Help needed after devastating flood hits Malawi and Mozambique

They awoke to a driving rain and hail storm and those who were fast managed to escape to higher ground. Remember the African children we visited in the Shire River Valley in Malawi a little less than two years ago? The orphans, being cared for by Farmer Frank and their neighbors, have endured a devastating flood during the day following unusual weather. Over 400 families in this area have been displaced from their homes due to the flood damage, and over 100 homes have been completely destroyed. In Malawi, there is no FEMA or other governing body to help families when a natural disaster strikes. The families do not have running water, let alone the communication technology necessary to ask for help. We are the voices of these poor Malawians that are in desperate need of immediate assistance. Several news agencies called the situation an “unprecedented” flood disaster, one that killed 176 people and displaced 200,000 others. It is likely that the crops this season will be ruined causing further need for food, water, medical, and housing assistance down the road. However, right now, food is the primary concern. Please consider donating on the GoFundMe site so that we can get food to these families in need of our assistance. Donate here: http://www.gofundme.com/supportmalawi2015.

Pictures from the flood damage.

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Pictures from the flood damage.

Pictures from the flood damage.

Some of the Shire River Valley children taken on E4p's visit to Malawi in 2013.

Some of the Shire River Valley children taken on E4p’s visit to Malawi in 2013.

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Update from Malawi

We have received good news from our partners in Malawi! At the Hilltop farm, which E4p visited in May 2013, the day-to-day focus is on food production. 2014 was a year for good harvests. The 50-60 hectares of land has helped farmers in Malawi, with much effort on their own behalf, lift themselves out of poverty. The farm has also seen improvements, including a new shed floor and new gutters for the house. The farm also holds church meetings where the joy of the Malawians is obvious. Additionally, the farm has continued to hold training sessions in farming, savings clubs, and micro business for people of the community and nearby villages. When we visited in 2013, we held similar training seminars, which were very successful.

Continually, the Shire Valley had a rewarding 2014. The adult literacy classes have gained support, and there are constant requests to start new classes. As of right now, there are 10 areas that now have adult literacy schools, and plans are underway to add more. The 42+ orphans at the Shire Valley are still receiving food and education. While there are not any orphan centers being built, the children are being placed within extended families or church families. They are living in normal family settings, and the church buildings provide day care, basic pre-school education, and meals. Dave Toms from the People’s Development Fund of Africa helped provide 80 bags of maize to the care centers, buckets for water, toys, and additional educational materials.

We are very pleased to hear good news from our Malawian partners and hopeful for continued success in 2015!

-Michelle

Tiny Tykes at Stepping Stones

Although E4pWVU has a focus on eradicating poverty both in African and local communities, we also enjoy helping other nonprofits here in Morgantown. One such organization is called Stepping Stones, which is a nonprofit that focuses on creating recreational activities for children with disabilities in order to help them reach their greatest potential.

During October, we participated in one of their many programs called “Tiny Tykes.” Tiny Tykes was a program that took place at the WVU gymnastics facility for an hour every Friday where the disabled children could play. Many volunteers were required in order to create a buddy system, in which each child was paired with one volunteer to be supervised. Throughout the month, no only did we get to know the kids, we also had an amazingly fun time playing on the trampolines, foam pit, rope swing, and several other pieces of equipment that were so easy to turn into toys! We look forward to working with the children we met in future programs with Stepping Stones, as it is a great organization that creates a fun and influential atmosphere for both the volunteers and the participants.

