'We help them have a life that God desires for all mankind'
Over 500 bags were packed recently with pencils, crayons and toys intended for children on the other side of the world.
The children will receive these '"Christmas Swag Bags" as part of a local resident's initiative to aid those who are experiencing poverty in Zambia.
It all started in 2008 when Alissa Rosebrough from Fort Worth was working as a photographer for several aid organizations in Africa. As she became embedded in Africa's culture and its people, she realized she could do much more. She decided to shift her career in a new direction.
Rosebrough founded Arise Africa in 2010, a nonprofit that serves children in Zambia through health care, education and discipleship.
“We help them (the children) have a life that God desires for all mankind,” Rosebrough said. Now, eight years later, the organization has more than 700 members who serve in the United States and Africa. As described on the organization's website, its goal is to relieve poverty in Africa "while not forcing them with Western thoughts or practices."
"Obviously children all over the world need help, but in Africa there's not a lot of resources for children," Rosebrough said. "There's a lot of services here that will help children and families."
Arise Africa works closely with children who are orphaned and who live with distant relatives or with elder siblings who are not much older than they are.
In some cases, a child might live with an immediate family member but still lack appropriate medical care. Such is the case with Maggie, who's sponsored by marriage and family counselor Debby Wade of Grapevine. In 2016 Wade traveled with Arise Africa and offered training sessions for staffers in Zambia.
"I talked to them (staff) about dealing with sexual trauma since the staff are the ones mainly working with the children," Wade recalled.
During her trip, she noticed a young girl.
"Whenever she would lean into a picture or get excited, she would hide her hands," Wade said.
Maggie was 1-year-old when she burned her hands. It was during Wade's trip in 2016, that she asked Rosebrough to look into her case and see what could be done for Maggie. After several visits with medical providers, Maggie went into surgery and was able to recover the use of all her fingers in one of her hands.
As of this year, Rosebrough says there's no immediate plan for surgery on her second hand as injuries were far more severe. Yet, two years later, she's able to write and attend school.
"Her confidence has changed and she's just become really healthy," said Wade, who receives several updates on Maggie throughout the year. "It's not only because she's healthy, but it's because she's educated," Rosebrough said.
Currently Arise Africa has 450 children in sponsorship, providing them with clothing, school supplies, meals for school and clinic visits. Sponsors also write letters two to three times a year and do receive responses from the children.
It's these kids who will each receive a "Christmas Swag Bag" from their sponsors which were recently prepared by Arise Africa volunteers and staff members in their Fort Worth office. The bags were sent in June to avoid shipping delays.
“Watching a child open a Christmas bag when they’ve never had a gift in their lives is really fun,” said Rosebrough after two long days of packing.