Thursday, January 22, 2015

Redeemer House Extreme Home Makeover

Happy New Year everyone! I am so excited about what is to come in 2015! To start, I am kicking off a fundraising campaign to refurbish a home for 12 of the most precious boys at Family Legacy Tree of Life!

This project started with Macnab, I met him several years ago at church in Zambia. All of the children in Family Legacy's full time care who live at Tree of Life gather for church and invite the American campers to join. We found ourselves sitting next to each other on the back row. He is quiet, sweet, SO smart, very attentive and just simply adorable. I texted MR from Africa and said I just might sneak this one home with me. I poked around for some details of Macnab's story and how he found his way to Tree of Life.  He and his siblings (3 brothers) have similar stories as many of the children at Tree of Life, orphaned with no family, living in the ditches, begging for food, barely surviving and in Macnab's case, HIV positive with some extreme medical needs. When I met Macnab, he had been in Family Legacy's full time care for a  couple of years, his medical needs had been addressed and were being monitored. He was healthy when I met him. From the staff of Family Legacy, I found out that Macnab had a rough start at Tree of Life. Like in any child setting, you have bullies, he was on the receiving end and struggling with self esteem issues and not wanting to take his HIV meds. Luckily he had some awesome mentors and siblings there to encourage him along. You can't see a trace of that kid today, he is always all smiles, very smart and has set some outstanding goals for himself! Last summer he told me he wants to be a Dr when he grows up (which is a huge improvement bc the year before he told me he wanted to be an entomologist... study BUGS!) He recently passed his 7th grade exams, which is a huge deal in Zambia. I have no doubt this kid will be a college graduate and experience great successes in his life!

Macnab has a younger brother Chrispen who is just sweet as pie. They are two peas in a pod and I have never seen them not by one another's side. Along with these two, 10 other boys live in their house at Tree of Life. The house is named Redeemer House and was built many years ago. As you well know, keeping a house maintained with a family of 4 is tough, but put two house mom's and 12 boys in a home in Zambia and things can get a little beat up and run down rather quickly.

Like all good and helpful organizations, Family Legacy has learned some lessons along the way. The first homes at Tree of Life were built with the materials that were available at the time. Just like with our homes, there are newer, safer and more efficient materials available. So lets just say Redeemer House needs some upgrades.

The original windows were slated windows, with the rainy season and general wear and tear, many of the window's glass slats are gone. We now have access to sliding windows with locks. This is my first priority, to replace the windows, to provide warmth (it is in the 40s at night) and safety for these kids.

The shower is broken, if you can imagine 12 boys and one shower, it is in constant use.

The walls need a fresh coat of paint, again 12 boys running through a 3 bedroom home get tight!

General home goods. The Moms use the same pots/pans/plates/cups/sheets/wash rags/towels/blankets over and Over and OVER again, they need replacing. A lot of the dishes have broken, the sheets are barely hanging on by a thread. 12 boys, many years of use, washed by hand (no delicate cycle) and things wear down quicker.

This is my first leap into raising funds for this project. I am looking to jump start this project with cash donations and become more creative as the process continues. If you ever thought about helping one of my kids, this would be a great time. Tonight, when you lay your head down on your warm pillow (none of these kids have pillow) covered in your heavy blanket (they only have a sheet and very thin fleece blanket) take a moment to consider helping these kids know they are loved and blessed with comforts.

Donations can be made to

I appreciate your help and I promise, these boys will be beyond appreciative and grateful for your love.

Keep in touch...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

hurt and hopeful...

This will probably be my last post of 2014, as you can tell, I am not so diligent at posting on this blog. I wanted to touch base with the few of you that have asked about Lydia and baby boy. Their past are exactly the same and I am hopeful that in some way, their futures will be as well.

Lydia is doing WONDERFULLY! She is in full time custody of Family Legacy, she is recovering from a list of medical issues that were within inches of taking her precious life. I hear she is a bit of a "stinker" and keeps the house mommies on their toes. She had gained a lot of weight and is starting to look like a normal 4 year old. There is hope in her sweet little face, joy sparkles from her eyes and her body is functioning healthily. I am so thankful, for each hand that touched her, in physical medical attention from Dr Guffy and the staff at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, with motherly love from Ashley and the House Mommies, with prayerful words from each of you. Not a day goes by that I don't wish that I could have scooped up her little body, flown home with her and loved her unconditionally each and every minute of her life. I sit here, what feels like a million miles away and wonder how all of this will effect her in the long run. She was so sick, but so engaged with her biological mother, she now has new "mommies" and living in an environment that I am sure she could never have imagined. Her brother, Steven, has passed away, the last time she saw him was as we were escorting her to the hospital from the medical tent at camp. Life drastically changed for a sweet little four year old in the blink of an eye, she will never go back to where she came from, and although the future looks bright, aren't we always somehow connected to where we have been?

