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....

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Spar Boys of Matola

Upon our first visit to Spar, the grocery store in Matola, we were hit up by the “Spar Boys”. These are young boys who live on the streets. During the day, they beg for money to buy food. Meaning well, the first thing Don told me was to not give them money or they would be forever bothering me. As harsh as this sounds, it is true. In most circumstances, by giving to those who beg, you only create a “beggar mentality” in the person, thereby making their situation worse. Yet some of the boys would not just ask me for money, they would ask if I wanted to buy fruit. So I started buying their oranges, pineapples, avocados… whatever was in season at the time. As my Portuguese improved and as I made my purchases, I began talking with them more and more. I learned their names and ages. And I learned that not all of them are living on the street. Several had homes to go back to at night. These boys put on their tattered and dirty clothes and go “to work” each day in the parking lot. They bring in more money if they look the part. Other boys have only the clothes on their backs and no shoes on their feet. You can pick out the true street boys by their thin frames, and they tend to be a little rough around the edges.

One such boy is Gabriel. He is one of my favorites. He is such a gentleman and always picks me the best of the fruit that he is selling. I always tell him about the angel Gabriel whom God used as His most important messenger. And I always remind him that God has an important purpose for him as well. In the years I have known Gabriel, he has grown from being a skinny little kid to a teenager who is now taking on the shape of the man he will soon become. He is a tough little guy. The streets have hardened him, but there is a kindness and a gentleness to him as well. One day as I was driving down the street, I saw him in his “better clothes” talking with friends. I almost did not recognize him. We both had surprised looks on our faces as we waved in passing. He is one of the lucky ones. He does go to school, and he does have a home to return to at night.

One of my most memorable days with the boys was while I was waiting in my car for someone to run an errand. They came over to say hello to me. They did not ask me for money. They did not ask me to buy fruit. They just came to greet me. There were five of them. I handed Gabriel a 100 meticais bill and told him to go buy an ice cream for each of them. They all ran off with big smiles on their faces. It was a hot day and this would be a special treat for them. As I waited for my friend to return, each of those boys returned to my car one by one to thank me for the ice cream. I was blown away! No one told them to do this. I did not expect them to do this. Yet each one came to thank me. And just as hard to believe is that in my return trips to Spar, they have not taken advantage of my kindness and have never asked me to buy them another ice cream. This tells me a lot about the character of these little guys.

Many of the boys will ask to guard your car while you go in and shop at the store. Here in Mozambique, you always run the risk of returning to a parked car that has had a light or mirror stolen. Often it will be stolen by the boy you turned down to guard your car! I usually tell the boys that my car will be fine, and they know me well enough to leave it alone for me. Also, the money you pay a little boy usually ends up in the hands of an older boy. They create a type of mafia system. The older boys provide protection for the little boys under their care. In return, the little boys, who are cuter and therefore make more money, give the older ones the money they take in.

Yet recently as I got out of my car and was hurrying to make a quick stop at the store, a small boy approached me and asked to guard my car. I gave him my standard, “No my car is fine. I don’t need a guard,” response when something made me stop in my tracks and take a second look at the boy. After hearing my response, he hung his head and turned to walk away. I did not recognize this boy. He was very young, very small… so very small. He seemed so fragile and vulnerable. He was new to the streets. My heartstrings were tugged for this little guy, so I called him back and said, “Yes please do guard my car for me.” His face lit up like I had just given him a million dollars.

I completed my grocery run and returned to my car to deposit my bags inside so I could go to another store to buy a baby gift for a friend. As I came to my car, I spied him sitting on a small tree stump, knees drawn up to his chest, staring directly into the grill of my car. He was intent upon doing his job well. As I approached, he jumped up. I told him to hang on; that I had more shopping to do. I put my bags in the car, locked it up, and went on to Pep (what I think of as the Mozambican version of K-Mart). As I looked for the baby gift, I could not get this little guy out of my head. While standing in line to check out (which here can take forever- no exaggerating), I decided to not just give him a few meticais to pay him. Instead I bought him a bag of candy and a toy car.

