Computer Lab Gives Students in Senegal Hope

SENEGAL – In many countries, accessing a computer is as easy as walking into the next room or visiting your local library.

But in Dakar, Senegal, it can be difficult for children to find a computer they can use to help them learn and grow.

A classroom in Senegal filled with new computers from Operation Blessing partners.

That’s why Operation Blessing selected Ecolé Siloé, a local school in Dakar, to receive a brand new computer lab.

With these resources, impoverished schoolchildren have the opportunity to learn new skills to help give them a brighter future.

Safe Water in Historic Cusco

PERU – Perched high in the Peruvian Andes, the city of Cusco was once the capital of the ancient Inca Empire. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, nearly 2 million tourists a year flock to this iconic destination. For those living in the mountains and valleys surrounding Cusco, however, life goes on much as it has for thousands of years. In fact, in the communities of Huilloc Alto and Sutujpacha, residents still struggle with an ancient problem — a lack of safe water.

Homes in these villages receive water from a municipal system that was built years ago, capturing water from a spring and distributing it via pipes to the individual houses.

Upstream, animals drink the water and it becomes contaminated with waste. Unfortunately, there is no provision for water treatment in the municipal system so the water flowing into the homes is full of dangerous pathogens. It is so bad that residents would even see little worms and other contaminates floating in their drinking water.

Because of the water problem, diarrhea, stomach infections, and parasites are a constant plague on the people here. When Operation Blessing staff arrived in her community, they quickly realized that something had to be done. After testing the water, it was clear that Kohler Clarity water filtration units would be the ideal solution. Operation Blessing distributed the filters to every family in the village, including Francisca and Linda, as well as to the local school. Now, all the bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens will be removed by the Clarity filters making the water safe to drink at last.

In addition to the water filters, OBI staff also delivered anti-parasite medication to the children, many of whom were being treated for the very first time. For parents, it was a relief to see their children receiving help and care.

A Learning Opportunity in Mauritania

MAURITANIA – Women living in Nouakchott — the capital of the African country of Mauritania — have little more than the work of their hands to help them provide for their families.

Operation Blessing is working with local organization, Hands for Africa, to create the Operation Blessing Lifeskills Training Center, where hardworking women can broaden their skillsets. Students have the opportunity to learn sewing and literacy to help them find gainful employment to support their families.

Over two dozen women signed up for each class as soon as they came available, ready to learn new skills and rise out of poverty. The classrooms are now full to bursting, and Patrick Igbinigie from Hands for Africa reports, “These women are serious and motivated to attend both the sewing and the literacy classes. The spirit of these women is high when it comes to learning, and we cannot hold any back from coming.”

From the Field

Honoring World Malaria Day in Kenya

KENYA – In addition to groundbreaking biological mosquito control projects in places like Honduras, Operation Blessing teams are also responding to recent outbreaks of dangerous and deadly mosquito-borne disease such as malaria in Kenya.

During a recent distribution, Operation Blessing and volunteers from a local church delivered over 1,000 mosquito nets and 2,000 jars of mosquito repellent jelly to help protect families in the community of Baringo.

An OB worker teaching villagers in Kenya about fighting malaria.

These villagers were grateful that friends like you have remembered them during their time of need. “God bless OBI and keep them,” they said.

Vision Restored

GUATEMALA – When their daughter Dulce was born, loving parents Alfredo and Erenia were overjoyed. However, the doctors had some bad news. “Since Dulce was born we knew that things were not right,” Alfredo said. “The doctors told us that she was born with strabismus, but that it was possible that her eye would return to the normal position when she grew up.” Hoping that the issue would correct itself on its own, they waited.

Strabismus is a disorder that prevents both eyes from looking at the same place all the time. As time went on, it became clear that Dulce’s eyes were not getting any better. One day when the family was visiting grandma’s house, Dulce and her sister, Alisson, were running and climbing when Dulce’s poor vision led to a fall that knocked the young girl unconscious. “At that moment I was filled with fear,” Erenia recalled. “I thought Dulce was going to die. We quickly rushed her to the hospital. Thank God she was fine.”

Dulce strains to read a book before her operation.

The incident shook Erenia and Alfredo to the core. They knew something had to be done for their daughter, but they couldn’t afford the operation Dulce needed. As she grew older, her strabismus began to not only affect Dulce’s vision, but her relationships in school and her self-esteem as well.

One day, Dulce said to her mother, “Mom, I’m very ugly, my friends are right, I look weird.” The words devastated her parents. “I never thought that Dulce would think that of herself,” Erenia said. “Her words tore something inside of me and I did not know what to say. I just took her in my arms trying to erase that thought from her mind.”

