Nov 292019
 

We celebrated another enjoyable and festive Thanksgiving meal this week with our LHCC families. I learned of some of the heartache of family separation, as immigrants like myself, whose family is not all state-like. It’s been many years since we last embraced loved ones.

I was motivated to determine the origins of Thanksgiving and came across the Thanksgiving Proclamation made by George Washington, just 13 years after independence. It strikes me how far we have departed from the original intent of this annual American holiday.

Washington issued a proclamation on October 3, 1789, designating Thursday, November 26 as a national day of thanks. In his proclamation, Washington declared that the necessity for such a day sprung from the Almighty’s care of Americans prior to the Revolution, assistance to them in achieving independence, and help in establishing the constitutional government.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor­ ­­­– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Thankful that we can pray and give thanks today and everyday…

Nov 212019
 

Many young at-risk children that we serve and growing up in crescent communities in Charlotte find themselves constantly on the move. Switching schools constantly as parents move to find affordable housing. Maybe seated in another new school classroom trying to learn their second language. Perhaps you have felt the same way at times. I know I did, when I moved to a new city and into a new school and the age of 6. Finding new friends and fitting in ain’t easy.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Sofia. Sofia and her sister Gabriella, along with mom, started attending our after-school program in 2018. They have attended each week for many reasons including receiving literacy and homework help. Sofia was in kindergarten when she started. She was shy and certainly quiet. Overwhelmed with learning English, she often seemed disengaged by the interactions and encouragement from her reading buddy. Then she met a friend, Samantha, at the start of grade 1 and together they soon struck up a friendship. Things started to change …

After some quality time together, having fun at summer camp and then homework and reading, they have become best buds. Both are helped by the same volunteer and are making steady progress. More importantly though, they have made a connection. Both learning together, taking in the new vocab words, reading the same book, together and solving the same math problems. Together. That’s the blessing here. They made friends and their outlook is looking up. This kind of friendship is blossoming in other areas as well, including between our students and their homework buddies.

We have some more volunteer spots to fill so that others like Sofia, Gabriella and Samantha can also get a helping hand. Forming friendships that we hope and pray will last well beyond vocab words and solving math problems. Come see the bonds that are being forged and be a part of something special while doing good. We have good to give. You have good to give! Connect with us in person at a program near you or via email

Happy Thanksgiving until next time. We have much to be grateful for.

Brent Morris

 Posted by at 8:35 pm
Oct 072019
 

Picture the scene. Ten or so pallets full of potato’s, totaling about 20 tons, being bagged by kind hearted folks into 10-pound bags on a cool Saturday morning. How did they get there you may ask? The potato’s that is…

It all takes place every year at Pineville Neighbors Place. A generous farmer donates what I call the gleanings in the form of potato’s, in support of the homeless and food banks. Gleanings is a term used in the bible and is defined as the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested. It is a practice arising over 2,000 years ago when it became a legally enforced entitlement of the poor in a number of Christian kingdoms.

Fast forward to Charlotte and the 21st century and it has taken on a more hands on meaning with a deeper connotation. Potatoes are trucked in from three hours away in central NC. Picture for a minute (or check out the video) random strangers, neighbors and school children standing in huddles around pallets of spuds, surgical gloves on, digging into the gleanings and bagging all 40,000 pounds of edible offerings until they are all bagged. It’s a beautiful picture of collaboration and unity across all races, cultures and people of different socio-economic backgrounds. High fives every time a pallet is transformed to handfuls for easy distribution. Organizations represented included Atrium Health, Cardinal Innovations, Pineville Elementary School, Learning Help Centers of Charlotte and Pineville United Methodist Church, to name a few. There were the many young, the young at heart, ambitious teachers and pastors, church congregants and community helpers. It was another awesome drop.

So, now you know what’s a potato drop. Lots of potato’s going to a needy cause, for sure, but more importantly, a show of how a community comes together, extends some love for the less fortunate and helps one non-profit make light work of an otherwise huge truck load.

Thank you, Jane Shutt and Pineville Neighbors Place, for blessing our neighbors and the LHCC families with a fun community service event, and more importantly a show of good neighborliness. Till next year …

Video credit to Mr. Morry Alter, who does great productions for non-profits like LHCC and PNP

Aug 112019
 
 Posted by at 2:09 pm
Jun 262019
 

I was invited to the Copa Gold cup soccer matches this past Sunday at Bank of America stadium. It was an amazing experience. Most of the fans were clearly Mexican supporters. I mean, I am thrilled they beat Martinique 3-2, and the win was the cherry on the top of a festive, fun and entertaining evening. Had they lost, I would have run to get away from a potential stampede.

