A Surprise Blessing

We love to receive good news. We were thrilled last year when a church from Arizona who had traveled with us to Ethiopia surprised us with a generous donation to purchase beds for the children.

You may remember that we asked for help in purchasing beds for Christmas in 2016. We were able to meet our goal of getting all of the children off from the floor and into beds. This was a great feeling!

Although we achieved this important goal, we still had situations that were less than ideal, such as teenage sons sharing beds with their mothers, and multiple family members sharing a bed. Receiving this unexpected gift allowed us to greatly improve the sleeping arrangements for so many children.

It is heart warming to know that others out there think and care about the children like we do, and take it upon themselves to help provide for their critical needs. Thank you to this special church and to everyone who makes sacrifices, big and small, to support the children throughout the year.

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A Key to the World

In partnership with our global sponsorship family, we do everything we can to give our children the best chance for a bright future. We provide them with nutrition and medical care, we pour into their spiritual lives, foster social development, and give them access to a complete education. One thing that we feel is a key to opening up the world to them and helping them break out of the cycle of poverty is the English language. English is the most widely spoken international language for business, academia and tourism. By contrast, the national language of Ethiopia (Amharic) is spoken only in Ethiopia. By teaching our children how to speak English fluently, we are giving them the ability to communicate with the rest of the world.

Several years ago we established an English Quizzing Competition in order to motivate the students to study English above and beyond their work in the classroom. The competition is a big event within the community and takes place over a one-week period each spring. Top students from grades 4 through 10 at several local schools are nominated by their teachers to participate in the competition, which consists of many rounds of competition before winners are selected. The top six students in each grade receive a cash prize and ribbon, and the top two students in each grade are invited to a special banquet along with a guest and their teacher. Participating in this banquet is a big honor and is something that the students strive towards.

Due to the fact that we are now responsible for over 2,000 students at the BCI Academy and Bethlehem School, we have had to limit the competition to these two schools for 2018. There simply isn’t funding to bring in additional schools at this time. In fact, there is no funding available period. In past years, a generous donor financially supported the competition. When our competition sponsor passed away in 2017, we lost a dear friend and also the ability to support the English competition. We feel that it is critical to continue this competition in order to keep the students motivated to develop their English skills. Therefore, we are asking for partners to join with us in sponsoring the competition this year.

SPONSOR A GRADE: $85 per class for ribbons, medals, and cash prizes
SPONSOR A CHAMPION: $45 per student for banquet meal, including one guest and one teacher
SPONSOR THE GRAND PRIZE: $500 for a laptop computer for the 10th grade winner, to help with college preparation

We invite you to visit our YouTube channel to view a video of last year’s competition, including several touching speeches by the children: https://www.youtube.com/c/BlessingtheChildrenIntl

 

Counting our Blessings

We are filled with gratitude at the outpouring of generosity from our donor family this Christmas in providing much-needed essentials for the children. We want to take a moment to share some numbers with you: we think you’ll be as excited as we are!

28 pair of shoes to protect little feet

22 outfits to provide comfort and dignity

16 backpacks to transport books to school

10 bellies filled to keep bodies strong and nourished

12 hygiene kits to protect from germs and illness

20 toys to develop imaginations

54 months of vitamins to keep immune systems healthy

1 home repaired to keep a family safe and dry

Meat and eggs added to the school meals to provide protein that will help the children grow strong

And, many more blessings! Our BCI family also provided new bedding, rent, sanitary products, medical expenses, support for waiting children, and financial gifts to be used where needed most.

God is good all of the time!

 

Praise Report: Fitsum Girma

We introduced you to Fitsum Girma two years ago. https://blessingthechildren.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/urgent-need-wounded-hiv-five-year-old/

Fitsum is a precious 7-year-old girl battling a serious health condition. Last year she underwent surgery on her leg after suffering for a year with a painful infection that led to the development of osteomyelitis.