Baby Brother spent some time in the hospital in really bad shape. His real name is Geoff, which I am pretty sure NOT what his mother told me when we met, but non the less, he is now baby Geoff Kameli. He is with is biological mom now. Several months ago, she asked Family Legacy to take him, but has sense changed her mind. That is tough to wrap my head and heart around, bc I know he is in a very volatile environment. All we can do now is pray that Mom takes care of him and if at any point feels as though she needs help, comes directly to Family Legacy. I worry about Mom, she is a prostitute, it's what she has to survive. The chances of her having another baby, spreading the HIV and not being able to fully care for the children is quite possibly a never ending cycle. I will never know the pain of not being able to provide for your sick child, but I imagine it is a pain worse than anything on the Earth. There is no chance of her getting mental help for the losses she has endured in the last year, pray for the Mom and all the other like her, they are hurt and they need some hope.

Hope you all had a wonder 2014 and move into a prosperous 2015. I won't be back to Zambia for Camp Life this summer, but I will working on a very special project for some very precious kiddos there. I need to raise $21,000 to "Refurb Redeemer House". It is my version of Extreme Home Makeover, we will "move that bus" and re-invite 12 handsome little boys into their home. Windows need replacing, house needs painting, cabinets need doors, bedding, pots, socks, toys and the list goes on. If you are at all interested in helping with this project, please let me know!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, keep in touch...

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

It just doesn't get any easier...

We found "baby boy", it's not pretty, he is malnourished, has diharia, a cough,  and has lost a lot of weight. 

Today marks one month since I found out Steven died. Today I got the email that we have "baby boy" in our custody, who, our Dr believes, only has a 25% chance at life. We have admitted him at the same hospital that treated Lydia. I have to fully believe we can get him through this. I need your help, prayers, good mojo, sunshine and rainbows- whatever you've  got- send to him- "baby boy"/ (aka) "nugget" needs it! 

This morning I was going to blog about a new project I am taking on for some kids that the Tree of Life, but I don't feel like I can totally start on that until we have  this precious baby well and in our permanant care. 
Sorry so brief, these post don't seem to be getting easier and I don't seem to be able to say so much...
I still beg you to, 
Keep in touch...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

sometimes it's not all rainbows and butterflies

I have told you about Lydia, and her sweet baby brother. They are precious, I love them.

I have told you about Steve, who is the eldest brother and the reason I met Lydia and baby brother.  I love him.

I fell in love with them the moment my eyes were exposed to their sweet little souls. I can't help it, I just look in their beautiful eyes and I am done, in love and forever holding them in my heart.

So this wipes me off my feet and punches me in my gut,

Steve died on Saturday, I just got the email today. I was sitting in a meeting, and there is was on my phone screen,  "Stephen died on Saturday"


just like that, "Stephen died on Saturday"

what is that, my heart on the floor being pounded into the smallest pieces and my brain running a sprinting marathon trying to understand it all.

He died, his precious little life ended, I don't know why, I don't know how and to that end may never really know.

In Zambia, you can die from a stomach ache, a toe infection, a run in with malaria, or any number of things that we could cure and live long healthy lives after in America.

My mind has gone all over the place on this, maybe it is the way the grieving process works. The "what ifs", "should have done this", "could have done that", "why didn't we", "HOW", "WHY", it's just a running loop of a bunch of thoughts that are simply speculations, wishes, and unexplained scenarios.

Steve died.

My heart is broken.

A while back, I came home from Zambia  and replaced my heart break of trying to have my own children with the love I have for these children. Loving these children has helped heal my heart after some really tough losses. This one hurts too, I can't get his hopeful little face out of my mind.

I wanted to save him, I wanted to make sure he was cared for. I have to believe that he is in a better place.

I had asked for your prayers, and I appreciate each of you who have reached out to help these kids. Tonight, I am asking you to pray for baby brother and mom. Mom has moved, we don't have baby brother in our custody. I need prayers we find mom and baby healthy.

keep in touch...

Saturday, September 6, 2014

updates and prayers...

Y'all, my cup overflows!

