Monday, July 26, 2010

Christmas in July

As of July 25th, there are only 5 months until Christmas! Unless you are super organized, you probably have yet to begin thinking of the holidays, especially during all of these 90+ degrees summer days. While we realize that Christmas is months away, we've already begun thinking about it.

As many of you may be familiar, each year we do a Christmas collection for the children at the Maetang Tribal Children's Home in Thailand. Four years ago we sent them the first of many packages filled with Christmas gifts. At that time we made the commitment, that, if we started this, we had to do it every year. Christmas presents could not stop coming. They are worthy of a Christmas filled with joy, and they need to know that every year.

Over the past several years we have done this project in a variety of ways. The first three years we sent many large boxes packed with toys to Thailand. When I say "large" I mean "large" as in I could have mailed myself to Thailand comfortably. They were packed with clothes and personal care items. Toothbrushes and crayons. School supplies and fire trucks. Light up robots and baby dolls. They were filled with joy. Federal Express took those boxes to Thailand for us for free. The first two years, those 11 boxes stuffed with toys somehow made it past the watchful eye of the Thai government and were not hit with taxes coming into the country. The third year we were not so lucky, but Be the Change paid the taxes and the boxes were released. Last year, we tried to make this easier on all sides of the world and we did a monetary collection and sent the money to Thailand. Shopping was then done in country.

This year, we are going back to the way we did it the first three years and we are again asking for small gifts for the children in Thailand.

Let's be honest, it's WAY more fun to shop for those sweet little children than it is to just send them money. However, if you would like to participate in this endeavor, and sending a monetary donation is easier for you, please feel free to do so, and we will use this funding to offset the cost of shipping and taxes.

We are asking that this year items stay small. We want to send fewer boxes if possible, but filled with more, smaller items. The children's home where these items are going cares for children from pre-school through grade 12. Some suggested items are: school supplies, small matchbox cars, crayons, toothbrushes, small toys, and clothing (any size is helpful) flip flops (any size),tooth brushes, toothpaste, personal care items such as deodorant, soap, toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner (2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner is great because it is in one bottle and cuts down on weight). The little girls love hair clips, combs and brushes, headbands and anything they can use to dress themselves up. Nail polish is not a suggested item, as it does not travel well in a glass bottle.

If you would like to participate in our efforts to bring the love and spirit of Christmas to the children in Thailand, please feel free to contact us at and we can arrange a pick up/drop off with you.

Even though it is only July, we thank you, the children in Thailand thank you, for thinking of them and sharing the joy of the holiday season with them.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Concert for Freedom

So, this is kind of a long story, but we like it, so we're telling the entire thing :)

In 2006 the church that the board members for Be the Change attend held an event called Praise-A-Palooza. This was an outdoor praise band festival. One of the featured guests in 2006 was Agape, A.K.A David Scherer. He is a well known Christian hip-hop artist. The youth LOVE him, and the adults love him just as much and are just as inspired by him and his songs and story telling. At this event in 2006 Diane spoke to him briefly about Be the Change, and I was also introduced to him. He was very interested in the cause, we chatted for awhile, and that was it.

Fast forward to summer of 2009. Kara went to New Orleans for the ELCA National Youth Gathering with 40,000 other individuals. David was there performing. We saw David and another well known Christian artist, Rachel Kurtz perform together.

Simply put, they rock. So much so that our youth borderline stalk them couldn't wait to get their pictures taken with them.

One of the days in New Orleans I approached the table that David was selling his t-shirts, CD's, etc. at. Mind you, I am in the midst of 100's of youth clamoring for his attention, wanting to say hi, etc. I was just casually looking at his items, waiting for our kids to decide on their final purchases. I said hello to David and he remembered who I was. From 3 years ago. He also remembered that I had something to do with the prevention of human trafficking. He has an awesome memory. We talked a few seconds, and that was it.

Fast forward to August 2009. Diane's cell phone rings. It's David, telling Diane that he is going on tour with Rachel Kurtz and other performers from the National Youth Gathering. They will be on tour in our area and he suggests that Be the Change do something. Whether that is speaking, having a table, whatever. He just thought it would be a good opportunity for us. Have I mentioned the man's memory amazes me?!

