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Two Sponsors Get Innovative in Giving Back

One year ago, Tammy and Tim Mathieu saw a post on Facebook about realtors donating their commission to Zozu Project, and it got them thinking. While they’re not realtors, they are stock traders, and here’s what they did in response.

For 15 years, BTIG, an institutional brokerage firm, headquartered out of NY has hosted a yearly “Charity Day.” It’s a really big deal in the trading world. Hundreds of the largest institutions, pension funds, and corporations together direct their earned commissions to charities of their choice for that day. They also host big name celebrities in the trading room like Alex Rodriguez and Shaquille O’Neal. It’s a big event, and more high-profile than anything we had been involved in as an organization before! Last year, this day raised over $4 million dollars to for charities chosen by clients and celebrity guest traders.

Celebrities, stock trading, and fundraising for our Ugandan school children? We’re just as amazed at this coming together.

So what does this have to do with us? The Mathieus were already sponsors of Gilbert, one of the students of Solid Rock. But after seeing that post about a realtor donating their commission, they thought that they could do much more by reaching out to their workplace. Tim is the Director of Trading of a large institution on Wall Street, and this gave the couple the idea to ask BTIG to approve Zozu Project as a charity for the big “Charity Day.” So they did. Zozu Project was accepted and got to be a part of the big day along with charities like The Boys and Girls Club of America and The UN Refugee Agency! Here we are, a small group of people helping the poorest children in a small African town, and through Tammy and Tim God brought us onto the floor of the stock exchange to raise funds. Sounds like an underdog story to us!

In Tim’s words– “It truly was an honor to get Zozu on the map with some of the largest philanthropic foundations and endeavors in the country and was a joy to know for a fact that the dollars raised for Zozu are going to such a worthy cause!  Mick and Elaine and their children have founded an entity that we are all so proud to be a part of.  We love our Ugandan child, Gilbert, who we sponsor (he just used his birthday money to buy his first bed), especially since we cannot have children of our own.” Tammy added  “Our prayer for Zozu, is that this inspires someone else to look into their own lives and see if there is a way to give back, that might not just be the usual ‘write the check,’ ‘go to the chicken dinner banquet.’ Think outside the box – be creative!!”

Because Tim and Tammy got creative in how they contributed, the money that was raised is going to give the children in Arua the best education possible so they can one day give back themselves. To us, the most incredible thing about this is how God uses very ordinary people to make big things happen. Tim and Tammy just started where they were and thought “what could we do with what God has given us?” You don’t have to be a celebrity to be a mover and shaker in God’s kingdom, you don’t have to be a millionaire, you just have to be willing, and he will multiply. Many, many thanks from Arua!

 

In case you’re curious…

More info on the event →  http://www.btigcharityday.com/

And a video here →

http://www.nbcnewyork.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Sports-Stars_-Celebrities-Turn-Out-for-Charity-Day-in-NYC_New-York-421066113.html

 

 


Gifts to Goats

Written by Richard Aguta, Family Liaison and Social Worker at Solid Rock Christian Academy

Zozu project has contributed much towards children’s holistic development in conjunction with Solid Rock Christian school; they have trained children with livelihood skills (entrepreneurship skills) where most sponsored children, after receiving gifts, prefer to buy goats with an intention of having many goats. In Arua, goats are highly demanded animals used for dowry and sold to educate students at school. Since goats are on demand, they expect to acquire personal needs.

Patricia and Fostin [pictured] are sisters from one family and Rosemary is from another family! They received gifts in form of money from their sponsors and chose to buy female goats that have already given birth to a young ones (kids). They said, their plan is to have many goats that shall be sold to meet their basic needs like smearing oil, clothes, food and sugar. They have enough space for grazing the goats and their brother is the one responsible for grazing them every day. They rear indigenous goats that often feed on local pasture since Arua is located in savannah grassland with green pasture best for grazing animals.

 

Many goats mean more money and basic needs can be met hence enhancing self-reliance.  Many children in Africa are suffering from dependency syndrome, Patricia, Fostin and Rosemary expect to be independent in few years to come, when their goats have increased in number.

Points of interest

• Proper use of gifts sent by sponsors

• Promoting independence through acquiring their own basic needs

• Appreciation from Patricia and Fostin

 

Zozu Project extends her sincere appreciation to the sponsors who offer support towards children of Arua community. Patricia and Fostin’s family cordially extends their appreciation to their sponsors for standing with their family in enhancing the social welfare of their children by providing support.

