Thursday, December 29, 2011

Make your year-end gift count!

As we wrap up 2011, we know a lot of you out there are looking for the right place to invest your year-end tax-deductible gift. We would like you to consider investing that gift in The Sound of Hope. We’ve had a wildly successful year thanks to many generous donors. Our organization’s revenue has grown by 1,209% in 2011! That growth means a greater impact in the lives of hundreds of orphans and at-risk children around the world.

To be more specific, last year (in our first year of operation as a 501c3 organization) we were able to release $3,200.00 to care for our children overseas. This year, we released $100,667.57 to the Children’s Homes and Children’s Programs we are partnered with in Thailand, India, and Swaziland!

We are beyond excited to see this increase in giving. You see, we’ve spent 5 months of this year traveling to and living in 2 of the countries where we have partnerships - Thailand and India - and we have seen the needs of these children first hand. Our bottom line is simple - the more you give, the more we can do for these kids. More money means more children rescued from poverty, drug-trafficking, sex-trafficking, genocide, disease, and abuse. More funding means more children living in safe, loving homes - and more children with an opportunity for an education! 

We know that, as a donor, you want to see the greatest impact made with your year-end financial gift. By giving to The Sound of Hope, your gift will drastically impact many lives. I know this because we’ve put money in the hands of our local partners, and seen in person how they use that money. Our overseas partnerships are built on face-to-face relationships. So you can trust us with your sacrificial financial gift.

Right now we have 3 pressing needs:

1 - The Asha Mission Land Project - We need $36,000 for this project by mid-January, with another $180,000 by July.  The Asha Mission Children’s Home in Delhi, India is home to 33 children, but they only have 2 small bedrooms. Over half of the little boys and girls there must sleep on the cold, concrete floor every night. This Children’s Home needs to expand, and the best way to do that is to buy their own land and build a permanent home. Money given to this fund will go directly to purchase this land.

2 - The HOPE Fund - Money given to this fund will be disbursed evenly to the Children’s Homes and Children’s Programs we are partnered with in Swaziland, India, and Thailand. These funds are used for needs like food, clothing, rent, transportation, school fees, and medical care.

3 - The ADMIN Fund - In order to do this full-time work of fundraising, empowering and advocating for our kids around the world, we need funds to operate our organization. Donations given to the ADMIN Fund provide for our operational expenses, salaries, and travel expenses so that we can work around the clock for hundreds of children trapped in horrific poverty.

One thing we do well as an organization is bring you, the donor, face-to-face with the projects you support. During our trips overseas, we broadcast “real-time” video updates from the field. We believe it’s important for you to know the needs of the children and precisely how your contribution is being used.  Here is an example from a recent project in India.

We are anxious to get to Swaziland in 2012, so that we can share the stories and needs of the children in Nsoko - but we can’t do it without your help! Because donors like you have invested in The Sound of Hope ADMIN Fund we’ve been able to make many direct and intimate impacts around the world in 2011.

2011 PROJECTS ::

As you can see, we’ve had a very successful year!  But the truth is, we are only as successful as our donors are generous. So THANK YOU for giving and partnering with us this year. We hope you’ll continue to help us give HOPE to children around the world by giving a year-end gift today!

Click on your fund of choice to donate online (Asha Mission Land Fund - HOPE Fund - ADMIN Fund) or mail your tax-deductible donation to The Sound of Hope - PO Box 534 - Helena, AL - 35080.

Many thanks & Happy New Year!

Rusty & Ericka Jackson
Co - Founders
The Sound of Hope

ps - We have a lot of exciting projects planned for the coming year, including starting a Children’s Library in each of the homes we support, and starting a school in a slum in India. Please help us continue our work in 2012! We'd love it if you would re-post this blog or share it on your facebook or twitter! Thanks friends!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I'll Be Home for Christmas!

Well friends, it's been an INCREDIBLE 6 weeks in India & Thailand. We've enjoyed every moment with our partners and the precious children we help care for. We still have a lot of stories, videos, and pictures to share, but for now - we are focused on getting HOME!

"I'll Be Home for Christmas" - never have 5 words sounded sweeter! I have a whole new respect for those who serve overseas during the holidays - whether in mission work or in the military. All of you - and your families - will be in my prayers this week. (And you incredible people are why I'm sharing the video/song above... it makes me cry every time!) Missing Thanksgiving was difficult, but Christmas would be even worse! I've honestly been pretending it's not Christmas this month - not really listening to Christmas music or watching Christmas movies so I didn't get too homesick. I am so glad we got to spend this precious time with our kids overseas, but I'm also grateful the timing worked out for us to come HOME before Christmas!

Right now, we are in the middle of our long trek home. We had a 6 hour flight to Korea - 12 hour layover (where we are right now) - next up is a 12 hour flight to Atlanta - and then a 4 hour drive home to Birmingham. If you think about it, please pray for traveling mercies for us!

