May 3, 2015/ Alex and Leo: How You Can Help

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**Note to the reader whose life has been touched by Alex and Leo:: this page includes a detailed Question and Answer format concerning funding for Alex and Leo, Boston participation, present and future concerns and needs, and practical ways you can help. Feel free to scroll to your area of interest highlighted in bold.**

“How can I help?”

This is probably the most asked question we have received ever since Leo stepped foot into our lives over two years ago now. Our little Burundian friend, Leo, who fell into a fire when he was very little and damaged most of his face, has become the focal point of two newspapers, documentary shorts, airline Facebook pages, and church stages across America. Many of you know his story, but to read it more in detail, we encourage you to go to the Boston Globe link below and read the two-part story, watch the five minute documentary short, and see the pictures of all that God has done so far in Leo’s life.

To see the article, video, and pictures form the Boston Globe, click here: http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2015/04/25/severely-burned-boy-finds-hope-boston/IdKoEJJHwqRmOV65s2LI9I/story.html

This email campaign is dedicated to answering the question of how you can get involved in the most beneficial and helpful way and to help you understand how this situation is working financially. So many people have been helpful in prayer support, which is an ongoing need. We need prayer for continued healing for Leo, strength for his amazing caretaker Alex, peace in their home country, Burundi, and wisdom in decision making going forward. We are very aware of all the relational, cultural, political and financial aspects of this situation and want to do what is best and accomplish God’s will.

Aside from prayer and opening your home to our two close friends, we do need help financially. The cost of flights, ongoing care, support for their families in Burundi, etc.. are all things which cost money. As Americans, we are one of the most generous countries in the world when it comes to situations like this one, but we also want to know how our money can be the most effective and handled with the most trust. Anyone who has been involved globally for any amount of time knows how money can be mishandled or how truth can be misrepresented or manipulated for the sake of getting funds. Hopefully this short Q and A will be beneficial for you in deciding if God is leading you to give financially to help us fund this effort, and ease any apprehensions or concerns about where money goes or how it is handled.

What are the needs? What will my donation be spent on? 

Currently, we need to send money over to Alex’s family. The political situation in Burundi is tense and his family is in a difficult situation. Alex, when in Burundi, brings in about $100 dollars a month from his job as a high school counselor to contribute to what his mom makes to support the family. Since he has been gone, we have been sending over $100 a month for their support to replace what Alex was making when he lived there. His family is also considering fleeing to Rwanda, and his mom has broken her foot recently during a political situation she was suddenly caught up in and was trampled. We are very aware of their situation with day-to-day updates of what is happening, and feel it is of upmost importance to be helping them as Alex, the man of the house, is here in the US with Leo. Leo’s family seems to be out of the cross-fire of the political situation, but we are watching them closely, hearing from them consistently and sending close Burundian friends on the ground up to their village regularly to check on them and assess any needs.

Also, flight costs are the biggest expense. It is much easier to make decisions concerning the future, face to face with Alex rather than over the phone. Cross cultural communication is difficult enough as it is without being together. The upcoming flights we see as necessary would be: at least one more trip for them both to come back to Idaho to be encouraged by their church family here; Ladd and I flying to Boston at the end of May to meet and talk to the Boston people who have so generously gotten involved, as well as assess how Alex and Leo are doing, meet doctors and talk to the social worker at Shriners in charge of this case; one-way tickets back to Burundi for both Alex and Leo when the time comes; and round trip tickets for Ladd and I to go over either with them or soon after they are back to understand what on-going support looks like, help the transition back into Burundian culture go smoothly, and set up whatever needs to be set up long term for Leo, relationally, culturally and financially.

Although we have fundraised in the past for the ongoing living expenses in Boston and made that available to Alex, the people in Boston who have fallen in love with our friends have covered most of the needs for living there. Praise God!  However, we would like to have the freedom to use donated funds to assist the cost of living in Boston should the need arise.

Concerning the medical cost, Shriner’s covers all the medical expense. So there is no need to fund anything medical.

As far as the future goes, we are not sure yet what is going to happen beyond the point of them returning to Burundi, but will keep people updated on any financial need. Any unused funds will stay in that one account and go towards Alex and Leo’s future, whatever that looks like.

What is the other account (gofundme) that I am seeing on Facebook all about? Is there other places to give other than the Anthem website? 

Because the people in Boston who have gotten involved helping Leo and Alex are so wonderful, they are doing some fundraising as well. This account was set up by Elizabeth Sucher, a woman who has loved our friends greatly while they have been in Boston. This account was created solely by the people in Boston, and we as Anthem Friends are not financially involved in this. If you donate to that account, from my understanding, it will go into a trust fund being set up by a judge and some attorneys for Alex and Leo for future needs, although we are not sure what that future need is just yet. We will be having more conversations with them in person when we are in Boston in three weeks and hopefully will be able to understand the details of this account and how to work best along side of their efforts with one united goal. This account is not tax-deductible. We, as Anthem Friends, are not assuming financial responsibly for where that money goes and how it is handled, but are excited to work together as a team with the people in Boston whom we are so grateful for and eternally indebted to for their kindness.

Where do I give? How is the money handled?

