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Bagchand organicfarm2

Three unforgettable stories of restoration

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Tearfund’s Creative Director, Coby Hallas, reflects on 12 years at Tearfund – and how she’s seen God weave a story of restoration in her own life, and in the lives of those she’s encountered through the work of our partners.

Over the past 12 years that I have had the privilege of working at Tearfund, there have been countless lessons that I have learned – not just in my evolving professional roles during those years, but also the ongoing restoration work that God has been doing in my life personally.

My name, Coby, is Dutch and derives from Jacob, which has several meanings… but the one that I have claimed for myself is “To exchange my ability for God's ability”. I have seen this exchange and restoration work of God amongst the communities that Tearfund’s partners work in, and this has been an ongoing source of inspiration for me. It continues to remind me of God's faithfulness when the challenges in life seem, at times, impossible.

Three stories that stand out to me the most over these years specifically relate to God's work of restoration both in individual lives as well as communities that our partners work in.

Surender teaching2

Surender’s example

When I started working with Tearfund in 2011, I had the opportunity to visit Mussoorie Gamin Vikas Samiti (MGVS), one of our partners at the time, who worked with rural communities in the foothills of the Himalayas. Surender Singh is the coordinator of the program, and he has literally surrendered his life to his work, the land and the Himalayan people.

At that time MGVS was helping local farmers adapt their agricultural practices, enabling them to sustain not only their farms, but also their culture. Surender and his team focused on training local farmers in organic techniques and helped establish several organic farming cooperatives through Self-Help Group activities.

I will always remember Surender and MGVS’s leading example of stewarding God's creation in their work. It not only enabled the restoration of a livelihood for these communities, but invested in sustainable farming techniques that made use of available resources and considered the needs of future farming generations taking care of the environment.

Surender shares his story in this video

Andrew Omwende Omolo

Andrew’s resilience

Many of our partners have projects that seek to specifically improve access to opportunities for all members of the community. This work has personally resonated with me and my journey with both my girls who live with a Specific Learning Disorder. It’s been a challenging 10-year journey supporting both my girls who struggle to read and write. Over these years I realised that I needed to step-up and be their greatest advocate to ensure they accessed the support and adjustments within the education system to not only survive but ultimately thrive in their learning. This at times was incredibly daunting and stretching.

However, the stories of people who face ongoing challenges in their everyday lives yet still rise above the barriers of poverty, demonstrates a resilience that continues to inspire me. Many people living with a disability face prejudice in their community and barriers that prevent them from participating in day-to-day activities. The work of Tearfund partners helps educate communities about the different abilities of people in their community, dispel harmful myths about disability, and contribute to additional support and improved accessibility for those living with a disability.

Andrew Omwende Omolo

Andrew Omwende Omolo is a Kenyan volleyball champion! He worked alongside Tearfund partner Ugunja Community Resource Centre (UCRC) in Kenya, helping people with disabilities to get the support they need and deserve, restoring their dignity, so they can live life to the full. UCRC supported people with disabilities by enabling them to join sporting groups, attend school, receive vocational and skills training so that they can independently earn an income.

Keo Chan

Keo’s commitment

During those early years working with Tearfund, my family went through a season of change. We lived in a community for a couple of years while my husband started a new business and we began the restoration and renovation work on our 100-year-old home in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. We were financially stretched, and I had to trust God that the foundational work he started in our lives would one day bear fruit.

It was at this time that I was working on the video edit of Keo’s story. Keo is a mother with similar-aged children to mine. Her resilience and determination to provide and build a future not just for her family but the community she lived in will always remind me of my work at Tearfund being part of a broader community that exists beyond my local.

Keo’s family shared a small house with two other families. There was not enough rice to go around and Keo and her husband had to travel to another village to work to feed their family. There was no extra income for daily expenses, like school fees or medicine. Tearfund’s partner, World Concern Laos, worked with Keo’s village on an integrated community development project, and a process of restoration happened not just for Keo and her family but the whole community.

The project helped empower the community through a range of initiatives in the areas of health, water, food and education. A village irrigation system opened new farmland, enabling Keo’s family to have their own rice paddy, and improvements to the village’s household water supply meant they could enlarge their vegie garden, enabling them to grow enough food for the whole family. Keo joined an adult literacy class and after studying hard for one year, learned how to read and write. She also became involved with a savings and loans group and was asked to be the group’s bookkeeper. Keo shares: “If I had no money for the kids to go to school or if someone is sick and needs medicine, I can borrow from the group with very low interest.”

The project also provided training and seedlings to help Keo establish her own small coffee plantation, a cash crop that enabled her to access a regular income. Keo eventually moved into her own home with space for her three children to grow and her husband could return and live with the family again.

Keo shares her story in this video

Coby with Surender, India, 2011
Coby with Surender in India, 2011

As I try my best with managing my family’s food waste and fill our compost bin with leftovers, I will always remember Surender teaching farmer Bagchand Ramola in the Suklana valley how to generate organic fertiliser for his soya bean crops, which helped transform his fields from unproductive cash crops to a sustainable organic harvest.

As I continue to advocate for my girls and ensure they can access reasonable adjustments and modifications in their assessment tasks that will set them up to succeed in their learning, I will remember Andrew restoring the dignity of those living with a disability in his community so that they can live a more independent life.

As my family grows and we live into the ongoing work that God is doing in our lives – a small business that is still operating after 10 years and our girls, now in high school working towards independence and a future with purpose for themselves – I will remember Keo and her family, praying that they too have a harvest that is continually thriving and bearing fruit, as her children who are now teenagers more than likely working on the land with her and her husband together as a family.

The stories of Surender, Andrew and Keo continue to inspire me to remain resilient and committed to God's work of restoration not only in my life but within the lives of communities that Tearfund partners work in.

Join the work of restoration and hope

We invite you to prayerfully consider joining this work of restoration and hope by supporting Tearfund’s partners to overcome poverty and injustice.

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Coby Hallas is Tearfund’s Creative Director.