So, while this is all going on, I (Kara) am in Africa. So, I check my e-mail while I am there and find it is confirmed that I am speaking at the Jesus, Justice, Jazz concert tour, AND another event. At this point I had not decided for sure that I was even leaving Africa It's nice that Diane knows me well enough to commit me to these things while I am on another continent :)

So, the concert tour was on 9/26/2009. I spoke for two minutes. I was SO nervous. I have never spoken to that many people, and I wasn't so sure about my speech. After it was over, I walked off the stage. David and Rachel had been sitting right in front of me. Rachel walked up and asked if she could give me a hug. I don't remember what I said to her, I was still so nervous. I went back to my seat where Diane and our pastor and youth were and enjoyed the rest of the concert--no longer nervous. The concert ended. We left. Life went on.

Then I got an e-mail.

The woman who had coordinated the concert event e-mailed to tell me that Rachel and David had been very impressed with what I had said that day. I was touched that they got so much out of two minutes. So, I e-mailed both David and Rachel to thank them for their kind words and compassion towards the issue of human trafficking.

Then I got another e-mail (how I functioned before e-mail, I'll never know). This time, from Rachel Kurtz, herself.

I'm summarizing here, but the general idea of the e-mail was Let's do a fundraiser together, what do you think?

What do I think?!

Ummm...yes, famous singer, let's!

Only I found a more tactful way to say that.

So, all that to say, Rachel Kurtz will be in concert for Be the Change Foundation on June 6, 2010. It will take place at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Devon, PA and begin at 5:30pm. In conjunction with the concert there will be a raffle for some amazing prizes that have been donated to us! We are WAY excited about this event, and have been so moved by the way this has all come together.

You may recall that several years ago we attempted to hold a walk-a-thon. It just didn't work. We continued to hit road block after road block with that event. We thought we were on the right path, even had a location picked out and the name of the road this location is on is called "Freedom Way."

How perfect is that?!

Meant to be. Right?


Things just did not play out and after much talking and many attempts, we gave up on the big event at that time. We just thought it was not our time. We were totally fine with that and we knew when it was our time, something would come along.

Well, I'm pretty sure, now is our time.

We are not a religiously based organization. However, it has been abundantly clear throughout planning for this concert for freedom, that there has been another Hand helping us in the planning.

This offer from Rachel to hold this concert came weeks after Be the Change committed $10,000 to Hagar international in Cambodia. We committed $10,000 the the rehabilitation efforts of children who have been trafficked--their bodies sold hundreds of times--and they survived. We have talked about Hagar before and the unbelievable work they do to restore the dignity, hope, and lives of children who have been trafficked in Cambodia. Their work is truly miraculous and they are transforming lives everyday. We are honored to work with them.

In addition, we are continuing to support the Restavek Freedom Foundation in Haiti. We will be having a special collection of change to go towards education for the child slaves of Haiti. Since the earthquake, these children need our help more than ever. The Restavek Freedom Foundation remains in Haiti to this day. And, since the earthquake, they have put hundreds of children back into school. We want to be a part of that. So we are turning pocket change into something powerful. We want to turn it into tuition for children who need it most. We hope you will join the movement on behalf of the children in Haiti.

If you would like to be a part of the planning for what we hope is an extraordinary event, please contact us at

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


This past weekend we gathered and made picture frames for the children in Haiti.
For Christmas, they received a picture of themselves. Because that is something that they have never had before.
We wanted them to have a way to display their beautiful faces.
So we gathered, and painted.
And we hope the children in Haiti feel the love and attention that went into the detail of each painted picture frame.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Picture Frames

As many of you know, this past year, Be the Change did not ship Christmas presents to Thailand, instead, we sent $500 (thanks to all of you).

As many of you also know, Haiti is a place that has always been in my heart, and even more so lately with the earthquake that devastated the country on January 12th.

As many of you also know we are affiliated with a wonderful organization in Haiti called the Restavek Freedom Foundation.

As many of you also know, if I watch one more thing on CNN about Haiti and the earthquake, I might end up on a plane bound for Port-au-Prince.

