“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8
Since its creation, Sarah’s Covenant Homes (SCH) has run on a child sponsorship model of fundraising. Inviting people in our global community to partner with our children has proved to be a blessing to everyone involved. Our children are loved all around the world. They are advocated for. Their stories are told with dignity and respect. Donors have been blessed by knowing our children; inspired. Donors have become volunteers, volunteers have become foster parents, and foster parents have become forever families.
Unfortunately, this financial model is no longer working for SCH or the children and adults we care for. Our children require more financial resources than those of other organizations that run successfully from this model.
Their medical needs are extensive. Most of the children and young adults in the care of SCH have life-long medical conditions. They require regular blood tests and doctor consultations. Surgeries. Follow ups. Special supplies. Nursing staff. They take boxes and bottles of medicines. Cabinets full of tablets and syrups just to maintain the health they have.
Their disabilities often mean that their education is expensive. We have to seek out better quality schools with more educated staff just to get our children through the front door. But even then our children often require an adapted curriculum and aides to attend school with them. This means that in some cases we are paying private school tuition and an additional teacher’s salary for one child. But this is what it takes to get them where they need to be. Out in the world. Interacting with neuro-typical peers. Showing society that disabilities aren’t scary. On the opposite side of the coin, many of our children attend reasonably priced mainstream schools within the community. They make friends. They learn Indian culture. They are encouraged by finding a sense of normalcy in their ever chaotic world.
Their therapy and equipment needs rival that of full blown rehabilitation and skilled nursing facilities in the States. Yes, we provide family style care, but our family consists of 150 children and young adults more than half of which require regular physical therapy. Orthotics. Assisted seating and standing devices. Walkers. Wheelchairs. This is what they need to have bodies that cooperate, limbs that are pain free. This is what they deserve: to be able to sit, stand, walk if and when they are able. In many cases our children require additional therapies that we cannot afford or aren’t easily accessible in India. Occupational therapy. Speech therapy. Feeding therapy.
Their nutritional needs can be higher than those of other children. Almost all of our children came to SCH malnourished and underweight. We work hard when they first arrive to improve their nutritional status in a healthy yet quick way. Then, in some cases, we work even harder to maintain their new health. Years, months, or even weeks of neglect and poor oral intake have a lasting effect on the body and its continued nutrition needs. We try our hardest to give our children and young adults the healthiest, most affordable options. Eggs. Curd (yogurt). Dal (beans). Vegetables. Peanuts. Chickpeas.
They never have and never will “age out.” Many of the young adults in our care could never truly live independently. With the support of a family they may have been able to get a job and have some independence, but now, without that support, they would never survive. They won’t leave SCH, but their role here and our role with them will change. We have started vocational training. We’re teaching them household tasks and chores. We’ll teach them basic life skills. And we’ll continue to support them emotionally, spiritually, and financially. This means that the cost of their medical, rehab, or nutritional needs will never disappear.
At SCH we go “above and beyond” for those in our care in many areas. But the reality is, in some ways, we barely measure up. Even our best schools are lack luster and apathetic in the way they teach our children with disabilities. Even our best hospitals have doctors who openly tell us there is no value in the lives of our children. Even the best equipment and therapists we can afford don’t measure up to the resources they could access in a family.
And truthfully, because we are so strained financially, we’ve resorted to using less than the best. We’ve sought less expensive schools, changed provision vendors, and placed children at the hospitals that will work with us the most. To save money we’ve reduced staffing, dissolved homes, and moved our stable adults from Hyderabad to Ongole. But at some point, in the name of cost cutting, we fear it will become more about the numbers and less about the kids. That can’t and won’t happen at SCH. We believe that each child and adult in our care has a right to an education, medical care, and therapies. They deserve healthy food and safe shelter. We can and will trim down our budget where we can, but we will not compromise on the quality of basic care we provide.
The leadership at SCH, the foster parents, the long term volunteers, we prayerfully and faithfully care for and love these children and young adults. We believe that EVERY LIFE MATTERS. Every person regardless of age, ability, sex, religion, or race has value, worth, significance. After all, the people in our care were created in the image of the living God. If that doesn’t bring you to your knees to pray for their every need to be fulfilled, I don’t know what will.
