What is your fight?

I was in my junior year of undergrad when I first watched the movie Hotel Rwanda—a movie that detailed the story of Paul Rusesabagina and his experience during the Rwandan genocide.  If you haven’t seen it, I recommend a visit to your rental company of choice.

No matter how many times I view the movie, one scene stands out above all others.  The scene begins with Rusesabagina thanking Jack Daglish, a cameraman, for shooting footage of the massacre.

Rusesabagina: I am glad that you have shot this footage and that the world will see it. It is the only way we have a chance that people might intervene.  

Daglish: Yeah and if no one intervenes, is it still a good thing to show?

Rusesabagina: How can they not intervene when they witness such atrocities?

Daglish: I think if people see this footage they’ll say, “oh my God that’s horrible,” and then go on eating their dinners.

I do not know if this conversation portrays an actual conversation between Rusesabagina and Nick Hughes (the man who shot the footage accredited to the fictional Daglish), or if it was scripted for cinematic purposes, but what I do know is that what was predicted came to pass.

In less than 100 days, while families in the US and other developed countries sat down for dinner, 800,000 Rwandans were slaughtered.

The Rwandan Genocide is just one example.  Every day, we see evidence of suffering—whether it is walking by a homeless man on the street, viewing a 30 second clip on the evening news, or reading a blog like this one.  The enormity of it all is overwhelming.

  • 26,500 children die every day of preventable causes related to poverty (equivalent to 100 jetliners crashing)
  • 500,000 women die in childbirth every year – deaths that are largely preventable
  • 12.3 million people are trafficked for commercial sex or forced labor
  • 163 million children are orphans

This constant bombardment is numbing and often causes us to say, “oh my, that is horrible,” and then go on living our lives.  We erroneously believe that because we cannot solve the entire problem, there is nothing for us to do.

I firmly believe that there are some battlefields that I am not called to fight on.  For example, if the issue involves environment or animal rights issues, please call someone else.  I don’t have the capacity.  That said, I also believe that everyone should pick a fight.  It will be different for everyone, but we all have something that should take us away from our dinners.

I recently met a man who spent several years of his young life as a house slave.  When he was 12 years old, someone intervened.  He was able to attend school for the first time.  Throughout his life, people continued to come alongside and support him.  He finished university, married and developed a successful career.  Today, this man and his wife have established an orphanage to care for similarly vulnerable children.  He has picked his fight.

At 100X we’ve seen similar stories with children like Andiseni and Galina, and our house mom Naomi. The people who intervened didn’t eliminate human trafficking or world hunger, but they did dramatically change one life.  That is what it takes.  If each of us will navigate our way through the deluge of statistics, pick our fight, and find the one life that we can influence, we will be able to press back against the darkness.

What is your fight?  If it is orphan care, education, human trafficking prevention, or health, we’d love for you to join us!

Kimberly CaseySpecial Assistant and Program Manager

Mama Dana

Some of you may be familiar with my title as “Mama Dana” from previous blogs or conversations, but for those who do not, I want to explain a little more about what that means to me.  It is not just a title, but more a term of endearment.

When my family, the Blanchards, started the 100X Development Foundation (then 100X Missions) so many years ago, I was simply a supportive family member of this new dream and goal to start an orphanage in Malawi, Africa.  I knew there was a need and I was excited that my family was able to develop a “program” that was undoubtedly going to save the lives of orphans. However, it was not until after my husband passed away that I really developed more than just a “supportive” role, but more of a desire to travel to Mtendere Village and see what my family was doing on the grounds in Malawi.

In February 2005, on my first trip to Mtendere Village, I fell in love.  Not so much with the country (although it is beautiful), but with the people that I met and the 16 wide-eyed orphans who were now under the care of 100X.  These 16 children were there, because they too, had suffered unimaginable loss and had no one to care for them.  I quickly realized that the number of orphans in the country was far greater than just 16 and that it was essential for us, for me, to do something.

The solution was simple: I wanted to work alongside my family—fulltime—at 100X and I had to move to Malawi! After many family conversations, and much prayer, me and my 8-year-old daughter Alley packed up and moved to Mtendere Village.

We lived there for over a year and spent our time managing, developing, constructing, and expanding Mtendere Village.  I trained the Mtendere Staff the best way I knew how and prayed that it was the right way.  I worked tirelessly to try to prepare the administration to be independent so that they could manage effectively when the time came for me to move back to the US.  We went from having a village of 16 orphans, a staff of 5, and 1 housemother to a village, rather a home of 140 orphans, a staff of 32, and 16 housemothers.

