Thursday, March 31, 2011

Going to Congo - Would you like to help?

On May 20, Dano and I will be traveling three hours west of Bukavo, Congo to facilitate a training for the careproviders of 30 orphan boys and girls ages 0-6, with the majority being under 3. We are seeking to raise $1100 to purchase weighted blankets and sensory toys for these children. A friend of mine from college, Holly Mulford, and her husband, Michael, have lived in Congo for almost five years working with Food for the Hungry. They are the parents of four beautiful children, two of whom are adopted from this orphanage. Holly and Michael are moving back to the States in June and working hard to secure sustainability for this small orphanage.

Background on the orphanage - It is a small orphanage that accepts infants whose mothers' died in birth and fathers' are unable to take care of them. When Holly first arrived there, most of the children were chronically malnourished and all are severely delayed for lack of being held or any attention paid to assisting them with motor skills. Because of lack of space, the orphans are returned to their families (willingly or not) once they reach around the age of five. Holly did a formula campaign and did a simple training to teach the care providers how to mix the formula and the results in the children's health have been incredible.

The director is a wonderful man who is committed to learning better ways of caring for the children and Holly trusts him. Holly asked me to do a training that incorporates elements of attachment therapy and play therapy. While I am not a child psychologist, I have learned a great deal since adopting my three children and have sought to incorporate what I learn into how I interact with orphans here in Rwanda. The theme of my training will be "The Good Shepherd" because my first goal is help the care providers feel loved and cared for and then help train them in some practical ways to encourage attachment and sensory stimulation for the children.

My Request - I am working with a women's coop here in Rwanda, AMANI, to make 30 weighted blankets that are 58x58 cm each. Our daughter, Lian, was first given a weighted blanket by Dr. Karyn Purvis as a way to apply deep pressure, thus stimulating serotonin which helps relax the child. For children who have experienced trauma and have been without physical touch in their first few months, sensory processing disorder is a common result of this lack of touch. These blankets are one way of providing them with physical pressure that doesn't require an adult (and in this case there is one adult for every eight babies). We still bring my daughter's blanket with her if I know we may be in a stressful environment. It immediately calms her. It is also one item that the children can have as their own.

In order to get the needed weight, I have to fill each blanket with 1 kg of polypellets. These are the best material to use, especially in a place where the blankets will need to be handwashed. We cannot get these polypellets here and they are $7 per blanket +tax (cheapest I could find for 1 kg). I have a few friends coming back to the States who are willing to put these in their suitcases, but I need to order them right away. Amani is still giving me an estimated cost of the blankets, but I anticipate the final cost to be close to $30. I will know by next Tuesday what the exact cost is. I want to make 30 blankets.

In addition, I am wanting to buy the following: Wilbarger Therapressure Brushes ($80 for 24 brushes), which again help to stimulate neurotransmitters that release calming chemicals in the children's brains. Again, I have personally seen the benefits of these. I am also wanting to buy a tactile massage ball ($35) for the orphanage and a set of sensory play toys ($80 for 11 toys). And I need to get these sent with friends who are traveling here as soon as possible.

My Total Request: $1100.

Children's Hope Chest has agreed to serve as the umbrella organization for this orphanage until a separate 501c3 is established. We are currently working with them to set up a giving page for this orphanage and it should be up and running early next week.

As I need to order these supplies by next week in order to ensure they arrive in time to Rwanda and in time to make the needed blankets, I am seeking to gauge interest in friends who might be interested in supporting this effort. If you would like to make a donation, please email me directly at or leave a comment saying you want to give. I will email the donation link as soon as the page is created.

Thank you for helping us love on these children in a way that makes a long-term distance to their spiritual and physical well-being.