Partner Week continues, and today, we're introducing you to our newest Forget the Frock partner, Childero. Childero is bringing light and hope to the orphans of Northern Uganda, who have faced decades of war, refugee camps, and the devastation of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Childero supports 50 orphan children in partnership with in-country and US-based ministries, nourishing their spiritual hunger through weekly Bible study and fulfilling earthly needs through food supplements, educational support, clothing, shoes, feminine supplies, and basic medical care. Founder Jamie Bloyd and I recently chatted about the history and heart behind this great organization.
ANGELA: How did Childero get started?
JAMIE: Sometimes God tells us 'no' so that we can think bigger and beyond our original desires. I had a miscarriage on Valentine’s Day 2007. I was crushed. I had some health problems and we weren’t sure if we would be able to have children of our own. I checked out a book about international adoption from the library and saw a post on Facebook from a childhood friend about adopting a baby from Uganda. My husband and I started the process to adopt from Uganda and were told we had too many student loans to be eligible. I was very disappointed, but soon very clearly understood that God was preparing me to do something bigger for his kingdom - something to care for many more orphans than just the one we could adopt.
ANGELA: What inspired you to create the organization?
JAMIE: I often have my best ‘ideas’ through dreams. God kept sending me the same dream about creating this organization.
After my mission trip to Uganda in November and December 2007, I was so deeply impacted by the suffering of the children. We visited an orphanage and I got to love on a baby found burning alive in a heap of garbage. I got to love on a little boy who had been fed battery acid in a bottle. I was determined that I would not come back to the U.S. and become complacent. I believe once you know about these things, you have an obligation to act. Despite their suffering, those children had such joy in their hearts. It has inspired me as I’ve faced my own suffering.
ANGELA: What drew you to Uganda?
JAMIE: Joseph Kony and the reign of terror of the Lord’s Resistance Army drew me there. There had been so many decades of darkness. Children were night commuters, fleeing the bush to avoid being kidnapped and forced to become soldiers and kill their own families. I wanted to bring God’s love to a region where there had been so much evil and brokenness. Thinking about the children alone in the night - the darkness - scared for their lives, taken from their mother’s arms - that really stayed on my heart. That’s why I love the name 'Childero' which means "child of light" in Acholi. I wanted them to feel God’s love and to know that no matter the darkness they’ve faced, they can be filled with the light and restoration of the Holy Spirit.
ANGELA: What have been some of the biggest challenges Childero has faced?
JAMIE: By far the biggest challenge Childero has faced - and I have faced in my life - was the diagnosis of my 5-year-old son Paxton with stage 4 Burkitts Lymphoma Leukemia on March 3, 2014, right as we were preparing to launch the program. The day Paxton was diagnosed, his care manager said, "You know what type it is don’t you?" I said, "no." She said, "Burkitts Lymphoma." I ran to my desk to Google Burkitts and found this: "Recognized as the fastest growing human tumor, Burkitt lymphoma is associated with impaired immunity and is rapidly fatal if left untreated. Burkitt lymphoma is named after British surgeon Denis Burkitt, who first identified this unusual disease in 1956 among children in Uganda, Africa.”
FASTEST GROWING HUMAN TUMOR. RAPIDLY FATAL. UGANDA, AFRICA.
We were shocked and devastated. I didn’t know if he would survive, yet I felt an incredible responsibility for the orphans. I kept thinking, "but for the grace of God go I." Only by the grace of God did our family find ourselves in a country where we could get the medicine needed to save his life; where we had access to doctors; with people that loved us and were praying for us. I just kept thinking about all the children there who were alone and sick and hungry, who didn’t know the hope found in Jesus Christ. I thought about all the mothers who had sick and dying children, but no one to help them.
ANGELA: How has your work with Childero impacted you personally?
JAMIE: When I first dreamed about Childero, I envisioned myself going to Uganda each year to personally connect with the children and see them and experience them and love them. I wanted to see, in person, the good work God was allowing me to do. Since Paxton’s illness and welcoming a new baby, I know it is not my time to leave Kentucky to travel there. Paxton’s diagnosis brought a lifetime of uncertainty that the cancer could return. That he will have other significant health problems as a result of the toxicity of treatment. He gets sick very frequently. In my mind, I often refer to the saying, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” Right now I feel that it may be many, many years before I ever get to go back to Uganda. That I will never sit under that shade. I will never personally meet many of the children. But in the midst of the most intense time of Paxton’s illness, I knew I could not control what was going on with Paxton: He was suffering and there was nothing I could do. But I knew I could do something to help the orphans. We may be helping 50 children with discipleship and food and education, but the truth is that they have helped me just as much. They gave me a focus on kingdom work, not despair and the Devil. They saved me, too.
ANGELA: When you think of the work that has been accomplished through Childero, what is a particular child or situation that has stayed with you?
Because of my own experience with my son, the children who are sick particularly weigh on my heart. There’s one little boy we serve who personifies the stereotype of an African child: extremely skinny, bones sticking out, heartbreakingly thin. Like many of our children, he has HIV/AIDS. He also has Sickle Cell anemia. He health cycles up and down, and I know one day we will lose him. Even though Childero is doing well, we cannot afford to pay for continual hospital stays or comprehensive medical care. The healthcare facilities there cannot accommodate the many, many children like him that are chronically sick and dying. He stays with me in everything I do for Childero.
ANGELA: How do you define success at Childero? How do you evaluate the work you are doing?
JAMIE: I define success as winning hearts and minds for Jesus. All children in our program are required to participate in Bible clubs regularly, which are held outside. Their attendance is closely monitored as is their school work. But we also look to gain hearts and minds through the ripple effect of ministering to the Childero children. For every Childero child that comes to bible study, 10 more from the village join in. They hear the laughter and see dancing and smiles and they want to be a part of it.
Logistically, he have a Kentucky Advisory Board for Childero as well as a Gulu (the largest town in northern Uganda) Advisory Board. We call them the KAB and the GAB. The Gulu board is made up of 7 United Methodist Church pastors that are officially a part of the United Methodist Conference of East Africa. They each nominated the children from their congregations that needed the most help and who were not receiving help from another aid program. The Gulu board meets regularly with our in-country coordinator to assess the program, monitor how the children are doing, and report back to the Kentucky board so we can evaluate our work and the impact we are making.
ANGELA: What are your dreams or goals you’d like to accomplish in the coming year? How will the funds from this year’s campaign enable you to do so?
JAMIE: This year brings something new to Childero. Several of our older children are finishing up primary school and can go on to secondary school! This is a huge accomplishment for them and something to be very proud of. But secondary school is much more expensive than primary school. I would like for all of our orphans to know that, if they stay focused on God and do well in school, they will have the opportunity to go to secondary school. Since there are many more younger children behind them, the cost will increase dramatically the next few years. The funds from this year’s campaign will allow the current children eligible to transition to move up to secondary school, and hopefully, pave the way for us to make that promise and commitment to the younger children, giving them a goal they can work towards.
Funds from this year’s campaign could also allow us to increase the food allotment we give each child. The food allotment doesn’t just feed the receiving child, but provides essential ingredients to cook for the whole family, so its not just changing the life of that orphan, it is transforming the health of all the siblings in the family, too.
ANGELA: What would you say to those considering supporting Childero?
JAMIE: Supporting Childero allows you to be a double blessing, because you are changing lives in Uganda and in the U.S. All t-shirts are being produced by The Shirt Garage, a screen printing company in Danville, Kentucky that employs disabled adults. While I have not personally experienced such a disability, I do know how it feels to be able to be of service to others when you have been on the receiving end of so much help. And you will be making a real difference in the lives of children in Uganda.