Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Taking a second glance

This past week I had the opportunity to go to Baltimore with the Revolve Tour. As we drove through downtown on our way to our hotel, several homeless people caught my eye. I looked at one of them, and like most people, my first inclination was to turn away. Just turn my head and look away. I wanted to pretend like this person was not even there. Like he didn’t even exist. How many times do we do this? We see a man holding a sign off the freeway, or a child on our TV in need and our first thought is to just look away. Sometimes we think it is best to pretend like they aren’t even there. I wanted to do this too when I saw this man. But I knew the incredible power of a second glance. My heart said to give something to him. And I had the chance but then it was gone. The car resumed its course. I knew the incredible power of a second glance but did I take it? No, and I wish I did.

When we make a difference we are taking a second glance. When we help someone in need, we are taking a second glance. Instead of just saying, “that’s too bad” we are doing something about it. Just doing what we can is enough. Whether it is making a difference for 1 or 100…it's making a difference.

Honestly, that’s how I feel about the girls who attend Revolve. They see a need, kids without school supplies, and the take a second glance. They do something about it. The Revolve Tour girls in Baltimore, and in cities all over the country, are making a difference. They are caring about kids in need and I am so thankful to be apart of that with them.

Taking a second glance, is taking action. So, the next time I see a need, I’m looking twice. How about you? Will you take a second glance today? - austin

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The First Day of Fall

With temps still nearing 100 degrees, here in Arizona it's hard to believe that the fist day of fall was actually yesterday! Where I'm from, fall means lots of red, orange, and yellow leaves on trees, school starting, and that it's time to get out the winter coats because there will soon be frost on the ground (if there hasn't been already). Since moving to Arizona I've come to realize that none of these things really happen here this time of year. School has already been in session for several weeks, the yellowing we see in our yard is actually the lawn needing to be over-seeded (something totally new to me since moving to the desert), and we no longer own any "real" winter coats.

I'm not complaining - at all! I'll take the 95 degrees in September over 9 months of rain and cold any day! But, having lived and visited many different climates, it's interesting to me how different each place can be during the same time of year simply because of where it's located on this Earth. In Zambia this week they'll have high temperatures in the 80's to low 90's with clear skies and probably no rain. Sounds nice! Next month it will warm to their highest temps of the year but still not likely go to above 95 degrees or so. Sounds great to those of us who brave 115 degrees in the middle of our warmest month, doesn't it? Or, does it?

95 degrees with lots of humidity can be pretty sticky, and when most of the population of Zambia lives without things like running water (let alone swimming pools to cool off in), or electricity (don't even mention air conditioning!), it suddenly doesn't sound so great anymore. Then, there's the rainy season. For those with nothing but a thatched roof over their heads, February in Zambia sounds downright miserable. But, there's hope...

With the help of so many of you around the world, Hoops of Hope has been able to build things like medical clinics that have real walls and solid roofs to keep the sun from directly beating down on the hurting people of that part of our world. You've helped build a school so that students can study and keep dry at the same time. Construction has begun on dormitories that will give kids a safe, dry, comfortable place to lay their heads at night. There has been real, tangible progress made there, and it's all because of those of you who cared enough to set aside a few hours out of your year to shoot some hoops. Very cool!

When it's raining like crazy in February, I hope you remember those that you've helped and that it puts a smile on your face. And, when it's as hot as it'll get next month, we can think of the shelter that those kids will have in the new dormitories. There's still much to do, and we don't plan on stopping any time soon (if we can help it), so keep up the good work all of you who partner with us on this journey. We appreciate you more than you'll probably ever know - and more importantly so do thousands of people, and generations to come, in a country many of us might never even get to see.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Do Something Bigger than You

This is a blog I just posted for ThinkMTV. - Austin

Doing something bigger than yourself doesn’t depend on your ability it depends on your availability. That phrase was so true in my life. Because if you were to look at my ability I was definitely not “qualified”. But you see making a difference isn’t about how qualified you are or about how popular you are, it's about how willing you are. And I realized that as my adventure began.

My adventure began six years ago after I watched a video about a girl who had lost her parents to AIDs. I began thinking about it and for a nine year old it was scary. I didn’t know what this thing called AIDs even was. All I knew is that it was leaving kids without their parents. I couldn’t imagine living without my parents and yet 15 million kids had to go through this. If you don’t think that’s a big number, think of it this way - If 15 million kids linked hands and stood in a straight line, they would go from Los Angeles to New York and back again 5½ times!

I knew I had to do something. My ability didn’t make a difference to me. A man from World Vision encouraged me to use my favorite sport to make a difference. So I started a free throw marathon called Hoops of Hope. Over the past six years we have raised of 1.5 million dollars to help children orphaned by AIDs. We have built a school and two health clinics in and AIDs ravaged region of Zambia. 100% of what we raise goes to help these kids.

