by Lisa Tresch,
Rising Village Executive Director
For the first few years of our marriage, my husband and I scraped by monthly to make ends meet. We were young, working full-time at demanding jobs, and couldn't imagine giving any more than a monthly tithe to our church. When we wrote our tithe check each month, it was often a scary moment. And taking out even more of our already stretched budget to give to a non-profit didn’t even cross our minds. When we finally were able to start thinking about consistently giving to an organization, we chose a child sponsorship program through a well-known non-profit. We did our homework, however, and went on the website to understand everything we could about this organization. Before we began writing that additional monthly check, we needed three things from the organization: 1) a clear and passionate communication of their mission and purpose, 2) a transparency about how they used our funds, 3) stories about the difference our money was making in the lives of real people.
As I look back on those early days of giving, I realize that every donor - whether scraping by financially or giving out of abundance - still deserves these three things. We want to offer these to you in three different blog posts.
So here is the first thing you should know about us:
Our mission is to transform villages in lower-income countries by preserving and strengthening families.
Now that you know our mission, I want to tell you why this is so important to us. Three of our team members and two of our board members have children or grandchildren who are adopted. Many of these children were adopted from countries where poverty was a determining factor in our children being separated from their birth families. We have seen that often birth parents or extended family feel they are trapped, that their choices are limited, and that even though they love their children, relinquishing them may seem to be the only option for saving their lives.
When we look into the faces of our own children, we feel incredibly blessed to have been given these precious gifts. And somehow, this makes us even more determined to change the poverty story in villages where families are at-risk of being torn apart. In many villages around the world, there are parents who are on the verge of making heartbreaking decisions to give up their children because they are desperately impoverished. Our vision is to work with the most at-risk families in a village, and together find solutions that allow children to remain with their family. And in most cases, there is a solution.
We start with income generation for the parent. Many heads of households in the developing world are women with little education. They are shut out from credit and loan opportunities and have few options to start or expand a business that will provide for their family. Often, they have lost hope and feel defeated. Because we believe that God desires restoration for these women and their families, we seek two solutions that, woven together, can bring restoration: a grant of working capital to start or expand a small business, and the support and encouragement of the local church to give families the spiritual hope that will sustain them. We seek donations for “Business Build Grants” that will allow individuals to have a good foundation for starting their business, and we work with congregations to give spiritual support so that families are continually strengthened.
While individuals are in the process of beginning their business, we offer “crisis solutions” to ensure their children are in school and healthy. For individuals in our Income Generation program, we pay school fees and provide bedding to prevent malaria, which affects 40% of the population of Ghana - mostly children. When parents are earning a sustainable income, they take over school fees and are responsible for providing a healthy environment for their children. We walk beside these families for one year through the Income Generation program and offer money management training, health seminars, and parent support classes. Our goal is to foster the dignity of independence.
We also establish relationships with village schools to help improve the quality of the environment for students. When parents feel confident in the quality of education their children are receiving, they are more likely to keep their children in school, even during times when it is financially difficult to pay the school fees.
And for children in villages who have already lost their parents and are living with relatives, we seek sponsors to take on the school fees of these children. They are often living with aunts and uncles who are caring for their own children as well, or older grandparents who have no income generation options.
Everything we do points back to keeping families together. This is our mission, and our heartbeat.
We thought you would want to know.
Next post: How We Use Your Funds to Fulfill the Mission