This Christmas, I will have new burdens in my heart for "the least of these". The precious faces of our children will be fresh in my mind as I look at our Christmas tree. After spending time with forgotten children in hopeless situations, it will be much more meaningful to know that our Savior came to bring HOPE to the world! I'm looking forward to sharing about our time in a leper colony, our visit to a government orphanage in Thailand, and some exciting new projects for The Sound of Hope... but for now... MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and yours! May our love, hope, and generosity point others to Christ this Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Planting HOPE in a trash heap.

Today I'm reposting a blog I wrote for The Sound of Hope. This is a new project in India that we are really excited about - and we've got over half of the funds raised already! We'd like to finish fundraising for this before Christmas, but we need your help. If you're looking for a gift for a teacher in your life, donating to this project in their honor would truly be a gift that keeps giving!


Here in India, we've found that there are 3 main areas that the children at our homes are rescued from - the Red Light District, Leper Colonies, and the Slums. We've visited all three of these areas during this trip, but our visit to Chauma Slum was definitely the most overwhelming.

After a short drive from the Children's Home, we arrived at what appeared to be an empty trash heap. But as we peered inside the open huts made of leftover plastic and cardboard, children began to arrive out of nowhere. Within a few moments, we were surrounded by filthy, beautiful, pathetic, precious little boys and girls.

They were covered in dirt and sores. Snot dripped from their noses and their matted hair looked like it had never been washed or brushed. Their clothes were trash - torn, worn peices that other people had thrown away. And as they ran to us, Babu (our Indian partner) explained that any food they got was also from the trash - leftovers or spoiled items their parents found while trashpicking.

I looked deep into their eyes and it was more than I could take. I felt hot tears well up inside, but for their sake, I fought them back. They didn't need my pity - what they needed was love and attention!
After some hugs and kisses, a song, and some candy, I brought out my camera. They posed like they were little models - hamming it up and pushing themselves in front of my lens. "Auntie, Auntie! Take me!" they shouted as my shutter snapped. They all wanted to see their photos, and have pictures made with their siblings.

For about an hour, I lost myself with them. I took pictures while they fought for my attention. I held their grubby hands and patted their sweet little heads. We laughed and played together. I pushed them around on their only "toy" - a trashpicker's cart some adult had left behind. It was in the middle of this "game" that I was forced back to reality.

"Ericka - watch out! That is human poop you are stepping in! It's everywhere!" Babu shouted.

I shrugged it off and kept playing - but it hit home for me. These children are living and playing in trash and human feces EVERY DAY OF THEIR LIVES. Their parents abandon them during the day so that they can go and search through the trash heaps around town for food or recyclables - anything useful. This is the only source of income for these families. The children here are destined to live out the same fate... UNLESS WE DO SOMETHING.

I know we can't rescue all these children. The 3 homes we support in India are already overflowing with too many kids and not enough space. But leaving these little ones behind without doing anything for them was too much to bear. We don't want to just be spectators in these countries- we want to RESPOND when we see a need!

It turns out that Sharma, the house dad for Asha Mission, has been wanting to plant a school here for over 6 months. We eagerly asked what we could do to help. Babu explained that all they really need is funding, and the small amount it will take to run this school for a YEAR will shock you! Watch this video to hear more...

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Just $1,600 will fund a school in the Chauma Slum for 1 year. That's $200 to rent a plot of land, $175 to build a basic structure, and $35 per child to cover their school supplies. The school will be small and very basic, but if we can even teach these children to READ, then their lives could be changed FOREVER!

You see, for a forgotten child like this little girl, EDUCATION = HOPE.

So please, help us plant HOPE in a trash heap. You never know the possibilities that could grow out of this garbage!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Looking for the 411 on Korea!

Okay - here's a quick post for all my traveling friends! I'm wondering if we know anyone who's been to Korea - specifically around Seoul? We have about a 10 hour layover there on our way home in a few days, and we really need some advice!

From what we can tell, the airport is about an hour away from Seoul. We were hoping to head into the city and find a market - but we have no idea where to start! You see, some dear friends of ours are adopting a precious little girl from Korea, and we wanted to buy a few items (jewelry, scarves, art?) that they could auction off to raise money for their adoption. So - if you can give us any advice on the following questions, we would really appreciate it!

1 - How do we get from the airport to Seoul? Subway? Taxi? Ferry? (it appears that the airport may be on an island?)

2 - How long does it take to get to Seoul? (We need to plan our time carefully!)

3 - Do you know of any good markets? I was hoping to find a street market, which is where I usually shop in India, Thailand, etc. We want nice things for a good price! Anyone have any suggestions? (maybe we could give the name/location to a cab driver to get there?) And do you know if they are DAY markets, or NIGHT markets?

4 - What items are "special" in Korea? For example - Thailand has pearls and silk scarves.... India has wall hangings.... Swaziland has batiks. Is there anything (that isn't crazy expensive) that is unique to Korea? And do you know what a good price is for it?

5 - What is the exchange rate for Korea?

6 - How do you say "Hello", "How much?" and "Thank You" in Korean? Are there any other cultural things we should know? (I don't want to offend anyone while we're in-country!)
7 - Is there anything else special/exciting/unique that we should try to see in Seoul while we're there?