It was not difficult to spot who was there for their home country. They are all kitted out in green or white Mexican soccer team shirts and garb, faces painted in the national colors of the flag, boom boxes, Mexican flags flying, horns blaring, and many with masks. There were sombreros galore. They arrived really early and stayed well into the night. I also got to witness the Mexican wave … a crowd inspired “stand-up at just the right time and wave arms” as the momentum circumvents the field, much to the delight of all concerned. Growing up in South Africa, Mexican waves had just started to make their appearances at day/night cricket matches, when the going was slow. It was far from slow Sunday, and the waves kept on coming…

What struck me was how much camaraderie existed between seemingly complete strangers. They were out to enjoy themselves… Respectful, friendly, law abiding, and not overly rowdy. Frankly entertaining for this Anglo spectator. Families and friends were just hanging out together, singing, chanting, young children in their fathers arms and others in tow mothers guided them through the carnival atmosphere outside the stadium … and certainly inside. I have not seen so many similar happy immigrants together in one place. They were delighted to be there … together, without seemingly a care in the world. I had to marvel at the contrast from Nascar, basketball or football spectators, on so many levels.

The local press is full of stories about the harsh treatment of children, the caravans of immigrants at the border, and the dramatic rise in the Hispanic population in our Queen City as the 2020 census nears. One has to admire these peoples tenacity and perseverance. Families are here for a reason, even though most would prefer to be back home. That’s a true statement. This deeply divided city, nonetheless, is a great place to live, and a paradise compared to the trouble they are fleeing in their homelands south of our border. You see, these are our city neighbors, escaping unspeakable violence and persecution. If my family lived like that, I too would pack up and leave for a better future. I believe I did in fact do that. Therefore, as long as they are here, we should welcome them and treat them with respect and dignity. They have something the rest of us don’t seemingly possess. We might benefit from taking a page from their playbooks. In our line of refugee and immigrant ministry work, at LHCC, we meet a lot of awesome immigrant children and their concerned parents. We love on them and try to help with everything we possibly can and tend to their needs. They are grateful people.

What follows is a short, sobering perspective on what we ought to see with our neighbors, regardless of whether they are from Mexico or Timbuktu.

Let your love be stronger than your hate or anger. Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little than to break. Believe the best rather than the worst. People have a way of living up or down to your opinion of them. Remember that true friendship is the basis of lasting relationship. (Author unknown)

These are people, not problems. They are our neighbors. Who wouldn’t want to live in peace and raise their children as best they can, in a safer environment? Let’s pray they are successful in school and in life, for a better future for everyone.

Until next time, I am

Brent Morris

Learning Help Centers of Charlotte

June 25, 2019

 Posted by at 9:02 am

I was moved at Movement Day Charlotte

 Attitude, Education, Family, Immigrants  Comments Off on I was moved at Movement Day Charlotte
Mar 192019
 

I went to Movement Day Charlotte this past weekend. The day when local church pastors, non-profit and marketplace leaders come together to get their marching orders, to quite literally keep moving. Six years ago, at the inaugural predecessor conference called The Justice Conference, I was profoundly moved to consider my movement into ministry. If you are wondering whether I got the big white phone call from God, I did… A month later, I went on my first mission trip to Haiti with my church, Forest Hill. A month later, I handed in my resignation. If you want to walk on water, you got to get out of the boat.

Joined by 1,000 pastors and ministry leaders yesterday, I was again reminded of why I quit my job to take a small role in the local mission field. It is an honor to serve our neighbors. We are a deeply divided city and the needs are ever present. The only key metric of progress since the prior Movement Day is literacy rates have improved by 1%. To 40%. That’s 4 out of 10 grade 3 students reading at grade level. The rate for our target audience is even lower, at just 24%.

Last week’s blog was about the value of persisting with reading over the long summer months. I am more convinced than ever that the benefits are more than just school reading grades. What I heard yesterday is that we have to put our words into action. Go do something…We are going to spend 30 days focusing on our literal and physical neighbors. Ask yourself the question “Do you know the names of the ten or so families occupying the households where you live?” Can we convince the families we work with to do the same? I’ll report back in 30 days. How can we fulfill the great commission to love our neighbors if we don’t even know their names?

Until then, I am

Brent Morris 

 Posted by at 7:56 am
Mar 102019
 

In 2017, an independent report comparing four CMS schools for year-round consideration, compared with the rest of the CMS schools brought unexpected results, in my opinion. Neither the shorter summer breaks nor the extra time produced measurable academic gains, after three years. I am referring to the March 3 Charlotte Observer article, entitled “Concerns over year-round school benefits led to board’s decision“, well written as always by Ann Doss Helms. I was dismayed. Actually, I was self-evaluating how these results could possibly be true, as I weigh up everything I have learned and experienced from delivering summer enrichment camps for the past six years with Learning Help Centers of Charlotte. The video below speaks to the value of bridging the gap for low-income children, who would otherwise experience limited learning, not to mention reading encouragement during the long summer months.

Summer Reading Loss simulation, comparing the have’s with the have not’s

I will not argue or refute the results of the multi-year study of the sample four schools from West Charlotte, included in this study. These schools no doubt have many challenges before students even sit down in class to learn. High levels of absenteeism in July, when other CMS schools are still out enjoying pool-time or vacation. What I will argue is that I disagree that additional summer literacy interventions and a shorter summer vacation are not beneficial for our young English Language Learning students. I have seen first-hand the extraordinary benefits of summer learning activities. I know that the parents of the children we serve expect us to be the encouragement for their children over the 11 weeks of summer. I also have it on good authority that teachers spend anywhere between three weeks and an entire fall semester reteaching their elementary school students what they have forgotten over the long, hot summer months. Case closed… At LHCC, we remain optimistic about the what we do and the potential value of year-round schools. We know that the 11-week summer vacation is highly disruptive for continuous learning. Therefore, we will continue to promote summer literacy camps, along with a fun learning experience during our summer program. We are pleased to be offering summer camps again in 2019, for our seventh year. Who’s going to support us in offering this invaluable program to our awesome children?

