Archive for May, 2011

The Long Run

Our day started with a 4am wakeup call this morning so that we could accompany the Team World Vision runners to the start line of the Comrades.  Despite the fact that the sun was not due to rise for another two hours the city streets were packed full of thousands of Africans and a few hundred foreigners getting ready to run the 56 miles.

After the gun sounded and we watched 18,000 people run past us a few of us Breakthrough runners hurried over to the beach to see if we could catch the sun rising over the Indian Ocean.  We made it in time and decided to go for a swim in the warm ocean to maximize our opportunity.  It was awesome!

We spent the rest of the day leapfrogging our Team World Vision colleagues and cheering thousands of athletes.  At the festival and stadium where the race ended was where we got to see runner after runner run, walk, crawl and stumble across the finish line!  All 7 of the TWV runners finished and the kids were pumped and going nuts for them the whole day!

Made props to the TWV crew! %100 of team finishing two years in a row!

Due to some fancy networking of World Vision South Africa’s Sonia Cronje, we actually got to be interviewed on South African national television which was also streaming live in the stadiums jumbo trons!  It was awesome publicity to over 4 million people in SA!  Thanks Sonia!!

Because of our long day and our runners extreme fatigue we as group decided to try out this little local joint for dinner here in Durban, South Africa.  I believe it was called McDonalds?  You may have heard of itJ.  It tasted a little different to our kids but it was comforting none the less! Check out the day’s pics below…

 

City and Township Tour, Safari

Forgive my lack of writing tact but we dont have a lot of time on the internet!

Today we

–Woke up and had a good African Breakfast

–Drove an hour outside of Durban to the Safari with Mr. Tommy our tour guide

–Ate a picnic lunch at the park

–Loaded up all ten of us in one jeep for a 2 hour Safari

–Saw a ton of different animals and everyone came back in one piece!

–Got taught some basic Zulu (language) by our driver.

–Got a tour of the Durban “Townships”.  These are the very poor pockets of people living in “shanty towns” just outside the city.  Our Driver Mr. Tommy grew up in the Township and explained to us how they were formed and how the poverty was intentional developed during the last century of segregation.  We dont have a lot of pictures of this because we were already ticking out and we wanted to be very respectful.  This shook our group pretty good and we had a great debriefing time tonight and digested the cause of how we were feeling and how it relates to our lives.

–Met up with the rest of the World Vision Comrades team and the World Vision South Africa staff at a pre-race dinner! Pretty special as our kids were introduced and bragged upon!

–Had a great debriefing time and we are ready to experience and support the runners at the Comrades tomorrow!

The details above and pictures below are just a sampling of all the awesome things! So much to share when we get back….but for now pictures will have to do!

Flying, Flying and more Flying

We made it!

From door to door our trip took 30 hours, but we are finally here!  5 of our runners have never flown before so it was a brutal awakening flying out of a windy and rainy Chicago Ohare Airport yesterday morning! Despite the bumps and scares though, we were all flying pros by the time we were done with our 4 legs!  We went…

Chicago to Washington D.C

Washington D. C to Dakar, Senegal

Dakar to Johannesburg

Johannesburg to Durban

Along our journey today we figured out (the hard/funny way) that the bathrooms on the airplanes have locks, security ladies like to hit on Antonio, pens automatically explode in my pockets, Ashley A. does not appreciate the ticket counter person joking that she has to go to Cape Town instead of Durban with the group, and finally… silly putty does not come out of clothes!

We have already conquered serious fears, learned a lot about South African culture, and had a lot of laughs…and that was just on the trip here!

Check out the pics, Safari tomorrow!

Here we go…

 

This past week was crazy busy for our runners but we made it through and despite some late night packing we should be ready to go tomorrow morning.

One of those busy nights was at Breakthrough’s 10th Anniversary Awards Night last Friday, May 20th.  Breakthrough has been around for nearly 20 years but for the last 10 years, the Nettie Bailey Student Achievement Program has been servicing the youth and families of East Garfield Park. This event was celebrating that 10 years and the specific achievements of the youth in our programs from this 2010-2011 school year!

