Meet our Partner: Childero

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. 

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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.”
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. 

Meet Our Preferred Partner: Feeding the Orphans

Each day this week, we will be interviewing the people behind our Partner Charities to help you get to know them a little bit better. We are kicking things off by chatting with Kristie and Sydney O'Leary of Feeding the Orphans.


Feeding the Orphans is a grassroots organization founded in 2010 by then-10- year-old, Sydney O’Leary. FTO advocates for the fatherless of West Africa in Jesus’ name, working to first meet the immediate earthly needs of the community and then build long-term relationships that foster knowledge of Christ. FTO works in partnership with existing Christian ministries when possible, but if needs are identified that reach beyond the scope of these ministries, FTO becomes the driving force to provide for those in need. FTO serves by feeding children, providing educational grants and scholarships, drilling clean water wells, coordinating medical relief missions, and operating Esther's Hope, a job skills and mentoring program that provides education and employment to single mothers to help them find independence.



ANGELA: Feeding the Orphans was started when Sydney was just a child. Kristie, what was your initial impression of her vision?

KRISTIE: When Sydney first came to us with her idea we were in the middle of our first adoption and we were personally fundraising for that.  I remember thinking to myself “This is such an amazing thing she wants to do, but we cannot help her fundraise, too. There’s just no way.” Then God nudged my heart that He’s the one doing all of it and to stand behind our daughter and her dreams and visions. So we did.  And He showed up like we never imagined. 

ANGELA: Did you ever imagine the organization would grow like this?

KRISTIE: Never.  Her goal was to raise $500 by selling the 'Kings and Queens' shirt and we thought that would be the end of it. 


ANGELA: At what point did you realize that this was more than just a kid’s fundraising project? 

KRISTIE: When, within two months of a 10-year-old girl selling a t-shirt and speaking out for the fatherless, $8,000 was raised. At that point, we realized this was God moving in a mighty way. Only God can turn a simple question into a life changing ministry for thousands.  

ANGELA: What have been some of the biggest challenges Feeding the Orphans has faced over the years?

KRISTIE: Some of the biggest challenges we have faced are just the vast needs in front of us every day.  The girls that are prostitutes. The children that are sacrificed.  The moms that feel like they have no other choice but to give up their children.  The children who long to attend school, but have no means to do so. The babies fighting for their lives because they have special needs and there’s no money for medical care.  And then loving those little ones, yet watching them leave their earthly home.  The greatest challenge we face is knowing we can never help all of them, but resting in the hope of our Savior and that He loves each of us (and them) more than any of us can ever imagine.  Sometimes that is easier said than done. 


ANGELA: When you think of the work that has been accomplished through FTO, what is a particular woman or child or situation that has stayed with you?

KRISTIE:  Regina.  A beautiful 15 year old girl. I had heard stories of her.  How she couldn’t care for herself and her siblings.  How she didn’t attend school.  How she was desperate. But the day we drove to her house was something I was not prepared for.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe as we got out of the car.  And she was cooking, but it wasn’t food.  It was grass she had plucked from the field to boil for her family. Yes, grass.  Only grass.  And I stood there and tears poured down my face as I looked at her and her family. Hungry and hopeless.  And our partner told me she felt she had no other choice other than to become a prostitute.  Instead, though, God intervened and He sent FTO.  He sent people to purchase FTF shirts and He changed her life. He provided food for her family and then a sponsor.  And He provided a way for her to attend school.  That precious girl who had so much shame that she couldn’t even look at my face on that hot August day is now a radiant, thriving, smiling teenager dreaming of being a nurse.  Her life was literally transformed by a simple t-shirt.
SYDNEY: Mercy and Favor.  About a year ago, we got news of two precious siblings who were fighting for their lives in Ghana.  They were both severely malnourished and little Favor could barely even sit up.  We immediately sent emergency medical care money and they started to make progress.  A few weeks later they moved into one of the orphanages we partnered with and two weeks after that I flew to Ghana to meet these special little ones.  They stole my heart the second I met them.  Today, they are thriving and two of the happiest toddlers you’ll ever meet!  


ANGELA: How has Forget the Frock impacted your organization?

KRISTIE: FTF has literally transformed this ministry. God founded it on a simple tshirt when Sydney was just 10 and now He’s using FTF and the sale of tshirts at Easter to transform lives all over Ghana, Togo and East TN.  


ANGELA: What are some specific things you’ve been able to accomplish with the funds from past campaigns? 

KRISTIE: As a ministry, we have over 600 children in our daily education and food sponsorship programs.  2/3 of those children do not have individual sponsors so because of FTF those kids are receiving an education and daily nourishment. They are going to school, learning trades and realizing they can achieve their dreams.  In the end, together we are raising leaders for the next generation. 

ANGELA: What are your dreams or goals for the coming year?

SYDNEY: One dream of mine is to finish Nyame Dua’s new home.  We just have a little bit more to do on the upstairs and then these kids will have a place just for them. A place that’s safe and a place where they will learn all about Jesus.  Another dream is to help Ho hospital in Ghana run their NICU and make sure that every tiny blessing from God is cared for and loved.  


ANGELA: What would you like to accomplish with the funds from this year’s campaign? 

KRISTIE: We would like to finally be able to purchase phototherapy lights for a hospital about three hours outside of the capital city.  This hospital receives abandoned babies and lots of pre-term babies on a consistent basis.  We have personally held some of these little ones, prayed with their mommas and loved on the doctors and nurses.  They are in desperate need of these lights and we are anxious to watch FTF help provide them. 


ANGELA: Speaking directly to people considering buying a shirt to support Feeding the Orphans, what would you say to them? 

SYDNEY: I would say thank you so very much.  By purchasing and wearing a simple shirt, you are literally saving lives.  You are feeding little ones, providing medical care to kids that desperately need it and you are also raising awareness about the plight of the orphan.  It’s an all around win, you get to wear a comfy shirt on Easter and support precious kiddos in Ghana, Togo and now the US. 

Christmas Gives Back Idea Book: Cuddle + Kind

Every child should have one of these beautiful Cuddle+Kind dolls. Hand-knit by artisans in Peru, these wonderfully-detailed, fair trade dolls are the perfect blend of cuddly softness, safety and durability.  And for each doll purchased, Cuddle+Kind will donate 10 meals through partnerships with a variety of well-respected child hunger organizations. From September 15, 2015 to September 15, 2016 alone, Cuddle+Kind has donated nearly 630,000 meals through organizations working in the US and 64 countries around the world. They also employ more than 100 artisans at sustainable, fair trade wages in Peru, providing opportunity and empowerment to women. And the dolls they create are beloved by children all over the world. Just look at these darling stuffed friends: