Exile Blog

Read how Valerie said “YES” and raised over 15k for war-affected youth!

What would happen if our compassion turned into action? What if we did more than feel something? What if we actually did something?

That’s what Valerie Edwards decided – that simply knowing about a crisis and feeling compassion for those affected wasn’t enough.

She wanted to do something. She wanted to act upon her belief that children affected by war could become leaders for peace in their communities.

So she did. She created HeART for Africa, a beautiful venture that has raised over $15,000!

This is her story. We hope it will inspire you to act.

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EI: What inspired you to create HeART for Africa?
VE: While I was reading about Exile International online, I came across a tab about hosting a party & raising money for the children. I began to pray about this opportunity and shortly after, mentioned to my husband that I wanted to host a small party at our house & have a few friends over to help in the work of EI. I prayed that God would lead me & my efforts & that His will would be done. My first big surprise came one day in an email from Gurkha Cigars. They told me they were going to donate $3500 & also donate some premium cigars for the silent auction. I was in total shock! That amount was more than I could imagine! My husband said, “Well, you may need to actually have this at a venue because I think this could get bigger than our living room”. So, I started researching places & venues to have an event & things just fell into place. At the same time, I was receiving more donations – monetary & also items for the auction. I never dreamed that it would take off like that. That just drove my compassion & I never looked back.

EI: How has Heart 4 Africa supported EI’s mission to see former child soldiers become leaders for peace in their communities?
VE: The first year hosting Heart 4 Africa I raised about $9000! I had never hosted a fundraiser before so I was absolutely amazed at that amount & extremely elated to know that I was able to have such a successful event. I can’t explain the feeling of knowing I was making a difference. I knew in my heart that God was guiding me & this is what I needed to be doing. So, in 2016 I hosted the 2nd Heart 4 Africa event and was able to raise over $4000 last year. The events continue to be successful and children in the EI programs continue to be impacted.

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EI: What turned your compassion into action?
VE: I have a true compassion for children. I also have a big desire to make a difference in this world. I knew after reading The Color of Grace that I could no longer just ‘sit’ & do nothing to help. I had to do something. I would picture myself in the comfort of my own home at the same time these horrific things were going on in our world, to our children. I became so heartbroken, but that brokenness turned into action & my calm turned into a driving force to ‘move’. I also learned that when someone says ‘no’, that doesn’t necessarily mean ‘no’, it may mean ‘not now’ or ‘ask again next year’. That was helpful to me because you need those positive things to hang onto. We all have the ability to help someone.

Heart 4 Africa has been a wonderful 2 year journey. I have been exhausted, elated, happy, sad & many more emotions – but when I look over and see The Color of Grace on my bookcase I know that my efforts & my heart are where they need to be.

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If you’re like Valerie, looking for a way to connect and make a difference, check out how you can be involved here.

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