You can donate, either a one- time or ongoing gift, online at this website:: http://thisisouranthem.com/global-mission/#alexandleo

You can mail in checks, with Leo in the memo line, to:: 251 W. Miles Ave, Hayden, ID 83834

This is a tax-deductible donations account, and you will receive a statement at the end of the year.

All money donated goes only to Alex and Leo and the above mentioned expenses. At no point is any of it used to go towards any other global effort by Anthem or administration cost. As far as who is in charge of this account, it is not just Ladd and me. We have a multi-generational committee all with years of cross-culultural global experience, that decide the best use of the funds and there is a system of accountability. We meet as a committee once a month and discuss how every penny is being used, how much is needed to fundraise, and how to best support Alex, Leo and both their families holistically, not just financially. All of us on this committee are well-read on books like, “When Helping Hurts,” “Dead Aid,” “Perspectives,” and “Toxic Charity.” We, as a committee, are dedicated to the support of the people involved, and long to create healthy and sustainable relationships long-term. This means that this is not a hand-out system where we pour endless money into global relationships to make us feel good. None of us are interested in creating long-term, unhealthy, unsustainable financial relationships, especially cross-culturally. All funds that go to Alex, Leo, and their families are handled with wisdom and tact that our experienced team is equipped to expedite so that we can best set up a long-term system that helps everyone and hurts no one.

Committee members: Dave Scammell, Ladd Serwat, Carley Serwat, Maurice and Peggy Roberts, Jordan and Kristen Andre, Jeanne Netzer, Kameron Shadrick,and Buddy and Tessa Holton

What is the plan for when they return? How can we be involved financially at that point?

Obviously this is a question generating the most concern. At this point, we have a lot of different options, but are praying through what is best. Alex, Ladd and myself will be discussing this at length when we visit them in Boston in three weeks, and it is an ongoing discussion amongst our committee here. Although we have not nailed down a firm decision just yet, there are three areas which we are committed to being handled well when it comes to Alex and Leo’s well-being and future::

1. Relationally/Spiritually… We see it best to have Leo in the hands of one committed caretaker(s) for the long-term. We have seen the detriment that has happened to children who are ripped away from their parental-type attachments over and over and do not wish to have that happen with Leo. By the time tickets are purchased to return to Burundi, we will have a plan in place, God willing, in which Leo will be transitioning into one, stable family unit, although we are not quite sure yet who that will be. We are striving for consistency, security and stability and a situation in which Leo will be raised with the love and knowledge of Jesus. His heart being discipled for Christ by trusted people is of our highest desire. His parents have given us (Ladd, Alex and myself) authority to make this decision and wish that Leo just stays in the US, but this is not legally possible. We are working closely with Leo’s family so that they are completely comfortable with where Leo lives and who he is with, whether it is them or someone else.

2. Culturally… It is obvious that Leo is now Burundian-American. He is bi-cultural. This means that we want to honor both of those sides of him. When back in Burundi, we will try our hardest to insure that his transition is done with great gentleness and wisdom. We do not expect him to immediately step back into the village life, re-attach immediately to people and know Kirundi (the native tongue) right away. We understand that the transition back into Burundian life will be difficult and we are dedicated to making that as smooth as possible, as well as keeping him in a place where he is equipped in the best possible way to make the transition back to the US if indeed he comes back again for more surgeries.

3. Financially...We need to be able to trust the hands into which money is being given in Burundi, and do not wish, as said before, to set up long-term financial situations that are unhealthy and unclear.  We need to be able to create a situation where money is going where it needs to go and Leo’s needs are being metwithout creating a disastrous financial mess that wrecks relationships, as we have seen happen so often in other situations abroad. I know the American mindset is to just send money over every month for all people involved, but we promise you that is not the right answer. Sending over checks every month without careful, relational navigation and communication becomes messy very quick and rarely solves any problems. Money in Burundi is handled and understood in a totally different way than in America (not wrong or right, just different), and we need to be able to marry the two cultures of money-handling well, with honesty and integrity.

We will keep you updated on the future financial need once they return to Burundi, and setting aside funds for whatever that looks like. Please feel free to email us any thoughts or concerns or pieces of wisdom you have to offer. We are listening closely to the Spirit of God and are awaiting his direction, knowing it may not make sense to us. “His ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and our thoughts.” We want to make sure that we do not get ahead of God in making decisions concerning things He has not said or assuming a direction that He has not made clear, but that we are prepared financially and relationally for whatever direction we are lead to take.

I hope this was helpful in answering some of your questions, and that you feel confident that if you choose to give it will be handled in the most beneficial and trustworthy way. We pray that funds do come in and that we can proceed with caution and wisdom. God’s plan for Alex and Leo is beautiful and we wait with excited anticipation for what He will do. This is all about Jesus, not the goodness of Alex, the goodness of Ladd and Carley, the benevolence of Anthem or of anyone giving, or even how awesome Leo is. As my grandmother would say, “Only God is awesome.” And she is right. All we do, we do for the glory of God.

Thank you!

Carley

P.S.

A FANTASTIC way of helping would be to share this post and tag at least 10 people who you think would be interested. Please share, email, and spread this post as much as possible. Thank you! 

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