Right now, Sarah’s Covenant Homes continues to meet the medical, educational, therapy, and nutritional needs of those in our care. We continue to meet these needs despite the fact that we have no money. Despite the fact that we have $55,000 in unpaid bills, rent, and salary. We meet these needs because we’ve been called to do so; and, honestly, because no one else will. There are no other organizations, governmental or otherwise, Christian or otherwise, in our area that are caring for abandoned people with disabilities. We can’t stop. Our work can’t stop. These children and adults don’t stop. Their needs don’t stop.
But $55,000 of debt doesn’t just affect us as an organization at the corporate level. It’s a mudslide that starts at the top of the mountain wiping out every single life form in its path. Each minute gaining momentum, having a greater impact on the land below it. Yes, our debt affects us corporately. We experience guilt. Shame. Hopelessness. As leaders and long-term volunteers in-country, we have the financial strain of supplementing our kids’ needs when organizationally we can’t provide. We pay school fees. Power bills. Medical bills. We sacrifice any “extra” we would have in personal support because our children deserve every single “extra” in life. But our burden, as westerners with legions of supporters back home, is nothing compared to the burden this debt puts on our local staff.
We can’t pay our staff salaries timely or fully. Office staff. Social workers. Teachers. Nurses. Ayahs (caregivers). Watchmen. House keepers. Drivers. Most of these people live within our homes at SCH. They take their daily meals with us. Their very basic needs (shelter, food) remain provided for but they are left without money. This means they have no way to leave. No way to travel home. This means they have nothing to send back to their villages. No way to pay their children’s school fees, their parents’ medical bills. But their burden is small compared to the burden our debt puts on our outside vendors.
We can’t pay our vendors and suppliers. The “fruit guy.” The “rice guy.” The “milk guy.” These people live out in the community; some already struggling to stay afloat. Living hand to mouth. At the end of the week, the month, we can only afford to pay them pennies on the dollar of what we owe. This means that they can’t pay their employees. Their rent. Their power bills. They can’t send their children to school. Their parents to the hospital. The burden of the people in the community and beyond that our debt affects is astronomical. It’s their livelihoods. Their lives.
At Sarah’s Covenant Homes, our mission is to provide the children and adults in our care with a quality life. Diginity. Respect. We crave to show our children that they are valued. Loved. Cared for. But our mission doesn’t stop with them. We hope, pray, yearn to show the men and women who work for us these same things. That they are loved. Valued. Cherished. That we have respect and thankfulness for all they do, all they provide, all they pour into our children. We want to minister to them. To teach them about God’s love. About His provision.
Unfortunately, SCH finds itself in a time of financial crisis. A crisis that rolls right from the top affecting each and every member of our staff and our community at large. While we as leaders and foster parents try to shield our children from this crisis, try to fill every gap in our current financial situation, the reality is that they are still affected. Their ayahs are tired, burnt out, running on fumes. When the caregivers can’t visit their families, can’t provide for their needs, they ultimately can’t love on our children wholeheartedly. It affects our children in the quality of provisions we receive. When we can’t pay our rice vendor or fruit vendor on time we’re provided with inferior food for our homes.
SCH has been truly blessed and covered in the Lord’s provision in that our children have never gone without food or shelter while in our care. Beyond reason, our vendors continue to supply most of our needs despite our debt. Hospitals allow us to discharge our children without paying. The pharmacy gives us important medications and supplies on credit, hoping that we can pay at the end of the month. All of these are God’s provision for SCH and the children/adults in our care. All of these are signs that His love, His grace remains with us, both personally and as an organization. But we’ve now reached a season of needing something more.
I believe that in this season God’s mercy for SCH is going to come through all of you. I believe that as our global community, our brothers and sisters, our biggest fan club, you will circle around us and provide us with relief in our time of need. Relief to pay our debts. Relief to love our children better. Relief to serve our staff. Relief to provide stability to our local community. Relief to allow us to bring glory to the Kingdom of God.
As we move forward into 2018, the leaders, volunteers, and staff at SCH have much reflecting, much seeking, and much planning to do. We need a new model to obtain funds for SCH as a whole. We need to explore new ideas and pathways to saving money. We need to find ways to empower our local community in India to be more invested and involved in our work. Both corporately and individually, we are praying for wisdom, seeking God’s will, and listening to His word as we lead SCH into the coming year. We yearn to be an organization founded in biblical truths. Right now in order to do that we need to clear our debts, release our burdens, and embrace the freedom of being only indebted to LOVE.
To help provide relief to Sarah’s Covenant Homes DONATE HERE.
*All donations are 501c3 tax-deductible.*