials to educate them about the empowerment approach and to ask for their help in identifying children.   During the first meeting, the children and their young caregivers learn how they will change and improve their lives within three years. Then ZOE takes a step back.

Working group members elect their own leadership, make rules to guide their meetings, choose a group name and decide where to hold weekly gatherings. These once-marginalized children learn from ZOE staff that their community and their Hope Companion partner have faith in their ability to succeed.

The eldest child from each family attends weekly meetings to discuss their activities, both achievements and challenges, and to share in prayer and reflection with each other. Additionally, ZOE’s staff and selected community members hold regular training sessions with the group to cover topics such as food security, health and disease prevention, business management, and child rights.

One of the first actions the group takes is to select a project, such as a group farm, or a mutual help activity, like building dish drying racks for each other. This group endeavor fosters companionship and teaches the children that they can depend on each other as they journey together towards a new life of self-sufficiency.

Below is the list of names recorded by our ZOE program facilitators/social workers during group formation; there are 39 households and a total of 75 members. The names in bold are heads of household, followed by their siblings. Occasionally, an older person lives with the family, but is unable to provide for them due to age or illness. ZOE works with orphaned and vulnerable children ages infant through college age. Although ZOE obtains name lists with both first and last names, ZOE uses first names only in public lists to preserve the privacy of children in the program.

Please note, children joining the ZOE program are living in extreme poverty situations. Often they have no parents or birth documentation and have suffered multiple traumas in their young lives. Occasionally the children give conflicting information on their names and ages. Additional orphans are frequently adopted by the group, and a small percentage of children will leave the group due to family reunification or other reasons. ZOE strives to keep the list as up-to-date as possible. All the names on this list represent real children in need of your prayers.

 

Rise to Win Working Group Name List

Ajith 19, Arthi 15; Arjun 20, Ajith 18; Praveenkumar 16, Priyadharshini 13; Naveenkumar 20, Sarankumar 17;  Vanitha 20, Yuvaraj 19; Sarathkumar 19; Ajaykumar 18, Sneer 16; Nisha 15, Manikandan 13, Arthi 11, Kotti 9; Nisiya 20, Kanimozhi 11, Chindraj 16; Kumarasan 18, Archana 16; Jawahar 20; Kumarasan 19, Ramki 17; Dhanalakshmi; Prasanth 20, Prabhu 17, Prathab 19; Chindrasu 16, Athilakshmi 11, Sarath 10; Sripriya 20; Nandhini 15, Santhanam 13; Ashok 18, Akash 13; Sunderrajan 18; Vishnupriya 18, Vignesh 16; Alex 19, Kanviarasan 17; Nathiya 19; Arunkumar 20, Harsh 15; Yuvaraj 20; Thamilarasan 20, Uma 18; Ashoka 20, Anu 18, Arunjumar 16; Aruna 14; Buthan 20; Divakar 19, Padhmapriya 15; Jayapandiyan 20, Sheeba 19, Dass 11; Lokesh 18, Divya 17, Vigensh 12; Maheshwari 16; Nagalakshmi 16, Shanmugapriya 14, Yuvasree 11; Roshanabiyasaap 19, Maesiyaabishek 16, Yabeshabiyuth 15; Ragu 18; Rajeshwari 20; Thenmozhi 20, Aravindhan 18; Vijayakumar 15, Saranya 12Yuvaraj 19

 

Focus on: Faith

Often the isolation that the children feel when they begin the ZOE program extends to their thoughts about God. Because they are abused and discriminated against by their community – and often this includes Christians in their village – they believe God has also abandoned or even cursed them. At other times they believe that maybe God does not exist, or if God does exist that they are somehow beyond God’s love.   In the very first meeting the staff often address the Lord’s prayer with the children, and talk about what it means, as an orphan, to call God “Father.” They learn that they are not truly orphans because they have their heavenly Father who loves them.

 

ZOE shares the gospel with these children, but this sharing goes beyond words to deeds. The children both hear and see the very best of the Christian message, and often respond to this in inspirational ways. At each meeting they begin with Scripture readings, prayer and devotions given by a group member, but while this is available to the children they are never coerced into the Christian faith. ZOE’s program is religiously non-restrictive, but offers a compelling view of the love Christians show to others.

One of the most powerful parts of the empowerment program is the way these children put their faith into action in their own community. They forgive those who have harmed them; feed others who are even poorer than themselves; adopt other children and share their resources and knowledge with them; pray and care for one another; and pay fair wages to those who had once taken advantage of their situation with hard labor and poor pay. These children return good for evil and can be examples to all of what it means to live our faith.

 

Focus on: First Connections

One of the biggest disadvantages orphans and vulnerable children face is isolation from peers and the larger community. Struggling on their own, the children lack moral support, access to community resources, and a network of people to help them progress and face challenges. ZOE creates connections.

Peer group. Even though there may be hundreds of orphans and vulnerable children living in a community or village, they often self-segregate because of the conditions of their poverty, disease, and/or the stigma of HIV/AIDS. When each new member tells their story during the first working group meeting, they are greatly encouraged to find that there are others who share their same struggles. Then ZOE introduces the children to young people who already graduated from or have made significant progress through ZOE’s empowerment program and the new ZOE participants are inspired and energized to begin the work of transformation.

Program facilitator and mentor. Each working group is assigned a program facilitator/social worker. These ZOE staff members usually speak the mother tongue of the region, hold a diploma in social work or related fields and have experience working with children. Additionally, the working group members select a person from the local community to serve as a mentor and advocate for the children within the community. Mentors receive training from ZOE and then attend weekly meetings, make home visits and help ZOE resolve challenges the group may face in the community.

And a powerful connection is you! All ZOE working groups know the opportunities they receive are from God, through the love and concern coming from their partners far away. They are amazed that you would care for them without ever having met them. This powerful connection is further strengthened when a Hope Companion visits the children to witness what they have achieved. In many ways you stand in place of their parents, and to hear that you are proud of what they have accomplished is transformative for these children. Thank you for being a part of building God’s Kingdom in this way.

 

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