2020 was a year none of us will soon forget. Many were challenged and stretched in ways never before imagined. Everyday activities and priorities shifted. However, in the midst of the change, there were blessings in the chaos. Our children and staff adjusted to the challenges presented to them, and we are grateful that they remained healthy and safe through it all.
Here are some of the highlights from the year.
Our one and only team of 2020 visited in January. Kobe Diers led this small but mighty team of college-aged young men. This team was able to spend time with some of our older boys and encourage them. One day, they took a group of fifteen teenage boys to a nearby beach in Freetown to play soccer. These boys received some much needed and deserved attention from our team of guys that could pour into them on this trip. The team was also a part of the post-Christmas beach trip, where all of our kids, along with our entire staff, were able to go. Like many of the beach trips, it was an opportunity for our kids to do something out of the ordinary.
In February, The Raining Season said a bittersweet goodbye as Charles and Ally Currie, along with their daughter, Ella, left Sierra Leone after two and a half years serving The Raining Season in Sierra Leone. Arriving in late July of 2017, Ally served as the travel coordinator, preparing, planning, and coordinating trips for our travelers, while Charles served as the Director of the Roots Project. Together, they served as house parents since the Roots House opened in August of 2018. Charles shared, “We are very grateful to TRS for allowing us the opportunity to serve here. We are also thankful to all those who have given, prayed, encouraged, and supported us during our time here. Lastly, we want to thank our colleagues, friends, and the children of TRS. They welcomed and loved us dearly and were gracious to allow us to become one of their own.”
In March, our plans for the year unexpectedly shifted as COVID-19 made its presence known around the globe. On March 13th, we announced changes to our day-to-day operations in order to keep our kids and staff safe and healthy. This included having staff work in fourteen-day rotations, building a stock of three months worth of food at the center, and making changes to church and school routines. Our goal was to create a sense of normalcy for our children while continuing to show them that they are loved and cared for in a safe and healthy environment. By God’s grace, our children and staff remained safe and healthy throughout the most challenging times of 2020.
One of our most-read blog posts of 2020 was an update on Gabriel in May. Sometime around January of 2018, Gabriel sustained an injury that crushed a vertebra in his neck and nearly severed his spinal cord. The exact history of his injury was unclear when he arrived at our center in June 2018, but we were told he fell, lost control of all of his bodily functions from his neck down, and was completely paralyzed. He joined the Hope Apartment, where he could receive the best care possible from our wonderful aunties in that apartment who had the training to meet his specific needs. Dr. Nicole McCauley, The Raining Season’s medical liaison, worked alongside nurse Sylvia Mansary to coordinate Gabriel's care plan. Over the next several months, our staff and teams were able to witness Gabriel begin regaining movement in his extremities, then one day, he sat up by himself. Shortly after, he was able to stand with the help of his caregivers. There is no medical explanation for how Gabriel went from complete paralysis below the neck to being “one of the boys.” Gabriel is nothing short of a miracle. He has moved from the Hope apartment to the big boys' apartment, can walk freely without the help of a walker, and he has even returned to school.
2020 brought many challenges, but in May, we shared a story of how nine-year-old Amalia had a kind gesture blossom into a project that blessed our staff in the midst of COVID-19 lockdowns. Amalia’s Kids’ Art With a Purpose committed to making 63 pieces of art, one dedicated to each staff member. The fundraiser was shared on Facebook with an audience of people who were familiar with The Raining Season, as well as many who may have been hearing about TRS for the very first time. Even with the help of others, Amalia single-handedly created more than thirty pieces of art! Each piece is uniquely designed for the recipient. The back of the painting included a sticker with The Raining Season’s name, along with the staff member’s name it is supporting, and the artist who created the painting. In a matter of two weeks, through the purchase of a canvas painting, every single staff member was sponsored. Because of the generosity of some amazing people, $4,000 was raised! That was enough for each of our sixty-three staff members to receive around $60!
In June, founder, Erica Rust, announced The Raining Season’s new Executive Director, Lori Pyle. Lori, a familiar face with The Raining Season, brought a wealth of knowledge and vision for growth as she stepped into this new role.
Two years ago, in July, we relaunched the blog on The Raining Season’s website. We wanted somewhere to celebrate the triumphs, joys, and milestones. Somewhere to share about our staff and children. Somewhere to share center and Roots updates and somewhere to ask for your prayers. With the celebration of two years, we also launched our first Meet the Need Campaign this past July. Each campaign will raise funds to meet a specific need for our center in Sierra Leone. Our first campaign set out with a goal to raise funds to purchase some much-needed medical supplies and new flip flops for all of the kids. Within one week, our month-long goal was accomplished! We raised $900 - $700 for malaria and typhoid medications and $200 for new flip flops for all of our children. We are continuously grateful for how TRS supporters step in and support our kids in so many ways.
Two years ago, in August, the next chapter for several of the children in our TRS family began. We opened the doors to the Roots home to continue providing new opportunities to the children we care for. The Roots Project was born out of the desire to help facilitate healthy transitions for older children into life outside of the center. One of our main goals is to connect our children to individualized opportunities to their interests and strengths while promoting healthy development through a myriad of life skills, education, and vocational training.
While there were many positive stories to share, our organization also suffered a great loss in 2020. On September 29th, we shared an email with our subscribers of the unexpected loss of one of our precious children, Mary Logan, at The Covering. Mary was diagnosed with Epilepsy several years ago, and it was a tremendously difficult disease for her to live with. While we are so sad she is no longer with us, we rejoice that she is finally at peace with the Lord. During her time at the center, an army of dedicated sponsors supported Mary. Our tribute to Mary shared the story of one sponsor, Claire Atanian, that Mary had a profound impact on.
After seven long months, our kids returned to school in October! Our children were able to complete their school exams in July and August, and when October came around, they were ready for a fresh start. We were grateful that the final three months of 2020 led to some return to normalcy and that our kids continued to remain healthy as they returned to school.
With a little extra help from our sponsors, Skype resumed in November. As we looked ahead to resuming Skype, we had one more hurdle to overcome. Computers. The computers used for Skype were on their last leg before the lockdown. We also needed an additional computer as the Roots Project continues to grow. In October, Karen reached out to sponsors letting them know that Skype would soon be resuming. However, four new computers would need to be purchased first. After that, a generous sponsor offered a $1,200 matching donation, half of what Sorie would need to purchase new computers in Sierra Leone. A quick turnaround of an additional $1,200 donated by sponsors, and we were able to purchase new computers for Skype and resume calls at the beginning of November.
In December, our kids and staff were able to close out 2020 on a bright note with their annual Christmas celebration. The festivities began the week before Christmas when all of the kids received new clothes. A foosball table and small billiards table, as well as dartboards, checkers, and chess, also arrived early, promising hours of fun for the kids. Then, just in time for Christmas, the new African dress clothes arrived. The Christmas Day celebrations were topped off with the big party. Our kids and staff were treated to a special meal and sodas while they played games and enjoyed their time together.
2020 reminded us that the road may not always be easy, but the kids we serve are worth it every single day. We missed welcoming you to our center, but we anxiously look forward to the day when our travel teams resume. Thank you for being part of our story in 2020. We are looking forward to watching the children continue to thrive and continuing our mission in 2021. Thank you for your continued support!
The Raining Season