As a result of donations from several compassionate individuals, Fitsum was able to move into improved housing and has been receiving additional grain support to keep her belly full so she can tolerate her medications. She is attending school regularly and her leg has fully healed. The impact on her quality of life is strikingly apparent in these photos. An empty stare has been transformed into a mischievous smile and we couldn’t be more pleased.

Fitsum in 2016

Fitsum in 2017

Praise Report: Walking by Faith

Bereket with his Leg Braces

Seven-year-old Bereket Bedo is a typical boy in almost every way, but sadly one of the things he most desires to do he cannot – that is to walk and run with ease. Bereket was born with an unknown musculoskeletal condition that makes walking difficult and running even more so. When he was very young he did not know any different, but now that he is school age he recognizes that he struggles to keep up with his classmates.

Earlier this year Bereket was blessed to receive a generous donation that allowed him to begin seeking medical consultation. He has since visited a doctor in Addis numerous times. The doctor has a plan to improve his condition. An important part of his treatment  includes wearing leg braces, which will be adjusted every couple of months. We are so excited to witness Bereket’s progress and look forward to him gaining more freedom as treatments continue to improve his condition.

 

The Search is Over

Our staff in Ethiopia has been busy interviewing and hiring staff members for the newly acquired Bethlehem School. After a thorough search, they have found the right person to serve as Principal of the school. Meet Principal Degu! Degu means “kind” in Amharic. Not only is he kind, he has an MA in Educational Planning and Leadership and has 26 years of experience education, including time in private schools as well as university. Please join us in welcoming Principal Degu and in prayers for a successful year of leadership for the Bethlehem School.

BCI’s 1st Wedding

When a child applies to our sponsorship program, we begin by meeting with the child and guardian for an evaluation. We look at their social and educational status, any health concerns, the financial need, and details of the living situation. Many times the children are shy and hide behind their guardians, or sit quietly and show little emotion. Sometimes they are so weak from malnutrition that they do not have the energy to interact with our staff. At this point, they are a new face and we know nothing about their unique personality. Once they begin receiving adequate nutrition and their minds are opened up through education and their hearts through ministry, they begin to blossom. A glimmer comes into their eyes; they may even run to our staff and smother them with hugs. It is by this point that are no longer strangers – they feel like our children.

We have now been serving in Ethiopia for nearly a decade and we have children who are beginning to grow into adults. Watching the cycle complete itself, from these beginning stages of a frightened, hungry child just struggling for survival, to a confident adult, is an experience beyond words. We feel so much gratitude for the opportunity to bear witness to God’s work in the children’s lives.

We have been experiencing a flurry of firsts lately – first child to turn 18, first child to attend university, first child to complete vocational school. We now have a new first to add to this list – first child to grow up and marry.

We first met Beruktawit Godana more than seven years ago. She lived with her mother and her brother and was affectionately called “Choo Choo.” She dreamed of having her own land someday and building a house to share with beggars so she could help and teach them. She is also a talented artist and enjoys basket weaving and beading necklaces. Beruktawit was raised at home while she completed her schooling. She went on to attend vocational school and during this time, she met the love of her life.

Now, at 21 years of age, Beruktawit has just married and started a new life with her husband. Although this brings her time as a sponsored child to a close, we feel so excited and hopeful about her future and are honored to have been a part of her journey.

 

Students Accepted to University

Summer is always an anxious season for grade 12 students at the BCI Academy. They study hard during the school year in preparation for the National Exam in June. The results of the exam determine whether they can proceed to university,  vocational training, or whether they must repeat the grade.

The Federal Ministry of Education in Ethiopia will pay for the university tuition for students receiving excellent grades on their National Exam. Since our students do not have the financial resources to attend university otherwise, entrance by exam is their only means of receiving a higher education.

We are thrilled to report that three of our grade 12 students have been promoted to university based on the results of their exam this year.

Congratulations to Esrael Yirga, Biniam Chekel, and Sitota Aschalew!