I returned to my car to find him sitting in the same intent position. He popped up when he saw me. I began talking with him, asking his name, his age…the usual questions. I asked him where he was from. He was from Baxia- a location in the city that would be a good 40 minute drive away, without traffic. I asked him if he had a home. Yes. Did he have a mother? Yes. Did he have a father? Yes. Did he have brothers and sisters? Yes. I asked him if he thought his mother missed him. Yes. I talked with him about how hard and dangerous life is on the street. I shared with him that God puts us in families to protect us and care for us. I asked him if he thought he would rather be at home. Yes. I gave him money to take a chappa and return home. I gave him the bag with the candy and car in it that I had purchased for him. As I drove away, I wished with all my being that I would never see him again. I prayed that he would return home and that he would be received with open arms and the same welcome that the prodigal son in the Bible received from his father.

This day that I wrote about this experience was quite some time ago now.  I am happy to report that I have seen neither hide nor hair of that little boy! I would like to think that he did heed my advice, that he did return home, and that he is there now in the care of his family. 

(Below is my current "Guarda do meu carro", Salvadore. He is 13 years old. His family lives in Marracuene. He tells me that he left home because it was a difficult place to live.  He  hangs out during the day in the store parking lot and sleeps at night on the street at another location nearby in Matola. I really like him- he has a gentle disposition and a good heart. He deserves so much better in life than this.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Life Transformed

Our family sold all we had and moved to Africa to pursue a vision not to just help the people, not to give them what they need, but to transform their lives. We are doing this through the work of our company, The Sunshine Nut Company, which is built upon the principles of The Sunshine Approach, a business model that is radical about giving back and transforming lives. As with most ventures in our lives, we never really know at the start exactly what it will look like later on. We envisioned what we would do and how it would look, but circumstances led us down a different path- one that is even better than what we had imagined. We have seen lives changed for the better with our employees, with the children at the orphanages around us that we support, in the villages where we buy our cashews, and in the lives of the people we have gotten to know in the communities around us.

We happened upon the lives of Cecilia, Madelena, and Antonio thanks to one of our employees. Their father died in a tragic car accident, their mother committed suicide, their stepfather felt no obligation to them and left,  and their landlord abandoned them to the street.  In February of 2014 we were introduced to three very sad little faces with sad little hearts to match. This was when we moved into action. Thanks to the donations of friends in America, we were able to purchase a home for them. With funds from our company and donations from friends and ministries, we renovated the home and filled it with all they would require to live, including a woman to care for them. They moved in at the end of November 2014.

We were able to provide them with the physical surroundings they needed to thrive, and our recently formed charity provides them with their monthly needs. We even gave them an “auntie” to care for them. But we knew it would take time, love, and consistent effort to heal their hearts.
Thirteen year old Cecilia adjusted quickly. She is a fighter. She is determined to make the most of her life. She jumped right into the cleaning of the house and in helping with the preparation of food and the care of her two younger siblings. Antonio appeared to be too young to have suffered much from what happened. He has been easy going, loving, and happy from the start. Madelena, however, was a completely different story.

Madelena was a very troubled girl, and rightfully so. She had experienced an amount of pain, loss and abandonment through which very few people will ever have to suffer. She was distant. Her eyes were dark and troubled. She rarely made eye contact and to hear her speak was an even more rare event. When she did speak, it was so quiet that you could barely hear her. When we took photographs of the family, we could not get a smile out of her, no matter how hard we tried. Even at Christmas when they were showered with goodies and presents, she gave no hint of joy.

She also went through a difficult time period with her caretaker as well- acting out her frustration by speaking disrespectfully to her, disobeying her, and even throwing rocks at her. Yet we all continued to love her and believe in her. In time, she began to improve. The first sign of progress I saw was when I arrived at the house one day and  she did not have to be called to come and greet me. She came of her own accord, meeting me at the car and taking my hand as we walked to the house. I was walking on air! My subsequent arrivals at the house were met by Madelena greeting me with a vocal, “Hola Mama Terri. Como esta?” I did not even have to bend over and put my ear to her mouth to hear it.

Our patient efforts received the ultimate reward on June 1st, Children’s Day here in Mozambique. I took over presents for the children and food for a celebration meal that night. Madelena was beaming. Her caretaker and I were so thrilled to see her smiling for the camera. We took picture after picture of her- rejoicing with each one. This day was a milestone for all of us. I couldn’t wait to get home and send off one of the photos to Papa Don, who was away on business at the time. I knew he would be as happy as I was. It is moments like these that reward us more than any paycheck ever could. A forever difference has been made in the life of a child. With love, her heart is being healed one day at a time.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

All in a Day's Work

Our company is all about making a difference in the lives of the poor and orphaned in Mozambique. Making a difference is not just about giving money or jobs to others. It is about investing in their lives. A major reason why our efforts are making such a difference is because we live here. We went to Mozambique believing that we would do good by giving back 90% of our net proceeds and providing jobs. What we have learned is that we are also doing good by simply being there for the people when they are in need. Here is an example of how we are doing this.

