Supporting Families in Nicaragua

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Margaret Storey is a lovely Christian lady who lives in Wallsend, but who spends most of her time in Nicaragua, a country currently going through difficult times politically. In this guest post she tells her story:

I first heard about SIFT (Seed International Fund Trust) when I made inquiries regarding school sponsorship in Nicaragua. I had previously been to the country volunteering with a different charity three times and each time I returned home, I felt part of me had been left behind. I decided when I retired in 2008, to return to Nicaragua independently for 11 weeks to wait on God and see where he wanted my future to be.

During that time, the SIFT team arrived to do their yearly visit to the children who were sponsored by the charity, to get their school reports, family news, a fresh photo to send to their sponsor in the UK and pay their next year’s school fees. They invited me to join them. They had been praying for someone to act as a link person in Nicaragua with the office in the UK. Unaware of this, I told them the reason I was there. Some weeks later, they asked me if I was prepared to join SIFT. I agreed to give them, in a voluntary capacity, nine months each year (now eight months).

My main ministry is the area around the rubbish tip, where lots of our sponsored children live and scavenge. Many of these children would not be in education today were it not for SIFT. Some of them have now reached university level. I support the families in their struggles an encourage the children with their schooling. I also organise the payment of the monthly school fees. We have 135 children in 8 schools and 2 universities, which I have to check on regularly. With donations from home, I help buy school uniforms and supplies, pay for prescriptions and medical costs, contribute towards projects at the schools or the church, and give treats to the children.

Every 2 months I give out food rations to our SIFT families. My home church, Trinity Methodist in Wallsend, has a well fund, and with this I am able to organise new wells to be dug, or dried up ones to be dug deeper. There is always a demand for wells!

I’ve had a playground built at the orphanage, a shelter built at the rock quarry, where people sit for 10 hours a day in dire conditions, breaking rock to sell to builders and a laundry in the poorest community where people walk a mile to wash their clothes in the creek. I work alongside the pastor of the church I attend, sometimes preaching. In our women’s fellowship, I have taught many of them to knit and now some of them are making and selling their own work.

Bluefields is a very poor community with people living in atrocious conditions, often not owning a pair of shoes or knowing where the next meal is coming from, but they are happy people and grateful for the help they receive.

When I am home, I speak at various guilds, meetings etc. and it’s from donations there that I carry out the projects, independent of SIFT. I am self-funding, so none of these goes towards my own costs. I find it challenging, often an emotional strain, but also a joy to serve these underprivileged brothers and sisters who are now part of my extended family.

Carville Primary School

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This morning I had the joy of taking part in an assembly at Carville Primary School, which is right next to The Salvation Army worship and community centre in Wallsend (in the background of the photo between the gates). We already have links with another nearby school, but as this one is so close it makes sense to explore how we can work together.

I already know some of the children as they attend or have attended our Friday evening JAM Club (Jesus And Me). I first met the headteacher before the summer holidays, and today we had another useful chat over a cuppa after the assembly.

I’ve been very impressed with the school on both my visits, and I look forward to working together in the future.

Discovery Museum in Newcastle

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Towards the end of our summer holiday 2018, we visited the Discovery Museum in Newcastle (just a few miles down the road from our home in Wallsend). It was a chance to see Stephenson’s Rocket which was on loan to the museum at the time of our visit.

Entry to the museum is free, but they do suggest a £5 donation. Even without the Rocket, there’s plenty to see and do for all ages. In the time we had at our disposal it wasn’t possible to see and do everything, so we’ll definitely be back for a return visit sometime.

The museum is a science museum and local history museum situated in Blandford Square in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. It displays many exhibits of local history, including the ship, Turbinia. It is one of the biggest free museums in North East England, and in 2006 was winner of the North East’s Best Family Experience award at the North East England Tourism Awards. It is managed by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. Wikipedia

Click here for the Discovery Museum website.

Tots Tea Rooms in Wallsend

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This lovely cafe in Wallsend has become something of a second home for the Ager family recently. It’s a place for parents (or anyone caring for babies and toddlers) to relax and chat over a meal or simply have a tea or coffee. There’s a play area with plenty of toys (so the children can easily entertain themselves) and a baby changing room. The cafe is also breastfeeding friendly.

One of the things that makes Tots Tea Rooms special though is the variety of organised activities for the children, especially in school holidays. Our children have enjoyed sand art, messy play, rock pool fun (see photo below) and cookery – to name just a few of the activities on offer. They have also branched out into children’s parties and other events; for example, before Pollyanna was born we held our Baby Shower there. She now plays there, along with Matilda and (sometimes) Freddy.

Naomi is there more often than I am, but occasionally I take work with me or simply pop in and enjoy good coffee – yes, there’s a proper coffee machine before you ask. There is also free Wi-Fi for customers.

You don’t need to have a child with you, so why not drop in? It’s on the crossroads of High Street East and Park Road, not far from the town centre.

Note: Tots Tea Rooms is now under new management. Revised 15/08/18.

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Freddy’s First Photoshoot

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I’ve been interested in photography for as long as I can remember, developing and printing 35 mm films in a makeshift darkroom many years ago. Naomi is also a very keen photographer, and taking photos is so much easier now with digital cameras. Freddy (two years and seven months old) sees us both regularly taking photos, often with him as the subject. He has only has a toy camera (not a real one) so I decided it was time he had a go with a real one. I changed the wrist strap on my Nikon Coolpix S2600 compact digital camera for a longer one to go round his neck and took him to the local park in Wallsend to have a go, telling him to take whatever he wanted. I’ve picked one of the best to illustrate this post. All the photos were taken with no help from me, and can be seen by clicking here. I think a bright future in photography lies ahead for him.

Note: See my photos (Nikon D3000 DSLR) of the photoshoot here.

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Getting SAASY

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My vocation as a Salvation Army Corps Officer centres on being a pastor and preacher, but (inevitably) there are other duties and roles I have to undertake and fulfil as a Minister of Religion responsible for a worship and community centre in Wallsend. One that doesn’t sit comfortably with me is that of administration and particularly accounting, but it’s a role I have to fulfil in the absence of a treasurer (although I have an excellent Corps Secretary who works with me as a volunteer).

The finance system the Salvation Army uses goes by the wonderful name of Agresso, and is soon to have an upgrade to SAASY (Salvation Army Accounting SYstem) at the start of the new financial year. Today I attended a training day for the new web-based system, with an excellent buffet lunch provided by my Divisional Headquarters. By the end of the excellent training day my eyes had well and truly glazed over, but only because I can only deal with finance in small doses.

So, what’s my initial verdict? Well, it’s a lot for everyone to get their heads around, but I think (ultimately) it will be an improvement all round. I just feel sorry for those who prefer to do their accounting in a ledger with a pen! What are the thoughts of my colleagues?