Alfredo and Erenia were desperate to find help for their daughter. Erenia recalled, “We sought help from many other NGOs. We did not have the money to take Dulce to a private doctor.” Alfredo added, “We visited more than seven different organizations, but none gave us a definitive solution.” Alfredo and Erenia worked tirelessly to find a solution for Dulce, often leaving the house at 4 a.m. to work.

The surgeons perform an operation on Dulce’s eyes.

Finally, they found what appeared to be a solution, a doctor offered to operate on Dulce for $450. Aflredo tried to get help from friends and family to raise the money, but they turned their backs on him. All seemed lost. Dulce would not get the operation she so desperately needed.

Then, at last, came a breakthrough. Operation Blessing staff in Guatemala heard Dulce’s story and began working with the Moore Pediatric Center to provide Dulce’s operation free of charge. Not only did Operation Blessing provide for the surgery, but also for transportation, lodging, meals, and medications as well.

Dulce sits coloring. She can now see much better!

Today, Dulce is well on the road to a full recovery. Her eyesight has dramatically improved and she no longer fears the ridicule of her peers. Truly, young Dulce’s life has been transformed.

Water Wells Transform Liberian Villages

LIBERIA – Imagine the life of a villager in remote Africa: living in a mud hut, working the fields each day, growing crops like rice and cassava. There’s no easy access to education or health care. One must travel long and dangerous distances, or simply manage without such necessities. But perhaps most troubling, these villagers live daily without access to safe, clean water.

For many people in the Kakata region of Liberia, the scenario above is all too real. In some cases, villagers survive on water from a swampy hole or a dirty creek. In other villages, the residents walk as far as 45 minutes during the dry season to fetch water from the next village—water that is still dangerous to drink. Waterborne diseases like cholera are sadly a part of everyday life. Yet in many ways these primarily Christian villagers are just like the rest of us. They work hard to provide for their families and pray for a better life.

A man from Noko’s Town, had this to say. “Since this village came to existence, safe drinking water has been a problem and our utmost important need. Our neighboring villages laugh at us during the dry season for going to their unsafe creek to fetch water…. We were often sick, our young children and elderly ones too, with diarrhea or running stomach.”

Liberia Water Wells Help Hundreds

Learning the needs in this remote area, Operation Blessing went to work digging brand new wells in five small villages in the Kakata region. The new wells will provide safe, easy to access water for over 2,000 people in Noko’s Town, Sao’s Town, Smith’s Town, Tumu’s Town, and Wallah’s Town.

OB Liberia also held dedication ceremonies for each of the five wells. During the ceremonies, ministers shared the love of Christ. In addition, each ceremony included important lessons on good health and hygiene practices, areas in which too many of the villagers were previously uneducated. The attendees showed much enthusiasm and thankfulness for these life-changing wells, and for those, like you, who made them possible.

A mother from Wallah’s Town summed up their feelings, saying, “Our struggle of walking twenty minutes to fetch water that will do harm to us and our children is over…. We are grateful for this new water source which now brings abundant relief… Thank God, thanks to the donors, and thanks to you, Operation Blessing International.’’

Baseball Brings Life Skills to Haitian Youth

HAITI – In 2010, a devastating earthquake affected millions of Haitians. Makeshift “tent cities” formed out of the rubble of Port-au-Prince. The vulnerable children living in these areas succumbed to begging, suffered violence, and quickly became malnourished. Out of this darkness came an idea to help these children regain their health and bring much needed joy back into their lives through the simple game of baseball.

After the Haitian earthquake in 2010, many people lived in tent cities like this one.

With other sports requiring stamina and energy that the children didn’t possess due to lack of nutrition, baseball was the perfect fit. Two American relief workers, Bryn Mooser and Operation Blessing’s David Darg, began working with these children and introducing the game.

As time progressed, the love for the game grew as more and more boys became interested in the new sport. From there, Haiti’s first little league team, the Tabarre Tigers, was formed, soon followed by the Tabarre Ti Crabs. With the formation of the two teams, the players enjoyed friendly games against each other. The teams were given baseballs, gloves, and bats. As word spread, visitors brought more equipment and uniforms. In 2011, the captain of the Tabarre Tigers, Joseph Alvyns, even received the amazing honor of throwing the first pitch at a Toronto Blue Jay’s game.