I stopped in at the Matola-Rio children’s center the other day to check on the playground that was being built to entertain the 46 children who live there. I was having one of those days where everything took longer than you thought it would. One of those days where you looked at your watch and were dumbfounded by how much time had passed and how little you had accomplished. I had meant to make it out to the center in the early morning hours but to my dismay, I pulled in at 1:00 in the afternoon. I still had other people and items to check in on and my own grocery shopping to do as well, but I wasn't too worried as I had a few hours yet  to get my list of “to do’s” taken care of.

As usual, I was greeted by a mass of children. I go there to fill their little emotional tanks up, but in reality, they fill mine! I feel like a rock star as I pull in to the sound of them chanting my name and swarming my car. I open my door and am literally pulled from my car. Then I am hugged and hugged and hugged and hugged… Once I was able to come up for air, I was approached by Corrie, the director. She asked me with an apprehensive look on her face if I had any plans that afternoon. I already find it difficult to tell people “No” when they ask for a favor. Telling a woman like this who is a living saint caring for 46 children and a church and a preschool and countless community members that you are too busy to help is impossible. So I responded, “No.  Nothing at all. What do you need?”

The mother of two center children, 17 year old Beatiz and  9 year old Americo, needed help moving to a new house. She lived out in Jonasse, a village way, way out. Her landlord had kicked her out of her home and she had no where to go. Corrie was going to help her by paying her rent for a room in a house located just behind the center. She needed someone to take her to collect her things and bring them to this house.

I will be honest and real enough to openly admit that inside I groaned to myself (as I smiled on the outside). I have lived in Mozambique long enough to know that this would not be a small task. Nothing in Mozambique ever is. What takes 15 minutes to accomplish in America takes two hours in Mozambique. A simple moving job like this in America would take one hour to pop over, load in the possessions, and drive them back again. Here in Mozambique, it would take 3 hours, if I was lucky. In my head, I quickly made a check of what I had yet to accomplish and crossed every item but one off the list. If all I accomplished today would be going to the grocery store to do my food shop, then the day would not be a total waste.

 The mother, Caroline, is a sweet woman whose son, Americo, is one of my favorites at the center. He is a good boy. A truly good boy. He likes to give long hugs. The other kids like to squeeze you hard and see you squirm, and sometimes literally writhe in pain. Americo's hugs are different. He gently envelopes you with his arms and holds on. I let him hold on as long as he needs to, always making sure that I do not release my hold on him until he releases his hold on me. He is the kind of boy you want to wrap up and take home with you. Moving Caroline would help my little Americo by bringing her closer in proximity to her. I looked at Corrie and said, “No problem. Is she all packed and ready to go?” This in itself is an invalid question in Mozambique. No one is ever “ready to go” anywhere. But of course Corrie said she was, knowing full well that she probably wasn’t. But this is how it works here!

As we headed to my car, Karen, the woman directing the work on the playground, came over and offered the use of her pick-up truck. She offered to drive as well. A pick-up can hold much more than we would ever fit into my car, so we took her up on her generous offer and piled in.  We took along Paulo, a worker at the center, so we could have some man-muscle. I also discovered that Caroline has another child…a little boy named Luciano, about 5 years old. He leaped into the back seat of the truck, tucking himself in between his mother and Paulo. We headed off down the dirt road toward Jonasse.

Luciano soon became the bright spot in my day. It was a hot, sunny, end of summer day. The inside of the truck was quite hot and the AC was not working all that well. From time to time, I would glance back to Luciano in the middle of the back seat. He was sitting up straight and tall with a perma-grin etched on his face from one ear to the other. It was clear that he had had very few rides in a car before. He was delighted to be enjoying this privilege today.  In minutes, we were all dripping with sweat from the heat in the car and feeling very thirsty. Dry dust from the road that was being churned up filled our noses making it uncomfortable to even breathe. Karen, being the kind-hearted, giving person she is, offered to stop at a little baraka (our bush version of a convenience store) and buy us some cool drinks before we all withered up. We stopped at the first one along our way and got waters and Cokes. Luciano, being a typical Mozambican boy, chose orange Fanta- they always go for Fanta. His day now was off the charts…to be riding along in a truck and drinking a Fanta was the mountain-top experience of his little life.

