We desire to bring sunshine to Africa....opportunities to allow people to realize their destinies and be released from oppression. We are starting in Mozambique with The Sunshine Nut Company. The majority of proceeds from this company will go to the poorest of farming communities and the neediest of children. Mozambique is ranked among the poorest in economic status but we believe they are among the richest in spirit. Join us in our adventure....

Sunday, March 29, 2020

A New Journey for Argentina

At first, I wanted to title this story, “Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way”, but I’ve already used that one. So I came up with, “Worth Waiting For", but I’ve already used that one too. At this point, I realized that we do a lot of waiting around here! That is the nature of life and work in Mozambique. We have learned to be patient and persistent. This is a story of patience and persistence…with the most lovely of endings!

Let me introduce you to the newest member of our growing Sunshine family…7-year-old Argentina. Isn’t she indeed lovely? 




But Argentina’s story is far from lovely. She never even knew her father. He abandoned her and her mother before she was even born, and he later died. Her mother died at some point in her young life, leaving Argentina an orphan. She was in the care of her elderly grandmother, who died mid-year 2019. She had no one left to care for her. She had no family members with the ability to take her in. While we do agree that with family is the best place for children to be, often the case is that the extended family does not have the means to take orphaned children in to live. Argentina went on living with other children in the house of her grandmother. Her Aunt Sara, a good friend of Zelda, the caretaker of our first Sunshine House, told Zelda about Argentina back in September and asked if there was anything we could do to help her. Argentina was suffering. We went to Social Action to pursue placing her in one of our homes. We were beyond disappointed to learn that we were not able to take her in. She lived in the capital city of Maputo. Because it is the capital, it is its own separate district, just like our Washington, D.C. So she was living outside of our area of influence and reach. I found this hard to believe. We had just accepted into one of our homes 3 children from Manhica, which is 2 ½ hours away. Now we were being told that we could not accept this little girl who lived only 20 minutes away? My question to them…So we have to leave her to suffer because of where she lives? The answer…Yes. I determined that this little girl deserved better. I determined to wait it out because she was worth it. I determined to be patient and find a way…And I did!

Zelda’s friend, Sara, is Argentina’s aunt. She therefore has the right as family to take her into her home and care for her now that she was orphaned. This would bring her into our area of influence. All we needed was for Sara, and her husband, to agree. It sounds so simple, but in a developing country it is not. Sara and her husband live below the poverty line. They have barely enough to care for their family, let alone to feed another mouth. After presenting my idea to Zelda, I held my breath in anticipation of their answer. They responded the next day saying they would take Argentina into their home! In fact, Sara went right away to fetch her. In appreciation, we provided food for them so that having Argentina there would not be an added burden to their family.

We waited a bit and returned to Social Action. They went to visit the home of Sara and to meet Argentina. They wanted to leave Argentina in the care of her aunt and uncle. Sara burst into tears. She said they did not have the means to care for her and that her husband would not accept this. This changed their mind and they agreed to move Argentina into our Sunshine House. She will live in the same neighborhood as her Aunt Sara and can visit and play with her cousins freely. It is the best for them all!

We then had to wait a bit more while Social Action prepared the paperwork. This past week we were informed that the paperwork was done and we could move Argentina to her forever home! I was ecstatic and relieved. But most of all, I was so happy for Argentina. She would now have the security and stability she would need to flourish.

Argentina now lives in the care of Guida at our second Sunshine House. She will have all of her needs met- spiritual, physical and emotional. She will attend private school and will one day have the opportunity to further her education at a training school or university of her choice. As her new t-shirt says, her future is bright! She now has an older sister, Cristina, and two sisters who are the same age as her, Virginia and Maura. When she was brought to her new home, all three girls ran and enveloped her in a big group hug. They said that now they have a new friend with which to play.

I was so anxious to meet Argentina but decided it best to give her a day to adjust to her new family and home before the emotional white lady showed up. I went with my husband, Don, the next day…armed with clothing and a stuffed animal to welcome her. I often try to put myself in the place of these children. I wonder what they must be thinking and feeling. But I do not have the mindset to do this. As someone who was privileged to be raised in a secure home where I never wanted for anything and had a mother and father to care for me…how could I ever understand what it is like to be abandoned, orphaned, impoverished and alone?

