Project Everyday Hope

Posted by Aime KalangwaPerson crouching down next to refugee
Co-Founder

My story helps illustrate my reasons for recently starting my organization, “Everyday Hope,” which aims to assist orphaned refugee children.

I am a refugee from DR Congo in Africa. I have been living in the United States since 20ll. I was an asylum seeker living as a refugee in Uganda for three years until I was resettled to the U.S. and provided with foster parents and an education. I lost my parents when I was l4-years-old to rebels who targeted my father because he was a government soldier and they wanted confidential government documents from him. I watched rebels torture and murder him before they killed my family one by one each day. Because of some government documents, I lost my parents, three sisters and five brothers. I survived with my younger brother. After that, my brother and I left our hometown with only the clothes on our backs and no idea where we were going.

After a few weeks walking in the jungle, we found ourselves in Uganda. Once we were in Uganda, I was sick, hungry, and hopeless for the future. I didn’t know where to start, or where to go for help. I didn’t even know what being a refugee meant. I had no family and no friends. I was in a new country that used a different language. At that time, I could only hope to find safety. At this point, I did not know the UN Refugee Agency existed, nor did I know how to access the protection they provided. There was nobody in Uganda to guide me through the process. I was homeless in the city since I didn’t know anything about the refugee camp. I pushed myself and was able to complete the process myself but it was really hard and there were many challenges. At that time I needed food, shelter, safety, as well as education, hope, affection and counselling services, but I did not receive any of them. I wanted to be treated as other children were being treated but I was not.

Eventually, through the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, HIAS and the Refugee Law Protect, RLP, I was lucky to access UN refugee protection. After 3 years, that protection helped me with third world country resettlement to the US. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops helped me in Florida to get foster parents and to pay for my education.

I still ask myself, what about those who are not as strong as I was to get up and fight for themselves? What happens to those who are sick, hungry, and hopeless, especially those who do not know how to access the process like I had? I was lucky to be resettled, but I do not think life should be based on luck. There are many orphaned refugee children who are dying in the streets in Uganda because they do not have anyone to guard them, show them how to register as a refugee, and access the help they need.

“Everyday Hope” was founded to help orphaned refugee children who arrive in Uganda so they may initiate the process for registration and learn how to access protection. The program also helps to also identify and verify those children who qualify for help. This project aims to help refugee kids who do not have other options to get off the streets where they are vulnerable to prostitution, violence and, in some cases, death. We want to offer them some everyday hope.

To learn more about Everyday Hope, please visit www.everydayhopeproject.org or email
aime1226@gmail.com.

10 promises to you

Posted by adoptive motherMother with Judge and adoptive son

Dear Son,
As I sit at my desk writing this letter, I realize this is the most difficult, scariest, and most exciting thing I have ever done. I am scared because I don’t know how to write a letter, nor can I write a letter, that assures you that everything will be okay. I am not going to pretend that our lives will suddenly become easy when the adoption is finalized. Nor can I tell you that your fears and self-doubts will suddenly go away. I can guarantee that we will continue to have our ups and downs as we discover new things and learn to be a family. I do know that I love watching you grow and adapt to your new world. I am so happy because I know that even during difficult times we will always be a family, because you are my special gift from God! My angel boy! I have chosen to spend my life with you because I love you!!! I cannot imagine my life without you in it. No matter what happens… you get to stay! You are a part of me. You are my son and I love you more than the waves are in the sea. I have not only built a home for you but I have prepared a place in my home, my heart, and my life for you! I am your mommy and here are my promises to you.

My 10 promises to you:
1. I promise to always love you.
2. To have fun with you!!!
3. To admit when I am wrong…and you know there are times that I am wrong.
4. To respect you!
5. To trust you!
6. To give you freedom, space and the time you need to come to terms with your worries!
7. To worry about you and pray for you always.
8. To forgive you!!
9. To help you find your dreams and let you live them!
10. To be here for you…ALWAYS!!!!

What I expect from you:
1. To be a kid!
2. To always try your best….even when it’s hard and you don’t want to!
3. To let me help you…even when it’s hard and you are afraid to trust!
4. To not give up…even when it’s hard and you want to!
5. To always keep your heart open to our family…I need you.

What I am sure of:
I have chosen you and our jouney begins today!

Mommy.

Victory through faith and family

Adam and Shannon Sawyer and family

Healthy Families participants Adam and Shannon Sawyer and family visit Tallahassee to meet with members of the legislature and share how Healthy Families helped their family.

Guest post by The Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Healthy Families Florida is a nationally-accredited family support and coaching program that helps parents provide the safe and stable environments children need for healthy growth and development. The program has proven to be highly successful in preventing child abuse and neglect. Healthy Families participants Shannon and Adam Sawyer share their experience.

When we enrolled in Healthy Families, Adam was incarcerated and fighting drug addiction. I was pregnant and bouncing between family members looking for a place to sleep. We were without jobs, without a home, and without much hope for our future.

