Browsing Category: Field Story

A Mother’s Story: Hope and smiles came to Emma’s family

On an unseasonably cool day in June, Emma entered a local rodeo arena with her sons Anthony and Gabriel, unsure of what she’d find. They weren’t there to see broncos or bull riders; Emma had heard about an event that could help her overcome the struggles she and her family were facing.

Month after month, the bills would come due. Sometimes she and her husband could make it, but other times they found themselves at a local food bank. Their lives had changed dramatically when they had Anthony. Anthony, who has special needs and is in a wheelchair, has to regularly visit a special doctor whose office is two hours away. Every drive costs the family what few resources they have.

“We can’t do anything else,” says Emma. “For instance, I need to build the access ramp for him [Anthony]. But I can’t do it.”

For those like Emma living in vulnerable communities, life can spiral out of control quickly through no fault of their own. The cushion to absorb unexpected costs is thin at best. Because of that, even small wins can become life-changing experiences. 

For the past 25 years, Convoy of Hope and an army of volunteers has been serving across the United States, and now around the world, through Community Events. These events provide critical services that are often unreachable when money is tight. 

“We bring together churches, service providers, and people from all over the community,” says Convoy of Hope’s Jason Bachman, who led the event that Emma and her family attended. “It creates a platform for existing organizations, who sometimes aren’t even aware of each other, to come together and serve. These events create opportunities for the novice and the expert to come together to serve their cities.”

When Emma and her kids entered the grounds, volunteer greeters welcomed them to each tent. Gabriel bumped along in his stroller as Anthony hurried to grab a new pair of shoes at the Children’s Shoes tent. A volunteer helped him get fitted, and he proudly held up his new sneakers after pulling out the crumpled paper stuffed in the toes. These were new shoes. His shoes. 

Anthony impatiently zipped toward the Kids Zone. He drove his wheelchair to the sloped entrance of a bouncy castle where he was met by a volunteer who obviously didn’t know who she was dealing with. Not to be slowed down, Anthony thrust his body forward. He landed on his hands and knees and stormed the castle. His face exuded pure joy as he jumped around that inflatable castle just like the other kids. With his body in midair, Anthony smiled and shouted for his mom. Emma smiled like any parent, thrilled to see her child so happy.

“Poverty is stressful,” says Bachman. “And I think that our Community Events give people a break from that. On that day, people can let go of their problems, even if it’s just for a couple of hours.”

As Emma and her family walked the grounds, the Health Services tent caught her eye. She noticed representatives from Anthony’s children’s hospital, so she stopped to talk with them. Taking as much time as her kids would allow, she began to craft a plan with the hospital.

Weeks after the event, we caught up with Emma to see how she and her family were doing. As she shared her progress over the phone, pots and pans rattled in the background as she prepared lunch for the kids. “Since the event we’ve been doing good,” she says. “Visiting the [children’s] hospital really helped.” The arrangements she made with the hospital at the Community Event had already saved them hours of driving and extra travel expenses. That connection likely wouldn’t have been made without the Community Event and the volunteers who made it happen … together.

 

*This story originally appeared in issue 15 of the Hope Quarterly which can be read here

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Community Outreach / Field Story

Earth-Shaking Hope in Haiti

In early 2010, I was working for Convoy of Hope in Haiti. Things were normal. I was finishing up hosting guests from the U.S. and waiting for a Field Team to arrive two days later. But late that afternoon, as I stood on the balcony of a friend’s home, everything changed. 

My memories of the January 12 earthquake are ones that will always be with me. I’ll never forget the sound of moving earth and crashing buildings. Of mothers wailing in the street. Of the look on peoples’ faces as they tried to process what was happening. 

Although my assignment at Convoy of Hope was not for Disaster Services, I found myself at ground zero for one of the largest natural disasters to hit the Western Hemisphere. I pushed through my mental haze and began working with our partners in Haiti to assess the situation, determine food inventory, and identify a base of operations for in Port-au-Prince. 

Thankfully, within 48 hours of the shaking, I was welcomed by the sight of my Convoy of Hope colleagues crossing the tarmac of the airport. They brought a sense of calm that I hadn’t felt since the ordeal began. I was eager to step out of the way and place the reins of the response in their very capable hands. 

We all witnessed the sadness and desperation that took hold throughout the island in the days and weeks that followed. It got so bad that many families were forced to place the lifeless bodies of their loved in the street to be collected and placed in mass graves. 

But we also saw the amazing power of hope. A strength rose up in the Haitian people, who had already endured so much, and they picked themselves up and moved into their new “normal.” The overwhelming global response to the calamity showed them that they weren’t ignored or forgotten. They would make it.

When the earthquake struck, Convoy of Hope and our partners were already invested and committed to Haiti and were feeding more than 13,000 kids every school day. The overwhelming need after the earthquake propelled us forward and forced us to fast track our plans in the country. In 2019, we are feeding more than 90,000 children in Haiti. 

Tragedies don’t often give people the chance to do anything but survive. That’s why we hope to look beyond the immediacy of a disaster and toward a day when survivors can participate in the rebuilding of their communities. That’s what Haiti has been for us. We were honored to come alongside Haitians and serve when they needed us most. But we’re most proud of when they came back alongside us as participants … as partners on Haiti’s journey. 

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Children's Feeding / Disaster Services / Field Story

Dedicated to Honoring Veterans

An elderly man approached the Veterans Services area at a recent Convoy of Hope Community Event. As he spoke with one of our volunteers, he shared that he had been a part of the Army National Guard for 34 years but had never been enrolled in VA care. The volunteer sat him down, assisted him with filling out the necessary paperwork, and helped him turn it in for processing. This veteran will now receive the assistance he needs for his heath, vision, and hearing.