And although this was now my job and the management and administrative perspective was hard work, it was the moments with the orphans, my kids, that meant the most to me.  It was during these moments and times that I no longer was just a woman on “the job” but a mother to those who no longer had parents.  So, although I am mom to only one, I am “Mama Dana” to almost 200 people in a country that most are not even familiar with.

Alley and I no longer live in Malawi, but I do spend every summer there and whenever I have the chance, I go home—to my other children, to the place that stole my heart and instilled a passion in me nearly 8 years ago.  I have many more stories and moments to be shared, but for now, hopefully this will give you a glimpse of why the name “Mama Dana” is a such a sweet sound to my ears.

You can help 100X continue to expand and save the lives of orphans in Malawi by donating here.

Dana Blanchard, Director of Operations for Malawi

Madison Shared Her Birthday…and You Can Too!

 

Do you often think there is little that you personally can do to help change the life of an orphan?  Then you should meet Madison!

Madison is five years old.  Like any five year old, she loves to play with her friends, eat ice cream for breakfast (not that her mom allows this!), and “mother” her little brotherBut, Madison is not like other girls in every way.  At five years old, we can already tell that she is going to be a world changer.  After all, she’s already put a smile on the face of 140 orphaned children in Malawi.

Shortly before her 5th birthday, Madison learned that there were children in Malawi without moms and dads who didn’t get big birthday parties, or a lot of gifts.  Wanting to help, Madison asked her mom and dad if, instead of birthday presents for herself, she could ask her friends and family to give money to the kids at Mtendere Village.  Her very proud parents quickly agreed, and Madison raised $350 for the children of Malawi.

Madison had no idea that the money she raised would be enough to throw a birthday party for the entire village!  This brought so much joy to the children—many of whom never celebrated before arriving at Mtendere and do not even know the MONTH they were born.  After the party, we received this note from Grecian, the Administrator at Mtendere Village: “On behalf of Mtendere staff members and children I want to thank Madison for the KIND GESTURE, we do not take it for granted, we pray for her to have many blessings from the Mighty God.”

We are honored and proud to have so many people standing beside us as we strive to care for orphans around the world.  With girls like Madison involved, we’re confident that it is just a matter of time until being an orphan will no longer mean that you have no hope for the future!

Interested in giving up your birthday…running a marathon, or whatever other creative idea you can think of, to support 100X?  We’ve made it easy!  Visit our Razoo page to start now, or email leverage@100XDevelopment.com for more info.

 

Continuing Together

On February 19, 2005, my family and I stood beside Chief Napoleon Dzombe and the Minister of Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services for the opening ceremony at Mtendere Village in Malawi. After the ceremony, I had the privilege of speaking with the Minister about our vision for Mtendere Village and our hope that every child living there would now be able to look to the future with great hope and expectation. I wanted them to know that their status as an orphan would never limit their vision for the future.

On that day, I was grateful to the Minister for her support of Mtendere Village and the example that she set for the young girls in our care. Over the years, I have watched as her influence in the country has increased—first as Foreign Minister, then Vice President—and have been encouraged by her unwavering support of women and children. Now, as the first female President of Malawi, it is my sincere hope that the girls at Mtendere will look to President Joyce Banda as an inspiration and an example of what is possible.

We are grateful for President Banda’s continued support of the work that we are doing, and we look forward to partnering with her to increase opportunities for the women and children of Malawi.

Lindy Blanchard, Co-Founder and President

One Day Without Shoes 2012

Regardless of your cause or your passion, we hope that ODWS inspires you to think about the world in a different way, and to believe that even one off-beat idea can bring people together to create something positive.

– Blake Mycoskie, Founder of TOMS Shoes

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to walk barefoot everyday.  How would it impact your daily life?  Today is TOMS’ One Day Without Shoes and they’re asking everyone to step out of their shoes in solidarity of the children who are growing up barefoot, and our team at 100X has decided to join them.

Hundreds of millions of children are at risk of injury and soil-transmitted diseases such as jiggers and ringworm because they do not have proper protection for their feet.  A large portion of those children are also not allowed to attend school simply because shoes are part of the required uniform.

Have you ever counted the number of shoes in your closet?  It isn’t something that I normally keep track of, but I thought it would be helpful to have some perspective as I prepared for today.  After scanning my closet—and grabbing the pair of pumps I kicked off in the living room—I had a number.  31.  I could officially go an entire month without wearing the same pair of shoes.

All things considered, I think I’ll take the $39 I budgeted for a new pair of flats and put it towards something a little more valuable.  What’s your number?

