CRS -- Scout Parents_6134By Steve Hunt

Boy Scout Barrett Banfield wanted to come up with something unique for his Eagle Scout project.

And that he did.

Barrett of Boy Scout Troop 1183 in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, Virginia had worked with Christian Relief Services previously and he turned to them again first to see what he could do help out the Alexandria-based nonprofit.

“I checked with them to see if they had anything to do,” Barrett said.

And, boy did they.

Christian Relief Services owns and manages dozens of properties in Fairfax County for low-income working residents as well as victims of domestic violence and it is renovating a home it has purchased in the Engleside area of the county, just a short distance from the Christian Relief Services headquarters on Richmond Highway in the Mount Vernon District of the county.

Christian Relief Services needed someone to paint the interior of the two-story single family home – a big job, but Barrett was ready, willing and able to commit to the undertaking.

“I was looking for a unique project,” he said, and to his knowledge “no Scout has done one before.”

Barrett knew he was going to have to recruit a lot of help turning not only to members of his own Scout Troop, but also to members of Troop 1103. He rounded up fellow Scouts, including friends such as Isaak Phillips, and he also knew he could count on his fellow parishioners at his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the Franconia area of the county.

His father, church Bishop Peter Banfield and his mother Carrie, were among the more than two dozen volunteers who helped paint the interior of the house from top to bottom Saturday, Sept. 19. Others who helped out included Elder Finlayson and Elder Flowers, Doug Barclay, Spencer Parker, Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Holly Dougherty and her 18-year-old son, Andrew, a recent graduate of Edison High School who in October will begin his two year mission to Brazil, and Brother Steve Echard, who just happens to have painted professionally and was doing much of the detail work.

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BucknellBucknell Elementary School is located in the Mount Vernon District of Fairfax County, Virginia, one of the wealthiest counties in the country with a median household income of more than $100,000.

However, at Bucknell Elementary, a Title I school which recently celebrated its 60th anniversary,  three-fourths of the students are eligible for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Free and Reduced Price Meals program and is 80 percent English Speakers of Other Languages.

The school has had recent successes in improving its accreditation standing, and is by all accounts a “rising star” of Title I elementary schools.

Bucknell students use computers in the classroom, but what about at home?

Christian Relief Services, headquartered in Fairfax County just a few miles from the school, selected Bucknell for a pilot program that will provide computers and home broadband Internet access to 121 students in grades 4 – 6, regardless of their economic circumstances.

Christian Relief Services is partnering with local Virginia State Delegate Scott Surovell, who has identified a donor, Don Rippert, willing to provide $25,000, who donated to Christian Relief Services to kick-start the effort.

Christian Relief Services added another $25,000 to match donations from potential community partners, to reach the budgeted $62,000 necessary for the effort.

Providing new laptop computers to students from low-income families will ensure equitable access to educational resources so these children will not be denied access to digital learning opportunities.

Christian Relief Services does not provide second-hand materials as a tenant of its charitable mission as we believe that all children, wealthy and poor alike, should be given equal access to new, high-quality materials.

To that end, in accordance with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) specifications, eligible students will receive new Dell Latitude 3150 laptop computers, procured at a cost of $350 each, through FCPS’ existing Request For Proposal specifications.

Windows software is deeply integrated into Bucknell’s existing structure and comes pre-loaded with approved education software which works seamlessly with FCPS Web-based curricula.

Students will be able to enjoy safe computing at home or any other location with FCPS’ “Always On” content filtering.

Christian Relief Services will create promotional materials in partnership with Del. Surovell who will organize a fundraising drive to recruit support from potential partners in his network of business partners in the community.

Christian Relief Services and FCPS are prepared to create a partnership to benefit the students at Bucknell Elementary.