And lastly, as many of you also know, I tend to ask, often, "What do you need?"

So, this winter while working on getting Christmas presents to the children in Thailand, I did just that and asked someone from Restavek Freedom what the child slaves in Haiti would like for Christmas. I asked them what, if anything, were they able to do for the children in Haiti at Christmastime. When we made blankets for these children over a year ago and I was told that no one from Restavek Freedom had ever seen a child in Haiti with a blanket, and that they were sure the children in Haiti would not know what to do with a blanket of their own, I thought those words were some of the saddest words I had ever heard.

I might have been wrong.

When I asked what the children in Haiti might want for Christmas, the answer made me cry.

A picture. Of themseleves.

That's it. That's what they wanted.
Because the truth is, these children that are held as slaves have never, ever had a picture of themselves.

Both of these responses, about blankets and pictures, moved us into action at Be the Change.

This past Christmas, Restavek Freedom was taking care of getting each child a picture of themselves, but we decided we wanted them to have a frame for this picture. We wanted them to have a special way to display it. We want them to be able to look at themselves and smile and know how beautiful and special they are.

We know that right now things in Haiti are chaotic, to say the least. But one of the many things these children could really use right now is a sense of normalcy. That is only one of the reasons our committment to the enslaved children in that country, and the Restavek Freedom Foundation, is stronger than ever. In big ways and small ways alike, they need our help now, more than ever.

We know that lately, the outreach for Haiti has been pouring in, and righfully so. Like us, we assume that your inbox has been flooded with requests of funds for relief work being done in Haiti. We even sent one such request a few weeks ago.

But this time we're not asking for money, we are asking for your time. We are asking for 4 hours (10-2) on the afternoon of March 13th to come together at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection (1700 Makefield Road, Yardley, PA 19067) to decorate picture frames that Be the Change has already purchased for these children. You don't need to be an artist (trust me!). All you need to do is bring yourself and a sandwhich (we'll supply the drinks and desserts--and who doesn't like desserts?!)and join us for an afternoon of making frames so that these children have a way to display their pictures, and more importantly to know that they matter. We have purchased wooden frames that need some color :) We will supply the paint and lots of fun decorating material! This is an opportunity for you to send a personal, caring message to a child in Haiti to remind them that during this very difficult time in their life, someone living far away, but under the same sky is thinking of them.

With Much Hope,
Kara, Diane, Kim, Cheryl and Nicole

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Because we know we don't do this alone...

We are well aware that Be the Change would not exist if not for the support from people all over. That being said, we want to pass on a few more words of thanks that we received this week from the Restavek Freedom Foundation in Haiti.

Thank you again for your support and generosity towards the Restavek Foundation. The team in Haiti and many others have benefited greatly from your blankets!!! What a blessing they have been. also, several children in Restavek prior to the quake and numerous children since the disaster have slept more comfortable by your acts of kindness. You will never know how much the blankets have meant to the people we have given them to. For some it is the only thing they have. Many Thanks, Restavek Staff, Joan, John Robert

All of our staff survived, for which we are very thankful. Roslyn Phillips, our child sponsorship coordinator, has emerged as a true leader in our efforts to find our children, even though she experienced the loss of her father during the quake. Ray and Roslyn are working with our school directors to see if we can open school again because children have nothing to do and families need to feel that life is happening. We also want to make sure the children are fed at least once a day.

This week, we are meeting with all of our school directors to see how we begin the process of restarting school. The national schools will not open for some time as many are destroyed and others will need to employ teachers to replace those that have died.

We rented a very large house that we will need to furnish to use as transitional housing for 30 children. Staff are being hired to help manage this for us. Some are coming from the U.S. and others are friends we know from Haiti. Jean Robert is helping coordinate this effort because he knows best what these children need. Our English program in Port Salut, supported by the H.E.A.R. Foundation, has provided several translators for medical doctors on the ground in Port au Prince. They all volunteered their time and felt honored to be able to contribute something to the relief effort.