Want to get involved? Our programs provides shoes, and so much more!

Kimberly Casey, Special Assistant and Program Manager




The Heart of Mtendere Village

If you ever have the chance to visit Mtendere Village – you will quickly realize that our program for orphans and vulnerable children would not be possible without the dedication and care of our “housemothers.”  They are the glue that holds everything together – they are the heart of Mtendere Village.

Given the high number of orphans and the prevalence of domestic violence against women in Malawi, it is not surprising that many of our housemothers have a history that includes these elements.  The stories of neglect and abuse are devastating, but I cannot help but smile at the redemptive power of their stories.  Once broken themselves, these women understand the pain evident in the eyes of every abused child that is brought into the Mtendere family—an understanding that is critical to breaking through the protective facades and helping our children find healing. To provide insight, I’d like to introduce one of our housemothers.

Naomi was orphaned as a child, and in order to survive, she traveled from village to village to complete odd jobs in exchange for food.  When that wasn’t enough, which it rarely was, she begged others for help.  She lived on the street, had no protection from those who would take advantage, and was never quite sure where her next meal would come from.  School was never an option, and Naomi never learned to read or write.

She did eventually marry, and she and her husband had five children.  Sadly, her husband died and Naomi could no longer afford to send her children to school.  The cycle of illiteracy and poverty, it seemed, would continue indefinitely.

When Naomi heard about Mtendere Village, she came to us and asked for a job.  We quickly realized that she would be a wonderful addition to Mtendere Village, and we offered her a position as a housemother.

Because of her new job, Naomi was able to afford the school fees to send her youngest child to high school.  Now that she is a grandmother, she sends money to her children to help make certain that her grandchildren are able to attend school.  Naomi’s love and compassion for others is evident in everything that she does, and she is always the first to help others fulfill their dreams.  Witnessing this, our team at 100X could not help but want to do something to help her achieve a lifelong dream.

Each time Naomi received her paycheck, she stamped her thumbprint to acknowledge the payment.  This was not the result of some sophisticated identification technique, but was done because Naomi had never learned how to write her own name.  With the help of Phyllis Collins, a volunteer teacher from the US, we began tutoring Naomi in reading and writing.  After three months, I witnessed Naomi sign her name in my payroll book for the first time in her life!  The joy for both of us was immense!

It is beautiful to see Naomi, an orphan who spent her childhood living and begging on the streets, loving and caring for other orphaned children, and it has been a privilege to walk alongside her and see her realize a dream she had abandoned any hope of achieving.

Dana Blanchard, Director of Operations for Malawi               Support Mtendere Village


Getting Creative for Education

We can all remember moments in life when we experience something that takes our breath away and leaves us speechless….for me, most of these moments happen when I am in Malawi.

Receiving new children at Mtendere Village is always bittersweet.  When they arrive, I see eyes filled with vacancy, distrust, hurt, anger, anxiety and sadness.  Their only belongings are the tattered clothes on their backs and caked mud on their feet.  Then the transition begins.  They go from having almost nothing to eating three meals a day, having a house and bed, numerous clothing options, and the opportunity to attend school.

One of the first things we do when a school-aged child arrives at Mtendere is determine their education status.  The reality is that many of the children, even those aged 10-12, do not know the alphabet, and we often need to find creative ways to help them “catch up.”  Our staff at 100X and Mtendere Village is committed to working with each child to grow in knowledge just like we hope they will grow physically.

As you can probably imagine, just like any country, there is room for improvement in the educational system in Malawi.  In a school where there are 1,973 students registered, and over 75 students per teacher, the need to produce more teachers with higher education is an immense one.  Most classes meet outside, under a tree, with the chalkboard leaning up against it as their “classroom” setting.  The sight of these classes spread all around campus can be overwhelming.  All of our children attend local school and participate in after-school tutoring at Mtendere to help them reach their education goals.

One of the fun ways we encourage our children’s progression in academics and excitement about education is through the many “teams” that visit Mtendere Village each summer.  100X is proud to partner with Ball State University and Auburn University’s education programs to help ensure that our children have extra opportunities for learning.  These teams partake in classroom teaching, teacher workshops, and one-on-one tutoring, as well as some evaluation and research of the local school systems in Malawi.  Their passion and excitement is a great way to engage our children, and their love of learning is often contagious.

At 100X, we’re excited about creating a better environment for a more productive education for the Mtendere children, as well as for all kids and teachers of Malawi, and we are constantly working to leverage our resources to benefit the children under our care.  We all know the importance of school—that education lays a foundation that an individual can build on for the rest of his or her life—and every day we see our children progressing to a more hopeful future.