I realize I could (maybe) find some of this info online, but we don't have very good internet so I don't have a lot of time to search. If any of you could help us out with this little project, we would appreciate it so much! Thanks friends!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

From India to Thailand... (catching you up!)

Sorry guys for the lack of blogs! My last update was on Thanksgiving in India, which means I'm way behind on all we've been up to overseas.To say things have been busy would be an understatement. Let me try to (quickly) catch you up!

Here are the highlights...

After our time at Asha Mission, and Asha House in Delhi - we headed to Kolkata for a few days to visit the third Children's Home we support - Asha Mission Kolkata (founded by the same people who founded Asha Mission Delhi). This is home to 15 little boys, and we loved spending time with them! While we were there we found out they were sleeping on the cement floor and getting sick from the cold weather (because they couldn't afford mattresses or warm blankets.) So we bought them all new pillows and thick blankets for the winter, and then (thanks to our awesome donors) we were able to raise the funds for new mattresses! Check out the video here...

Asha Mission - Kolkata from The Sound of Hope on Vimeo.

After 3 days with the kids in Kolkata, we finally took a much-needed day off. For some reason we didn't schedule any off-days between the 3 orphanages, brothel, and leper colony this trip, and we now know what a mistake that was! We would work all day at the Children's Homes, travel for hours in Indian traffic, and then come back to the hotel for 4 (or more) hours of video/blog/internet work before falling into bed around midnight or 1am. We were seriously worn out by this point (day 15 of the trip). We'll definitely do a better job of planning some rest into our next trip!

After our rest day we flew back to Delhi. I spent 2 days shopping for merchandise for The Sound of Hope, and let me tell you - that was an adventure all by itself! These ladies don't like to take "no" for an answer. At one point one saleswoman had me by one arm - Rusty had me by the other - and both were pulling as hard as they could! I felt like a human wishbone! (I seriously wish we had a pic of that - LOL!) But I am happy to report that we got some extremely beautiful handmade products that I know many of you are going to love! We're planning a big fundraising event for next November (in B'ham) where we'll be having a silent auction with these items - so keep an eye out to find out how you can be a part of it! 

Our last day in India was one of the busiest, but best days of our trip. We spent the day with Babu John - the founder of both Asha Mission Children's Homes. He shared so much with us about his vision for these homes, the children we care for, and also about the issues orphans and vulnerable children face in India. He also took us to visit the Chauma Slum, and what we saw broke our hearts. I'll be reposting my blog about our time there soon, but I'll go ahead and share our video now. You see, we've decided to plant a school in this slum, and we want YOU to be a part of it! 

Chauma Slum - Delhi, India from The Sound of Hope on Vimeo.

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We said our goodbyes at Asha Mission (Delhi) later that night, and got some beautiful gifts from the children. We also got to celebrate 2 of the kids birthdays with them! It's tradition here for the staff to feed the kids all bites of the birthday cake (kind of like the bride & groom at a wedding in America). Of course, they also smash icing all over their faces and everyone has a good laugh!

Here's the birthday girl, Leel...

And the birthday boy, Ramlal!

We sure are going to miss these two (as well as all the other sweet little boys and girls at all 3 homes here!) India is a very difficult country to visit (it's really rough on your health), but being with the kids  makes it all worth it!

The next day, it was time to fly to Thailand! The plan was to have 3 days to rest in Pattaya, before heading back up to Chiang Mai. Unfortunately, our plan didn't really work out. Our first day in Pattaya ended up being the only day Rusty's 81 year old cousin Sam could visit with us, so we stayed awake for around 36 hours straight! (It sure was good to see him and our Thai friend Thida though!) After that we were just going to sleep in for 2 days and lay by the pool... but our health issues kind of ruined that. We think we both got parasites in India (I guess that's a risk when you are eating in brothels and leper colonies!) and had to take parasite meds for 3 days. Then, I had a serious allergic reaction to the bedding in the hotel (I think it was the detergent the sheets were washed in). I was pretty much covered in a red, itchy rash from head to toe for 4 days. Pretty miserable to say the least! I'm glad to report that after our parasite meds, lots of benadryl, and prescription strength steroid cream we are both feeling much better!

After our (itchy) days in Pattaya, we flew back up to Chiang Mai and immediately hit the road! No rest for the weary! We drove to Mae Sariang to visit the new Children's Home we bought a few months ago (video to come soon) and then headed to the refugee camp to visit the 19 kids at The Refuge for a Christmas party! It was SO good to see them all again. We were really encouraged to see how well they are doing and also to see the new home. We can't wait to share the details with you!

Until then though - here's a pic of some of our kids at The Refuge in their Christmas hats. We had so much fun together!

... and now you're all caught up! (Well, with the basics anyway!) We still have a LOT more stories, videos, and pics to share - so I promise to post more later. I can't believe how fast time is flying by! We only have 6 days left in Thailand, and we still have so much to do!

I'll end for now by saying a big THANK YOU to everyone who's been following our work on our personal blogs, vimeo, facebook, twitter, and The Sound of Hope blog. It has been so encouraging to get your comments and messages, and to see you reposting our videos and blogs! It's great to know you are here with us "in spirit"! We really couldn't do this work without you!