Every day Jean Robert goes out to see how children in restavek are being treated. He comes upon some very sad and disturbing situations. We cannot rescue all of these children, but we report what we see to UNICEF and other organizations working on this issue. Many people are collaborating on the issue of restavek and hopefully something good will come from this terrible tragedy.

We will never be able to express our gratitude to all of you who have donated to our efforts. Your support and concern has kept us going.
Joan Conn, Executive Director of the Restavek Foundation

Thank you for continuing to support these very vulnerable children in Haiti.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


By now you are well aware of the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on Tuesday 1/12/2009. You have likely seen the pictures and heard the heartbreaking stories. Many of you may remember that Be the Change has been working with the Restavek Freedom Foundation, which works with children currently enslaved in Haiti, by working with their "owners" providing funding for an education, basic health care needs, mentorship, etc. As of Wednesday, all the staff in Haiti, including the founder and CEO of Restavek Freedom were safe and outside of Port-au-Prince. However Restavek Freedom works with over 300 enslaved children in this country and 44% of them lived inside and around Port-au-Prince. The grim reality there is that they have not yet accounted for all of the children in their program.

Natural disasters like become a haven for those looking to take advantage and exploit the weakest of society, mainly the children. Natural disasters create chaos and large numbers of unaccounted for and unattended to children. Meaning they can simply be taken, and assumed dead. That is the reality for children in Haiti right now. It is the goal of the Restavek Freedom Foundation to reach out and support the children that are lost or in urgent need of care. Staff from Restavek Freedom are already mobilized on the ground, ready to work on behalf of these children. They need our help now more than ever.

Many of you attended our hands on Be the Change event last January 31st. If you sat and lovingly knotted together a blanket for a child slave in Haiti, you have a connection to a child there and may not even realize it. Shipping to Haiti is nearly impossible and for that reason all of the blankets that were sent to these enslaved children were taken by hand into the country by Restavek staff. It took a long time to do this, and in fact the last container of blankets was just taken into Haiti on Monday, January 11, 2010. One day before the earthquake. In my correspondence with the CEO of Restavek, she sent me this e-mail today:

"Just know that your blankets are saving many people from sleeping on the ground. We are so thankful we got that container on Monday before the quake hit."

We had no idea at the time just how needed these blankets would be. Joan will eventually send us pictures, but as I am sure you can understand, she just does not have the time right now.

Be the Change has again partnered with the Restavek Freedom Foundation to bring relief to these vulnerable children. You can send a donation to Be the Change Foundation marked for disaster relief, and we will be sending 100% of that money to the Restavek Freedom Foundation, who will in turn be using 100% of that money for their relief work in Haiti. We are moving forward with our change campaign because post earthquake these children are at an even greater risk and need those sponsorship funds to meet their basic needs, including an education. However, any donations that comes to us now, marked for disaster relief, will be sent to Restavek Freedom Foundation immediately for the specific purpose of post earthquake relief. Please consider how you can shed some light into the very dark situation that our children in Haiti have been thrown into.

With Much Hope,
Be the Change Foundation Board,
Diane, Kim, Nicole, Kara and Cheryl

Thursday, December 3, 2009

More Bracelets For Maiti

Today, Cheryl and Kara went to Shippensburg University to talk to students about Be the Change Foundation and Human Trafficking.
Before we even went to Shippensburg these dedicated students were already organizing their own event for Be the Change. They not only organized a bracelet event to be held today, but they are taking their bracelet making on the road and going to a local high school next week to make bracelets with the students there.
The story of the women dying in the hospice centers at Maiti Nepal is spreading. Not only is it spreading, but it is inspiring people and moving them into action.

We explained to students today that we are well aware that bracelets won't take away what happened to these women. It won't erase the memories they have of the events that let to them being in a hospice center in the first place. A bracelet won't expedite a shipment of the drugs needed to cure the diseases they have. It won't find a cure for the HIV/AIDS that they contracted.
But it sends a message. That they matter. That they are worthy. That we are thinking of them. And sometimes, it is the little things that mean the most.
It was clear today as we watched students carefully placing beads onto the memory wire, that much compassion and care was going into each one. It is our hope that the women on the receiving ends of these bracelets feel even just a little bit of that.

Thank you for your continued passion and compassion.