Saturday, August 14, 2021
Friday, April 30, 2021
Monday, March 22, 2021
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
2020 has been a year with more than its fair share of challenges. Every one of us has been affected in one way or another. Every one of us has had our limits tested physically, spiritually, socially, and emotionally. Every one of us has dealt with some kind of loss. 2020 has stretched us, grown us, and taught us a lot. While I think we all would agree that we would not want to repeat this past year, I also believe that we would also say that we would not want to trade away what we have learned. As 2020 draws to a close, and I reflect back on the events of this year, what stands out for me the most is how people have rallied together to support each other. I love hearing the stories of people caring for their neighbors and family members in need. What I love even more is how people are even moved to support those they do not know. I had a first-hand experience with this.
Our company and foundation occasionally will put out a call for assistance. We don’t do this too often; only when there is a pressing need and people are suffering, like when Mozambique was devastated by a cyclone. When we put out requests for donations for such causes, we truly are overwhelmed by the goodness that pours out of people.
When the COVID restrictions were imposed in Mozambique, our thoughts and attentions immediately turned to the many families in our impoverished communities where our Sunshine Houses are located. We serve many of these families through our Beacons of Light community projects for at-risk, vulnerable children. How would these families, who were already living below the extreme poverty line, be able to survive with the little opportunity they had? We watched to see how they would fare. After only a month of seeing them endure the restrictions that made it difficult for them to make a living and provide for their families, we decided it was time to intervene.
Our company and foundation are very much against hand-outs. Hand-outs create dependency and entitlement. We exist to give people a hand-up. But there are times when people do need support, times when they cannot lift themselves up. We knew that we had the capacity to come alongside the struggling families in our community where we live and work. Yet we were concerned about how it would affect our budget and ability to keep providing for our Sunshine families. This is why we put out personal requests on social media to our family, friends, and supporters to give donations for food boxes. We were hoping to receive enough funds to put together food boxes for the 40 families of the children who attend our community projects. To be honest, we were not expecting a big response. We knew how concerned people were about their own financial stability and security. Yet, we were literally stunned by the outpouring of support. We were able to provide food boxes 70 food boxes in May and 70 more in July!
Our program administrator, Delcio, and I made multiple trips to the local stores and market to buy the supplies for the boxes. We got a lot of laughs from the expressions on people’s faces as we pushed our overloaded carts to the registers. We hauled carload after carload after carload of purchases to store in our garage. We then worked together to box everything up. The empty boxes from the raw cashews that Sunshine Nut Co purchases were the perfect size for our needs.
Each box contained the basic food essentials for a family, such as rice, beans, porridge, oil, pasta, sugar, tea…as well as soap (thanks to SoapBox Soaps), laundry detergent, toothpaste, toothbrushes (thanks to Humble Smile), and dish soap. AND of course, every food box contained Sunshine Nut Company cashews!!!
We took the boxes to the ladies who are the mothers at our Sunshine Houses. They are the directors of our community projects. We felt they were the best people to pass out the boxes to ensure that those receiving the boxes would maintain their dignity. Our ladies called upon each family to come to collect a box and were able to also give out boxes to neighbors they knew were in need. They were able to take some photos for us so that we could see the smiles on the faces of the recipients. To say that the families who received boxes were appreciative is an understatement. These boxes literally were the difference in going hungry for these families. In America, it is hard for us to relate to living in a country where there are no support systems, food banks, or government assistance programs available.
As things get back to normal again, we see that our families have been able to adjust and move forward. Mozambicans are very resilient people. The older generations have lived through a war for independence, civil war, and extreme flooding. They daily face deadly diseases that cause the deaths of their loved ones. They live in a country where they must fight every day just to survive. We were honored and privileged to partner with our caring donors to give them assistance during a time where many would have lost their footing.
Sunday, October 11, 2020
When I met Maria, she was like a little flower that had been trampled. All she needed was a little "Sunshine" to enable her to flourish and blossom. I have written two blogs about Maria... "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" (January 26, 2016) and "Maria- Problem Solved" (July 12, 2016). You may want to go back and read them again, but for those of you with little time so spare, here is a quick summary...
Maria lives in the community where our Sunshine Houses are located. We purposely spread our houses out amongst the community so that we can have an impact on the people who live around them. We have helped families with medical needs, educational needs, food, clothing, blankets, shoes and so much more. Maria has been in our lives for many years. There is something about her that tugs on your heartstrings. Maria has a speech impediment and walks with a limp. At the end of first grade in the public school, she was told she was deficient and could no longer attend school. For the next several years, she attended a preschool run by her neighbor. When Maria reached the age of 11, the director of the preschool said that she was getting a bit too old for preschool. I agreed. I found a local private school where the director was willing to admit her. She began again in grade 1 and has worked her way up to grade 4. We are very proud of her tenacity and positive attitude. She loves going to school to study and be with her friends. Our goal is to keep her in school until she is old enough to find gainful employment. She is now 16 years old.
As with most countries, our schools have been closed during the Covid restrictions. Here in Mozambique, our students only had 1 1/2 months in the classroom this year. They began their academic year in February and schools were closed in March. Except for the most elite of schools and students, online learning is not a possibility. Schools will not reopen this year for the vast majority of children, and students will receive a "free pass" to the next grade when they start their new academic year in February 2021. I am so glad that I had the foresight to hire a teacher to tutor our Sunshine Children, and of course we included our Maria. Thanks to Professor Daniel, they have been able to keep up with their studies.
The children have been little champs about attending tutoring, doing their homework, and having a great attitude these past months. I am proud of their efforts. I wanted to encourage them to not grow weary and wanted to find a way to incentivize them to keep on "keeping on". Last week, I shared with them that we are starting a "Student of the Week" program. Each week, Professor Daniel will choose a student who has been exemplary in being punctual to tutoring, respectful to him and others, and has shown effort in their work. I found gold medals to give each week's winner and made up bags with little prizes and candies.
I was thrilled when Professor Daniel informed me that out of all the children, his choice for the first student of the week was Maria!!! She is everything I described above and more. She has shown great progress with her maths, her attitude is always positive, and she puts forth her best effort every day.
Today we gathered together to present the first Student of the Week award. All of the children were excited and curious. They were antsy and fidgeting in their chairs. Each of their little faces showed how hopeful they were that they would be the one chosen. I announced to them that Maria was the winner!
All the children immediately burst into cheers and clapping. Every single child's face shone with genuine smiles. I am confident of this conclusion because I carefully and purposefully looked at each of their faces to check if this was for real. In fact, check it out for yourself in the photo below. All heads were turned and all eyes were on Maria. Take note of Cecilia's smile (in the back right corner) and little Maura peering up at her from behind me...
I couldn't believe it! They were so happy for Maria. Not one child showed disappointment that they were not chosen. It was clear that their joy for Maria was real and authentic. This made me so very proud of them! It was an outcome that I did not even expect to occur. It made this program a double blessing for me.
I presented Maria with her prize bag and hung the gold medal around her neck as the children continued to celebrate her achievement. As we left at the end of our gathering, they were chatting among themselves about how they were going to work to be the next winner. None of them know who the winner will be. But one thing we are sure of...the winner will be well celebrated!
Monday, September 21, 2020
We then headed into the factory. As with any visitors, we asked them to suit up with a hair net and their masks. The hair nets brought out lots of giggles.