I’ll share more of this story in some subsequent entries, but I’d like to draw your attention to a shanty town project in North Carolina that my best friend from college, Brian Becker, undertook on behalf of the Fountain of Life orphan home in Nairobi, Kenya. Brian serves on the board of my former organization, Orphan Lifeline, and is now the President of one of our partner ministries, Fountain of Life America.
The following is a newspaper article that was written at the inception of Brian’s project. I was supposed to join him in constructing a slum community and living there for a few days, but duties at World Orphans required me to stay in Colorado. My hope, however, is that this will be an annual event and that World Orphans can help to promote future participation…
Shanty Illustrates Life of World’s Poor
By Amanda Karr
The Daily Reflector
Friday, May 18, 2007
SNOW HILL — It’s three miles to Scuffleton where Brian Becker has walked for the past two days to get drinkable water.
It’s a trip he has to make. He and the people he is living with are counting on the water sloshing inside the plastic jugs he carries slung on a stick.
Wednesday night that water helped cook several handfuls of rice that, along with a couple of sweet potatoes, comprised dinner for Becker and two others living in a homemade shanty tucked on the edge of a field.
(Image: Greenville lawyer Brian Becker makes his way down Lower Field Road in Greene County Thursday afternoon after hiking three miles to collect water for use at the shanty town he and others are occupying until Sunday. Photo: Greg Eans/The Daily Reflector)
It took Becker and several others about 12 hours over two days to build the shanty using items discarded on a piece of land off N.C. 903 just inside Greene County.
"Two Saturdays ago, here I am digging through a pile of trash and my 6-year-old is standing next to me, and it struck me— somewhere there is a mom or dad doing the same thing with their 6-year-old and they’re getting ready to move into this thing and they don’t know if they’re ever going to leave," Becker said.
The future isn’t so uncertain for Becker, a Greenville attorney. He plans to live in the shanty cobbled together from scrap wood and metal, two broken refrigerators and other odds and ends through Sunday. Others have joined him, including Hanna Zhu, a 35-year-old resident adviser coordinator at East Carolina University. He expects a larger crowd over the weekend.
"It makes me realize how many people at this very hour do not have a roof over their head," Zhu said. "We are so blessed, and we have to help those people. It’s what God calls us to do."
Becker, 40, hopes the project draws attention to slum conditions in other parts of the world, particularly Nairobi, Kenya, where he has been on two mission trips. Another mission trip is leaving in June, comprised mainly of members of Jarvis Memorial United Methodist Church, where Becker attends. He won’t be going on that trip, which he said prompted the idea of building and living in a shanty here.
(Image: Brian and his wife, Christy, outside of their shanty)
"Here I am staying, and a vision came to me that why don’t we bring Nairobi here," Becker said. "I just want it to be real to people. If you step into that world even for a few days it changes your perspective."
Becker encourages people to come see the shanty and even to spend the night. It’s an eye-opening experience, he said.
Wednesday night the shanty occupants awoke to rain inside their temporary home. Zhu found herself on a wet cot and discovered the tarp she had covered herself in had holes in it. The three abandoned their self-imposed personal space and crowded into the dry spots in the shanty.
Becker was far from complaining though.
"I’m thankful for the rain last night because you know they leak over there too," he said, referring to the shanties in Africa.
Becker has a passion for the children who live in such conditions. Through mission trips, he’s worked with the Fountain of Life Church and Children’s Home, which takes in orphaned boys from the streets. There were about 60 boys living in the home in Nairobi when it was destroyed by a mob recently.
In addition to drawing attention to the conditions in Nairobi, Becker hopes people will be moved to donate to the ministry so it can continue its mission.
World Orphans has been collecting donations for the care of the boys of Fountain of Life and the construction of a new facility. In conjunction with Fountain of Life America, we will rebuild their home.