The partnership provides several advantages:

  • FCPS will procure and own the laptops which meet existing FCPS specifications
  • FCPS will provide IT support and training to schools, teachers, students and parents
  • Laptops will be “leased” to students and their families, similar to textbooks
  • Bucknell will host a “Technology Fair” at the beginning of the school year where they will train parents and distribute the laptops to families

The pilot program also provides home broadband Internet to students at Bucknell through an existing partnership between FCPS and Cox Communications’ “Connect2Compete” program.

Normally, only families on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or free meal families would qualify for the Connect2Compete program, leaving out the students qualifying for the reduced meals program or in neither program.

Cox has offered to open its Connect2Compete program to all the students in the pilot program and bulk bill Christian Relief Services at a cost of $120 per student, plus taxes and a one-time hookup fee for up to 98 households.

“Christian Relief Services is eager to participate in this pilot program to close the digital divide at Bucknell Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia,” stated Paul Krizek, Executive Director of Christian Relief Services.

When the Running Strong for American Indian Youth® team told their National Spokesperson, Billy Mills,  they wanted to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his Olympic victory by giving away grants every year for the next five years, he knew he wanted to help Native youth pursue their own dreams for themselves and their communities. So together they created Dreamstarter™– to give Native youth the funds and training they need to make these dreams come true.

In April, Billy got to meet with the Dreamstarters at the first ever Dreamstarter Academy. He was incredibly impressed by their stories and their passion, and is looking forward to working with each Dreamstarter over the next year, helping them all grow into leaders, and watching their dreams come to life.

When you read their stories, we know you’ll be as inspired by their Dreamstarters as we are.

The first class of Dreamstarters includes:

  • Ronnie, a high school student building a weight room to help his rural community get healthy
  • Samantha, who is providing Native youth with a safe place to cope with grief and loss
  • James, a runner from Pine Ridge hosting running camps for youth in every district of his widespread reservation
  • and more!

Nothing makes us happier than the knowledge that, together, we can help these amazing young people pursue their dreams and better their communities.

Click here to read about their dreams, and then see photos of  from the Dreamstarter Academy.

Imagine living in house – the place you and your family call home – with a roof that leaks, floors that sag or worse, and in a condition that can only be described as squalid.

Or perhaps the homeowner is elderly, possibly a veteran who has served our country with dignity and honor, but today cannot get in or out of their house without assistance due to a lack of a handicap ramp.

Then ask why?

When there is barely enough money to put food on the table, keep the lights on, and other more immediate, pressing needs such as medication, making repairs to their home – the only thing they own of any value – comes in at a distant last.

Throughout Appalachia, volunteers are giving up a week of their vacation thinking of, and working to help, strangers hundreds of miles from their home, in tandem with grassroots organizations located in hard-hit communities in McDowell County, West Virginia, and Hawkins and Jefferson counties in Tennessee.

These organizations, Big Creek People in Action, Of One Accord, and Appalachian Outreach, respectively, identify those homeowners most needing help with home repairs in the communities, and organize groups of volunteers who come in to do the work.

That’s where Americans Helping Americans® – and you – come in.

Together, we are able to supply the critical funding to purchase shingles for new roofs, lumber for ramps and flooring, drywall for interior repairs, and more. Without this funding, these homes might not get repaired…this month…or even this year.

This month, while those Americans helping Americans are hammering nails, painting walls, and making general repairs, we will tell you of the true, and dire need in Appalachia today.

And we at Americans Helping Americans® hope to be able to continue to do our part – with your assistance – to keep the hammers hammering, the shingles being placed and the paint flowing.

As you read this, medical equipment and supplies valued at estimated $350,000 are crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Virginia on their way to Cameroon where they will be put to good use – easing suffering, treating the sick, and, in many cases, literally saving lives.

This is all happening through Bread and Water for Africa®’s longstanding partnership with the University of Virginia’s MERCI program and the Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital which donated the gently used medical equipment and brand-new, still-in-original-packaging medical supplies, and you.

Because of your generous support to Bread and Water for Africa®, we are able to cover 100 percent of the costs to ship the 40-foot container, filled to the brim with 16,000 pounds of equipment and supplies, to our partner in Cameroon – Hope Services.

