The Power of Creative Outlets

May 21st, 2018|

  I have been working on a daily basis with The School in a Cart in Cubao, the Philippines through my charity Lift the Lid since 2011, and many thanks to generous donors, started The Push Cart Children's Band in 2014. The children have enjoyed many holiday and school celebrations, but when they write about their best days, they describe the hard work they’ve put into the band, such as their fear of learning new instruments, the times they've failed to get the notes right, the countless hours they’ve spent practicing, and their insecurities performing in front of crowds.
We can provide and encourage and reward the children of The School in a Cart with happy days, but it is up to them to do the hard work, to overcome their fears and insecurities, and to step out on that stage or show up for the exam.
These are their happiest days . . .

Abet with his drum buddy and mentor Stephano.

Buy a book and help a child! Consider buying author Connie Mann's third book in her Safe Harbor suspense series, Deadly Melody between May 22nd - 29th. All author royalties will go to The Push Cart Children's Band at The School in a Cart in Cubao, the Philippines. Thank you, Connie!
Below is a Thank You note written by 12-year-old Abet. He is one of five siblings, all boys, and his younger brothers are also participants at The School in a Cart, while his eldest brother and their mother act as volunteers. Unfortunately, being accustomed to living on the streets, they still believe collecting garbage to be the only way of providing for themselves. Following the English translation, you will find Abet's original essay in Tagalog:
"I am glad I was given an opportunity to join the coming Battle of the Bands. Initially, I found it difficult to play the drums because my hands and my feet were not yet used to it. But I set aside more hours after our group rehearsal and practice by myself so I would get used to it.
I thought I would no longer be a part of the All Younger Boys Band because I did not come during days of practice. But I was given another chance to join. I would no longer take this opportunity for granted. I would rehearse and rehearse and hope one day I would become a good drummer.
I thank God for giving me this talent. I am also thanking our sponsors who do not get tired of helping us. Thank you also to Sir. Iddo (Alfredo) and Teacher Nonie who are with us every day guiding and helping us."
Speaking for Lift the Lid and the many donors who drive us forward, our happiness comes from each and every one of our students, from every small step of achievement they take and all the words they proudly brave writing for us. It’s amazing how much they are capable of giving!
Learn more about Lift the Lid and read our many posts on The Push Cart Children's Band in the Philippines among other children's writings from Kenya and soon Tanzania!

Piggyback Rides, by Patrick Korir

May 2nd, 2018|

  Patrick writes, “I sometimes find myself longing for those [piggyback, superhero] days, if for no other reason, they represent a time when I believed my parents could protect me from everything.”
A junior (form 3) at Mogonjet Secondary School in Bomet County, Kenya, Patrick thinks back to his childhood as he writes an essay on love. People around the world can draw a connection to his memories of being innocent and idolizing his parents, despite the hardships. His words are a reminder that we all start out craving the love and support of our parents or caregivers. Even though we grow, we become parents, and we age, we never forget the feel of their capable hands on our backs.
“Life was so simple when they propelled me forward [on the swing] like an airplane and gave me the boost to get me where I wanted to go. [Higher!] Hopefully, the memory can serve as a lasting reminder that they are always behind me in everything I do.”

A Parent’s Ultimate Sacrifice

February 12th, 2018|

As the mother of two young boys, I can say without hesitation that I’d give my life to save theirs.
I can’t claim bragging rights for this pledge, though it is clearly brave and selfless. Parents, whether human or in the animal kingdom, are wired to protect their young. Across cultures and creeds, races and generations, our youth, their innocence and untapped potential, has more value than our own. The love, hope, and sense of duty parents feel for their children is why we have life and why the cycle continues.
We see our children suffer and want to kiss away their tears. We long to right them and pray, If only I could take their pain. Conscious thought is not required, our instinct for survival dissolves. Suddenly, the greatest sacrifice becomes the easiest decision.
Do you know of a parent who has given her life for one of her children? Sarah Chebet of Lenana Girls’ High School in Kitale, Kenya has a new heart to sustain her and a story to tell.
“I was given the heart of my father and he died. Nobody believed that he would do such a thing for one child when [my parents] already had four. But he chose to save my life…out of love.”
Here is her full essay, which earned Second Place in Lenana’s Fifth Annual Writing Competition hosted by Lift the Lid:

