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“We are so grateful here!”

Kids smile in gratitude for the gift of new art supplies!

We are pleased to report all children are doing well despite an outbreak in November when 18 children tested positive for Covid-19. These children were immediately isolated, received medical attention, and are now back to enjoying all the opportunities available at Angels' Place. If you want to learn more about the outbreak, read the most recent message from our Executive Director, Jan Swensen.

And now, an update from Miss Sangi, Career Coordinator at Angels' Place...

Greetings from Angels’ Place! We are delighted to share the overall progress and activities that have taken place here in Angels' Place. As we all know, schools and many institutions have been closed due to the pandemic. This situation has affected the learning of the children in many ways, especially for children who can't afford the digital resources to stay connected. We are extremely grateful here that the children at Angels’ Place are able to read, write, learn, and do their assignments with the help of the supervisors. Things are returning to normal slowly. Children in many grades have resumed classes on alternate days, and consultation classes have begun for the children of classes 11 and 12. The schools continue to follow the Covid protocols of masking, using hand sanitizer, and social distancing.

We are delighted to report on a number of activities that are providing enrichment and growth for the children.

Online Painting Class: Mrs Smriti Ahuja, an alumni of National Institute of Design, continues to provide an online painting class called “Healing with paint” for children below the age of 12. They have the class once per week, for two hours every Thursday, where they learn the different techniques of painting. Currently, they are learning to paint different forms and shapes in a flower arrangement, and every week they spend at least one hour painting practicing their flower painting. They enjoy the experience, and at the same time their English vocabulary has increased by learning new words every day through their painting.

Letter Writing: The children received their letter in September, and supervisors helped them while they write their letters responding to their sponsors. The letter writing was organised on different days by class level, to avoid any chaos and mistakes from the children. For the younger children who were unable to read and write, a the supervisors assisted them in translation.

Awareness on Body Safety: Many studies indicate an increase in violent and child sexual abuse during the lockdown. To make sure that the children are aware of their safety rules a session on 'Body safety rules' has been conducted by Ms Sangi on September 15, starting with children from class 6 and below.

Counseling sessions were held for children who need counseling support. The counseling included both one-on-one sessions and, for children who face the same difficulties, group sessions.

Special Learning and Health Opportunities: Angels’ Place hosted a learning event on Anti-Malaria Day, targeting those in class 10 and above, and also a session on alcohol addiction for children ages 13-17.

Sewing/Tailoring: Children who learned sewing were improving day by day. For now, they started learning how to sew simple tops of their own and from this month they will be stitching a dress for children who were above class five under the guidance of their instructor Ms Donnem.

Thank you for everything you do to make this all possible. We could not do it without you.

~ Miss Sangi

A Special Thanksgiving Message

Dear James Connection Community:

In the season of Thanksgiving every year we send this heartfelt thank you to you for supporting the James Connection’s work to provide food, clothing, shelter and Christian love at Angels’ Place – home to 160 orphans in rural, northeast India. Given Covid-19, our thanks abound.

We could not be more proud of the way our staff managed life at Angels’ Place throughout the pandemic. From the time the Indian government closed group homes throughout the country Sanga, Englian, Siam and Sangi stayed in touch with the children, distributed rice and dal to their families, and encouraged them to stay healthy. Because we sustained their salaries, our staff dedicated themselves to learning safety protocols to prepare the campus for the children’s return. With children back but schools still closed, our staff diligently organized enrichment activities and games to keep children busy, and they engaged qualified and vaccinated tutors to conduct classes on our locked-down campus mimicking a routine school day.

As life returns to as-near-normal as possible, there is no better evidence of the quality of our work than this fact – not one person or child at Angels’ Place has caught the virus.

That was then. This is now. Now it is time to look ahead, to set new goals, to reimagine the future our kids will encounter, and to re-evaluate the best way to prepare them for it. Through consultation with local schools, tech companies with international reach, and employment advisors around the world we have uncovered an obvious but alarming gap.

From the start, our children’s future is disadvantaged because the unemployment rate in northeast India is 74%. They are being left further behind and are, therefore, further less employable because they are not learning computer science. Yes, we have some computers at Angels’ Place, but they are used mostly by the older children who have picked up knowledge at local internet cafes; the younger children watch over shoulders and seldom have hands-on experience. No, the area schools do not offer any computer education and cannot afford any computers.

The James Connection board of directors is unanimously committed to meaningfully addressing that gap. We call this initiative Building Digital Natives – a reference to kids whose native speaking language is the language of technology because they have grown up with it, because they have been immersed in it. If we are successful, our children will be better prepared for the workplace – be it a seamstress who starts a cottage industry or a math-whiz who goes to work for an international company. They will be competitively eligible for a job anywhere……. anywhere in India ……. in fact, anywhere in the world.

