HOW WE HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE


2016 in Review

Though a very young charity, Connecting With Love (CWL) hit the ground running in 2016, succeeding in raising enough funds and donations to help meet the needs of what began as eight children and ultimately grew to 26 by the end of the year! We also made important connections, expanded our resources, and increased community awareness of the poverty in Guinea and the plight of the children.

Community Outreach for Donations

CWL collected donated items for six months – enough to fill a 40’ shipping container to send to Guinea. The container was filled with furniture, household goods, toys, books, sports equipment, tools, medical supplies, clothing, shoes, electronics, a generator, bikes, food, vitamins… and even a car!

CWL worked with Junior Girl Scout Troup #49104 to collect household donations, and the scouts also donated funds they raised from cookie and hot chocolate sales. The scouts held a successful food and vitamin drive where enough food and vitamins were collected to fill a conversion van!

In June, we paid to have the container shipped to the children in Guinea. Later, we treated the Girl Scout troop to a pizza party and shared stories and photos of the children in Africa as they were enjoying and using the items the Girl Scouts had collected.

Summer Missionary Visit

In July 2016, Reverend Maureen O’Connor and Priscilla Elliott (aged 15 yrs) visited the children in Guinea, West Africa for four weeks (self-funded). The goal of their visit was to help unload and distribute the container contents, gain a better understanding of conditions and costs, as well as discern the future needs of the children.

Their experience in Guinea was extremely eye opening. They realized firsthand how much the children of Guinea needed help from people who cared!

There were many more vulnerable homeless children in Guinea than they ever expected – and the children who did have homes often only had one parent, usually a mother, who made less than $1 a day. Just surviving is a way of life for many in Guinea.

Maureen and Priscilla enjoyed spending time and getting to know the 26 children who were being helped through Connecting With Love. Through the help of a translator, they were able to learn about the children’s hopes and dreams for their future – something these kids had never thought about before. During their visit, Maureen and Priscilla had so much fun playing soccer with the children, learning how to braid hair, dancing and teaching them English. Priscilla was overwhelmed when she saw how appreciative the children were when she did something as little as buy them cookies! One of the most heart-wrenching parts about the trip was hearing how some of these children were surviving prior to CWL’s help. Maureen and Priscilla found joy in hearing the children’s stories about their future and all the things they wanted to do in life now that they were able to go to school and didn’t have to worry about food, or where they were going to sleep.

Building Relationships

While in Guinea, Reverend O’Connor entered into a partnership with the Bishop Boston Jacques and the Anglican Diocese of Guinea West Africa.

Not only does this partnership increase CWL’s access to trusted resources, but the Bishop has offered free schooling at the Anglican School for any child under CWL care. In addition, CWL would have access to two medical clinics for free medical evaluations/visits for any of the children.

Bishop Boston Jacques also honored Rev. Maureen O’Connor by making her a Canon at All Saints Cathedral Conakry Guinea, where she was the first woman to ever preside on the altar.

In October, Bishop Boston Jacques was able to come to Lombard to meet the rest of the CWL team. While he was here, he met with Chicago Bishop Jeffrey Lee and Bishop Joseph from the South Sudan and also presented to Northern Theological Seminary.


FUNDRAISING/COMMUNITY EFFORTS

  • In April, CWL hosted a fundraiser open house called Taste of Africa. The event attracted approximately 80 attendees, who were exposed to African culture through food and live entertainment.
  • In May, CWL partnered with Buffalo Wild Wings to host a dining event where 10% of food sales from participating diners was donated.
  • Near the end of May, CWL hosted a “Paint it Up” event where we had a great opportunity to share our mission and increase our donor reach.
  • In September, Reverend O’Connor spoke at Calvary Episcopal Church, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and some local homes about CWL and its mission.
  • In November, CWL exhibited at the Lombard Christmas/Art Fair, exhibiting and selling art by Guinean artist Kaba Traore, plus some CWL-handmade items to raise funds.
  • At the end of the year, CWL attended the Episcopal General Convention and raised the visibility of CWL with other churches as a possible Lenten project or church sponsorship.
  • CWL also connected with St. Thomas in Chicago, where more African art was displayed and sold at their Art Expo.