 The other girls at the house met us at the gate. They were excited to show off their new sister. We entered the yard, and a timid Argentina emerged from the house. Her face gave me absolutely no clue as to what was going on inside of her. I introduced my husband and me to her and welcomed her to our family. She politely listened, and gave Papa Don a wave and “Ola” when I asked her to do so. Then that quickly, I was at a loss for words…so I pulled out the stuffed animal.


I don’t know what it is about stuffed animals, but they always break the ice. The soft dog brought a broad smile to her face the moment she laid eyes on it. I placed it in her waiting arms and she tucked it in close, wrapped her arms around it, and held onto it. This left me with the parallel picture of her…Argentina brought a smile to our faces upon seeing her. We have tucked her into our Sunshine family, have wrapped our arms around her, and will hold onto her. The waiting now is over...for us both. She was well worth the wait. Our journey together has begun.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Finally!!!



We purchased our third Sunshine House a year ago. At the same time, we were finalizing the registration of our foundation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Mozambique. We received our approval in December 2018. We rejoiced because we now would be able to work with Social Action for Women and Children to receive orphaned children into our homes. We met with the director of Social Action in February and received her approval to receive children. We shared with her our vision and requested children aged 7 or younger, as we wanted young children whom we could shape and transform. We were excited and ready to fill the beds in this third house. But…Mozambique being Mozambique, February became March, March became April, and on it went until we found ourselves in the month of September and still without children and our house still empty. I was in despair and wanted to scream, “There are 2 million orphaned children in Mozambique, can you not just give me 4???”

Social Action finally contacted us a few weeks ago and told us they had 3 little boys for us!!! I was over-the-moon happy…in fact, I cried! As we looked into it, they were very slow in sharing any details with us…the age of the boys, their grade in school, their names, etc. We had no information. Until the day they unloaded on us that the children were much older than what we requested- a girl of 14 and two boys of 12 and 10. Our response was, Nope, Nope, Nope. Again we explained to them why we wanted younger children. As I met with a case worker at their offices, she folded her hands and begged me to consider these three children. She said that as soon as she heard about them, she thought of our foundation and believed we were exactly what these children needed because we would provide them with a family. She pleaded with me to just go and “have a look”. I pictured myself doing this and regretting it…how can you go “have a look” at three orphaned children and not bring them home with you? But I agreed to go see them.

The children lived in Manhica, a two hour drive from our home. We traveled there on Friday, September 6th- me, Amade, a manager at our Sunshine Nut Company, and Marcia, our local contact at Social Action.  We met up with the case worker in Manhica. She took us to the children’s home. It had belonged to their parents and now was theirs. We pulled up to a very small cement home with a battered front door and closed up windows. Inside I could see a little boy sitting in a plastic chair with his head down on the plastic table in front of him. As we got out of the car, adults and children began to assemble in the yard of this home, everyone curious to find out why we were there. The little boy in the house came outside. He sat down on the front step of the home with his back to us. He refused to look at us or speak with us. 



Meanwhile, the curious neighbors began telling us about the children. Their remaining parent, their mother, had died two years earlier. Since that time, the older girl cared for her two younger brothers while continuing to pursue her education. She was now in grade 8.  Neighbors occasionally brought rice for them to eat, but they had little to share because they themselves are poor and have very little for their own families. The house had no water or electricity. The only furniture the children had was a plastic table, a plastic chair, and a grass mat to sleep on a night. 


They had one pot to cook in and one plate from which to eat. The older girl and the younger boy had remained in school. They said the girl was very responsible and helpful. Yet “this boy”, they said referring to the little guy on the front step with his back to us, he refused to go to school and was a thief, stealing various things from the neighbors. At this point, he began to cry. And at this point, I had had enough of the neighbors’ input. “This boy” had a name, Vicente, and he had feelings, which were being sorely abused. I asked Amade to take Vicente away and speak to him privately. When they returned, Amade said Vicente was crying because he was afraid we were there to take him away. He had been threatened that a home would be found for his older sister and younger brother, but that he would be taken away to a center for troubled, problem boys. He said he would not leave his family.

