HELPING COPE THROUGH HOPE
Tom and Cheryl Martin pose with one of the children from the local village while working in Zambia. The little girl was named after Cheryl.
It has been less than two weeks since Tom and Cheryl Martin returned from outreach work in Africa, but the couple already has plans to return this fall.
It's a trip they know very well since 2005 when they founded Helping Cope Through Hope, a non-profit Christian outreach organization.
“Last year when giving was down in a lot of charities ours were way up,” Tom told the Beaver. ‘The things that we were able to accomplish in Africa this year are just incredible. We were able to take more than we have ever taken before.”
Estimating that donations were up about 20 per cent, Cheryl said she believes those who gave did so based on the organization’s accountability.
“We are blown away by the generosity of people. They want to know where their money goes, what their money is used for and want to know specifics," she said, adding that they make an effort to bring back photos of those they help. “I think that’s part of the reason why people have been giving to us. They know all the money they've given is going where we say it will go.”
Looking back to the holidays, Cheryl said she was approached by people wanting to donate in the form of gift certificates.
That money was for pre- determined items like goats, pigs, chickens and mosquito nets.
In 2010, that led to the distribution of 58 mosquito nets, 52 pigs and goats and countless chickens.
“Going to Africa in January 2009 I met a couple on the plane that I was sitting beside. He is :1 Sri Lankan Canadian, she is from Hungary and they are working in Romania,” Tom said, look- ing back on past trips. “Then about three weeks later we got an e-mail from our treasurer here in Napanee, who said he just received a cheque from a couple that met me on the plane.”
That donation was made to sponsor two children for two years, and since then, the Martins have welcomed the couple in Napanee.
“They came to Napanee for lunch and stayed about four hours. After it was over he said to me, ‘What are some of the needs that you have?” Tom added, pointing out that the need at the time were sponsors for children in Uganda who could not afford post-secondary education. “They have no money, can't go on and we can't ask sponsors to pay since it's too expensive.”
A week later, before returning to Romania, the couple made a donation to cover thme years of tuition for one young man. “Here is somebody that we just met on the plane... and here I was talking with him this morning because Isaac ?n- ished his first term at university,” Tom said. “He ended up sixth out of 100 some students, and he had no hope of ever going to university."
Whether it's large donations like this one or smaller ones provided by tourists while travelling, the Martins appreciate every one who makes them.
To date, HCTH sponsors about 80 children in Africa and 15 in Peru, in addition to providing tuition fees for 50-60 more. “At one organization in Zambia we paid for 22 children to go to school. That was for them, not even our own organization,” ’Tom added. “It's because of people giving to us.”
One of the highlights from this year’s trip included sending four students to university, one to nursing school, two to teachers col- legs, and two for a hair dressing course.
Tom said one of those students will graduate from university this year, thanks to sponsorship from a St. Thomas, Ont. family.
“We've got people helping us from all over Ontario really,” he said.
Another major project in both Zambia and Uganda has been the acquisition of land. “Last year in Zambia we paid for half of the land we bought, so this year we went. back and paid for the rest of that land,” he explained, pointing to the seven hectares they now fully own and donate to 15 families for farming. “We felt the only way to really empower them and help them, would be for them to have land to grow things on."
Plans to drill a well on the land came to fruition one year ahead of schedule, thanks to donations, Tom said. “What's happened there, and even when we look at it, it's incredible," he said.
For Cheryl, the land symbolizes her hope of empowerment for the people as well.
She hopes they will be able to live off the land and save enough money to send their own kids to school.
“With the excess of food they grow, they can trade it for other things they need," she said.
Tom said the concept for this project is one he views as Biblical.
“We said, "You are really blessed to be one of the 15 on this land. The only thing that we ask is that you return 10 per cent of what you produce. That 10 per oent will be kept in the stor- age building and then distributed to the very poor families in the village, that aren’t part of this land,”’ he told the Beaver. “Really what this land is doing is not only helping those 15 families, but the 10 per cent each of them produces is 150 per cent of what one family would produce. That would probably be enough food for another 15 families.”
Four families farm recently acquired land in Uganda, but the Martin's see that number growing next year. “Hopefully next year we can get seven more families,” Tom said.
A bluegrass music concert featuring The Abrams Burtch Connection will benefit development on these lands, and will be held in Roblin on May 29 at 7 pm.
“In getting the land we have gone way past what we thought we would in one year,” Tom added. “They (families) are really excited about it and we are excited too.”
For more information on HCTH, contact the Martin’s at 613-354-0299, or visit their website at www.helpingcopethroughhope.org.