These students have been part of the BCI program for seven years and their hard work and the support of their sponsors has paid off. University is the critical final step in breaking the cycle of poverty through education. Please keep these students in your prayers as they begin this important next step in their education.

Esrael

Biniam

Sitota

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Answered Prayer

You know those powerful moments in life when you feel God reach in and intervene in a way that is almost too awesome for words – those times when something falls together at a magnitude that can only be explained as a “God thing”? We are having such a moment right now in our ministry and are still in awe over the unbelievable way in which God has responded to our prayers for our high school building project.

The cost for the three-story addition was more than $150,000 USD. This was an overwhelming task, which we broke down into three phases. The minimum amount of progress we could make in order to open the first floor of the building in time for the 2017-18 school year was the foundation, walls, and roof. The total cost of this bare minimum structure was $16,600.

With less than a month remaining before the doors were set to open for the new school year, just over $2,700 had been raised. A panic was beginning to set in – how would we keep our high school students in class come September?

Then, a call came from Pastor Tadesse, our Ethiopian National Director. Bethlehem School in Debre Zeyit had been released from its overseas management team and was being offered to another NGO in the area. No land lease, no tax; just the incredible gift of a school. The question posed was – would we support the acquisition of Bethlehem School and subsequent expansion of our ministry? It did not take us long to answer “yes!”

The Ethiopian government informed us that due to our strong record of success with the BCI Academy – with particular attention to financial responsibility – we were chosen from 20 NGO’s to take over management of Bethlehem School.

We prayed for months to have the funds to build the addition just to keep our high school students in class. God responded by putting an entire school in our hands.

It is an understatement to say that we are overwhelmed by His provision.

Bethlehem School

Bethlehem school is home to 1,000 students. Not only do we have another building to use to expand the BCI Academy, we will now be responsible for an additional 1,000 students, tripling the reach of the ministry. This is an enormous responsibility and the task of preparing to open the newly acquired school in a matter of weeks has been daunting. We are so proud of our Ethiopian staff for their tremendous effort in making all of this possible.

Our management team has been busy interviewing and hiring 45 teachers and staff members, cleaning the building, and making repairs to bring the school up to operational form for the new school year.

Pastor Tadesse Touring the Property

Our work on the new addition to the BCI Academy will continue. We will complete the pedagogical center, one of the requirements that had been set forth by the government, and will also have space for additional classrooms. We will be able to save money on this project by making the addition one story rather than three story, since we now have space available at the Bethlehem School.

In response to the good news of receiving ownership of the Bethlehem School building, Pastor Tadesse quoted Luke 12:48: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

We ask that you please keep the ministry in your prayers and pray for our Ethiopian staff and our nearly 1,500 students who are now a part of the Blessing the Children family.

$20 Buys a Backpack

For children across the United States, one of the most enjoyable parts of a new school year is the back-to-school shopping trip for new clothing and supplies. Picking out a new backpack for the year is especially fun.

Back to school shopping is not part of the culture in a third world country like Ethiopia. The children expect to wear the same clothes they have played in all summer, mostly torn and stained from the muddy rainy season. Many carry their school books, papers, and pencils, hoping not to lose them on the way to and from school. Those that do have backpacks use them until they are in tatters.

As our students head back to school next week, many will do so with backpacks that look like the one pictured here – held together by a safety pin and barely able to contain school supplies.

The cost of a new backpack in Ethiopia is only 450 birr; just $20 USD. It is our goal to provide 50 of our children with a new backpack this year. If you would like to bless a child by providing a new backpack through our “$20 Buys a Backpack” program, we invite you to reach out to us or simply include an additional $20 with your monthly sponsorship payment. Let us know if you would like this applied to your child or for any urgent needs child.

Online: http://www.BlessingtheChildren.org/donate
By Phone: 1 (888) 269-2719
By Mail: 2267 Fraser Road, Kawkawlin, MI 48631