And So It Goes . . . Love Never Ending

February 1st, 2018|

Deborah writes about love with a child’s unfiltered honesty. “Love is like the sunshine. It shines for a while and then it’s gone … It is like the birth of a child. It hurts for a while, then is soon forgotten, leaving you with only the memories of a wonderful and loving life.” Deborah is only in grade school, but she knows that with love there is also heartache and loss. How early do we learn that love is both perfect and flawed?
When I founded Lift the Lid eight years ago, my first fundraising strategy for our schools was to ask my family to make donations in lieu of my birthday and Christmas gifts. At first, they were uncomfortable without a gift in hand, but they have since come to understand the gift the students are to me. I love each one wanting nothing in return.
The students experience my love through our writing projects, through the basic needs Lift the Lid covers, and through their education, which we strive to improve every day. Their actions and writings pass that love on to their parents, teachers and friends, and so it goes, love never ending.
We are channels of love and connected by it, a force strong enough to unite the world, if allowed to grow.
Thank you, Mom and Tim, for your love and for this year’s Christmas gift, your donation to Namelok Junior Academy in Kisamis, Kenya, where Deborah attends the third grade. Our current priorities at Namelok are to buy text books and to pay the teachers’ salaries.

The Price for New Slippers

January 24th, 2018|

Begging can’t be easy. It takes will-power and a resilience no rejection can break. Patience. A certain amount of acting. And in Cubao, the Philippines, the physical strength to jump on and off jeepneys (open buses), to push through crowds, to run from trouble. The rewards are high: money and survival, so you can see why children, especially, might feel proud to beg.
Lift the Lid received an anonymous donation to The School in a Cart in Cubao, the Philippines, and as always we show our appreciation with a student’s letter, personal essay or poem. Today we have a personal essay from Alexis, or as her friends call her, Kaykay. She describes how she spent Christmas, giving gifts, eating a special meal, and begging. Kaykay does not complain or talk about her shame, rather we see how begging has become a past-time, a means to an income for herself and her family, and perhaps even something she can feel proud of.
Our partners at The School in a Cart, the teachers and caregivers, discourage begging. They reward the children who resist the practice for going to school and doing their homework by taking them on field trips or out for special dinners. They warn of the dangers interacting with strangers, jumping the jeepneys, and traveling out of their neighborhood. But, still, it’s clear that Kaykay does not feel remorse for her actions. It’s an understandable, yet sad, truth.
We will continue to discourage begging, to encourage school, books, play time, music and prayer. We will continue to love and protect these beautiful children, who have an abundance of will-power, resilience, patience, and hope for life.
Kaykay is ten years old and in the 3rd grade. She is the 5th of seven siblings. Here is a translation of her essay from Tagalog, as well as her original work: “Thank you very much Ate (big sister) Sara for everything you have given to us! This is what we did this Christmas. We went to the Riverbank to eat. I also bought a pair of slippers from what I got from begging. Also at Christmas, we were at the sidewalk waiting for gifts from people. There were a few who gave us food and toys. I also gave part of what I got from begging to my mother and she bought me a few pieces of clothing. I Love you Ate Sara. Please do not get tired of helping me. I will study harder.”

Kenyan Girls Show Us Good Writing

January 12th, 2018|

Lift the Lid sponsored its Fifth Annual Writing Competition at Lenana Girls’ High School in Kitale, Kenya and we are so excited to share the results. Every year we receive more submissions, and though the quality of writing varies depending on the age and experience of the students, we have set a tone within the competition whereby they aspire to honest and brave writing.

The young women at Lenana are finding the courage and determination within themselves to write from their hearts. We can teach them to edit and rewrite their words for clarity and accuracy, but finding that music within themselves takes letting go of everything else . . . and is at the core of good writing.

Congratulations to Abigael Nyongesa for placing First! Her essay about her father’s love and trying to go on after his sudden death speaks humbly and honestly to anyone who has experienced grief.

As part of the annual competition, Lift the Lid offers the students writing tips and encouragement. We also highlight what we feel is each student’s strongest sentence. Here are the chosen sentences of our 2017 Finalists. One sentence can hold the impact of an entire essay. One sentence can show a writer her worth.

