2019 was an incredible year for The Raining Season. THANK YOU to those who prayed for us, traveled with us, sponsored children, supported us financially, and shared our story with others. The Lord has blessed us in ways bigger than we could ever imagine. He has been faithful, and for that we are grateful.
2019 was extra special because we celebrated ten years of The Raining Season. In 2009, founder Erica Rust dreamt of something bigger. A fight for justice led to Erica and Jason opening a small orphanage in Freetown to care for some of the most vulnerable and forgotten children in Sierra Leone.
Ten years later and The Raining Season is thriving. Over the past ten years, the road has been incredibly beautiful, but also incredibly hard at times. 2019 was a year of new adventures filled with teams traveling to Sierra Leone, children being united with their forever families, a ten-year celebration, and the launching of our Ambassadors for Kids at TRS program.
Here are some of our favorite highlights from the year. Each photo is linked to a blog post with more behind each story from the year! Feel free to click any of the photos to read more.
In January of 2019, our kids and staff were treated to a trip to the beach as part of the Christmas gift. On this particular trip, fifteen of our children were baptized in the Atlantic Ocean by Pastor Daniel.
In February, we launched a new reading project. After traveling for the first time in January of 2019, Joe Walker came home with a dream to launch a new reading program at the center. Reading teaches empowerment, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Reading enables you to have a voice and to express yourself. It teaches you how to convey your thoughts verbally and in written form. Joe saw the potential impact that these skills and a reading program could have on our kids and the center.
These skills are necessary whether they go on to be an accountant, a teacher, seamstress, doctor, horticulturist or whatever passion they might have. On a return trip in August, Joe was able to see the program in action. Knowledge is power and Joe saw an opportunity to impact a statistic, starting with the kids at the center. The kids are reading for school, but there is the potential for a bigger impact. Joe shared, “We don’t just read for education or fun, we also read because it’s the way that we learn to express ourselves so that we can have a voice and become change agents of the future.”
Over the years, our kids have had some pretty incredible accomplishments. We also think that our staff is pretty top-notch. They are constantly striving to be better employees and caregivers. In March, two of our employees, including Sorie Kamara, our in-country director, earned advanced degrees in their fields. Like many of our staff, he is dedicated to serving our children. Our amazing staff goes above and beyond every day to provide opportunities for our children. They see the value in education, for both themselves and the kids.
While our education team was on the ground in May, we rounded everyone up and traveled to a sports field near the center. There, we had Sports Day. Our Sports Day was special because EVERYONE got to participate. Events were specially designed so our littlest ones, Hope Room kiddos, and everyone in between could join in on the fun. Some of the favorite events included musical chairs, popo the baby, pop the balloon, and tug of peace.
Much of 2019 was recognized as the tenth anniversary of The Raining Season. In August, a ten-year celebration was held in Nashville. There was delicious food, live music, face painting, and even an artist to draw caricatures. People came from near and far to celebrate our anniversary. Of course, we couldn’t celebrate a milestone this big in just one day! On Sunday, we hosted a brunch in Franklin, Tennessee, for families who have adopted from our center.
Also, in August of 2019, The Raining Season was on the receiving end of the Sierra Football Club’s (also known as the Sierra Football Academy) incredible mission. In a two day event, the Sierra Football Club first visited the center. They sent their head trainer to work with all of our boys on basic soccer skills, including foot-work drills. The main event came later in the week when The Raining Season’s soccer team participated in a friendly match against the 15 and under Sierra Football Academy team. We are excited to share that in December ten boys from the center began full training sessions with the Sierra Football Club.
Finally, the excitement of our tenth anniversary could not overshadow another important anniversary in August. On August 26th, we celebrate one year in the Roots House. The Roots House was developed as a transitional home for our teens that are aging out of the orphanage. In our first year, we welcomed 6 young adults. They took on new responsibilities, and our first child began an apprenticeship as a furniture maker. As the year came to a close, new opportunities were being explored including additional apprenticeships and college.
In September we were reminded of the powerful impact our mission teams have. Our travelers leave an impression, not only on our kids and staff but also within the Freetown community. Community outreach is just one part of the travel experience. On this particular trip, community outreach left a lasting impression on both Will Nichols and Omar. It was during a visit to Auntie Margaret’s orphanage on Will's first trip in 2012 that Will met Omar.
Will shared, “As a 14-year-old, I did not understand the reality of the world we live in until that day. Once we got to Auntie Margaret’s, I met everyone and talked to all of the children there, some were my age and some were younger. And then I met Omar. At the time, Omar was about 20 years old and was helping Auntie Margaret with everything and caring for all of the children. He attended bible school at the time where he would walk 4 miles in total there and back every day. Seeing a man that young work so hard and care for so many people was an inspiration and I wanted to stay connected with him after I left.” On August 15th, Will and Omar reconnected in the place where they first met six years ago.
In November we announced a new program that will benefit our kids at the center. In 2020 we are launching a new program called Ambassadors for Kids at TRS. Twelve individuals have committed to serving The Raining Season in 2020. By sharing The Raining Season, our mission, and our amazing kids, each ambassador will be committing to bringing in two new sponsors each month. Twelve ambassadors multiplied by two new sponsors each month would mean twenty-four new sponsors each month and 288 new sponsors in 2020.
We closed out 2019 on a high note. We had two special celebrations in December. On December 15, our kids and staff took part in a special Thanksgiving celebration thanking the Lord for ten years of The Raining Season. The Thanksgiving service was held at the First Presbyterian Church in Freetown. The children participated in many ways, including leading praise and worship, melodrama performances, song contributions, dance performances, scripture readings, and a vote of thanks.
The service concluded with food and refreshments (donated by Medix) for everyone that attended the Thanksgiving service. The following weekend the celebration continued with a health march for all of the kids and staff. Together, they walked from the center to Lumley Beach. Along the way, they displayed a 10th-anniversary banner, and everyone wore 10th-anniversary t-shirts. This two-part celebration was a special way to commemorate this extraordinary milestone.
2019 was capped off with our annual Christmas celebration. An amazing group of sponsors and friends went above and beyond to generously donate the funds needed to put on a very special Christmas party. The kids and staff had a fantastic time at the party. This year, each child received their very own, new African outfit. We also had a special party at the center that included a large meal, games, and a bounce house! They feasted on chicken, rice, and vegetables. The Christmas festivities ended with a trip to the beach while our first team of 2020 was in-country. Our entire staff and kids made a day trip to River No. 2 Beach, just outside of Freetown. They spent the day swimming, running, and playing soccer on the beach.
2019 once again showed us what a powerful God we serve. Thank you for being part of our story in 2019. We are looking forward to growing the Roots Project, watching the children continue to flourish, and continuing our mission in 2020. Thank you for your continued support!
The Raining Season