In homes across Barton County Kansas, children woke in anticipation of what presents they would receive. For most, a brightly decorated tree filled the center of a room in their home. Many families traveled, some a great distance to be together, and food was present in abundance. Some had to work that day and the farmers who have livestock still needed to check those animals. For some, attending a Christmas Eve, or Christmas morning service was part of the tradition. But around the world, because of the work of an Ellinwood organization, Star of Hope, Christmas was celebrated with many unusual traditions. One such place is in Haiti.
In Haiti, some 2,000 miles from Kansas, children awoke to a day much like any other. It was sunny and hot, just like always. They got up just before dawn, went out and lead the one goat to a spot the animal could graze. They scattered some corn for few chickens the family might own. The youngest got to carry water from the closest source to their home in plastic bottles. Around eight o’clock they all came back to their house and had breakfast that the mother and older girls prepared over an open charcoal fire. Most probably a piece of bread and an orange or other fruit comprised their breakfast. If they were fortunate, they might have gotten an egg and a cup of coffee, since it was Christmas. Then the anticipation built. They got to put on their very best clothing. They got to wear shoes! Then they walked to the church with their whole family to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
When they got back home, for some, their mother and father gave them a gift, most likely something they made. It would have been a gift of necessity not a toy.
For the children in the village of Bois Negresse who attend the Star of Hope School, having sponsors who help them go to school, meant something special before Christmas. They attended a Christmas party before school closed for the holiday. For those who have very special sponsors, they might have even gotten a Christmas gift from that sponsor, something the Star of Hope staff picked out just for them with money their sponsor sent for Christmas.
This year the children of Bois Negresse, Haiti and the students of Central Kansas Christian Academy, Great Bend Kansas, shared a bond. The kids in Kansas had a dress down dollar day at their school in December. The kids in Haiti will benefit from that in February, on a day the children are already anticipating.
That big day is the Star of Hope Pay it Forward distribution. People in Kansas gave a goat or sheep, or a chicken to a child in Haiti! The children at CKCA used the funds collected through their dress down dollar day to buy goats for children in Haiti.
Star of Hope staff will purchase as many female animals as they can. On the Pay it Forward distribution day, these animals will be brought to the Bois Negresse school. There won’t be sufficient funds to give an animal to everyone, so a drawing will be held. The lucky winners will receive an animal. These animals provide an important source of money and food for the family. Selling eggs and the offspring of the breeding animals can provide a much needed source of funds to a family with a sick child or having other needs.
The Pay It Forward part of this event is that the children who received an animal last year will bring an offspring to the big event to be added to the pool of animals. They get the good feeling of giving to someone else.
Kansas and Haiti are linked in more than one way. In addition to the Pay it forward project, over the years many teams of Kansans have visited Haiti, participating in StarTeam trips. They have built schools, held vacation bible schools and provided counseling after the big earthquake. The Pay it Forward project is a way for everyone to participate.
Star of Hope continues to collect funds for the Pay it Forward project. If you are interested in helping increase the number of animals available to the children in Haiti, you may donate on line at www.starofhope.us or by calling toll free (866) 653-0321. More information as well as periodic reports of the distributions in Haiti and other countries around the world are posted on their website.
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