We appreciate your comments and support of our families

Feb 282019
 

I am scared of heights. Always have been … I used to bend my knees looking over a wall from a five-story block of flats where I grew up in South Africa. I would really rather just stay on terra-firma, feet-on-the-ground … unless I am swimming.

This past Saturday, we treated some of our community-minded LHCC families to a Rewards Day at Sky High Sports. You see, back in October, one of our community partners, Pineville Neighbors Place, organized their annual Potato Drop. Our LHCC families and children helped bag about 4,000 10 lb. bags of spuds, for donation to local food banks and low income communities. As a show of appreciation, Sky High Sports saw the opportunity to reward the children from our LHCC program for their service by inviting them to a fun morning at their awesome trampoline park, adjacent to our Pineville serve location. After the usual jumping and laser-tag activities, our energetic kids spotted the ropes course some 12 feet above their sweaty heads. They donned harnesses and then undertook some bold steps along suspended ropes and platforms. This was rather intriguing to me. Most had never undertaken this kind of adventure before. Some may have ventured out previously during our LHCC 2018 summer camp, but for most part, this was a new experience filled with trepidation. They swallowed their pride, and bravely took their first steps, guided by parents shouting encouragement from below. “Don’t let go!” they pleaded. They were dependent on a harness that seemed all too necessary all of a sudden.

We were very proud of them all. Some had tears in their eyes, as they overcame their fears and made it across the rubicon from one platform to another. Others were stage struck, unable to move a muscle. Words of encouragement were everywhere and they did the necessary with wide eyes and tensed muscles. Courage was in play, as the support from others was palpable. I knew how they felt. I had felt that way many times before as a young kid, but the life lessons were priceless. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I was just thrilled to be able to witness this experience, hold their hands as necessary, and see their delight at overcoming their fears, and accomplishing their what they thought was not in the realm of probability when they began. It is a joy to serve these families. I thank God that He made this provision for me and my family to be His hands and feet in serving our neighbors.

Until next time, I am

Brent Morris

February 24, 2019

 Posted by at 9:23 pm
Feb 162019
 

LHCC 2018 Annual Review

 Annual Review, Community Service, Education, Family  Comments Off on LHCC 2018 Annual Review
Dec 282018
 

Our mission remains grounded in serving our families with grace and dignity.  We are less focused on the big production, that often does not adequately build relationships and has even less longer-term impact.

Our relational and educational goals for the coming school year are as follows:

  • Engage a greater number of families, and engage the whole family, as we seek buy-in to their children’s education and character-building interventions.
  • Target a pre-elementary school child group, where we can collectively make a significant impact in early-learning, before children even start school.

We have deliberately chosen to focus on families with young children, those parents have demonstrated an interest in learning English alongside their child

In 2018, LHCC was one of three organizations selected from over 30 to join the inaugural Cultivate cohort of non-profits in January 2018. CULTIVATE, an incubator and accelerator for emerging nonprofit organizations managed by Next Stage, a Charlotte-based strategy firm for nonprofits. Together with Next Stage, we have developed a strategic business plan as a means to sustaining and growing the mission and vision of LHCC for the next 5 to 10 years.

During 2018, we accomplished the following:

  • Introduced a new east-side program, serving over 70 students in partnership with Missionary Athletes International (MAI) and Albemarle Road United Methodist Church
  • Increased emphasis on family engagement and conversational English with parents of students, creating a very effective cross-cultural exchange
  • Three after-school programs launched in the fall 2018
  • 300 children served during five weeks of summer camp
  • Estimated 4,500 meals served during the summer and 3,000 during the school year
  • Highest percentage of children passing YMCA swim proficiency tests in three years
  • Improved ratio of participants to volunteers in after-school program (less than 2.5 to 1)
  • Three mission-based partnerships directly supported our daily VBS intervention
  • Average 2 hours of literacy or reading intervention per child/day during summer programs
  • Estimated 5,500 hours of literacy/reading intervention during camp ~ highest in 6 years
  • Significantly increased number of parents participating in year-round program since inception

MISSION: Learning Help Centers of Charlotte provides scholastic and social supports to families, mired in generational poverty.

VISION: In partnership with like-minded non-profits, community partners and residents, who live in the communities in which we serve, we advocate for, invest in and mobilize resources to benefit awesome, yet vulnerable, children and their families.

CORE PROGRAM SERVICES:

  • After-school homework and literacy support
  • Summer enrichment & literacy camps
  • Family stabilization and English Language Learning (ELL)
  • Family enrichment
  • Community engagement & community events and celebrations 
 Posted by at 6:00 am