 

A note from us on the state-side: We are so proud of both the sponsors who supported these girls and the decision they made to buy a goat. This is what we see happen when it’s up to the families to decide what to do with a gift. They think innovative, they think long-term, and they think entrepreneurially. Moreover, Richard, a native Ugandan gets the dignity of celebrating with them as they work to be independent and enhance self-reliance. Praises to God for bringing us all together, sponsors, students, Richard, and you. If you sponsor a student, thank you so much. Should you wish to, you can send a gift to your child and their family here. If you don’t yet, consider sponsoring today! 


We Asked, and God Provided

“I thank the Almighty God for the opportunity He has given me to serve with Zozu project.” – Richard

The best minds in Western education know that for school to change lives, it has incorporate more than just the classroom. For education to have an impact in challenging environments like Arua, Uganda it needs to be wholistic. The challenges are great. When you have kids who come to class with malaria and can’t pay attention, how do you find out why that’s happening? When you want to know if they have light to do homework by after the sun goes down, how do you check? When you want to ask mom or dad how their child likes school, how do you find the time if you have to walk a few miles to visit their house? For the last four years, these responsibilities have been shared by Pastor JP and the principal and teachers at Solid Rock. They have been putting in countless volunteer hours on the weekends, weeknights, and even week mornings to give necessary attention to each of the students. Staying on top of so many tasks for 270 students in addition to official responsibilities as a pastor or principal can feel like herding ducks- focus on one task, and ten get away from you.

It was too much. So we prayed. And then God sent Richard.

Richard is our new hand on deck, the liaison between the school and the families it serves. He speaks both local tribal languages. He has a degree in Social Work and Social Administration and a Diploma in Child Development. Most of all, Richard is a passionate follower of Christ. Here’s Richard’s story in his own words:

“I am the last born out of 4 children. My beloved brother Angelo and sisters, Jesca and Philsta and all of them are married. My mother is Domitilah and father Severino married for 54 years and both living.

I am 27 years old and hoping to marry in 2018 a lady called Doreen.  She is a Christian and a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. She is passionate to serve with children since she was trained in child development and holds a bachelor degree. I am a Christian and passionate to serve humanity because it’s my profession.  I hold a bachelor’s degree of Social Works and Social Administration, Diploma in Child Development and short courses in disability and special education, computer basics, and leadership training of John Maxwell. 

… My parents paid my school fees from grade one up to senior six and they were unable to pay for the University because they didn’t have money for it. I prayed to God to give me any kind of a job to do so long as I can get money to educate myself in the University. I thank God who connected me with pastor Jeff Artherstone the former Vice Chancellor of Africa Renewal University who a gave me an opportunity to work in the University farm and I was paid monthly salary and then decided to enroll for a course in the University … During my internships, I worked with Africa Renewal Ministries particularly child development project and with Uganda Police Force particularly with the Department of Child and Family protection unit as a counselor.

I thank the Almighty God for the opportunity He has given me to serve with Zozu project.

Because of your support, Richard has this job and this opportunity. Because of your support, we can give individual attention to the home life of each of our students through him. Because of your support, together we are working to see Arua thrive! Thank you so much for supporting us at Zozu, Solid Rock School, and the community of Arua. May God’s children thrive there!


Zozu project: The Perspective of an urban, Christian, and potentially over-educated Millennial

When I was in high school I vividly remember the first time a non-profit organization came to speak. They were working to end child soldier kidnapping in Africa. They showed a heart-wrenching video, and then asked if we would support the cause. I remember sitting in my dusty green auditorium seat thinking with excitement “There’s a real problem. And they want me to help!” It was a privilege and a delight to jump in to raising awareness and raising money. Being involved felt natural, biblical, and, moreover, important. It was the first time I felt useful in the world. This was before I grew up. I was 15, and didn’t think about such things as overhead costs, impact models, and white savior-ism. I just assumed that if you were doing something while in your heart you sincerely cared about the suffering of the world and were trying to make a difference, you were doing God’s work. Things were simpler back then.