First Place winner Abigael Nyongesa writes, “There are infinite number of ways that this world can hurt us and no two heartaches are exactly alike and no one can articulate the heartache of someone else, but sometimes the best way to heal is to share pain with others–others who care about us and love us.” Her full essay is below!
  • “Go beyond the rim of time or space, the same inflection of their voice will sing their way into the deepest of my mind still.”
  • “Their love has encouraged me to work hard in my studies and not to drop out of school.”
  • “Parents’ love can make one go far. People say that a journey always starts with a step.”
  • “I can confidently say that the lady changed my life.”
  • “All treasure and respect land to my beloved mother who has no boundaries when it comes to love.”
  • “She encourages me not to give up in life for God has a good plan for us.”
  • “I thank God for giving me parents, and I pray to God for blessing them abundantly and giving them a long life in this world.”
  • “Sometimes I fail to understand how much [my parents] feel about doing all these things for me, but it is only love.”
  • “My mother’s love changed me to be a person with a dream and a better future.”
  • “I had always no hope in my life because of the poverty that had been experienced by our family, but because God is love, I saw true love in my teacher.”
  • “This love felt like clutching to a very beautiful but fragile treasure that you want to handle with much care.”
  • “I vividly remember one day I met a beggar. She told me ‘special day,’ but I did not answer her.”
  • “I appreciate and am proud of [my parents], and I pray to God to give them more years so that they will live long until I achieve my dreams.”
  • “This love is fraternal, meaning the tender devotion my brother has towards me. At first I did not recognize it, but as time went by, it came out itself.”
  • “Although when everybody thought I was cursed or even bad blood, as they called me, I still pushed forward with the help of my mother.”
  • “I am so proud of him. He did what most fathers would not have done. Others would have had another wife to raise their kid, but he did not do it.”
  • “The following day my father went and talked with the doctor who was going to do the operation, and he said that he had decided to give me his heart.”
  • “I had no name but now I have a name. I am no longer a ‘black sheep’ but a ‘white sheep.’ Sometimes you may feel like the whole world hates you, but as long as you were chosen by God, He will show you love through his people.”
 Here is Abigael’s winnng essay:

Why Do We Write to the Dead?

October 13th, 2017|

Sunshine, photographed below, and many of the children at The School in a Cart in Cubao, the Philippines, have written letters to their friend Dave, who was murdered in his sleep on the city streets this past May. Their letters express their sorrow, their confusion and disbelief, their anger and guilt, and their faith that Dave lives on in spirit and can read their letters or at least know what is written on their hearts. So, why do we write to the dead? Saying good-bye is ingrained in our daily human existence, across all cultures, whether to the dead or to family members when we step out to do some shopping. We feel incomplete, shaken, panicked even, if we leave someone we love for an extended period of time without saying good-bye, without an embrace or a kiss. We need that closure and the comfort that comes from a sense of connection despite distance. Yes, even if that person has died. But is a letter to the dead purely for ourselves as we work through our grief and long for closure? Maybe not. Most letters to the dead are written as if in conversation, as if the diseased were right there, reading them over our shoulders. Our words come from our hearts, and whether we believe in the after-life or not, our hearts tell us that love transcends time, matter, and is ever-lasting.   See Sunshine's letter to Dave below in Tagalog, followed by the English translation: So sudden was the stabbing and Balong (Dave) was gone. We were sad for what happened to my cousin (Sunshine considered Dave a cousin.) He was our cousin and we loved him even if he was naughty and hard-headed. Why did this happen? He did not do what they thought he had done. He did not break the car window. I could not accept that this had to happen. I hope the one who did this will be caught soon. May his conscience bother him! There were many kids around but why was it that it was you the culprit saw. I wished you went home with Kuya (big brother Jordan.) I wished you did not feel sleepy and did not leave your house. Don’t give up. I will get even for you. You were not only a cousin, you were a good friend. I know you and Kuya were always together. I hope you are happy in heaven. Don’t be said because we will get the one who killed you so that you will then be happy. We love you very much, cousin and best friend.

Does Love Grow Old??

July 1st, 2017|

Does love grow old? When Abigael Mantaine sat down to think about love for Namelok’s Fourth Annual Poetry Competition, she thought of her mother. She thought of moments she felt completely comforted and at peace, of her mother’s gentleness and protection, her advice and acceptance. The love she remembers doesn’t end with her youth. Her mother ages, becomes frail; time wears away, but her love is unchanging. Abigail fears the day she’ll lose her mother, but never has to fear losing her love.