Convoy of Hope believes the sacrifice of veterans should be honored. That’s why we dedicate an area for veterans and their families at most every Community Event we hold. We pair every veteran or veteran family member with a guide who provides one-on-one assistance and makes sure the guest connects with the services they need. Below is list of organizations that help make our Veterans Services area a success:

American Legion Red Cross Veterans
Community College Training Programs (Grant Recipients) Regional Veterans Service Officers
College VA Services Supportive Services for Veterans’ Families
DAV USO
Elks V.A. Homeless Housing
Existing Stand Downs V.A. Medical Services (including mobile units)
Goodwill Veterans Job & Career Assistance V.A. Re-Invigoration Programs
Hiring Our Heroes Vet Center
HUD VFW
Local Career Centers – V.A. Rep Warriors Journey
Local Veterans Organizations & Charities Best Serving Veterans

We are thankful for the role veterans play in communities all over the United States, and we recognize their service and sacrifice this Veterans Day.

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Community Outreach / Field Story / Volunteering

Treating others as a Guest of Honor

Convoy of Hope began hosting Community Events 25 years ago. Since then, we’ve helped thousands of Guests of Honor — from New York to Hawaii, Washington to Florida, and everywhere in between — in more than 1,200 cities in the United States. 

Guests of Honor are our neighbors, co-workers, the people we see at church each Sunday, the grocery check-out clerk, or the person asking for help on the corner. They are the families who need a hand-up during difficult times, individuals living on the fringes of poverty, and those who are barely making it paycheck to paycheck. They are people we all know and love and want to help. 

They are people like Carly. It had already been a long day for Carly before she attended the Wichita Convoy of Hope Community Event with her family. She’d worked eight hours at one job; after the event, she would be going to her second job. 

Carly and her family have attended the Community Event for four years in a row. She and her kids go to every area: haircuts, shoes, Kids Zone to receiving backpacks, and groceries at the end. The haircuts are particularly of value. The only time Carly’s daughters receive haircuts are when they attend Community Events.

When asked why she keeps returning, she says, “Convoy is one of the most understanding and respectful organizations. They treat you like a person. Like you’re just another person that deserves something. They don’t look down on you. They don’t treat you different. They don’t talk to you like you’re a 5-year old kid. You don’t get that. People in our situations don’t get that.” 

Her entire family feels connected to the event. In fact, her oldest daughter decided to be a volunteer this year. “We’re hoping by next year, we won’t need the services, and then we can all come back and volunteer,” Carly says. “They’ve helped us, so we try to give back if we can.”  

Carly and her family are striving to be like the Camposes — Guests of Honor who went to their first event several years ago when they were having a tough time. The flyer they received highlighted free services that they needed.

“When I came to the Convoy of Hope event, and every five or six meters is one person, smiling and saying, ‘Welcome. You’ve been welcome. God bless you.’ Wow. This is what I needed,” said Roberto Campos. “I believe the people received me and this changed my life.” 

Since then, the entire Campos family has volunteered at their local Community Event for five consecutive years. Coming full circle from receiving to giving back — showing other Guests of Honor in their community the same level of dignity and respect they were shown. 

Since 1994, Convoy of Hope Community Events have served more than 2 million Guests of Honor around the United States — people like Carly and the Camposes — who simply need hope in a time of need. To learn more about Community Events, visit convoyofhope.org/events

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Community Outreach / Field Story / Inspiration / Join the Convoy / Volunteering

Field Teams: Hope for a Sustainable Future

Convoy of Hope Field Teams come alongside communities and engage in work that helps them flourish. Teams from all over the U.S. work with the staff in several countries around the world to tackle projects that support Convoy’s various programs. These opportunities give volunteers the chance to offer hope and help in ways that not only affect the lives of one child or family, but the long-term trajectory of an entire community.

Since we began our Field Teams program in 2013, we’ve engaged more than 4,600 volunteers. These teams help in places like the Ngaramtoni Primary School in Tanzania, where teams serve kids who are in our Children’s Feeding program. 

According to Jackie Brawner, a Field Team volunteer leader who worked in this area of Tanzania, teams began working with the school by offering kids lunch every day and helping clear brush so they could build greenhouses. Jackie’s church, Bonita Valley Community Church, even funded two greenhouses for the school to grow their own food for lunch. The school can now sell any extra food they grow at the market to purchase other foods as well, which diversifies their students’ diets. 

With the help of Field Teams, we hope that one day this community will be thriving without need of our help. 

“I love that Convoy of Hope is focused on sustainability,” Jackie says. “We are able, as a team, to go into the places where Convoy of Hope is working and continue the work. And when we leave, because of the established programs they have there, the projects will be continued.” 

Since Convoy entered Ngaramtoni, we’ve held community meetings, helped identify income generating opportunities, addressed hygiene and sanitation issues, empowered mothers to do business, and taught students gardening techniques. The school is now poised to harvest and sell more than 10 metric tons of tomatoes per year, which will fund the lunch program in the future.

“Working with Convoy of Hope Field Teams is the greatest blessing of my life,” says Jackie. “To be boots on the ground and to see the work and effort that Convoy of Hope is doing to feed people and change lives is a priceless experience. On a Field Team, there will be guaranteed laughter and tears. You cannot come back the same. They are truly trips of a lifetime.” 

Already in 2019, 46 Field Teams have served in 10 different locations, from Moldova to the Mississippi Delta. These incredible volunteers have helped with numerous projects around the world in support of our mission — providing help and hope to people who need it most. 

Visit convoyofhope.org/fieldteams to learn more about Field Teams.

 

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Agriculture / Children's Feeding / Field Story / Join the Convoy / Volunteering