Amade and I went around to the back of the house to talk privately. This is when the younger 10-year-old brother, Helio, came home from school. He came out back to talk with us. The whole time we talked, his hands trembled with fear and he could hardly look us in the eye. We asked him to call Vicente to join us. 


We shared with them who we were, why we were there, and what we had to offer to them. All day, I had been praying for God to give me a sign that it was His will for us to take these children. As of yet, I was not feeling anything either way. We had been with the boys for an hour and I was starting to panic as I had one of those, “God! I asked You for a sign and I’m not getting one!” talks with Him. It was imperative for me to know that these children wanted to come with us and that they were open to receive what we had to offer them. I did not want to take older children who did not want to come, would run away, or cause problems. I told the boys that we did not want to take them away from their home, that it was their choice to stay. I asked them if they wanted to come with us. Immediately, with not even a second of hesitation, the older boy, Vicente, looked up and into my eyes and said, “Quero viver no seu crèche” (I want to come live at your center.)  It was the first time I had had the opportunity to even look into his brown eyes. Helio immediately followed his brother, eagerly looking up into my face and repeating the exact same words. My heart began to move… a little. I began to have hope. I looked at the boys and shared with them that they would not be living at a center; they would be part of a family now.

Amade suggested we pray with the boys before leaving. We were in a circle, Amade directly across from me, each of us with a boy on our right and on our left. Amade put a hand on each boy’s shoulder. As we closed our eyes to pray, I glimpsed each boy putting an arm around his waist. I then placed a hand on each boy’s back, and I felt one little hand slip around my waist from the left, and one little hand slip around my waist from the right. Tears filled my eyes as I knew I had just gotten my sign from God. These boys not only wanted to come, they were open to receive. The difference in the boys' demeanor from the time we met first them until we left only an hour later was incredible. They went from being resistant and distant to happy and hopeful. 



We said goodbye to the boys and headed back to Matola. We did not get to meet their older sister, Virginia, because she was at school. I had to laugh to myself to imagine what stories she would be hearing when she returned after school to her brothers.

For the whole weekend, I could not stop thinking about these three children and God’s goodness in connecting us with them. By Monday morning, I was ready to drive back to Manhica and bring them here, but Social Action had documents to prepare to enable this to happen. We made a plan to fetch them on Friday. That day could not come soon enough. We were all excited…me, Amade, Don, and the woman who would now be their new mom, Ilda. Ilda was actually giddy with excitement!

We arrived at their house on Friday to find the children dressed and ready to go. A small plastic bag held their only worldly belongings. Their grandmother and an aunt were present at the home along with a mix of community children and teenagers, who were there to see them off. It was a pleasure to meet Virginia. We knew the boys wanted to come, but we didn’t know how she felt. She greeted us…a kiss on the cheek and hug confirmed she was ready to come as well. Her eyes were bright with happiness. 



We began by signing documents with the children’s family members that gave us guardianship of the children. The aunt and grandmother shared their appreciation of the help we were offering. The grandmother’s main concern was that she had made sure the children always attended church and asked us that if we could, would please keep them attending. She was overjoyed to learn that it is our priority to raise the children knowing God as their Father, Jesus as their Savior, and the Holy Spirit as their counselor. She had us all join hands as she prayed a blessing over us and the children.



It was time then to say goodbye and climb into the van. The children got into the van so quickly that I didn’t even see it happen! I climbed into the back seat with them, trying to avoid being hit by their little flailing arms waving goodbye. The van door shut, Don began to pull away, and Vicente, the older brother, who was sitting next to me, literally collapsed into his lap and sobbed. 



He was not crying because he was sad. He was not crying because he was happy. He was crying tears of relief to be leaving this life behind him- a life of being unloved and suffering from hunger and illness and a lack of basic necessities. His sister, Virginia, sat next to him consoling him as Helio looked on. I pulled out a bag of stuffed animals I had purchased earlier, and like a miracle cure, the tears stopped and smiles spread across all three faces. They clutched their stuffed animals to their chest as we continued our journey to Matola. Along the way, we treated everyone to a KFC takeaway meal- the first of many new experiences for them. Their eyes were wide with excitement and appreciation.



