open arms

This month celebrates the sixth month anniversary of our Just Post Roundtable, which as I shared in my last post was an idea that sparked spontaneously from a wedding proposal. And as such, I wanted to celebrate our union with a gift of more than words. This month, I want to put those words into action.

There is this little place in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, a tranquil place set high on a hilltop. And this place exists solely to allow children orphaned by AIDS to have the chance to grow up and thrive and become future leaders, mothers, fathers and inhabitants of their village, a village that is being ravaged by AIDS in a country being ravaged by AIDS.

Open Arms was founded by an American couple. A couple who instead of using their life savings in any sort of way poured it instead into this piece of land and from that land built a home. I had dinner with Bob and Sallie, the founders of Open Arms a few months ago and had the good fortune of learning their story. They'd always been dedicated to children, in fact, several of their kids are adopted. But that never felt like they were doing enough, and when Bob travelled to South Africa and saw firsthand the crisis he knew he had to do more.

So they formed a non-profit. They have a volunteer board of directors and none of them, including Bob and Sallie, draw a salary. All the money they raise goes directly to the Eastern Cape, and everyone they employ with the exception of one person is from the village there. So not only are they helping the kids but they are also helping the village. They pay fair wages to their workers and provide health care. And one of the things I liked the most about them was their intent and desire to keep those kids in the village. They will not adopt out the kids in their care, although they get inquiries from the west all the time. They send them to the local schools and community activities and are raising money now to make sure they can not only raise those kids but send them to college. Because these children are the future of their village. There are few elders left, the life expectancy rates are dropping every year (by 2010 it will be 36.5 - imagine being the oldest person you know). There will be few left to lead, to provide a historical context, to recall customs and traditions. Bob and Sallie know this, and they are doing their small part to keep this culture and community alive. They are truly two of the most inspiring people I have ever met; engaging and funny, dedicated and passionate. We were all moved to tears during the course of our meal, me from sitting in front of such obvious goodness and they from their burning desire to do more.

I don't have to tell you how bad the AIDS crisis in Africa is. About how there are millions and millions of orphaned and infected children. How these children grow up without the love of a family, without someone to tuck them in and feed them dinner, to hold them close and love them entirely. Bob and Sallie have changed that for eleven kids, and they want to change that for many more.

This is why I wanted to do more than write this month. I want to be a small part of the magic happening amidst the heartache. To gather all of us together to share some of our good fortune with them so that they can continue doing this important work. It costs on average $100 to raise each child per month, and right now they have eleven kids in their care.

I know there is skepticism in charity; and that we are each called to give to places according to our own beliefs. And this might not be the place that pulls you, and as such, I wanted to offer one other option, a place more well known, and a place that is close to Mad's heart.

The Stephen Lewis Foundation is a well known Canadian non-profit also working to help children in Africa. I felt it important to offer a second option, (not only for the Canadians in the house who prefer their exchange rate), but also because each organization is working towards the same goal: a better life for Africa's children. Mad has written very eloquently about the SLF over her way, and in true librarian form has included all sorts of heartbreaking facts and figures that are impossible to ignore.

So this month I am asking you to join us, for the small entry fee of $20, and support one of these two charities. Because we are unable to track the donations given to SLF, we won't be able to provide a grand total unless you email us and let us know. If you donate to Open Arms, enter Just Post in the company line of the online donation form. I will ask Open Arms to give me a tally after the 10th of the month, so we can see for ourselves what this small group of sisters and brothers are able to do.

Some of you mentioned wanting to write about this on your sites and we welcome that. And since we are voicing this as our collective song for our May Just Post Roundtable, the goal is to get the word out before the 10th and then we will also include the posts you have written in support of our Africa efforts in the Just Post Roundtable. So if you do write something over your way, let us know.

The wider we cast our net, the more we can help. We are asking you to join us. Let's move a mountain for some gorgeous, beautiful, amazing children in South Africa.