In Sierra Leone, the harsh reality is that a majority of young woman may be caught in traumatic and unjust practices such as forced child marriage, trafficking, rape, and patterns of physical/sexual abuse due to cycles of poverty and systemic issues. After establishing Hope Rising Academy in Sierra Leone, together with our staff and social workers we were eager to provide a haven for girls coming from especially vulnerable circumstances. We had identified this pressing need early on, and simply needed the resources to adequately come alongside young women in their struggles.
As our awareness increased and our drive to address this issue became too pressing to ignore, we set out to do something. In September of 2016 we reached out to our Let Them LOL community to begin fundraising. When an anonymous donor came alongside our organization to match all infrastructure funding up to $500,000, we stepped forward in faith with construction as we continued to fundraise, cheering every step of the way as bricks were laid and the structure of something miraculous began to take shape.
By early 2017 we were furnishing a newly completed Girl’s Empowerment Home on our Hope Campus. Thanks to you it soon did become fully funded. Buffalo volunteers lovingly prepared basic care packages, and crafted journals and bookmarks full of life-giving reminders and scripture to welcome a group of beloved girls to a place of rescue, safety, and redemption. But who would these girls be?
Since this heartfelt beginning, each life to enter the doors of our Girl’s dorm has been layered in complexity and utterly precious. As the girls and their newfound support system navigate difficult pasts and learn to approach the boundless grace offered to them, we’ve seen them grow to quickly see each other as sisters. We see their house mother care for them as a strong support, and their social worker provide and gentle and much needed guiding voice in the storms. We’ve seen the ups and downs of the healing process take shape, simply with the offer of rest and a place to exhale. And we continue to praise God for the seeds of restoration we see Him planting and ever so slowly cultivating. Many in this same group (not so quietly) have taken our Hope Campus church by storm, joining into a powerful and inspiring praise team! Weekly, they sing words of Christ’s hope and promise of forgiveness over themselves and their community as they learn to believe it, as well.
Who are these incredible young ladies? They are unique and bold, spunky and strong examples of transformation in motion. One has escaped a history of abuse and a home where a single parent struggled to provide before becoming too ill. Today, she has an education, healthy food, clean water, sisters who care for her and understand her situation, a new best friend at school, and sponsors across an ocean who cheer her on as she enjoys sharing about her hopes for the future.
Another struggles with a serious terminal illness. Though her daily discomfort has been minimized, she just recently felt comfortable enough in her environment to reach out to trusted staff about the burdens of seeing classmates and friends dream of a future she fears she cannot share hope for. As they prayed together, this incredible girl asked to receive Jesus and seeds of hope were planted. Indeed her live is of great worth. Perhaps before long she will be speaking life to others in similar situations just a village or two away.
For each story, there are a handful more, as our trained staff across Hope Campus strive to identify cries for help, or those still too afraid to ask. We are amazed and filled with resolve to continue whenever we think of the Girl’s Empowerment Program. Its potential for affecting even one life toward redemption and rescue is enough! We can’t wait to see who these ladies become as mercy and healing continue to take root.
Thank you for being part of this incredible story you are making possible through Let Them LOL. Thank you for helping to provide and resource a place of rescue, empowering worth in some of the most vulnerable in our world, envisioning them to see the world-changers they always have been.
To continue to keep life saving programs like this running, we hope you’ll join us for (or just choose to support) Ten Years of Let Them LOL in October! You may also choose to sponsor girls like these at our school through our Hope Rising Academy sponsorship program.
To read more about Let Them LOL’s ten year journey, we recommend starting here at the beginning of the story. As we continue moving forward into 2018 and beyond, you’ll see much is still to come as we dive into 10 years of Let Them LOL!