My nonprofit Lift the Lid, which supports underfunded schools and encourages the students to write, hosts annual writing and poetry competitions at each of the three schools we work with in Kenya, and at the Happy Family Children’s Village in Tanzania, the latest addition to our outreach! First place winners receive $100, $50 of which to use for their own needs and $50 to buy something needed or just plain fun for their class. We also choose a second place winner ($25) and honorable mentions.

Congratulations, Abigail, on placing First!!

Here is her winning poem, typed for ease of reading and her original work below:

My Mother

“Love is a strong feeling that you have when you [feel] a mother’s love for her children.

When I was a child, [my mother] would comfort me. She wiped my tears, so tenderly.

As I laid my head upon her chest, this was my most peaceful rest.

She sang to me so I would sleep. These precious moments are mine to keep.

Her gentle touch, her caring face, there could be no other to take her place.

She tried to teach me right from wrong. She always gives and never takes. Never does she criticize my mistakes.

The years have quickly passed by, in her eyes the aging lies.

Her skin has wrinkled, her hair turned grey. How I yearn for yesterday.

She is tired, her health is poor. She sits waiting for me to walk through the door.

When she is gone, my heart will die, and I will count the days till I see her again.

This person I speak of could be no other. She is, of course, my loving mother.”


How We Help Each Other to Carry On After a Tragedy

June 7th, 2017|

London was home to me and my family for five years. The recent attacks feel personal, and it hurts to see the City and our friends living there terrorized. Violence in another form, though much the same, has taken the life of our student, Dave, who was murdered in his sleep on May 15th at the age of 13, soon to be 14. We can grieve. We can remember. We can embrace an ethos of determined strength and vigilant caution. And we can reach out to those who are suffering.

Thank you, Pastors Torquil Allen and Richard Bowman of Frampton Park Baptist Church in London, England. I hope it is a consolation that your donation means a great deal to the grieving students at The School in a Cart in Cubao, the Philippines. Principal Alfredo Olavidez took them shopping for school supplies, backpacks, new uniforms and shoes. The outing to the discount market reminded everyone that life will continue with happiness and hope.

School in a Cart students school shopping

Writing is a solace for grief. Below is Dave's cousin Richard Jay's essay, written a few days after hearing of Dave's tragic death. Following the English translation is his original essay in Tagalog:

Richard Jay writes:

I was sad and angry when I learned that Balong (Dave’s term of endearment), my cousin and best friend, was gone. He did not do any harm to be stabbed helplessly. He was so young to deserve this thrill killing.

There were times we cousins quarreled but misunderstandings were settled immediately after I approached him to patch up. If I did not have enough money to rent a computer to play, he would make up for the difference. Every time we ate together he saw to it that I ate first. My cousin was loving even if sometime he was hardheaded. When he served me food at his house, he did not allow me to get out until I finished my share. He forced things out and would not stop until he got what he wanted.

Balong respected my parents. He helped us when there were things to move around the house. He helped babysit “Pogi” (RJ’s 1 year old brother whose pet name means handsome.) He made us cousins happy especially at times when we slept at a rooftop. He was a joker when we were lonely. However, he was serious when it come to playing a computer game or basketball.

Balong was a jolly fellow. He could smile and laugh even if he had problems. If he got in trouble with somebody we, his cousins, came to his rescue. But he did not want us to get involved in any fight he got into. But if we were in trouble, he helped us even if he got beaten up.


Richard Jay playing his guitar in The School in a Cart Band

Click to enlarge RJ's essay in Tagalog


How Do You Measure Friendship?

May 13th, 2017|

How do you measure friendship? Without sounding selfish and contrived, I think we largely value our friendships by what we get out of them. Emotional support. Mental and cultural stimulation. Work and social connections. Companionship. Laughs . . .

But here’s another way of measuring friendship: by what we give. And this just might be our spiritual gain. Giving to others boosts confidence and instills a sense of purpose. So, in essence, even when we give, we get.

Roseline from Mogonjet Secondary School in Kericho, Kenya comes from a family of 15 children, and even though she scored high on the National Primary Exam for entrance into high school, her parents could not afford the fees. She stayed home, not giving up hope that one day she’d continue her education.

Not long after the start of school, a friend’s parents offered to cover her school fees, as well as for her younger siblings. Their show of commitment to the community and love to Roseline and her family is a perfect way to measure friendship, and I’m confident their lives will be blessed for it.

Here is Roseline’s essay, which was shared with a donor who contributed to Lift the Lid's Library Fund at Mogonjet Secondary School. Click below to enlarge the image.