We could not have arrived at their new home at a more perfect time as our other Sunshine children had just gotten out of school and were passing by. They looked beautiful in their school uniforms, shoes, and book bags. 



As Virginia, Vicente, and Helio got out of the van, the children greeted them with hugs. Their new mom, Ilda, came out of the house, giggling as she embraced each child in a warm hug. We brought them in the house and showed them their new bedrooms. They were overwhelmed to see beds and laid on them to see how if felt to be on a bed- another experience they never had.  


We continued the tour around the house- they were captivated by the television in the living room as well as the refrigerator in the kitchen. But the biggest curiosity of all was the toilet in the bathroom! 


We then left them to get acquainted with their new mom, Ilda, and their new sister, Nina, Ilda’s daughter.

Since Friday, I have returned to the home every day to check in on them. Every day, I see children who are happy happy happy. When I arrive, they come bounding out of the house like little puppies. They hug me and take whatever is in my arms to carry in for me. They pull out a chair for me to sit on. Their faces are shining and their eyes are bright. And to be totally honest, the one I see the most change in is Vicente- the one who sat with his back to me that first meeting. The one referred to by his neighbors as “this boy”. The one whose eyes were filled with fear and anger. Now, he smiles continuously and is so affectionate.

We were blessed to be able to get the two boys enrolled in school immediately. Helio has continued on in grade 4 and Vicente has started in grade 3 because he stopped going to school when his mother died. The day before they started, we did our back-to-school shopping to outfit them with a uniform, shoes, book bag, and materials. There are no words in the English language sufficient enough to express the awe and pride in their faces as they tried on their new school uniforms. 


It was then that we discovered they had only the very worn clothing that was on their back, and they did not even own a pair of underwear. So we stopped by another store to get them some clothing. They started school the next day. As they were walked to their new school, both boys were beaming as they said that they would get the highest grades of all!

We are still in the process of getting Virgina enrolled. She is in high school, and it is not as easy to find space. We just got the good news yesterday that she was accepted at Escola Maria Ana Mogas- a private Catholic school that we have a great relationship because of the teacher training programs we have conducted there for the past three years. Virginia is beyond ready to start and asks us every day if she can go study yet. We will take her next week to get outfitted for her uniform and then she can begin!

As I try to close this story, I really don’t even know what to say. Maybe I don’t need to say anything at all. Maybe as you have read my feeble attempt to share the story of these three children, you have gone on the emotional journey I have been on. This whole experience has taught me yet again that our plans are not always God’s plans and that His ways are higher than our ways. I am ashamed to admit that I was not interested in taking these children into our Sunshine family because they were not what I had envisioned. They were not cute, pudgy little toddlers, as of yet unspoiled by the ugliness and harshness of life in Mozambique. God had another plan for us and our Sunshine family. He brought me a teenager, an almost teenager, and a boy. These children have been set free and are now filled with hope by the security, stability, and opportunity they have before them. They have embraced their new life with exuberance and gratitude. I am filled with awe of God’s goodness. I am thankful that I did go “have a look”. I now look forward to seeing these children realize their God-given potentials. Virginia wants to be a police officer. Vicente wants to be a doctor. Helio wants to be a teacher. And me…I am deeply, deeply humbled to be a part of helping them make their dreams come true. 





Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Unforgettable Quele


I have worked roughly 33 years with children as an elementary teacher, as a mother, and now as the Director of Social Impact for our company. I have worked with all kinds of children…those that are easy and bring you great joy, those that are a challenge and try your patience beyond what you thought you were capable of, those that break your heart because of the trials they had to face in life, those to whom everything came easily, and those who had to work hard for everything they achieved. I have been inspired by so many of these children…their resilience, their trust in us adults in their lives, their hope for a better tomorrow, their fortitude, their willingness to try, try, and try again in the face of obstacles. I have worked with children who have overcome great difficulties to become great people. I have also worked with children who have not overcome and have had to continue to struggle as adults. I have seen children grow up to become parents. And I have seen children who have grown up to realize their dreams. Yet none of the children have inspired me as much as a little boy that I only met two days ago. His dear face is before me in my continual thoughts. And I believe it will be for a long, long time to come.

