Joy Will Not Be Cancelled
The familiar beat of a popular song filled the walls of a home in Tres Reyes, Cancun, Mexico. Roberto, decked out in a tie, graduation robe, and graduation cap, walked proudly down the hallway leading to his family’s dining room, where his sisters, mom, and dad grinned excitedly for him. He smiled proudly as he walked in front of the wall they decorated for him. It was a day to celebrate his accomplishments – he was a graduate.
Usually, graduation celebrations and ceremonies are held at the Community Centers with visiting mission teams and a big party, but 2020 brought many changes with it – requiring a creativity. “We had 24 children in the Strong Families Program graduating from some level of school this year,” explained Amy Kelly, Back2Back staff. “This was a big deal to everyone, including the staff, and we wanted to make sure they didn’t go without recognition.” Graduation in a bag was born from this desire to not cancel joy, in spite of so much being canceled.
Each child or teen’s bag contained a diploma, notes and videos of encouragement from the staff, decorations for the family to use in their homes, and materials to make a graduation cap. The families were really encouraged to make the celebrations unique to their child, and the staff looked forward to hearing about each momentous occasion across the communities of Tres Reyes and Bonfil.
Where There Are Many Hands, There Are Many Blessings
As Back2Back has adjusted globally to meet the needs of vulnerable children and families, we have seen different needs arise and staff teams who are flexible and willing to adjust in the moment.
On Good Friday, the Back2Back Cincinnati team partnered with teams from the Back2Back Corporate office, Boys & Girls Club, Rising Leaders/Urban Young Life, Parkside Christian Church, Grace Chapel, and Carson Elementary, along with Soul Secrets, to serve 630 children from 400 families in the Cincinnati area. Soul Secrets made homemade meals for every child and 70 different teams worked together to safely deliver them to each home.
As we offer relief in a trying time, we are confident of the relationships and team building this will develop in the future, and we know one thing is for certain – we cannot do this work alone and where there are many hands, there are many blessings.
Learning the Power of Sustainability Through Water
“What is the biggest need you have in the midst of this crisis?” It was a question posed to the 17 families served in the India Strong Families Program in March, following COVID-19 outbreaks and new mandates. The answer was unanimous – water.
“The families have to walk to the water supply with jugs, and then carry the full jugs back to their homes,” explained Sampath Burla, Back2Back staff. “They would work all day in the heat, then arrive home, and have to work to get water, and they needed help.” The Strong Families Program agreed to provide water by hiring two water tankers to provide enough for the whole community from March to May. At the end of May, there was a discussion with the families about problem solving. “We didn’t want to continue to provide water for them if they were able to help provide it for themselves,” explained Sampath. “The whole goal of the Strong Families Program is to empower the families to become sustainable, and we challenged them to find solutions with each other to meet this need.”
Eager to Learn
Kaylee Yoder stood in front of the Hope Students beneath the palapa. “What do you want to learn?” she asked them. Slowly, they responded about what they hoped to learn about English and speaking it well, and then the lessons began.
The Hope Students who live on the Monterrey campus don’t have as much to keep them busy as they shelter in place. Many of the students have expressed a desire to learn more English, so Kaylee, Back2Back staff, decided to help them. “The classes are divided up by houses, and we practice social distancing,” she explained. They spend their time learning new vocabulary words, playing games, and practicing dialogue to help hone their conversation skills. The students understand quite a bit of English due to their exposure to missions teams, but don’t have a lot of practice speaking it. When they learn new verbs, Kaylee asks them to act them out – recently a group of boys picked up Alexis to demonstrate “to carry” during the class!
“My main goal is to expose them even more to conversational skills in English and give them the opportunity to practice in a safe space,” explained Kaylee. The students are each at different levels, but when they’re out on the campus, you can hear them yelling phrases they’ve recently learned to each other from a distance. They are eager to learn and understand, and it makes the classes enjoyable for everyone.