Humanitarian Aid for Syrian Children Refugees

January 17th, 2017

Chris was fortunate to have traveled the world, and he wanted to support others in crisis. With this in mind, The Chris Mikesell Foundation donated $3,000 to assist in humanitarian aid efforts relative to the Syrian Children Refugee Crisis.

A Syrian refugee family in the Jordan Valley, Jordan, where they have lived in a tent for four years. From left to right Na'ama, 8, Hussein, 31, Khalif, 10, Farah, 6, and their mother Asia 27. The family fled their home in Hama when the war reached their community.  "We saw people getting shot, and we lost cousins and uncles.  That's why we left," said Asia, 27. It took the family two days to reach jordan. "It was dangerous. When we reachd the border we walked for an hour.  We were scared," said Asia, who still has a brother in Hama who she speaks with by phone when the connection allows. The family were farmers in Syria and are now making a small living from doing field work in Jordan.  But life here is hard. The tent gets incredibly hot with punishing high temperatures in summer and freezing cold and wet during the winter months. "We do it all. From putting pipes in the ground to picking tomatores,"she said. With both working, the family makes about 12 JD  a day (about $18 a day), which is not enough to cover the 60 JD a month per child in school transportation costs for their children along with covering other needs. With the support of UNICEF through the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, the three children are now attending a nearby Makani learning centre along with vulnerable Jordanian children from the host community.  The children come here every day, except Friday, to learn to read, write, do math and better integrate the children into the community. "Jordan is good, but we always long for home," said Asia.  "Everyone loves their country.  The best thing about Syria before the war was the safety. We had a really good life there.  We had a house. But now there is nothing left.  Everything we had is gone."

A Syrian refugee family in the Jordan Valley, Jordan, where they have lived in a tent for four years. From left to right Na’ama, 8, Hussein, 31, Khalif, 10, Farah, 6, and their mother Asia 27. The family fled their home in Hama when the war reached their community. “We saw people getting shot, and we lost cousins and uncles. That’s why we left,” said Asia, 27.  Photo courtesy UNICEF

According to UNICEF, the Syrian refugee crisis remains the largest humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II. Countries neighbouring the Syrian Arabic Republic are hosting more than 4.8 million registered Syrian refugees, including more than 2.2 million children. Depleted resources, the high cost of living and restricted livelihood opportunities due to lack of access to employment and legal residency are making it difficult for vulnerable families to meet their own and their children’s basic needs. Too many Syrian refugee families are forced to resort to negative coping practices, which often lead to early marriage and child labour. Syrian refugees, including unaccompanied and separated children who lack legal documentation, are also in constant fear of being exposed and therefore are vulnerable to exploitation such as working in low-paying and dangerous jobs. The overall situation is exacerbated by weak economic growth in host countries, overstretched resources and services that are struggling to meet the additional needs of affected local communities.

In 2016, UNICEF’s response continued to support government and partner efforts to deliver essential services in refugee camps and host communities.

In the Foundation’s history, more than $33,000 has been donated to humanitarian efforts led by UNICEF. 

A ‘Fresh Start’ for Victims of Sex Abuse & Trafficking

January 16th, 2017

In 2016, the Chris Mikesell Foundation provided a grant of $2,000 to support ICT S.O.S. and its Fresh Start Program. ICT S.O.S. is a project-based organization that acts as a liaison between specific local professional groups who work with trafficked youth and the Wichita volunteers who seek ways to be involved in finding solutions. This grant will provide more than 20 Fresh Start bags full of necessities tailored to the specific youth who receives it.

One advocate’s story:
“I wanted to let you know we handed out a Fresh Start bag yesterday and the girl absolutely loved it. She has experienced a tremendous amount of ill treatment and she was emotional one overcome with excitement while she went through the bag. The bag itself was really exciting because she doesn’t have one. She loved the purple fleece blanket and how soft was. She was so excited for the new clothes, she had to take the tags off the new hoodie and wear it out of hour office. Again, those are items we take for granted on a daily basis but they are things she was deprived of for a long time and it was empowering for her to be able to choose her own things.”

Need: Kansas is at a crossroads of America’s sex-trafficking highway. According to Officer Kent Bauman (Wichita-Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Child Unit, “The pimps have routes they travel… they include I-35 and I-70.” Police documented pimps recruiting girls as young as 12 from Wichita and selling them across the nation.

History of ICT S.O.S.: Founded by Jennifer White, ICT S.O.S. is a grassroots organization born from a Wichita Eagle article written by Ron Sylvester about the heartbreaking and devastating story of a 13-year-old girl being sold for sex.