-Sami Richardson

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#Barefoot4Them 2014

Soles4Souls is a non-profit organization that, like E4pWVU, is dedicated to fighting poverty. This organization focuses on the distribution of shoes to those in need all over the world. They collect these shoes and clothes from various schools, churches, other non-profits, and ordinary people on a daily basis. October 10th has been chosen as a date dedicated to an annual fundraiser for this organization.
E4pWVU participated in this fundraiser in 2013, and we are glad to have been able to do so again for a second year in 2014. This year, instead of simply raising awareness, we also held a shoe drive to donate to Soles4Souls. Throughout the day on October 10th, members of E4pWVU stood outside the Mountain Lair in order to raise awareness. We passed out flyers and used social media to explain the mission of Soles4Souls along with collecting any and all shoes. We invited WVU students to stand barefoot with us outside the Mountain Lair in order to represent and speak for those who cannot afford shoes of their own. Using social media, including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, we posted @soles4souls and #barefoot4them with pictures of our bare feet. Throughout the event, many WVU students participated with us, even through the rain and the cold!
More than awareness, we also were able to collect multiple pairs of shoes. By the end of the day, we had two full bins of shoes ranging from snow boots to sneakers. We are incredibly thankful towards all the people who were able to donate, and we hope they know their shoes will be valued and appreciated by those who receive them! These shoes were donated to Soles4Souls through Dick’s Sporting Goods, who is a collector for the non-profit. Dick’s will collect any donated shoes at any time for Soles4Souls, and we urge you to donate your outgrown or older shoes instead of simply throwing them away! Altogether, October 10th was a fun and successful day, and we look forward to participating again in 2015!
– Sami Richardson
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World AIDS Day

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Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day. This day was started in 1988 to raise awareness about AIDS and HIV and work to end the epidemic.  In that spirit, we’d like to help share awareness concerning AIDS and HIV.  An estimated 34 million people have HIV/AIDS world-wide, and one out of seven of those people are not even aware they have the virus.

What is AIDS?

AIDS was first identified in the early 1980s. AIDS, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, is caused by HIV. Some people refer to AIDS as an advanced HIV condition. HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system cells, and as HIV progresses, the body becomes more vulnerable to infections.  There is still no cure for HIV. Since the first cases identified, more than 30 million people have died from AIDS.  In the United States, 1.1 million people are living with HIV.

Many of you know that E4p Inc., works in African countries where HIV/AIDS is prevalent.  In order to aid our partners properly and provide a holistic approach, we often have to address how AIDS effects the people and communities we collaborate with.  In South Africa, the prevalence rate of HIV was 10% in 2011, compared to 15% for those aged 15 to 49.  In high-burdened countries people with AIDS (or HIV) are 20 times more likely to contract tuberculosis (TB). HIV/AIDS acts as a catalyst of TB and causes the person to get sicker sooner. TB is actually the leading killer of people with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

By 2015, it is estimated that 25 million children will be orphaned due to AIDS killing one or both parents.  As of now, it is estimated that 17.8 million children have been orphaned due to AIDS, 85% of those children live in sub-Saharan Africa.

You may have seen in some of our previous posts that our partner, the Bophelong Community Center, cares for orphans, some those whose parents have died from AIDS.  It is vital that we help provide these children with positive reinforcement and a sense of community.

The Stigma 

Unfortunately there is still a stigma associated with harboring HIV/AIDS. This stigma can result in rejection, insults, and exclusion from social activities.  This can lead many people to end up suffering in silence.  People also tend to believe that HIV is a death sentence, and that people with HIV/AIDS are immoral or irresponsible.  Both are entirely untrue.  HIV is not only transferred through semen and vaginal fluid, but through blood, breast milk, and birth from an HIV positive mother.  Here, a woman shares her story on World AIDS Day in hopes of combating the stigma.

What Can We Do? 

Anyone can help combat HIV/AIDS and the stigma associated with it.  First: you should join the conversation—read the Presidential Proclamation recognizing World AIDS Day for more information. Get tested. Locate a testing center here.  Learn about PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief).

At E4p, Inc. and E4p WVU we want to continue to be a part of the conversation and help spread awareness.  We hope to aid our African partners in uplifting their communities and ending the stigma by supporting their community dialogue, projects, and training in various capacities.

Ronald McDonald House Meal

On October 8, 2014, E4pWVU and WVU’s Accounting Club volunteered at the local Ronald McDonald House to prepare a homemade meal for the residents. We also volunteered there last year in honor of Food Day. “Providing a home-away-from-home” is the mission of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Morgantown. These houses create a temporary home for the families of children who are currently staying in local hospitals. The charity also contributes to organizations seeking to educate children or engaging in research regarding children’s disorders and diseases.
The families who stay at the House have spent long, stressful, tiring hours at the hospital caring for their sick children and are usually too exhausted to fix a nutritious meal for their families. Additionally, they are facing huge medical bills and other costs associated with being away from home, so they often do not have excess funds to spend on healthy foods. Our student organization, along with the help of WVU’s Accounting Club, prepared a meal consisting of two varieties of home made soup, cheddar biscuits, grilled cheese/ grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, and brownies. We worked together to chop up the vegetables and other ingredients needed to prepare this hearty and healthy meal for the residents, and everyone had a great time participating!