It took us about 30 minutes to get to Caroline’s house. As I said, it was way, way out. She had no water and no electricity. It was a simple cement block box. Her front door was a piece of wood that she put over the opening at night. There was no glass in the only window. Instead it was covered by a piece of material called a capulana. The women wear capulanas as a skirt and use them for a million other things as well. We began hauling out her possessions. Each item we carried out was fit for the garbage dump. Each item was old and used beyond its lifetime, dirty, smelly, tattered, and broken. I did my best to be gracious and hold back my disdain at having to touch and carry these items out. I was saddened to know that this was all she had. We carried out two mattresses that reeked and were ripped, the coconut hair that filled them spilling out as we carried them. There was a large plastic barrel used to collect rain water. Blankets and the few clothes they owned were tied up in capulanas because they do not own any suitcases. Farming tools such as a machete and hoe were loaded in. A black skillet that was completely encrusted in an inch of built up, baked on soot was brought out. Item after item was loaded into the back of Karen’s truck.

Half way through this process, I noticed that Luciano had not gotten out of the truck yet. He was so excited to be in the truck that he didn’t want to leave it. The doors were shut and the windows were up to keep the dust and dirt out. It was dangerously hot in there. Yet he sat in the back seat, his perma-grin never leaving his face, holding his Fanta, with sweat rolling down the sides of his dear face, refusing to get out. All of our attempts to get him out of the truck were futile until as we were finishing up, his mother called to him to go into the house and get his toys. This request was immediately obeyed. The door was flung open and he ran down the dirt path and into the house. I was standing off to the side when he emerged again. The site of him running back down that dirt path will forever be etched into my memory. It was a priceless moment that is hard to put into words. It was a moment that humbled me and made me think about what is and is not important in my life as I watched him cradle his belongings with such joy and pride. He ran down the path wearing a shiny gold New Year's Eve top hat and carrying two plastic cars with no wheels, a plastic airplane that was in two pieces, a rubber lizard, and a metal bicycle tire rim. I joined him and helped him load his treasures into the back of the truck. The last of our cargo was loaded and it was time to head out.

Caroline and Luciano did not even take a last glance back at their home. Their eyes were fixed on the road ahead and the new home they would now occupy. During the entire ride back, Luciano did not break his smile for even a second. He did keep glancing periodically over his shoulder to make sure his toys were still where we had placed them in back. Another bumpy and swelteringly hot 30 minute drive brought us back to the center. We drove around the back to where they would now be living. There was a line of newly constructed, small cement rooms with metal doors and windows. Each room was no larger than the small bedroom our youngest son William once occupied in America. One of these rooms would be their entire living space. Karen went back to her playground responsibilities and Paulo went back to his duties, so I enlisted the help of one of the teenage boys, Hypolito, from the center to help us unload. We were also joined by 4 of the little boys from the center who wanted to help as well.  One by one, each possession was unloaded off the truck and into their new room. The last thing we were able to reach was Luciano’s toys. He put his glitzy top hat back on his head and went inside to place the toys in his new home. The little center boys who were helping out were eyeing them up with great interest. As broken as these toys were, they were more than what they had. Luciano was kind enough to let them look at each toy and play a little. Again and again, I am taken aback by the selflessness of the Mozambican children. They do not have a mine-versus-yours attitude. They have nothing by our standards. Yet they do not ever hesitate to share their “nothing” with others.

Three hours had now passed. It was 4:30 in the afternoon. Before driving off, I took a minute to look at myself. I was drenched in sweat and covered with dirt. My feet were black. My day had been totally interrupted, but I was no longer feeling frustrated about it. I had put my needs aside to add another Mozambican adventure to my life and was so glad I had taken the time to do this. I pulled away and crossed the last thing off my list for the day. The grocery store would have to wait.  

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Great Wall of Matola Santos

The Great Wall of China was built 2,000 years ago. It took centuries of time to construct. It is estimated that 300,000 soldiers and 500,000 common people labored on this wall, many of whom died during its construction and were buried inside. It is 6,000 kilometers long and it once took a man 2 years to trek the wall from start to finish. It is so immense that you can see it from space.  It is an amazing feat indeed.