Since then, Operation Blessing International has stepped in to expand the Tabarre Tigers program and provide greater structure. Since 2015, the teams have been coached by Luis Ventura Vega, who holds a Master’s in Physical Education and Community Sports. With his involvement, they have risen to a new level of professionalism and discipline. In 2017, a junior team for 8 to 12 year olds was created to give younger children a chance to play. The program is currently training 50 boys, ages 8 to 20, three times per week, many of whom have been a part of the program since 2011.

After each practice session, all participants receive a nutritious meal, typically including vegetables, coconut, and a protein such as chicken, as well as plenty of water, electrolytes, and juice.

The baseball program has expanded its reach to not only teach the boys about the sport, but also about pressing issues in Haiti like the importance of recycling and healthy living. Trash disposal in Haiti is an unsolved problem with the majority of waste ending up in the ocean.

Through the baseball program, the boys are learning the importance of proper trash disposal and recycling. They clean up any trash previously left on the field and throw away their own. The boys help to separate the materials gathered, and Operation Blessing Haiti then delivers the plastic and aluminum to a local recycling plant.

Additionally, a health curriculum from Caris Foundation was implemented during the 2017-2018 school year. This curriculum teaches the boys about healthy eating habits, the importance of proper hygiene, mental health, the dangers of mosquitoes and parasites, and other relevant topics.

Educating the players about their home country is an important aspect of the baseball program. Many Haitian young people never have the opportunity to visit different areas of their nation and learn their history. The team visited numerous historical sights, as well as areas of natural beauty, and even tried horseback riding.

Baseball tournament trophies and medals.

In 2017 the Tigers saw their busiest and most fruitful year to date. With Coach Ventura guiding them, the boys were more organized and followed a regimented training program, producing strength and precision in their technique.
With the game of baseball growing in Haiti, the boys now have two additional teams to play against. OB Haiti organized the first tournament for the four teams, with a total of 80 participants. Four referees from Cuba called the game. Visitors who were interested in starting more teams attended the event. And not surprisingly, the Tabarre Tigers took first place!

Many of the boys have a growing hope and goal to one day earn a school scholarship to continue onto higher education through playing baseball. Some even dream of playing professionally. As the momentum keeps building, more and more opportunities are forming for young boys to learn discipline, have regular physical activity, eat nutritious meals, and gain valuable and necessary life skills through the Operation Blessing baseball program.

From the Field

Changing the World with Safe Water

There’s nothing more essential to human life than water. Without it, the human body can’t survive more than a few days at most. Though safe water is something often taken for granted in the western world, in developing nations water can be the single greatest need for the poor and vulnerable. In villages and communities without a safe water supply, residents often have to spend hours each day simply retrieving and transporting water back to their homes. This leaves substantially less time and energy available for preparing food or earning an income, helping perpetuate an ongoing cycle of poverty and suffering.

To make matters worse, the water sources that serve these impoverished communities are frequently contaminated. Bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens often infest the drinking water, but residents have no choice but to drink this filthy water. The resulting health problems are not only a further economic drag to suffering people groups, but can lead to chronic illness and even death. In fact, contaminated drinking water is estimated to cause over 500,000 deaths each year from diarrhea alone, according to the World Health Organization.

While many areas have endured an ongoing water crisis for generations, disasters can create safe water shortages in areas where water was previously plentiful, for instance in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. For disaster victims working to rebuild, a lack of safe water can be a dangerous and crippling weight to bear.

For years, Operation Blessing has been committed to fighting the epidemic of unsafe water around the world. Along the way we’ve developed a powerful toolbox of safe water solutions that enable us to bring safe water to those in need, no matter their situation.

Safe Water Tools

One of OBI's catchment systems used in rural communities throughout Latin America.

Rural Community Water Systems

In many rural communities throughout Latin America, water sources may be available but they are not safe to drink from and are often difficult to access. OBI constructs concrete catchment systems—or reservoir tanks—to collect source water, apply purification techniques, and then construct a network of underground PVC pipes to plumb the water directly to village homes, giving continual and convenient access to safe water.

Safe Water Testing & Training

OBI staff visit our international operations to conduct water testing clinics and to familiarize indigenous OBI teams and partnering groups in the use of equipment in our ever-expanding Safe Water Toolbox.

Containers full of safe water thanks to OBI safe water solutions.