Baby Lydia is out of the hospital, she is living at Chelstone (our transitional housing for Tree of Life). She is eating and playing and enjoying LIFE! She is precious, I mean REALLY precious.

Today, an amazing family stepped up to sponsor her little brother, he will be moving in soon.

TWO lives incredibly changed and made new.  This is wonderful news. Thank you for all of your kind words and help passing the message of my sweet babies along to others to help find a way to save them.

As I sit here with pure joy in my heart, I also feel the pain of knowing that Steven (the older brother) is still living in the same situation, and these beautiful children's mom must be hurting for making such a huge sacrifice.

I am exploring options with Family Legacy for what we can do for Steven. Please keep him in your prayers, specifically, that we can get him in our school program and that his mother will be able to better provide for him and his disabilities.

I would also beg of you to pray for "mommie".  She loves these kids, I saw it, I know she loves them. She showed up to the hospital each day to visit Lydia. They had a compassionate connection, the love of a mother and a child, it is there. So, for "mommie" to give her child up for the chance at a better life, knowing she could not provide enough to keep Lydia alive has got to be one of the toughest things a person could ever do. My heart breaks for "mommie", Lydia and baby boy. I know these kids will have a better chance and we can physically care for them better than "mommie" could. I know our house moms will love these kids like their own and be the best parent they can. It does not take away from the fact that there is a loving bond between a mother and her children and the ties have been severed, it will never mean the love is gone, or any less or replaceable. There is love there and my prayer for each of them is that they can remember and always know that they love each other and that bond will always exist.

No big secret, I love these children, each and everyone of the little souls that I meet, look in their eyes, hug their frail little bodies, touch their sweet little cheeks and cry over for house on end. I can't understand how it is possible that I meet these littles and in less than the time it takes to blink, I have fallen in love with them. They consume my heart and make me feel a passion I have never experienced before. I fully take on the responsibility of loving, worrying and praying for their sweet souls. All from a distance, through longs times of absence, hundreds of miles and oceans apart, I keep praying for them and advocating for them because I can't help  but BIG love each of them.

keep in touch...

Friday, September 5, 2014

meet Lydia's little brother...

If you have been directed here by FB, you have already seen his precious little face.

I wish I could put a name to his face, but honestly, the way we met, there was so much commotion it is all a little fuzzy. I will post his name as soon as I either remember or someone tells me! 

This is a different situation than most for how children become part of our full time care at Tree of Life.

Here is where things get so hard for me, the lack of education can not overcome the love this mother has for her kids. They don't understand how HIV is spread, I am convinced they don't totally understand how babies are made and to follow up all of that, they don't have the skills to work and jobs are hard to come by. They don't have the luxury of going to school, they don't have the means to provide good medical treatment for themselves or their babies, they scrape to get by in complete poverty.  I believe these people find a way to survive, this mother is no exception. I say all of this, because I want it to be understood that although a lot of parents in Zambia don't appear to care for their children (by American standards) this mom, I believe, loves her babies. She is just helpless as to care for them and is caught in a vicious cycle. So, I beg of you, as you read the story of this little boy, know that in this situation, it is in the end, a mother making the biggest sacrifice she will ever make. It is a story of complete desperation and love of life that brings us to this point. Please read with an open mind and a loving heart, she is doing the best she can, and I feel like we have been called to help her and these precious children.

I actually found this little boys brother, Steven, who is paralyzed on his right side and has a substantial burn on his left upper arm on Thursday of Camp Life. I asked our community leader to bring him to camp on Friday for medical treatment. On Friday, Steven, showed up with his mother and two siblings. Immediately, Dr. Guffy (our infections disease Dr, who is on staff with Family Legacy) said he could not change Steven's situation, but we could save the sisters life. You can read about my sweet Lydia's situation here. He examined the baby, and at the time, with the information we had, felt like the baby was being provided for and could go home with mom.

Yesterday, Family Legacy reached out to me to say, "mom has reached out to us, her situation has changed and she does not feel like she can care for this little boy." I guess she has come to the realization that she can't provide for the 10 month old once he is not nursing and has asked us to take him. While we have them at camp, everyone was tested for HIV, the baby, Lydia and Mom all tested positive. 

This baby boy is precious, I got to hold him while Lydia was being examined. He is so small for a 10 month old and barely sits on his own. I didn't know at the time he was 10 months old, I thought he was 5-6 months. 