In May, Hope Services founder and director Esther Ndichafah was in the United States and had the opportunity to visit our warehouse in Fredericksburg, Virginia and select the medical equipment and supplies most needed to operate the clinic which serves the most needy in Yaounde Cameroon.

Here is just a partial list of the equipment just shipped: four hospital baby cribs; three breathing machines; eight wheelchairs; two stretchers with mattresses; eight medical bedtables;

And all of that doesn’t include 341 more boxes full of medical supplies such as tongue depressors, gloves and procedure masks, isolation and surgical gowns, bedpans, bandages and tape…the list goes on and on.

And because the community has basic needs as well, we also shipped 400 backpacks full of school supplies and boxes of toys and bicycles

Bread and Water for Africa® and your role in all of this is covering the cost of shipping the supplies to Cameroon, and elsewhere in Africa – more than $6,000.

We believe that’s quite a bargain when you consider the huge return on investment!

In the past year alone, Bread and Water for Africa® has shipped well over $10 million worth of medical equipment and supplies to our partners in Ethiopia and Sierra Leone – and that doesn’t take into account the tens of thousands of dollars in personal protection kits sent to the valiant healthcare workers battling Ebola in Sierra Leone.

On average, Bread and Water for Africa® ships out 10 similar containers each year. With the latest one on the way to Cameroon today, we are already planning for our next shipment to go out within the next few months.

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Ebola in West Africa

donate nowTragically, the Ebola crisis is devastating countries in West Africa and the human toll and suffering is on an unprecedented scale. In Sierra Leone alone, where our partner of more than 15 years, Faith Healing Development Organization (FHDO), is located, close to 8,000 people are now infected with the virus and nearly 1,800 have perished and, sadly, the numbers only continue to rise.

Through the compassion and generosity of our supporters, we have been able to help keep FHDO’s four health clinics fully operational, focusing solely on Ebola-related cases with shipments of medicines and medical supplies in incredible short supply. In addition, 700 Tyvek personal protection kits have been shipped for the FHDO healthcare workers putting their own lives on the line as they save others.

As the disease continues to spread, food prices are skyrocketing and those without the virus are facing starvation. Emergency funding has been allocated to assist FHDO to purchase food staples, fuel for cooking, and personal hygiene products. With your help, we can save many more lives, work to prevent the spread of the virus and ease the suffering for those able to survive.

donate nowYou may be aware that the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is home to the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Tribe in South Dakota. What you may not know is that the unemployment rate on Pine Ridge is 70%, and the average household annual income is only $3,800.

Emergency HeatWinters on the Great Plains can be extremely harsh— actual sub-zero temperatures for days at a time with the wind chill even much lower — and those frigid temperatures make life very dangerous, particularly for children and the elderly, especially when there is no money to pay for the propane truck to fill up their tank.

In our mission to provide a “hand up,” not a handout, our emergency Heat Match program matches, dollar for dollar, to help ensure families have electricity and propane to protect them from the bitter cold.

We still need your help.

Every year since 1997, we have helped thousands of Oglala families to be able to provide life-saving warmth for their children and themselves, and with your help we can again this year.  The time is now to make your contribution.

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Safe Places

In Fairfax County, Virginia, where Safe Places is located, over 400 victims fleeing domestic violence had to be turned away from shelter last year because they were full.

donate nowSafe Places provides an alternative — safe, affordable housing in confidential scattered sites for up two years to help survivors find safety from their abuser, work to recover from the trauma they have endured and begin rebuilding their lives. Advocates work with survivors on a variety of individual needs to include safety planning, court advocacy, employment/vocational training, crisis counseling, budgeting, housing counseling, and connecting them with vital community resources. Nearly 90% of our families secure permanent housing by the time they leave our program.

Everyone has a right to live in a home free of violence and your gift today will provide a lifesaving stepping stone for someone in need.

