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Swedish family moves to Barton Co. to spread message of Star of Hope
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Maria Presson, left of Star of Hope in Ellinwood, is with a very poor family in front of their house in Taytay, Philippines. The children attend a Star of Hope School. The Presson family has moved to the U.S. from Sweden to spread the word of the Star of Hope projects throughout the world. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

ELLINWOOD — The Presson family, from Karrsjo Ornsleoldsvile, Sweden has moved to the United States and is working with Star of Hope International in Ellinwood to spread the word of SOH’s mission. The SOH American headquarters are in Ellinwood.
“In America, we are known for our work in Haiti,” said Maria Eriksson Presson. “We have work all over the world.” SOH works in 18 countries,  including Latin America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.
Star of Hope is a nondenominational Christian organization that was founded by Maria’s father in the 1960s. The mission statement is to equip children across the world with knowledge, physical well-being, spiritual growth and social skills through educational programs and local and international partnerships.
With an education, the children across the world can change their lives, Maria said. SOH builds schools, makes sure qualified teachers are teaching, as well as providing assistance with clean water and sustainable jobs.
The family just spent three years in the Philippines. The move to the U.S. was a big change for all of the family, but they are very adaptable and will be staying in the U.S. for three years.
They have enjoyed the sunsets and the wide open spaces of the prairie. “I’ve never seen so much sky,” said Maria. They have spent their spare time renovating the home they purchased in Great Bend.
The adjustment was big, but the family stays positive. “We are happy people,” said Maria. “We see the good part.”
Karrsjo Ornsleoldsvile, Sweden is the same latitude as Mt. McKinley in Alaska, said Maria. “There are cold winters and short summers,” she said although the Gulf Stream keeps the area somewhat warmer.
Maria came with her husband Mark and two sons, Noah, 14, and Leon, 21 years old. Leon is working for a fast food chain and Noah a local school. The schools are more disciplined here, said Maria.
In their travels, language hasn’t been much of a barrier. “Most people are happy to practice their English,” said Maria.
Mark is the son of an American colonel, and grew up moving around the U.S. Maria was born in Sweden, and she spent a year in the U.S. as an exchange student as a teen, where she met her husband  in Conyers, Ga.
They arrived in the U.S. last summer when it was 104 degrees last summer in August. “It doesn’t get that hot in the Philippines or Sweden,” said Maria. For Mark, there have been big changes in the U.S. in the last 20 years since he lived here. Maria said the country doesn’t look the same.
They have found the people here to be extremely welcoming. The Presson family is staying busy renovating the home they bought in Great Bend. Maria likes to garden and stays busy with porcelain painting and quilting.
The next project in line for SOH of Ellinwood is a building project in Haiti this summer. They are planning to build a preschool in the mountains.