Meet my new friend, Quelementino Aclio Moises. Quele for short. 



I met Quele only two days ago. I met him at a time when I needed some inspiration. He has given me plenty. I was out walking through the community with Guida, the mom at our second Sunshine House. As we passed a tiny cement block home, she stopped me saying she wanted me to meet a child. And out he came. He was noticeably scared to be brought before a white lady. His eyes showed his discomfort, his head was bowed down, and he chewed nervously on his fingers. He immediately stole my heart and sympathy. In a flash of time, I could only imagine the struggles he has to face, now faces and would forever face in his life. Guida shared with me that she had given his parents an invitation for him to attend her project for the children in her community. Our foundation sponsors a Beacons of Light Community Project at each of our Sunshine Houses. During the day, when our Sunshine Children are off at school, their caretakers run a project for the neediest of the needy children who live around their homes. It is a safe place where these children come to play, sing, dance, hear stories, make crafts, and receive breakfast. Guida said that she could not understand why this little guy’s parents had not yet accepted her invitation and sent him to join her project.

As for me, I could understand completely. It was clear that they sheltered him at home, afraid of what others might say to him that could potentially hurt him. They were only doing what any loving parent would do to protect their child from harm. I told Quele's parents what our project is about- that it is a safe place for children to come to play and have fun…but most importantly, to be loved. I told them that he would be welcome to try it out at any time. Then I crouched down in front of Quele, looked into his fearful eyes, and told him that he would always, always, always be welcome to come and play.

Whatever it was that I said, it must have worked. I arrived at Guida’s project this morning, two days later. I come every Wednesday to share a story and a craft with the children. As I entered the gate, I was swarmed by 15 preschoolers all trying to beat each other out to hug me first. After hugs were given to all, as well as Band-Aids and kisses to the two children who got trampled in the excitement, I saw Quele standing back from the crowd… staring at me… smiling from ear to ear. This was not the same frightened little boy I had met two days ago. This little boy was exuding happiness. He displayed confidence. He was in a place where he was loved and accepted and he knew it! He had stepped out into an unknown and scary situation, and he was fully welcomed!

Today we shared the story of Jonah and the Whale with the children. Quele was totally captivated the entire time my colleague, Delcio, read the story. He could not take his eyes off Delcio. He was literally riveted the entire time. It occurred to me that this was possibly the first time that anyone had ever read him a story! 


After the story, we made a craft- a plastic paper cup whale that had a string tied to a flour filled balloon with a stick figure Jonah drawn on it. The objective of the game would be to toss Jonah into the air and catch him in the cup/whale. Quele patiently waited his turn to make his craft and was then jubilant when he was able to catch Jonah in the whale. Countless times, I had to turn away to restrain my tears. I was so happy for him. Yet at the same time, my heart broke for him. My mind reeled with the challenges he has already had to face in his 6 years of life, as well as the challenges he has yet to face as he ages into adulthood. The world can be a cruel place, especially for those who are different.

Yet for now, he is with us. We have an opportunity to pour into him, to love him, and to make him know how very special he is. I trust the confidence we can build into him will be enough for him to walk proudly and face whatever challenges he will have to face in life. He has inspired me to see things differently now. That instead of being put off by difficulties, to step out and give it a shot. He had to have been scared beyond belief to go to Guida’s project yesterday. He did not know what would happen when he walked through her gate. He could have been made fun of and laughed back home again. But he took a risk and went in anyway. And it paid off. His risk was rewarded with new friends, new opportunities, and a place to belong.

Thank you, Quele,  for teaching me that sometimes I also have to risk everything and take a chance. Thank you, Quele, for showing me what it means to be brave.
Thank you, Quele, for being a picture for me of what it is like to be transformed by love.
Thank you, Quele, for inspiring me to press on and continue to serve the people of Mozambique.
Thank you, Quele, for showing me that I am making a difference by being here.
You, my dear little friend, have changed my life. To you, I am forever indebted.