World Concern recently received a check for $1,313 to build a house for a family in Haiti left homeless after the earthquake. Receiving donations of this size is always a joy, but what makes this donation extraordinary is that the kids who sent it come from poverty themselves. The check came from a group of about 40 children, ranging from preschool through fifth grade, who attended East End Fellowship’s Vacation Bible School in an inner city neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia.
East End Fellowship meets in an old theater in Church Hill, a neighborhood where 82 percent of families are single parent households, and 37 percent live below the federal poverty line ($17,600 for a family of four). Half of the population is unemployed, and 50 percent of high school freshmen will not graduate.
Despite the impoverished state of the community, church members and parents decided the children would benefit from a mission project—something to allow them the chance to help others who are less fortunate than them. They decided to donate enough money to World Concern to help build a house in Haiti. Their goal was $1,200.
“We knew the kids couldn’t bring the money in themselves,” said Ashley Hall, a church member and mother of three who participated in Vacation Bible School.
They decided to sell cookies and lemonade—each child having a hand in baking the cookies and manning the lemonade stand. They set up two stands—one on a busy corridor and another near an abandoned building. And the community came out in droves to support them.
Each afternoon, they brought in their collection boxes and tallied up donations. The kids were amazed to learn that by Friday, they had exceeded their goal.
“It was really, truly amazing,” said Ashley. “It was great for the kids to see that they can make a difference. The whole goal was to have them look outside themselves.”
East End Fellowship partnered in this endeavor with another community group called CHAT, which stands for Church Hill Activities and Tutoring, and was started by Angie and Percy Strickland, who moved to the neighborhood in 2002 with a mission to connect with the community’s youth. CHAT and other ministries in the area are influenced by the principles of the Christian Community Development Association, which promotes a development model that encourages people like themselves to become a part of a community to help it heal, rather than lofting in resources and people from the outside.
This model matches that of World Concern, which strives to lift the world’s poorest communities in places like Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia out of poverty with holistic, long term development. World Concern engages community members in their own growth through education programs, vocational and agricultural training, water and sanitation projects, healthcare programs and employment opportunities. In Haiti, for example, the house East End Fellowship’s children paid for will be built by Haitian workers hired through World Concern’s Cash for Work program. The program not only teaches marketable skills, such as construction, but helps boost Haiti’s economy by employing local workers.
To learn more about World Concern’s model for community development, visit www.worldconcern.org/whatwedo.
To learn more about East End Fellowship, visit www.eastendfellowship.org.