-Michelle Corder, President

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A semester full of plans

It has been a while since we have had the opportunity to discuss E4pWVU, but this year’s plans are finally coming together! Last year we had fun with multiple projects, including Trunk or Treat, cooking for the Ronald McDonald house, and selling t-shirts to support Jess with her half marathon. I am hoping that this year will be even busier, and E4pWVU will be involved with more organizations and fundraisers. We will also be discussing tentative plans for another trip to Africa in May!

Last year was our first encounter with the global not-for-profit institution called Soles4Souls. We participated in the #barefoot4them day last semester in order to raise not only awareness but also money to donate shoes to children in need around the world. I am happy to say that we will be able to work with Soles4Souls again this year. The #barefoot4them day will be held at WVU on October 10th, when members of E4p will raise awareness outside the lair for the organization and the people it affects.

Moreover, we will be working with the Ronald McDonald house again. The Ronald McDonald house is a place for families to stay when a loved one is in the hospital. We can help these families by providing dinner a few different nights throughout the year. Any help we can provide makes a difference.

Along with our old associations, we will also be working with Stepping Stones, a local nonprofit organization in Morgantown, WV. Stepping Stones works with disabled children to help them reach their maximum abilities through recreational activities. We have already spoken to their coordinator to participate in a program called Tiny Tykes Gymnastics Program, where members from E4p will have one-on one-time with a child helping them play and keep them safe. This is a four-week program from October 3rd- October 24th that takes place once a week. We are looking forward to working with this organization throughout the year.

There is much more that will take place throughout the year. We plan on partaking in the Trunk or Treat event for Halloween where we pass out candy in the coliseum to create a safe place for the children. During the winter months we will be holding a cold weather drive as well. This consists of donating gloves, blankets, hot chocolate, etc. to aid the homeless throughout winter. Additionally, we will be sponsoring several fundraisers to raise money for a variety of people in need, either from Africa or the Morgantown area. One fundraising idea is to complete a sponsored, hypothetical “run to Africa” where everyone contributes the miles from their individual runs to complete as many miles as it would be from here to Africa (approximately 8,000 to Malawi!). E4pWVU gives students a chance to make a difference. We are a close-knit group who has similar goals, and we have fun trying to reach them! New members along with any suggestions about fundraisers or events are welcome, and we cannot wait to get this year started!

-Sami Richardson, Vice President

Trunk-or-Treat

All of us who attend West Virginia University think of our home in Morgantown as a “college town,” but we often forget that there are many families who also inhabit this area.   As Halloween rolled around, the students of WVU became excited to brainstorm an original idea, dress up, and be around their fellow classmates.  This is the Halloween mentality of young adults in their twenties, and it often seems that we forget what Halloween was like for us just ten short years ago. 

With every other house in Morgantown being rented out by college students, there are few neighborhoods that could have trick-or-treating in the traditional way. I personally remember the joy of running around my neighborhood with a pillow case and knocking on doors for candy, being excited about a family giving your favorite flavor, and trading candies with my brother and neighbors at the end of the night.  Because of the differences in the ways of living of the Morgantown population, the city of Morgantown had to create a way for children to still experience Halloween in a friendly, safe, and desirable environment. The idea that was created became known as Trunk-or-Treat.

Trunk-or-Treat is an amazing way for the children of Morgantown to walk around and receive candy like any other child in any other town.  It is sponsored by the Institute of Industrial Engineers and just completed its sixth successful year. The city created this event to set up a danger-free zone for the trick-or-treaters, and also to give them a place to enjoy themselves.  The event takes place every Halloween from five thirty to seven o’clock at WVU’s coliseum.  It received its name due to people handing out candy from the trunks of their cars, and it has become quite a success in recent years.  Student organizations from WVU and others who wish to participate buy their own candy and set up in their vehicle or at a table inside the coliseum.  There are over one thousand kids who participate each year!