If you have questions about our education program in Malawi, you can email us at Info@100XDevelopment.com, or if you’d like to donate to our education fund, please click here.

Thanks so much for your support and interest in helping improve the education of young people in Malawi!

Dana Blanchard, Director of Operations for Malawi

50-50

Earlier this month, 100X was invited by the National Council of Women of the US to share about our experience working to develop innovative programs to support women in rural settings—specifically in Malawi.  Hosted at the United Nations, the panel entitled, “The Challenges of Rural Women: United States and Africa” also included Ambassador Brian Bowler, Malawi Ambassador to the UN, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3), and other development experts. Included below is a sampling of what Terri Hasdorff, Vice President of 100X, shared.

In Malawi, the Chichewa word for pregnancy, Wapakati, also means 50-50. In a country with only 16 obstetricians serving a population of over 16 million, and with 46% of deliveries not attended by a skilled healthcare worker (nurse or midwife), complications that are easily treatable in a more developed country have devastating results. Consequently, one in 36 women in Malawi die from pregnancy related complications.  One in 36 wives, mothers, and daughters dying from largely preventable causes.

To put this in perspective, 42% of all pregnancies across the globe—even in highly developed countries—experience a complication.  In 15% of all pregnancies worldwide, these complications are life threatening.  Yet, fewer than one in 14,840 women will die in pregnancy or childbirth in the top-ten ranked countries.  Malawi on the other hand has the 11th highest infant mortality rate in the world.

Knowing this, it is easy to understand why the women of Malawi have adopted such a word to describe what should be considered a joyous and life-giving event.

At 100X, we believe that maternal death and infant mortality rates can be dramatically reduced with education and medical support.  In every program that we develop, we look for ways to partner with the private sector, universities and technology providers so that there is no question that interventions are both efficient and effective.

We are proud to have strong university partnerships to assist us with our development goals.  Auburn University, located in Alabama, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with 100X, and has committed to partner with us to develop a nursing student exchange program in Malawi.  We have also constructed a brand new, state of the art hospital, Blessings Hospital, just outside Lilongwe, Malawi that is centrally located and ready to serve the villages and rural areas nearby.  This hospital will mean the difference between life and death for many women and children living in Malawi.

Through mobile clinics and village-based education programs, we will also have the ability to reach those who would not traditionally seek care in a hospital setting.  The benefit of this model is the direct link between mobile clinics and Blessings Hospital.

In addition, 100X is working to develop onsite health pregnancy training that will create a place where pregnant women will learn to practice better hygiene, nutrition and avoid unsafe practices, along with screenings for high-risk pregnancy.

By embracing partnerships and working directly with local communities, we are working to change the definition of Wapakati, and transform pregnancy from a time of uncertainty and loss to one of great celebration.

Our goal is to change the lives of women and children in Malawi…won’t you help us?

Terri Hasdorff, Vice President

The Cost of Inaction

Today in Malawi, I held a 5-month-old baby in my arms who was no heavier than 7 pounds due to severe malnourishment and a health care system that has overlooked this tiny human.  Many thoughts ran through my mind.  How could this baby boy, (who also had a twin sister as tiny and malnourished as him) make it this long without the necessary nutrients? Why was this health issue not addressed earlier? And the answer is clear:  the nutrition is not available and the health care is not accessible.

In a country where many only eat once a day, the lack of nutrition is a foundation for many other struggles.  How can a child in school truly focus on academics when he is worried about when his next meal will be?  How can a weak mother walk five or more miles to seek healthcare?  How can a sick mother provide for her three children?  The cycle that begins with lack of nutrition is a vicious one.

Inaccessible healthcare is also a major issue.  In some villages, like Chadza, a village with more than 250 people, the nearest clinic is 27 kilometers (18 miles) away.  And these people, who do not have access to nutritious food, certainly lack the transportation to make a trip to the doctor an “easy” one.  This inaccessibility is a major factor in the alarming maternal death rate (1 in 36) here in Malawi.

Action MUST be taken, and that is exactly what 100X Development is doing!  While the statistics are alarming, I am very encouraged at the potential we have to help the country of Malawi succeed.  There are many basic interventions that will help this developing nation and I am CERTAIN that with the right ideas and the accurate resources, 100X can truly improve the lives of all Malawian people.  By providing the appropriate nutrients to small children and babies, and the suitable nutritional supplements to expecting mothers, we are in turn ensuring a healthier lifestyle for both mom and baby.