Attached are some pictures from the event where our runners proudly displayed their hard work and goals for the Africa Running Program.  They were even able to get 2 more World Vision Child Sponsors that night!

Anyways, tomorrow morning we leave for South Africa!  Back in January these 6 kids did not necessarily know what they were saying “yes” to but they committed to it none the less.  They have put in many hours in the classroom and many miles on the track, but if you ask them what they are most excited about they will say meeting their sponsored kid!  The program and experience became real to them when they discovered their “kid’s” situations and they became motivated to not only learn about their life but to help in any way they could!  All of a sudden a trip became a journey!

I have attached the general itinerary of our trip and I ask that you pray for us, follow our updates on the blog, and leave the students encouraging notes!

Thursday May 26th —– Depart Chicago for South Africa 7am.

Friday May 27th ——–Arrive in Durban 8pm  (nearly 29 hours of travel 🙂

Saturday May 28th—–Safari game drive to Tala.

Sunday May 29th ——Observe and Support other World Vision runners at the Comrades race.

Monday May 30th——Fly to Area and drive to World Vision Area Development Program

Tuesday May 31st ——Meet and get to know kids in village (race)

Wednesday June 1st —Say good-bye and fly out to Cape Town

Thursday June 2nd —-Tour of Robben Island (Where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison)

Friday June 3rd ——–Exlpore Cape Town, relax and debrief

Saturday June 4th——Depart Cape Town

Sunday June 5th ——–Arrive at Chicago Ohare (4pm)

Monday June 6th ——-Back to School!!

The Presentation Party!

When you meet or learn about a person or people group that is significantly less fortunate than you are you have two options .  1) You can distance yourself in a futile attempt to avoid their pain and preserve your comfort, or 2) You can join their struggle and figure out ways to turn your compassion into responsibility.

This past Friday our 6 student Africa runners chose the latter….

After Michael Chitwood came and spoke to our kids about global poverty and the work of World Vision two weeks ago our group immediately started thinking of creative ways in which they could help their peers in South Africa.  They were each charged with finding child sponsorships (through WV) for 3 of the kids who live in area that we will be visiting on our trip.

Our students from the West side of Chicago came up with the idea of having a “presentation party” where they would tell people about the program, the trip, and child sponsorships!  After putting a presentation together and rehearsing their specific parts and speeches the night of the party finally came last Friday, May 13th.

We got to our hosts’ house (thanks Hovey Fam!) early to rehearse the presentation one last time and as the first people started showing up I started to get a little nervous.  As an adult it is hard to make presentations in-front of people you don’t know and present them with a big “ask”, let alone as a teenager in a new and uncomfortable environment.  But yet again our Breakthrough kids proved my worrying ways wrong!

After our runners floored their new audience with a flawless and tear jerking 2o minute presentation we opened it up for some Q&A.  Our kids proceeded to answer amazing questions about both their own situation in Chicago and those of the kids they were going to meet on the trip!  It was obvious through their answers that they had a genuine concern for their South African friends, and they made it known that they understood their responsibilities toward these kids who had so much less then they did.  We then had our students individually spread throughout the room and invited the adults to continue the questioning on a 1 on 1 level.

Saying that I was “blown away” is an understatement.  At the end of the night everyone of our kids got a World Vision child sponsored, and some even got two which brought our group total for the night to 10 Child Sponsorships raised!  However, it was not the total number of sponsorships that brought me to tears, but it was watching our kids from one of Chicago’s most under-served neighborhoods speak and act boldly and passionately on behalf of children who have even less fortune than they do.

Beautiful.

—————-

*I added a few more pictures to the gallery from this awesome night.

**Our kids are still trying to reach their goal of 18 total kids sponsored so if you are interested in hearing more contact rfunk@breakthrough.org.

A True “School Rally”!

(Ashley at Beidler’s “Africa Day”)

As a 13 year old 8th grader at Beidler Elementary School, Ashley Allison is the youngest participant in the Africa Running Program, but as her principal Dr. Shirley Ewing puts it, “Ashley is one of a kind!”

