Truly it has been another amazing and blessed year here at SOLAHIS. Looking back over the success of our kids this year is truly inspiring and also give us much incentive to keep moving forward with the work we are doing at the center. This is not easy work. it is slow and can be daunting on the spirit, body and mind. But when the younger children commit to their studies by utilizing the tutoring program we offer, it shines the light of Hope just that much brighter. When we witness the older young adults completing training and university programs; achieving careers and moving forward in their studies, the light of Hope grows even stronger.
We have been a presence in this community now, for over 10 years and it is really beginning to show, not only in the children who are part of our program but also the parents and caregivers. this year we witnessed a number of marriages in which the couples attended marriage counseling offered by our pastoral staff. We believe that for our kids to achieve the greatest success, the love and care needs to come from their homes first. For many of our kids this is not happening and they depend greatly on the centers staff to take the role of mother, father, elder in their life. Part of our goal is to shift that and by offering parents and caregivers support by way of classes and counsel we are beginning to see that shift.
This year we were blessed to have our first full time Canadian volunteer be at the center for a full year. Candace was part of the administration and teaching staff of the center. She offered a unique view into day to day life at the center, which offered tremendous insight to the other volunteers back home, in Canada. Though the year came with its challenges she deeply felt the blessing of being down at the center in such a unique capacity and looks forward to returning.
The saddest day of this year happened in June; the day one of our promising young men, Estiven, was killed in a tragic drowning accident during a weekend trip to the ocean. The ripple of this loss was felt all the way to Canada. Steve was 18 years old and had been involved with us from the beginning, at 8 years old. He was a natural leader, smart, funny and wise beyond his years. He said that he lived in two worlds...when he was at the center he lived from his heart, but when he was outside the center gates he had to live from his head. The community in which we have the center can be a dangerous and violent place. The constant push of drugs and alcohol is all around, along side the pressure of gangs and the gang life. This lifestyle is a real threat for our kids. Estiven knew about this fully and it was a constant delicate walk of navigating this world to keep himself outside enough to save himself. He was dedicated to the center and believed in what it stood for and offered the kids and people of his community. He was well aware that the opportunities offered there were not to be taken for granted. He is greatly missed by all who knew and loved him. We still morn his unexpected passing deeply and will for the days to come.
The year ended with out 9th Annual Fundraising Banquet held at Colombia Bible College in Abbotsford, B.C. This was out first time holding this event at this location and, hopefully, it will not be our last. The event sold out at 425 attending and raised over $150,000!!! this is a HUGE blessing as this is our biggest fundraising event, besides sponsorship...which btw all of our kids in our program are fully sponsored! While the sponsorship program covers food, medical, dental, extended education and some of the extracurricular actives, we still need money for property maintenance and expansion, staff wages. Our paid staff are those who work in Colombia at the center; administration, pastoral team, cooks, and maintenance team, and continual extracurricular activities.
To give you an idea, below is a list of some of our short term needs:
- 2 new lap tops for university students
- 2 industrial sized blenders for the kitchen
- permanent picnic tables for around the property
- permanent benches for around the property
- craft and teaching supplies
- camera for the staff
Long term needs:
- Scholarship fund for students
- Scholarship fund for staff (we offer continued education for all our staff)
- Children Programs and Feild trips
- Parent programs
- Playground (build and maintenance)
- Respite opportunities for staff
We are grateful that we do not do this work alone. We acknowledge our Creator and The Divine Love that guides us through all the sorrow and joy that this work brings. We are humbled by our amazing staff in Colombia and grateful to be brothers and sisters on this path of healing for those less fortunate in a ghetto on the other side of the world...one that when you are there may as well be on another planet. But by working together with Love as our guide we are Divinely joined as One. and in this place of Divinity we see that we are all healing, together...that those children help us, even more than we do them.