Merry Christmas from Lewa Children's Home

Christmas is a joyful time for the children at our Lewa Children’s Home in Kenya – the children look forward to a celebration of treats and singing and dancing.

As the mother to over 100 orphans, it is my job to make sure that they have a gift and take part in our Christmas Services so they don’t feel alone and unwanted.

Thanks to you and other good people who support our school and orphanage, these 100 children have something to be thankful for during the Christmas Holiday.

But for many of their brothers and sisters across the African continent, there are no Christmas meals and treats.

Millions of children instead spend Christmas with very little to eat and no clean water to drink.  The sad truth is that children are always the first victims claimed by the consequences of droughts, floods, and man-made disasters such as war.

Donate Now

Please give what you can to help our brothers and sisters in need in Africa.

If a child lacks proper nutrition in their early childhood, it is impossible to compensate for the losses in their growth and health in later years.

Malnutrition not only means an increased vulnerability to diseases, stunted growth and poor learning ability, but it also leads to long-term complications for both the child’s individual well-being and the stability of their community, and even their country.

Many people are aware of the droughts that regularly plague East Africa, especially Ethiopia. Indeed, droughts and floods weaken the fragile livelihood of these already vulnerable communities. However, malnutrition is another tragedy occurring silently in Ethiopia, in Sierra Leone, in Zambia, in Zimbabwe and Kenya. It doesn’t kill as abruptly as natural disaster or receive as much attention in the news, but it is deadly just the same.

Half of the children in Ethiopia are malnourished.

Deprived of vital nutrients, they grow stunted, sickly and weak for the rest of their lives. This fate is especially cruel in a country that is still dependent on manual labor – where the agricultural sector still comprises the bulk of Ethiopia’s production and income – and where the only jobs are.

A deficient nutritional intake at this crucial stage means children are afflicted with an irreversible handicap they will have to bear for the rest of their lives.

The interaction between malnutrition and poverty is apparent throughout one’s life. Maternal malnutrition – as reflected in low weight gains during pregnancy and poor health – are related to low birth weights.

Subsequently, a baby’s development may be harmed if his or her mother’s breast milk is insufficient due to her own malnourishment.

Improving the mother’s health brings double benefits: not only does it contribute to the increased well-being and productivity of the mother, but it also contributes to providing the baby with a better chance of being healthy and making a positive contribution to Africa’s future.

This is why Bread and Water for Africa® is involved in several nutrition and food-related projects across the continent. For instance:

  • In Rokel, Sierra Leone, our local partner clinic provides mothers with nourishing food after they have given birth so that they can nurse their babies longer, thereby giving them a better chance at life. In the Afar region of Ethiopia we work with our local partner, YETEEM Children and Destitute Mothers Fund, on agro-pastoral projects to improve the nutrition and health of vulnerable communities through sustainable food.
  • In Eldoret, Kenya, I am especially proud of the work accomplished at the Baraka Farm to supply the Lewa Children’s Home with fresh milk and healthy food for the orphans. With a healthy start they will have the chance of a better life that we all work so hard to provide them with.
  • In Lusaka, Zambia, we work with the Kabwata Orphanage and Transit Centre to provide shelter, nourishment, and care for over 74 children. Bread and Water for Africa also recently provided funding to develop a vegetable garden to grow and provide vegetables directly for the orphanage.

This sustainable food source is a huge help in providing accessible, nutritious food for these young and growing children.

Merry Christmas from the Lewa Children's HomeThanks to your generous support in the past, we have accomplished so much for the children of Africa, but the need for our continued efforts this Christmas are great.

Please help me save lives with a special Christmas gift. We can make a difference if we do something right now – whatever you feel you can afford! A little bit can provide small miracles this holiday season in communities where the needs are so great, but so very basic.

I hope that you and yours will have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Thank you always,

Phyllis Keino
Phyllis Keino, R.N.
Volunteer Spokesperson
Eldoret, Kenya