Fast forward four years and add experience, the internet, and a college education into the mix. Like any good young Christian* (please read: sarcasm. God accepts us as we are, “bad Christians” and all) I stayed up to date with the latest causes. The blend of for-profit model with non-profit work was becoming more mainstream. Guest speakers came to my church and my college to share how they had made an impact for good, and they were very inspiring. However, along with my growing knowledge came, let us say, the darker side of “doing good.” I started reading about the concepts of “empowerment” versus “dependency,” critiques of the system of aid, and articles questioning the idea that we were preaching a gospel of American wealth, not the gospel of Jesus. Like any young idealist, I began to see flaws all around me in the ways that we Americans, and even we Christians, went about following Jesus command to love and care for the poor. My mind was wrapped up in big-picture theories. If we teach English in the third world, what kind of cultural implications will that have for the traditional way of life? If we step in to help out small businesses, is that really more or less effective than church planting? Maybe we should just forget about international stuff and simply focus on God’s command to love our neighbor and take care of things like homelessness in American cities. Why bother “imposing” anything on people so far away and so different when we just seem to do it wrong? It seemed like every time I looked at a cause or an organization, I found some skepticism to rest on that kept me from action or support. It was a frustrating rut that I recognized in myself, but couldn’t seem to shake.

My thoughts thus, I went to Uganda with Mick and Elaine, founders of Zozu Project. I brought all of these questions and skepticisms with me–my own little mental baggage. I guess sometimes it takes traveling really far with your baggage to learn to set it down.

What I saw in at Solid Rock Christian Academy, and at Arua Community Church was exactly what I needed to see. If you can believe it, my over-educated brain’s frameworks and models were either rendered useless or satisfied. It was like I was simply a witness to it all. I was a lucky witness who got to sit in as Mick and Pastor JP talked about how to strategically use a recently purchased bit of land. I witnessed the principal tell me the story of how God called her to shepherd these kids when she was dead set on another path for her life. I listened to the nurse, Rose, discuss the stock of medications with Elaine in the school clinic, which was Rose’s idea. I met the school accountant, Susan, who is probably more adept at bookkeeping than half the college graduates in America. I witnessed the kids there talk about how much they wanted to continue their education at the best schools possible. I witnessed families put on their best clothes when we came to visit them, and felt the love and respect pour both from Mick and Elaine and from the moms and dads we saw. Each felt honored to be in the presence of the other.

More than anything, I saw that Mick and Elaine care just as much about the relationships between the child in Africa and their sponsors in America as any money that gets sent and how it’s used. They don’t care to set the teacher’s salaries or manage the exams used to test the learning. That’s not their job. They care that the kids get their letters from their sponsors, that they enjoy the gifts that they receive, and that they write back. Mick and especially Elaine happily solicit sponsors to contact their kids often, and enthusiastically love it when sponsors and kids get to meet in person for the first time. It was clear to me that the kids feel that love. They would run up to me and ask if I knew X person who was their sponsor and ask if I could film a video of them to send back. My travel buddy, Carra, got to meet the two children that her family sponsors, and they were holding hands and playing all week. When Carra left, all of them cried. It was moving to see. Writing it all down, I realize that God placed me so well to witness so much of His work. Now that I have been a witness, I will happily give testimony to all that God is doing there through Zozu and its leadership. As a former skeptic, I will enthusiastically advocate for this little organization operating in two little towns separated by thousands of miles and united by a single leader–the Lord.

Perhaps I had previously been jaded into thinking “how much help do they really need and how much can we really do?” I don’t know about you, but I see so many photos of African children in poverty (especially around the holidays) that they honestly all tend to blend together in my mind. It’s shameful to admit, but it’s true. There are so many organizations, so many villages, so many things to get involved in that sometimes I just want to check out. But not anymore, not with Zozu. To me, these kids are now just as real and complex as my younger cousins or the girls whose Bible study I led. The Solid Rock students are real people whose fathers are gone, whose moms work 20 hours a day, and who get malaria without a bed to even lay down on to rest. Going to a good school has made so much of a difference in their lives.

The best part though, is that they are learning about Jesus. They could have all the education in the world, and what would it profit them for eternity? Nothing. Maybe that’s the problem we Americans are in. We have it all, and yet without Jesus, we still have nothing. To say such things used to sound to me like a nice toothless platitude. Now to say that Jesus is the water and bread of life rings so true that all of the riches of this world couldn’t make me think otherwise.

So I will passionately advocate for Zozu and the families it supports without fear. Are the leaders humans? Yes. Do they make mistakes? Yes. But for what it’s worth, I think God’s spirit is with them and his hand is guiding them, Americans and Ugandans alike. Before I went, I had been thinking “What difference can we, us Americans, really make in the poverty in the world?” I should haven been asking “God, what difference can you make and how do you want to make it?” I don’t think I should limit God to our failings anymore. He’s got too much work to do to waste time on that. He asks us for faith like a child if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). I think back to my high school days. There’s a real problem. And he really wants us to help.

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