Seed Effect: In the Business of Orphan Prevention

April 20, 2010

Back in November, I was in Sudan for the launch of Seed Effect’s first microfinance site. During this trip (my 5th in 2 years), we finally handed out loans to our first 19 clients. It was an incredible blessing to be there and to see the joy on their faces as they and their families were empowered with renewed hope for their future. On this day, we prayed that they might come to know Christ and know him fully and that our Seed Loan program would be the catalyst that empowers them to overcome poverty.

I can honestly say that I will never forget this day for as long as I live.
But when I think about this trip, there is one other day that haunts me… a day that in a way threatens to overshadow the joy that I saw on the faces of these women and a day that serves as a constant reminder of just how important our work is.

Important enough to mean the difference between life or death.
On the day before Loan Day, we arrived on our compound to find our local staff in tears and the doors to our Vocational School closed. Early that morning, one of the women that had attended our school went into labor under a tree outside her tukul. There were complications, and without the money for medical care, she died that morning under that tree.

As is typical with my Type A, driven personality, I honestly didn’t really begin to process all of this until later. I mean, I was busy getting ready for Loan Day. (Horribly callous, I know, but sadly true nonetheless.) Of course, I was sad for the women that were close to her, sad for her family and those that she had surely left behind, but it wasn’t until later that the gravity of this really hit me.
At the time, we weren’t sure what happened to the baby. We heard mixed reports- some that the baby lived, others that he died. Either way, the lack of resources available to this family left this mother dead and this child either dead or orphaned.

A couple of weeks after we returned from our trip, we received an email update from one of the volunteers working at the orphanage in town. Here is his update:

“Today, I cried for the first time on this trip. Only a couple of weeks ago, we received an infant at the orphanage. Rose Yangi gave birth to her fourth child. Because of complications with the birth, Rose passed away. She named him Geri Evans and he was brought to the orphanage… This past weekend, we noticed that Geri was becoming ill. After being admitted to the hospital, we learned that he was not urinating nor defecating. As he spent some days in the hospital his condition worsened. Yesterday, Thursday, Nov. 19, Geri stopped breathing. The hospital staff attempted to administer oxygen into his body, but they were not successful. Geri Evans Anthony passed away at approximately 5:00PM. Today, I attended the burial of Geri’s body and the brief service that followed. As I stood among almost 100 other people, I began to feel the weight of the family’s mourning. Geri’s body was buried only a few feet away from his mother’s grave. Women were wailing. And I found myself praying for this father who has lost both his wife and his son within three weeks… All the people of South Sudan have come to know death very well. And because of this, I have come to appreciate life all the more.”

As I read his words, I realized that this was the same woman that had attended our Vocational School, carried her 5th child to term, and lost her life under the tree that morning.
If we had been a few months earlier with our Seed Loan Program, would this have happened? Would Rose be alive? Would Geri still be alive and would he and his brothers and sisters still have a mother? If, after her vocational training, she had received access to a microloan, invested it in her business, built relationships with other women that were committed to supporting her, generated a higher income, learned more about health needs and how to better access medical resources, and been able to better provide for her family, would this have had a different outcome?

The day I received this email, was the day that I truly began to understand what we were doing at such a deeper level. The stakes are high. Really high. Of course, it’s all in his hands. He doesn’t need us but he can use us… the more available we are, the faster we work, the more we spread the truth, the more funds are raised, the more women are reached, the more families are impacted, the less children are orphaned, and the more lives are saved.

There’s just so little time and so much to do…

-Missy Williams, ED Seed Effect

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'” Matthew 25:37-40

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