I learned early on that I was not popular (I’m still not) or good at basketball but that didn’t stop me. And I would encourage you as you read this to know that you, no matter what your skills or age, can make a difference. It's about your availability. It's about how willing you are to make a difference. Making a difference doesn’t have to be some big huge ordeal. In fact, you can make a difference by simply picking up trash, helping at the homeless shelter, recycling. Only you know what your passionate about and only you know whose life is going to be forever changed because of you.

This year I have an amazing opportunity to encourage my generation to do just that. It is my second year with an incredible conference called the Revolve Tour. This all-teen girls event really motivates my generation to get involved in changing lives. We certainly aren’t doing it because of our ability. The girls at the Revolve Tour are passionate about making a difference and they’re doing just that. We’re stuffing backpacks with school supplies, and a warm blanket and we’re going to deliver them to the school in Africa next summer. It is so motivating for me to see 8,000 girls each weekend come together ready to change the world. They care about seeing lives changed. And that is what I would encourage you to do. Whether you’re a teenager like me, a grandparent, or somewhere in between, care. You can make an impact and it can start today.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Perspective Adjustment

My daughter came home from school one day this past week with an itchy, red eye. We’ve never experienced the “joys” of pink eye in our family so I didn’t immediately identify it as that. The next morning, however, it was unmistakable.

Sad that she had to miss school, we made the trek to the doctor’s office. I say “trek” because our doctor is a half hour drive from home. We arrived only to find one available chair in the waiting room. Every other chair was filled with coughing, sneezing, or crying little ones. “Oh great” I thought… just what we need, more germs!

It had been a while since our last visit to the doctor so I had to spend time filling out all kinds of paperwork so that they could update our records. Then, we waited… and waited! Over an hour past our appointment time, we finally got called back to see the doctor. She proceeded to ask me 3 questions, look into my daughter’s eye and then announce “yep, it’s pink eye!" It took a total of 5 minutes! While we waited for the prescription to be written, I found myself feeling extremely frustrated. I mean, I put my day on hold, spent way too much time driving & waiting, only to hear the diagnosis I already knew. What a hassle!

Then, I found myself thinking of the millions of children in Africa who wish they could drive half of an hour to the doctor’s office, wish they could wait for an hour in a comfy chair while watching a Disney movie on T.V., wish they could fill out mounds of paperwork so that a doctor would actually be able to keep “records” for them, and wish they could top off the whole experience with the medicine that would help them get well AND a lollipop on top of that! Wow – what those millions of kids wouldn’t give to have an experience ½ as good as mine that day.

Suddenly, I couldn’t feel frustrated anymore. In fact, I felt rather spoiled. When we left the doctor’s office, I knew we’d be enjoying a nice lunch together and then going home to a warm, clean, beautiful home where the only sickness we have to deal with at the moment is easily treatable and would be gone in a few short days – thanks to a trip to the doctor’s office.

I call moments like that “perspective adjustments”. I’m so blessed to be able to call myself even a small part of Hoops of Hope, knowing that so many people are being helped because so many of you are unwilling to sit by idly while knowing others suffer. Thousands now have access to medical help because of you! Have we helped everyone who needs it? Obviously not. Is there still more that needs to be done? Absolutely! As long as we all keep looking beyond our own circumstances and taking time for more “perspective adjustments” then I believe we can (and will) make a huge difference in the lives of many!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Update from the Sinazongwe Clinic

We just received some new photos from the clinic in Sinazongwe! In fact, the CD4 count machine was recently installed and the reports from the clinic are incredible. In this picture, you can see the lines waiting to be tested! Thank you for doing something bigger than yourself!

[the following is a letter as written from one of the workers at the clinic]
On interview Joyce Muyanda, female 42 who is a Chairlady for one of the Sinazongwe Support group who was found at the clinic already carrying out educational talks with the clients could not hold her excitement for the machine that had just been installed nearer to be accessed by many sick people. In her words she said, "We are really very happy to have this CD4 machine here at this Laboratory because it has cut on our distance to Maamba hospital (which is 60km away) to have this service. And even if we travelled to Mamba Hospital the results would not be availed immediately, we would be given different dates to go and collect the results. This was so tasking and expensive on us because not everyone could afford transport money to and from Maamba. Moreover I feel this was also contributing on our conditions to getting worse because such longer distance travels to and from Maamba every now and then where we usually move on empty stomachs had a negative bearing on our nutritional status and general conditions. We have lost most of our friends in the same situation because they would not afford travelling to Maamba for the CD4 machine services". She lamented almost tearing out for the joy of how much the CD4 machine would now contribute not only to the communities surrounding Sinazongwe but even other nearby clinics. "It is amazing how God can use even young people to reach out for lives. We remember the time of launching the Laboratory, that young donor we saw really young yet could be used in such great ways. Here it is we thought it would not be a reality that the machine would finally be here", Joyce continued "May the Lord bless such people to bring back life in others who are sick and hopeless.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Labor Day

A couple of days ago was Labor Day here in the U.S. After enjoying an extra long week end I found myself wondering what Labor Day was really all about anyway. For my family it meant an extra day off to get things done around the house, hang out with friends, and BBQ. But what really is Labor Day? I'm sure I could ask my 9 year old - he probably knows. But, for me it's just been too long since learning about it in school so I decided to look it up.