Breakthrough has been blessed to have developed a great working relationship with Jacob Beidler Elementary School throughout the years. When Dr. Ewing heard that one of her top students was chosen for this trip, she and her school immediately sprung into action. As I told Dr. Ewing that we were having a difficult time securing all of Ashley’s trip costs I had no idea that the following day would officially become “Africa Day” at Beidler and that the whole school would rally to raise support for Ashley! The stories of teachers and students raising money and committing to continually raising it till Ashley’s departure floored me when I heard about them the next day.

I knew right then and there that Ashley was meant to go on this trip and I just had to sit down with both Ashley and Dr. Ewing to hear more…

Dr. Ewing, tell me  about Ashley and what makes her “one of a kind?”

– “Ashley is obviously one of our top students academically, but it’s her natural leadership qualities and that make her such a great role model. She is consistently involved in every type of extra curricular activity from athletics to dramas. ”

Awesome, so why did you so quickly decide to have the school help raise support for her?

– “Well that was easy,  Ashley and the whole Allison Family are consistently faithful and giving of themselves, so we had to jump at the chance to give back. Ashley has a pure and obvious desire for others and a natural servant’s attitude that has her always ready to help people. The least we could do was to make sure that she knew we as a school were proud of her and that we would do whatever we could to ensure her trip was possible!”

Ashley, how does this make you feel?

– “I feel so special because, really, how many schools and principals would do something like this for a program that is not a part of their own school? Thanks Dr. Ewing!”

*As an aside (not spoken in interview): EXACTLY!  Beidler is more than a public school, it is a Community school that cares about its kids and community outside of the classroom as well! Refreshing.

What are you looking forward to the most about the trip?

-“I am looking forward to meeting my sponsored kid (through World Vision) and hanging out with her. Her name is Bukhosi, and I cant wait to learn about her life and compare it to mine in Chicago.”

Yeah that will be amazing!  Is there anything else you want to say to the people out there following  you and this trip?

– “Yeah, THANK YOU! I am also feeling like this is such a great opportunity because many people my age do not go anywhere outside of their neighborhood. Africa is where my ancestors originated from and it will allow me to see how many people my age suffer and go through many challenges.”

– Ahsley

If you would like to join Dr. Ewing and Beidler Elementary School in making sure Ashley’s trip costs are covered please contact rfunk@breakthrough.org as we have a little ways to go.

An interview with Cheyenne!

Cheyenne lives with her two sisters, niece, and nephew in our East Garfield Park neighborhood here in Chicago. She has been a participant in Breakthrough’s youth programs since she was in the 6th grade.  Cheyenne is a young lady who is hard-working and persistent, even in the face of different obstacles.   She is a developing leader who many other girls in the Breakthrough program and neighborhood look up to.  This combined with her genuine spirit and big heart makes her a perfect participant for this program!

I sat down with Cheyenne yesterday and asked her some basic questions so you all can get to know her a little better….(transcripts below)

So Cheyenne, why did you originally want to join the Africa Running Program?

–“I wanted to join this program because I have always wanted to go on a trip like this and I love running so I thought it would be a good opportunity.  It sounded too scary at first especially because it is the first trip but then I thought, I could do this!”

Well, why do you like running so much?

–“Well i don’t really like running while I am running (smiling 🙂 )… The training is very hard and I sometimes get bored of going around the track again and again.  But I love how I feel when I am done and how it feels to run in a race with a bunch of people cheering you on!”

I totally agree! What have you learned so far that has been interesting?

–“I liked learning about South African history and Nelson Mandela, but I really liked learning about the child sponsorships and what life is like for kids over there.  Well, actually my favorite class was the race!” (Ravenswood 5k)

Is there any part of the upcoming trip that scares you?

–“YEAH, THE PLANE RIDE!!  I have never flown on a plane before and I hate going over water even when we roll over bridges!  Can’t I take some medicine to sleep the whole time or something???”

🙂 What are you looking forward to most about the trip?

–“A lot of things…but probably the most is getting to meet my sponsored child and getting to play and have fun with her!”

Awesome!  Is there anything else you would like to say to everyone out there following us?

–“Yeah, I feel so special for this, so thank you for supporting me and making this trip possible!”

— Cheyenne