Thanksgiving is also the time when we ask you to consider a year-end, tax-deductible gift. Gifts of all sizes are critical to our success in raising $110,000 to research, design and implement with equipment, tutors and a qualified director the Building Digital Natives program. Please help us as much as you can. Click here to give now.

On behalf of the board, the exceptional staff, the beautiful children at Angels’ Place, and with gratitude and hope, I am yours truly.

Jan C. Swensen

 

A Message from our Executive Director

2021 presented a host of challenges and we are thankful that we consistently navigated them well. Chief among the challenges was and is Covid. While the remoteness of the region meant that Covid was rare, the virus has finally reached the community and Angels’ Place.

In November, one of the girls who attended school became mildly ill. She was quarantined and tested for Covid which came back positive. The rest of the children and all the staff were tested immediately. Altogether 18 children tested positive for Covid, but only the original child was symptomatic. All 18 were isolated in special quarters at Angels’ Place, none developed symptoms, all returned to normal when they tested negative, and the original child is also fully recovered.

We routinely test all children and staff as the doctors deem necessary. Thanks to protocols and preparedness, our doctors and our staff were successful in preventing a major outbreak at Angels’ Place. They remain vigilant in their ongoing caution and we pray to God that we avoid any further outbreak.

Our work goes on! The newest initiative is an immersive computer education program to prepare kids for the digital world they will join when they leave Angels’ Place no matter what they plan to do. We call it "Building Digital Natives.” Click here for an explanation of Digital Natives Initiative and here for an update on other activities going on at the orphanage.

Every year we have improved the lives of our kids and have improved the facilities at Angels' Place. This new initiative will transform our education program and prepare our children for employment in a very challenging environment. The unemployment rate of Manipur is a staggering 74%. Computer skills will give our kids a realistic chance to compete for jobs in the modern world. It will cost a bunch; we estimate the cost at $110,000. (Surprisingly, computers are more expensive in India!) The kids need this program and, moreover, they want it. We need to provide it for them. With God's help and the help of our generous supporters, we will.

The close of the year reminds us that the health, education and spiritual nurturing of the children at Angels’ Place has always depended on support from our donors - generous, caring people. In the spirit of the Christmas season, I ask you to make an extra gift to the James Connection. With your help, we can continue to support the children and we can continue to explore new opportunities for them. Click here to learn about the different ways you can help.

With humble appreciation of the collective support that has enabled the success of the James Connection, we wish your family good health and blessings in the Christmas season and all through the New Year.

God bless us all,

Jan Swensen

Half a World Away

Jenifer with some of the children.

We are delighted to feature this beautiful story written by Jenifer Segal about her experience as a sponsor. Jenifer is married and mother of two children living in St. Louis. She is National Editor of Major League Baseball communications and is thrilled to share her inspirational story with the James Connection community...

I was blessed with an opportunity to travel to Manipur, India, in January 2011, along with Jan Swensen and Stephanie (Robison) Cooper to see the work being done at Angels Place and to help construct a new library on campus.

It was not my first mission trip, but it certainly was among the most impactful. Spending a week reading and playing, singing and laughing with the children renewed my spirit and left the sort of impression that is not easily erased. Upon saying goodbye, I felt certain that I would forever be attached to those children.

My life has changed so much since then. I moved away from Pittsburgh and settled in St. Louis, where I now live with my husband and our two young children. Yet one constant through all these seasons of life has been my connection to Angels Place.

Deciding to become a sponsor – and to recruit others to do the same – was an obvious next step upon returning home from India. I had just seen firsthand the needs of these children and the way that Angels Place helped fill the gap for orphans in that community. I was also blown away to learn how much could be achieved from a seemingly modest monthly donation.

And so began a special relationship that I had with a stranger a half a world away.

Her name was Lamneichong, and over the last decade, I have been blessed to watch her grow from a young girl to a high school graduate. She had been abandoned by her mother, shortly after her father died, but found her way to Angels Place when she was nine years old. What a joy it was to watch her flourish over the next 11 years.

We shared letters and pictures, as well as stories about important life events. Together, we celebrated her baptism and achievements in school. She had aspirations to be a clothing designer, and she showcased that talent through the beautiful sketches and drawings she sent in the mail.

For a while, I worried about whether someone like me – someone who had hardly wanted for anything as a child – could easily relate to someone like Lamneichong, whose life had been littered with hardship. Those concerns quickly faded away, though, as we found commonality in our faith. She’d always end her letters with a note about how she was praying for me. I found it humbling that someone who could have been so hardened by life’s circumstances could demonstrate such a mature faith.

Lamneichong recently completed her schooling and graduated from Angels Place. I’ll miss our correspondence, but I also know that she is destined for great things. As for me, I now get to know another Angel, this one named Chinthiannem, a nine year old I began sponsoring this summer. And what a blessing it will be to spend the next decade bonding with another one of God’s children who, without the work of James Connection, I would otherwise never have gotten to know.

- Jenifer (Langosch) Segal