Observed the 1st Monday in September, Labor Day actually originated from Canada. A U.S. labor leader witnessed a "labor festival" while visiting there, and decided to bring the idea back to our country. New York was the first state to observe Labor Day in 1882, in the aftermath of a messy labor strike that ended in death for a number of workers. President Cleveland was all about coming up with ways to bridge the gap between the American worker and the government so he quickly decided to back the idea of a day to celebrate the worker. 

Interestingly, over the years the true meaning of Labor Day has been all but lost. I mean, I knew it had something to do with workers and labor unions, but really how many of us really pay attention to what we are supposedly "celebrating" on the 1st Monday in September? For me it's always been about the last week end of summer and another day to do 'whatever', and honestly, it still is that for me.

After re-learning what it's really all about, I found myself wondering... do they have holidays like Labor Day in Africa? Hmmm... I really don't know, but somehow I seriously doubt it. I am absolutely positive there are workers in Africa who work harder than I can even imagine, yet they don't get a "day off" to just relax and enjoy life. Another reminder of just how blessed we are to live in this nation of prosperity! 

With that in mind, I've chosen the rest of this week to remember the African worker - the farmer trying to provide for his family, the school teacher trying to give children the knowledge they need to live a better life, and the local care giver who gives so sacrificially of her time and energy to help AIDS patients who can't travel the many miles to a clinic for simple treatments that can prolong their lives. These workers are true heros in my book, and I feel incredibly fortunate to play even a small part in helping them. They deserve a 'labor day' - a day off to enjoy whatever they want to enjoy. Sadly, they will likely not get it this side of heaven, but I know there are ways we can all help and Hoops of Hope is incredibly blessed to be a part of some of them.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Milimo Chikwikwi

Several months ago my family sponsored our first child through World Vision. Since I was a teen ager, attending Christian concerts, I had heard about child sponsorship and there have been many times I've wanted to pick one up, but just didn't. When the opportunity arose for us to sponsor a little boy who lives in the area of Zambia where Hoops of Hope does much of our work, we jumped on it! We are all incredibly excited!

The very next day I took my kids to the store to pick out some things to mail to Milimo. Because of package size restrictions we are limited on what we can send, but we had a blast picking out things like colored pencils, small pads of paper, bandanas, and other items that would fit in the envelope. The kids drew pictures, I wrote a note, we included a photo of our family, and then mailed it off.

For several weeks we waited. Waited for some kind of response - something that would connect us to little Milimo Chikwikwi in Twachiyanda, Zambia. A few days ago, it finally came!! A letter with a Zambian stamp! We made ourselves wait until dad got home so that we could all open it together. When we finally got to tear into the envelope, we were beyond excitement! In it was a letter from Milimo, translated and written out by a local volunteer. We got to hear all about his life, his family, and what his interests are. Very cool moment for us!

We were again reminded why we have this "pen pal" in Zambia. His life is in such stark contrast to ours, and yet he had such positive things to say about where he lives, who he lives with, etc. Clearly his joy is not found in what he possesses, or how comfortable his life is. Milimo choses to have joy even amidst living well below what we call poverty in this country. So humbling!

With renewed ferver we all started planning the next package to our new friend, and more importantly we prayed for him. Every night before bed my kids pray for him, throughout the day when we see his sweet face on our refrigerator we pray for him, and in moments of selfishness when I find myself wishing I had "this" or "that", I try to stop and think of Milimo, and I pray for him.

Little Milimo has touched our lives more than he'll probably ever know. We may never get to meet him, but we are blessed to be able to help him through sponsorship. The joy that brings is almost inexplainable, and is so amazing! If you haven't yet sponsored a child, I encourage you to visit the Hoops of Hope website, and chose a child today. Not only will you be helping to change a life around the globe, but you will likely be forever changed as well.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Soccer Kicks 4 Kids

Earlier this month, I heard of a seventh grade girl who started a program called, Soccer Kicks 4 Kids. Check out the following video to hear Alex's amazing story.

Soccer Kicks 4 Kids from Steve Browning on Vimeo.