Then I met Joan, our Healthy Families Support Worker. With her guidance, I learned positive ways to deal with stress and how to be the best mom I could be, even when times were tough.

When Adam was released from prison, he was connected to a residential rehab program. We knew that most addicts have a low rate of success and that we would face a lot of challenges when he came home for good. Joan helped us set goals for when he got out. It has been hard work, but I’m happy to say he has been sober for 3 years now.

We wanted a place of our own, so Joan taught us how to save money. Within five months we had saved enough to move into our own place with our children. Our family was doing much better but we knew we had a long way to go. Joan helped us get job training and today we both have good jobs.

Healthy Families also helped us become better parents to our children. Having little ones is tough, even when things are going well. Joan showed us how to discipline our children in positive ways, how to play with them and how to help them learn.

She helped us improve our own relationship, too. We learned how to communicate with each other, how to set goals and achieve them together.

We wanted to have a better life, and Healthy Families helped make that possible. They believed in us when no one else did. Now our family is stable and our children are thriving. We are so grateful for Healthy Families.

To learn more about Healthy Families Florida, voluntary program for expectant parents and parents of newborns, visit www.HealthyFamiliesFla.org.

Story Behind the Adoption – Never too late

two girls sitting on sidewalkGuest post by Gigi Kean, Adoptive mother and teacher

“I met Maci at the end of her 8th grade year. She came to the high school where I work, to tour in preparation for her freshman year. Maci was well known by everyone in the special education department because of her story. We knew Maci was an orphan, her parents died when she was young. At the beginning of her high school career, Maci lived with an aunt and by the beginning of her sophomore year that relationship ended, and Maci went into foster care. I knew she was in a group home but I thought her life improved after she went into care and never really saw her as the type of kid who wanted to be adopted. Maci did seem better but she had her low moments and those of us who cared about her were there for her to help her pick up the pieces when she came out of it.

One day in October I had a conversation with her. She told me she had legally changed her plan from adoption to extended foster care. I was shocked because it was the first time I had ever heard that she had wished to be adopted. I actually thought that someone else was in the process of adopting her. Stunned, I asked her why she had changed it and she went into a litany of reasons; none of them being that she no longer wanted to be a part of a family. Essentially, Maci had given up hope. I can’t explain what happened but something inside of me felt like a switch that had been flipped. I had known this girl for more than two years, but it was as if I was seeing her for the first time. I knew at that second, she would become my daughter. I just needed to figure out how to make it happen.

Teenagers are big and some may think they’re scary because they have “big” problems, but the need to have a parent who is lovingly committed to a child is no different at age 7 than at age 17. They’re still just children who need a family who will be there to love and guide them for the rest of their lives.”

If you have room in your heart and are passionate about helping teens become successful consider becoming a foster or adoptive parent today. Your love and support can help change lives. For more information about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, please visit our website at  http://myflfamilies.com/fosteringteens.

Celebrating the Dream

Mike & Foster MomGuest post by Mike Williams, entrepreneur and former foster youth

February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate the history and contributions of African Americans. I have been fortunate to learn great things about my heritage, and how so many African Americans helped paved the way for me.

Two of my favorite African American heroes are Dr. Steve Perry and Les Brown. Dr. Perry is the founder of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut, which has sent 100 percent of its predominantly low-income, minority, first generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006. I had the honor of meeting Dr. Perry at the 2015 National Faith Symposium and he made an impact on my life forever. Secondly, Les Brown is a man who not only found the greatness inside himself, but helped thousands of others as well, including myself. He is a former foster kid like me, and is now one of the most sought-after speakers in the world and I aspire to impact thousands just like him.

Like these great men, perhaps my story can inspire others to never give up on their dreams. I arrived in foster care around the age of 9 because my mother was on drugs for many years and could not take care of me. I never knew my father. The amount of pain I endured as a young child was traumatic. I went from being a little angel, who thought I was a precious gift from God for my mom to love forever, to a very disrespectful and disobedient child who hated adults. So while most kids my age were playing football, video games and going to movies… my world was being turned upside down. I was placed in more than 20 foster homes and attended more than 10 different schools. I remained in the foster care system until aging out at 18.

Changes in my behavior and emotions paved a rocky road for me. I was sad, alone and depressed. I even attempted to take my life and end it all. But I’m still standing.

I believe I’m a great example of why you don’t have to be a product of your circumstances. I’ve graduated from Tallahassee Community College with my AA Degree and am continuing my studies for my Bachelor’s in Business Management. I’ve helped launch and market several successful businesses and I’m a growing motivational/inspirational speaker.

I was a child destined for failure until amazing people came into my life like my foster mom, Pamela Benton, and foster dad, Matt McKibbin. When faced with some of my life’s hardest challenges, these two people were there to uplift and guide me. They embody the true meaning of committed and dedicated parents and I couldn’t be more honored to be a part of their families.

I believe we can all make a difference in the lives of children and families. African Americans should be encouraged to become foster and adoptive parents. To me, that’s how real black history is made.

#InspiringSelfSuccess

#ItCanBeDone