With the proper resources, we will make healthcare much easier to access for all Malawian people. When people’s stomachs are full and their body is healthy, a nation of any size can prosper.  Our team at 100X is very excited about the possibilities in Malawi and we ask you to join us in the charge to make Malawi a better, healthier and happier nation!

Katie Sanderson, Program Director for Nursing Education

Galina’s Story

“450,000 women have disappeared from my country [Moldova], and I or any other girl from Stella’s House could have been one of them.”  — Galina

As “Human Trafficking Awareness Month” comes to an end, we’d like to share a story of a life that was changed through the work of 100X and our partners–a story that we hope will remind you of the importance of this issue long after the month of January is over.

Galina is a real world example of what 100X is all about. Labeled an orphan with no hope of a future, Galina is now working to protect orphans and show them their true value. This is her story…

Hi, my name is Galina. My parents divorced when I was four years old and they split up the kids. I guess I wasn’t chosen by either parent. I was left with my grandmother. They never came to visit. They never called. They were just gone. I waited for a while but then I stopped waiting.

I never saw them again.

My grandmother was very ill and was not able to take care of me, so she put me in the orphanage. There, I was pretty much just a number. The teachers did not care about us, and everyone had to fight for their own life. Everything was old. The snow would leak inside the house. Even though we had electricity, we were afraid to use it because of the leaks. Our windows wouldn’t close properly, so we would put material over them to try to keep the cold air out. We had one fireplace for heat and we would make fires once or twice a week. We had no hot water or indoor bathrooms. We were forced to go outside and take a shower once a week.

There were twelve girls in my room, half of the beds on one side of the room and the other half on the other side. We didn’t have warm blankets, so we would sleep two girls in one bed to keep warm. We never had warm clothes or clothes to go to school in.

The worst part was we had to go to public school with the kids from the village who had families to take care of them. For us that was the hardest part. Everybody would make fun of us because they knew that nobody was there to stand up for us. Even the teachers thought of us that way. It didn’t matter how hard we put ourselves out there and studied, they didn’t give us good grades. For them, we were just orphans. They told us – “oh you will never be able to do anything because you are an orphan.” “You will end up washing doors for the rest of your life.” “There is no place for you in this world.” There was almost no point to live. It was hard not to lose hope.

The government cannot afford to run the orphanages in the summer, so they close them down and put the kids with extended family members. The kids that don’t have any family to take them are rented out to work for anyone who wants them. They are paid 80 cents a day. I started working during the summers when I was four years old. I had to weed gardens, feed chickens, and do any other jobs they would give me. No one ever came to check on us to make sure we were ok.

My life changed on December 25, 2003. On Christmas night, Philip Cameron and his family visited our orphanage, and they were the happiest people I had ever seen. We all asked each other, “do they know we’re orphans?” Philip and his family kept coming back, and they spent time telling us we were special and that God loved us. They spent time with us when no one else did. They gave us our first Christmas gifts, and celebrated our birthdays for the first time. They also created Stella’s House, a place for us to go when we had to leave the orphanage after we turned sixteen. More important than any of this, they gave us hope. Today, I’m a different person—God has healed me completely. Today, I’m able to help change the lives of others.

My story could have ended very differently. 450,000 women have disappeared from my country, and I or any other girl from Stella’s House could have been one of them. People around the world that cared enough to do something literally saved my life. God said in Matthew 25:40, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

At the age of 16, girls in Moldova “age out” of state run orphanages. They are given $30 and a bus ticket and sent back to their hometown. A lot of people who work in the orphanages sell information to human traffickers and tell them when an attractive girl is about to be released. On the day they leave, traffickers are there waiting for them. Most of the girls who are trafficked wind up as prostitutes, and often die from HIV/AIDS, drug overdoses, or they are murdered.

It is without question that many of the 450,000 women that Galina mentioned are victims of human trafficking. According to the U.S. State Department, “Moldova is a source and, to a lesser extent, a transit and destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking…Moldovan women are subjected to forced prostitution in Turkey, Russia, Cyprus, Bulgaria, the UAE, Kosovo, Israel, Indonesia, Malaysia, Lebanon, Italy, Greece, Ukraine, Czech Republic, and Romania.”  With no where to go after they age out, orphaned children are highly vulnerable. Traffickers prey on this vulnerability, and children quickly disappear into this dark criminal enterprise where their value is measured solely on their contribution to the $32 billion market.

Will you give a gift today that will help us reach more girls like Galina?

*100X is a major supporter of Stella’s Voice, a nonprofit organization, and is working in partnership with them to protect orphans from human trafficking in Moldova.