This child will be in our Tree of Life program. He will live in a home with 12 other beautiful little souls, have three meals a day, regular medical evaluation and treatment, lots of love and an amazing education in our private schools. He will be given not only a chance to live a healthy life, but an opportunity to have a full life with opportunities to thrive and be a significant part of the future of Zambia. 

If you want to know more about our program, go to

Sponsoring a child at the Tree of Life is a long term commitment. The monthly fee is $250 month for full term care. 

If you are interested please contact me. 

If you feel called to sponsor a child but not at the $250 level, we have children who live at home, who would love to attend our schools In their community for $65 per month. I can get you in touch with folks who have met these sweet kids and tell you all about them. 

I fall so hard and fast in love with these kids, I want to take them all home and love them for the rest of their sweet little lives. The goal of this program is to educate and empower the future of Zambia. If you can help us, we can change a nation. 

It is the only place I have ever been that feels like home. I would trade the luxurie of my life to spend 10 more minutes in their life of poverty to hug them for a second more.

If you can help- I would be forever greatful. -xx

- Keep in touch 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Finding Lydia

We spend an afternoon with our camp kids in the compounds they live in. As we were meandering through part of Chaisia, we met a boy who was sitting on the side of a pass through. He had what appeared to be a bad burn on his left upper arm and clearly had some sort of paralysis on his right side. Luckily, my group was traveling near one of the Family Legacy American staff members as well as one of the Zambian coordinators (discipleship leader/ DL) that work in Chaisa.  The DL agreed to bring the boy to camp the next day so we could have the Dr check him out. The boys name is Steve.

Friday morning, Steve shows up to camp with his mother and two siblings. We all head to the medical tent for evaluation. It is determined that Steve is paralyzed on the right side, he doesn't have much control over his right arm or leg. The burn on his arm was from a few weeks prior when he lost his balance and fell. The nurses cleaned and wrapped the burn. Unfortunately, there was nothing more we could do for this child. He appeared to be in good health, HIV screening came back negative and he would be sent home. 

Within seconds of seeing this family, the Dr said he couldn't do much for Steve, but we could save his sisters life. Lydia is four years old, she weighs just under 20 pounds, was substantially malnourished and according to the Dr, probably within days of dying. 

I have never in my life seen a human body so frail, it was a case of "skin and bones". Dr said she had hypothermia, so we bundled her up in a blanket and I held her to keep her warm. I could feel the edges if every bone in her precious body poking out. She had so little energy she couldn't cry, she just released these soft little moans and cringed her face at the pain. 

Her mother had no explanation as to why this child was so malnourished. The two brothers and mother had clearly been receiving nourishment, they were not even skinny by Zambian standards, they were  "fat" (fat does not mean obese in Zambia, it means normal size, healthy weight, meat on your bones/ it is a compliment...). We didn't find out why Lydia was malnourished, we didn't need to know why, we just needed to do something about it. 

Within a couple of hours of Lydia showing up to our medical tent, it had been determined we needed to get her to a hospital for treatment. She tested positive for HIV and needed food and nutrition in her precious body ASAP. I carried her frail little body to the car and handed her off to get treatment.  The head nurse at Tree of Life went to the hospital with Lydia, it was important to have the right person admitting her. If you can imagine, Zambian health care is different and ensuring her admittance was going to take a strong Zambian personality, they could have easily turned we away for lack of hope. Luckily, she was admitted. 

As I carried Lydia to the car for transport to University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, it took more energy to not cry and pray for her recovery than to hold her extremely fragile body. The mother was not upset, she didn't seem to realize there was something wrong with her baby girl, she didn't seemed concerned that her daughter was withering away right in front of her. I didn't want to let her go, I wanted to sit there and make this child well and love her for every sweet minute she is alive. 

Lydia is beautiful, she has these big beautiful dark eyes, thick eyelashes that curl perfectly around her beautiful eyes. A tiny little perfect nose and these plump little pouty lips that I know will make for an amazing smile once she has recovered. She really is one of the most beautiful faces I have ever seen. I am in LOVE with this baby, she stole my heart the second I picked her up.

I have hesitated to post this, there is a lot more to this story and I will update you as I can. This has been weighing so heavy on my heart, and I just crumble when I think about the situation.

I am begging you all, please say a prayer for my sweet Lydia, she is still at the hospital, I am still waiting to hear if the government is going to place her in Family Legacy's full time care, as well as waiting for updates to her recovery.

This was the hardest goodbye in Zambia, keep you posted on her progress...