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Fall 2022 Update: Jan Swensen and Jim Ice Visit Angels’ Place

In October, James Connection Executive Director Jan Swensen and Board Member Jim Ice traveled to Angels’ Place. These regular trips have several goals that center around maintaining a safe, healthy, and nurturing life for the children. They both kept a full schedule during their week-long stay, and their activities included: meeting with the children; meeting with the staff in order to review operations, programs, and financial management of Angels’ Place; reviewing the educational progress of the children and their medical care; and assessing the facilities for maintenance and capital needs.

Jan had a special intention for this trip, which was to meet with some of the recent graduates of Angels’ Place, and his report underscores one of our most important goals for our work. Angels’ Place exists not only to take care of the children but also to prepare them for their lives as adults. Jan’s report contains many heartwarming stories of how these precious children have grown into young adults who are making their way in the world. As for Jim, he has been working for several years on developing the vocational programs at Angels’ Place. During this trip, he devoted significant time to reviewing curriculum, mentorship, and facilities. He is pleased to report substantial growth in the program – another effort to ensure that the children become productive and self-sufficient when they enter adulthood. To read the full reports, click the links at the end of this article.

By both accounts, the children are doing well and the staff at Angels’ Place are providing good care for them. Please see Jan’s and Jim’s summary reports below for more detail. We thank you for your ongoing support, for you have made Angels’ Place a nurturing home where children can count on a brighter future - one that they would not have had without you.

Read Jan's full report

Read Jim's full report

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

A Message from Jan

Dear Friend of James Connection,

This pandemic has gone on so long it seems we have grown apart from both the children of Angels' Place and you, our sponsors and donors. I have not been able to go to India for two years and we have not been able to get around the US to speak to you, our supporters. But let me assure you, we have not been sitting still. Angels' Place is better than ever. With your help, we just keep making it better and better each year. This past year has been no different.

We have all of our kids back on campus and despite being in lock-down, they are all healthy and well. We just graduated another 12 seniors, most of whom will go on to college. We have added a new building for vocational education classes as well as eight new computers with printers and software. We are in the process of installing a new water retention system with a well in the girls' dorm.

As you can see, we have been busy doing good work for the children. As soon as we are able, we will go to Angels' Place and get out to make presentations anywhere you give us the opportunity.

Please, keep in touch and reach out anytime if you have ideas for getting the message to more potential sponsors and donors.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

~ Jan