ICT S.O.S. serves as a liaison between those escaping sexual exploitation and trafficking and professional organizations that can help. Just as S.O.S. is a distress signal or call for help, ICT S.O.S. broadcasts a cry for help for our city’s endangered youth. ICT S.O.S. works to provide all things that some of us may take for granted, such as a duffle bag full of clean clothes and toiletries to a recently rescued boy or girl.

How the Fresh Start Program Works: Each duffle bag is created for a specific gender and size and is labeled so that officers, advocates and social workers can easily get what is needed without delay. The bag’s contents were decided based on a collaborative effort from police officers, child abuse and sex abuse victims, and social workers.

Every Fresh Start Bag contains new clothing, hygiene items, a comfort item and a fast food gift card. For example, a younger child usually receives a blanket and age-appropriate toy, and teens and young adults receive a journal and pen.

ICT S.O.S. currently distributes Fresh Start bags to Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County, Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center, Youthville Secure Care and Wichita Children’s Home staff Secure Unit.

Taking Flight, a Conservation Tour

January 16th, 2017

Kendall and son-in-law Josh Egedy (Laura’s husband) had the opportunity to take a fly over tour of the land that the Chris Mikesell Foundation has helped to conserve through grants to the Crested Butte Land Trust. More on LightHawk from the Land Trust:

LightHawk Flight with Kendall & Josh“LightHawk is a non-profit organization helping land saving organizations “accelerate conservation success” by planning and completing fly overs. This is made possible thanks to volunteer pilots’ donated time and use of their small engine planes. During the Summer/Fall 2016 with special thanks to pilot Jim Grady from Grand Junction, CO, the Crested Butte Land Trust was given the opportunity to fly with key community members and generous supporters from Gunnison over Crested Butte to Aspen, over Marble, the Slate River Valley and Ohio Creek pass, back to Gunnison. This was an amazing opportunity to show our supporters the Land Trust’s work of conservation easements and fee title properties in the larger context of the Gunnison, Slate, and East river valleys, the Snowmass/Maroon Bells Wilderness areas, and beyond.

From above it is extraordinary how much green open lands and meandering waters surround the quaint town of Crested Butte and the Highway 135 corridor from Gunnison to Crested Butte. Flight passengers were awestruck by the work of the Land Trust and our partners. However, they also took away the knowledge that there is so much more we need to do, together, to ensure, for current and future generations, the continued natural beauty and quality of life of our treasured home nestled in the Rocky Mountain West Elk Range.

Flying with Kendell and his son-in-law Josh — recreationists, grandfather, new young father, Crested Butte Community School teacher, and avid Land Trust supporters in memory of Chris’ love of this area — was a truly special experience that reinforced the impact of their generous Land Trust support and their passion for keeping Chris’ spirit alive. Humbling, to say the least.”

Over the life of the Foundation, $47,000 has been donated to the Crested Butte Land Trust to help them continue their mission of land preservation.

Combating the Spread of Zika

January 16th, 2017

Chris was fortunate to have traveled the world, and he wanted to support others in crisis. With this in mind, The Chris Mikesell Foundation donated $3,000 to assist in humanitarian aid efforts relative to the Zika Virus Crisis.

About the Zika Virus Crisis

Danilo, from Pernambuco, Brazil, is being hugged by his brother. Danilo, who has microcephaly, visits the hospital twice a week. His mother, Ana Paula, says “With all this family love, it is easier to take care of him.” Photo: Ueslei Marcelino/UNICEF

Danilo, from Pernambuco, Brazil, is being hugged by his brother. Danilo, who has microcephaly, visits the hospital twice a week. His mother, Ana Paula, says “With all this family love, it is easier to take care of him.”
Photo: Ueslei Marcelino/UNICEF

Affecting at least 75 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, the Zika virus outbreak continues to threaten the well-being of women and children while causing congenital and neurological conditions in newborns, according to UNICEF. More than 2,250 cases of microcephaly have already been reported in 28 countries and additional countries are expected to report cases of microcephaly and other congenital malformations in 2017. The Zika outbreak has the potential to spread in all areas where the Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquitoes are found and will disproportionately affect poor, marginalized and urban populations. While the full spectrum of neurological disorders and congenital complications attributable to the Zika virus is yet to be fully understood, UNICEF anticipates that it will have a long-lasting and multi-dimensional impact on children and their families socially, economically and psychologically.

In the Foundation’s history, more than $33,000 has been donated to humanitarian efforts led by UNICEF.