E4p had the pleasure of participating for the first time in Trunk-or-Treat this year on Friday November 1st, 2013.  We were stationed inside the coliseum, where there were already chairs and a table ready for us.   The children first go through the parking lot outside, so it took about twenty minutes to a half hour for them to reach us.  At one point, a mother told us the line was wrapped around the parking lot three times!  We distributed over one thousand pieces of candy! All the children were nothing but smiles, and we talked to kids of all ages.  Everyone was obviously excited to be there, and it was evident that the children of Morgantown look forward to Trunk-or-Treat as much as I remember looking forward to Trick-or-Treat.

-Sami Richardson

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Food Day at the Ronald McDonald House

Did you know national Food Day was celebrated on October 24, 2013? Food Day is a nationwide celebration of affordable, sustainably produced, nutritious food. Food Day also aims to advocate a grassroots campaign for better food policies. While October 24th is the culmination, Food Day is a movement lasting year round that intends to celebrate food systems when they are working properly and fix them when and where problems exist. Because one of the main goals of the Food Day movement is to promote food that is produced with care for the environment, which aligns with our “environmental sustainability E,” E4pWVU wanted to participate.

The first step in promoting change is always to create awareness through educating yourself and others. So, E4pWVU member Jess Rubino, a nutrition student, gave a presentation about the prevalence of food insecurity and how to contribute to the problem in the local community.  We learned that “food security”, as defined by the USDA, means having consistent access to an adequate amount of nutritious food for a healthy life. Many would be surprised to learn that nearly 50 million Americans, or one in every six, are food insecure. This number had remained stable at about 35 million people before 2008, when it leaped all the way to almost 50 million. 16 million of those food insecure Americans are children, which is nearly 1 in 5 children in the country. These families lack consistent access to healthy foods, mainly because healthy foods tend to be more expensive than other high calorie/low nutrient foods. Research shows that food insecure families often also face high stress levels related to secure housing, finances, health care, employment, and unsafe neighborhoods. The combination of stress, diets of cheap yet unhealthy foods, and lack of consistent access results in various nutrient deficiencies and obesity. In children, this can lead to health and developmental issues, behavioral problems, and even poor academic performance. Jess pointed out that raising awareness and becoming involved is the best way to help. Expanded school meal programs, summer food service programs, SNAP, WIC, retail store collaborations, food banks, and food pantries are some of the many community efforts to reduce food insecurity. Personally supporting and expanding participation in these programs can improve the long-term health and overall well-being of many children and adults. Donating to or volunteering at local Food Banks also will fight hunger and food insecurity.

Another factor in promoting change is to become involved. In honor of Food Day, E4pWVU volunteered at the local Ronald McDonald House to prepare a homemade meal for the residents. The mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Morgantown is to “provide a home-away-from-home” for the families of children hospitalized at local medical facilities. They also seek to “help lift kids to a better tomorrow” through contributing to various organizations that either seek to educate and provide for children or that are involved in research related to children’s disorders and diseases.  The families that stay at the House come there after spending long, strenuous hours at the hospital caring for their critically ill children. They come to the House usually exhausted and not inclined to fix a nutritious meal for their family. Also, as they are facing medical bills and other expenses associated with being away from home, they don’t tend to have an excess of funds to buy healthy foods. Our student organization prepared a meal consisting of chicken and broccoli casserole, vegetable lasagna, coleslaw, and “dirt” dessert as a treat in honor of Halloween. While there, we saw many children with their faces painted for Halloween, and also witnessed their exhausted and stressed parents who were very grateful for a hearty meal.

While food security is something that can easily be taken for granted by someone who is accustomed to having consistent access, it is important to recognize the prevalence of citizens in our own communities who lack that access. Spreading awareness about the problem through presentations, volunteering at a local Food Bank or similar charity, and promoting participation in various food programs are just a few of the many ways to promote a food system resulting in healthy, affordable, and environmentally friendly foods. Image