Sunday, October 28, 2012

School Days

We have had another adventure last week with our Humanitarian trip to the area called Lahad Datu.  I have spent most of the week in tears.  We have seen poverty beyond anything we ever imagined.  We started our visit at a school in Lahad Datu that was literally held on a rooftop.  They had made a make shift roof out of tarps and sheets of tin.  When it rains, and it is the rainy season now, the rain pours into the school.
Whenever you enter a school, all the children immediately arise to their feet and the designated class leader leads the class in saying, very loudly, "Good morning visitors.  Welcome to our school.  We are happy to have you visit us."  And they stand until you tell them they can sit down.
This is one of the rooms in the roof top school.  There are three rooms altogether.  It had over forty students crowded in.  You can see the tables they are using are just wooden planks nailed on rickety legs.  I don't know how they manage to stay up.  They use anything they can find for a chair to sit on.  The students in primary/kindergarten classes range in age from 4 to 11.  It is the first time the 11 year olds have been allowed to go to school so they must start out in the kindergarten class and learn from there.
This is the only source of water for the school.  It is collected from the rain water off the roof and is not fit to drink.  The children must bring their own drinking water for the day.  It gets very hot during the day on this roof top as you can imagine so the children try to bring as much water as they will need.  The water in the blue tanks is used for cleaning and flushing toilets which brings me to the one and only toilet for the whole school
It doesn't work.  The children must try to "flush" it with a bucket of water.  It was smelly and disgusting because you can never really flush everything away.
I hope you can see the school motto on the back wall "Nothing ventured, nothing gained".  Several times during this visit, I had to leave the room or turn away so the children wouldn't see me crying.  It broke my heart to see children wanting so bad to have an education that they would do whatever they had to do, even go to this rooftop school and sit in the heat and stench day after day just for the chance for an education.  I wish children in the US could understand how blessed they are to have it just given to them, free.

The next day after leaving the rooftop school we went to the Island of Bum-Bum in this beautiful sailing yacht
It's the one on the right, not the nice shaded one on the left.  We just had to sit on boards placed across the boat.  I wasn't very sure this boat was very safe and sea worthy.  We had only been out on the water about 5 minutes, when I heard a very loud C R A C K  and then Ben was yelling in pain, "My foot.  My Foot.  Get off my foot".  The seat in front of us had broken right in two and the 3 people who were sitting on it were dropped right to the bottom of the boat on top of Ben's foot.  I thought for sure it was broken.  But luckily, he only had minor scrapes and it only swelled a little.  That was a tender mercy.  Bum-Bum island is a very dirty, poor island.  The people never throw their trash away in a garbage can or dumpster.  They just throw it on the ground.  There is so much litter it is hard to see the ground in places.  We visited three schools on this island.  They were a little better than the rooftop school.  They had better roofs and better rooms and better furniture but you have to remember "better" doesn't mean much when compared to almost nothing.  Again, their problems are lack of clean drinking water and sanitation - toilet- facilities.
This is one of the better living houses on Bum-Bum.  Litter all around.
This is our group walking down one of the roads on Bum-Bum.  Notice again all the litter and the poor housing.
This little infant, a little over a year, came walking down the road holding on to her daddy's hand.  She had on no shoes and the saddest little dress.  Again, I was in tears.  I wish I could have gotten a better, closer-up picture for you to see.  She too is one of God's children but she is going to have such a test and hardship in her life.  Why was I born where I was and why was she born into such a life of poverty?
The organization which is trying to run the schools is called HUMANA.  It is an NGO run by Torben Venning (4th guy on the left, the white guy) and his wife Rosalyn ( 3rd on the left in the brown shirt).  They are wonderful wonderful people who are trying so hard to make a difference in these children's lives. Their son Mark is sitting by his mother and the Frandsen's, the short term water specialists from SLC, are in the front.  We do hope the clean water and sanitation projects we have put together for these children will be accepted by the Asia Area Welfare office.

It has been an emotional week for us as we have seen so much poverty and heartbreak.  But we have also seen the determination in the eyes of the students to learn, even if they have everything in the world going against, they are determined to learn.  And learn they will.  I hope we can make their learning a little easier for them.

Several of you have asked what you can do to help.  The best thing you can do is to donate to the Humanitarian Fund box on the tithing receipt form.  The Church is doing wonderful work here and throughout the other 164 countries they have humanitarian missionaries in.  You can be proud that you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the church is using your money so wisely.  The donations are truly helping lives and strengthening families.

Please don't forget about us over here on the other side of the world.  It seems like much of the rest of the world has forgotten about these precious children here.  We love you all.  We love to hear from you.  We check our email everyday to see if anybody reads our blog and if any comments have been left.  We hope you are learning a little bit about what we do through the blog.  We can really only share a little bit of what we do.  It would take pages to show everything.  We love you all.   E/S Read


  1. Hey there since I am not a church person (at least not that one) is there a humanitarian group to donate to directly? Or some sort of supplies I can ship directly to you to distribute? I get a discount on shipping so if there is a need please let me know and myself and coworkers will send anything. Thanks

  2. Great idea to donate to the humanitarian area on our tithing slips. Maybe I can talk the kids into doing that for Christmas instead of presents---I'm sure it won't fly, but it may be worth a try. I keep thinking how Megan complains about how hot the jr. high gets and then how cold. It is nothing compared to so many throughout the world. Thanks for helping to keep our blessings in perspective.

  3. we really are blessed with so much. I am still in awe about all that you guys get to see and do. Love you and miss you!