We have just completed a wall in Matola Santos. It was built just this past month. It took only 4 weeks to complete with a total of 10 Sunshine Nut Company employees. No one died in the construction of our wall, thank goodness! It is about 30 meters long and you can walk its expanse in a few minutes…well maybe one minute. You cannot see our wall from outer space. No… we did not build a wall as great as the one in China, but for us, it was just as amazing of a feat!

Why was it amazing? Because it was built as a gesture of love to provide security and safety for the family that occupies the first Sunshine House- Cecilia, Madelena, Antonio, and their caretaker, Zelda. Our little family has lived together in their new home for 3 months now. They are learning how to make a life together. Yet their home had no security wall around it, thereby exposing them to robbers, people passing through and using their outside bathroom, men sitting on the stoop along the side facing the road and drinking until 3 in the morning, and simply helping Zelda to keep the little ones, Madelena and Antonio, in the yard and safe while playing.

It is also amazing because of the hearts of the people who labored to complete this wall. We had about 10 of our Sunshine Nut Company employees work over the course of this project. Yet 5 of them  labored tirelessly missing not a single day of work. This in itself was no small feat.  It is summer here in sub-saharan Africa right now. For us in Matola, Mozambique, this means day time temperatures in the 90s to 100 F with a heat index that has been as high as 115 F many times this past month. In fact, it was so hot, that one day I left my gloves out on the pile of sand while I did other things. When I went back later to fetch them to use, the rubber side of my gloves had melted! Laboring under the sun with no shade for four weeks, day in and day out takes determination and stamina. Alberto, Arnaldo, Juliao, Maria, and Aida (along with a worker from the community named Joao) never faltered or complained. In fact, they spent the hours working with discussions on everything from food to the new president of Mozambique to who is older- a man who has more years or a man who has more children- to what the correct word is for “shoelace” in Portuguese (literally a whole morning was spend on that topic! It finally ended after Juliao called his pastor to get the final verdict on the word.)

Each day our company provided a nice breakfast and lunch for them. We ate lunch under the shade of a half dead tree, sitting on cement blocks. I joined them and listened as they carried on their conversations, trying to decipher what they were talking about. They use a mix of Portuguese and Shongana. This mix makes it quite a challenge for me.  It was a brief respite from their labor, but they rested and went right back out into the sun again for their final two hours before we quit for the day at 3pm. Our treat each day was a cool Frozy (soft drinks) purchased from the little baraka (store) across the street, owned and operated by Dona Alzira.

We also had the help of various people around us. Of course the first few days as we dug the foundation for the wall, every passerby stopped to give their input on where the wall should go and how deep we should dig the foundation. Even the Cheffe do Quaterao (the local governmental leader) stopped by. At first he wanted the wall on the street side in an even line with the wall of the house across from us. But when we showed him that this would mean putting the wall through the middle of the house, he saw this would not work. Then just to have a say in the matter, he asked us to move it in 10 centimeters. We honored his request and moved it in.

And there was Pedro. He is a local man whose right hand is disabled. He makes a living by collecting people’s garbage each day and taking it to the local dump in his wheelbarrow. He helped us by fetching water for us. We do have the house hooked up for water, but most days the pipes are dry. Here cement is made and mixed by hand- bags of cement are mixed in with sand, rock and water. You cannot make cement if you do not have water.  Without Pedro, we would have been in quite a bind.

Speaking of water, Dona Alzira, the neighbor across the street who sold us our Frozy drinks each
day, was a godsend. Out of the 20 days we were there working on the wall, we probably only had water flowing from our tap about 5 of those days, maybe even less. Dona Alzira permitted us to fill container after container of water from her tap. We would never have been able to complete this project without her generosity.  I still am not sure why she always has water when she just lives across the street from us. TIA- This is Africa! It is full of unexplainable mysteries.

And we owe thanks to our dear 13 year old Cecilia. Each day she went out and bought eggs and bread for the breakfast. She fried up the eggs and heated the water for the tea that our workers enjoyed each morning.  She then cleaned up all the dishes as well before heading off to school. She is a treasure.
Finally, this wall would never have been built without the financial donations of family and friends to our new 501C3 that was formed in this past month named The Sunshine Approach Foundation. Your generosity is making a difference in the lives of others. 

So now our family is secure- playing safely during the day and sleeping soundly at night. As for the guys who sat outside drinking beer each night…I guess they have had to move on to a different hang out.