Chlorine Manufacturing, Disinfection, Desalination, and Filtration Systems

Poor communities face a wide variety of water challenges that require customized solutions. In Africa, the Philippines, Haiti, and throughout Latin America, OBI is utilizing Sanilec-6 devices to manufacture chlorine to make bad water safe and provide an inexpensive way to stop contagious disease from spreading. One San-6 unit is currently servicing the largest hospital in Juba, South Sudan. Larger systems, installed by OBI in Puerto Rico’s Teacher’s Hospital and at Haiti’s newest and largest hospital in Mirebalais, process up to 1 million gallons a week. In over 20 countries, we have also utilized portable filtration/chlorination systems following disasters, each unit capable of purifying 600 gallons of water an hour. We also use reverse osmosis and desalination systems to turn salt water into sweet, safe water. And OBI also uses and distributes handheld, solar-powered chlorine generators called H2gO and MSR SE-200 Community Chlorine Makers.

An Oasis filtration system.

Oasis Filtration System

OBI, working with Aqua Research, is developing a low cost, ultrafilter-based, water treatment system that can be used in low-income households and disaster relief settings. The 20-liter, plastic container incorporates an ultrafilter (removes all classes of microorganisms, including viruses, bacteria and protozoa) and a small hand-operated manual air pump that provides the low pressure needed to push the raw water (river, lake, stream, well, etc.) through the filter. Final testing is ongoing and Oasis will soon be saving lives.

Kohler Clarity Filtration System

A recently added component to the OBI Safe Water Toolbox that fits perfectly into our community development program in impoverished areas and disaster relief programs is the Kohler Clarity Filtration system (pictured below). The system is inexpensive and effective. Untreated water is poured into the upper reservoir where it slowly gravity feeds through a ceramic filter that removes over 99 percent of pathogens. Following recent Hurricane Maria, OBI is participating in a consortium in Puerto Rico that has distributed over 30,000 Clarity filters to public schools and communities all over the island.

Escaping Sex Trafficking In Mexico

In Mexico the non-profit “El Pozo De Vida” functions as a refuge for women who have been trafficked and sexually abused. They provide a safe space for these women to live and recuperate from the trauma of sex trafficking. But the safe-home they were renting for these precious women was just not able to meet their needs. These girls needed a space of their own.

That’s when Operation Blessing stepped in and helped move the girls to a brand new house large enough to expand the population from 10 to 22 girls. Not only that, but Operation Blessing renovated the home and provided the furnishings and many of the tools necessary for these girls to learn new trades and begin the healing process. With this new safe-home, El Pozo De Vida became exactly that – The Well of Life.

Together, Operation Blessing and El Pozo De Vida are giving these girls a place where they can feel safe and begin to acquire the tools they need to be self-sufficient and successful in the world such as bakery training and barista training. And none of this would have been possible without you, our generous donors. Thank you so much for support of Operation Blessing and our efforts to break the cycle of suffering in Mexico, and around the world.

Advocate For Others Longs for Post Hurricane Harvey Help

TEXAS – Annie has always been an advocate for others, especially after surviving a kidnapping when she was a teenager. But when her home was left in ruins after Hurricane Harvey struck, she struggled to find someone willing to help.

Over four feet of water flooded into the home Annie and her husband, Leo, have shared for 22 years.

“Everything that we have was lost,” Annie said.

Annie has suffered from kidney failure and congestive heart failure. Her husband, Leo, was diagnosed with cancer and has undergone several back surgeries. The pair use walkers to get around.

Though their struggles are many, Annie is dedicated to ministering to others and helping people who have been victims of crimes. Annie speaks as a survivor herself. When she was only 13 years old, Annie was kidnapped and spent around three years at the hands of her captor. Now, she helps others.

But when Annie and Leo needed help with their home, they did not know where to turn. With no flood insurance and no family nearby, they reached out to local agencies hoping someone would come help them after the hurricane. Repeatedly, the answer was no.

A team of Operation Blessing volunteers.

“We’d been going from agency to agency and they kept turning us down,” Annie said. “We are disabled and my husband is a vet. And we’ve just been getting turned down.”

They were beginning to feel that their entire street had been forgotten. Then, the couple received a call from Operation Blessing and Annie was overjoyed to hear that, at long last, help was on the way.

“My heart’s just overjoyed right now,” Annie said. “I haven’t been this overjoyed since I’ve been homeless, because we’re homeless right now. We are so overjoyed and grateful.”

Operation Blessing brought a team of disaster volunteers to Annie and Leo’s door. The team pulled out the soiled carpet and damaged belongings, doing the work the disabled couple simply couldn’t handle. More than that, the volunteers made sure Annie and Leo knew they weren’t alone.

“I have not received help from anybody else like this,” Annie said with tears in her eyes. “We don’t know what we would have done today if you hadn’t come out.”

The woman who has helped so many with her advocacy and testimony now knows that she hasn’t been forgotten and that there are still people out there who care.

Annie and her husband, Leo, with the team of volunteers

From the Field