ASSIGNMENT 13: Out to Africa from Eau Claire

By: Kevin Hurd Email
By: Kevin Hurd Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Changing the world. It is a phrase you have probably heard - maybe even a dream you have had yourself.

You could say one Western Wisconsin couple is doing their part to fulfill that phrase. They are making a big difference by focusing their attention on helping a small part of the globe.

"Mark and I just wanted to adopt two little boys and live the happy American life that we had" said Peggy Halverson. "Our journey took a turn we could have never expected."

That journey started when Peggy Halverson and her husband, Mark, decided they wanted to adopt children from Liberia. And that is where the road took its first turn - Habakkuk, the younger of the two children they were looking to adopt, died unexpectedly from Cholera.

"Part of my belief process of losing Habakkuk was I need to make something meaningful come out of this, I need there to be a reason for his life, the end of his story can't be and then he died," she said. "That's not okay, there has to be some redemption to that story."

She found that meaning for his life in the way he lost his life. Habakkuk got Cholera from dirty drinking water, which is something Peggy would soon find out is a problem all over Liberia. She saw it with her own eyes the first time she was there.

"To stand on the log and look at that water, and say this is what my little boys drink," she said was difficult.

That compelled her to have a well built in his village. It is such a simple machine that could save so many lives. She would later find that many villages already had wells but they were broken.

"When the well goes dry it breaks and you can't get clean water at all," she said.

And so another turn. She set out on a new mission to have the wells fixed and bring clean drinking water to Liberia. Six wells were built in 2011.

"In the 2nd year of Teamwork Africa we repaired 70 of those wells and made four new wells," she said.

Churches help allocate help based on the needs in their communities. Liberian contractors are doing the work on the ground. But now that clean water is saving lives, Peggy wanted to make something out of those lives.

"Without a quality education, the children might be healthy but they don't have a future," she said.

And so she set out on another challenge: building a school. It is a cause close to her heart. She is a former full-time teacher and now subs on the side in Eau Claire while running Teamwork Africa.

She says it pains her to know many 3rd graders there cannot read a simple sentence and teachers do not have adequate resources.

"There's a chalkboard in a classroom, chalk and a switch, those are the tools teachers have in Liberia," she said.

But putting those tools in the hands of teachers or any person in Liberia comes at a cost. Raising money has been a new challenge not just in Peggy's life but her whole family's.

"Fundraising has become more a part of our lives, we try to go north, south, east and west to any church or vacation bible school to try and talk to different schools to talk to all sorts of different groups," said Mark Halverson, Peggy's husband.

Teamwork Africa relies on churches to help assess the needs of the communities they are in.

They are also turning to individuals to sponsor children through the Starfish Program. 200 kids are on the list and 72 have been sponsored so far, getting medicine, food and schooling.

Peggy says since they are a small organization and they have people on the ground there, she knows the resources go where they are supposed to go.

"This place when I come here, my heart is overwhelmed with joy, when I look into the eyes of the women here and they look at me with gratitude, I'm humbled about being part of God's plan," Peggy added.

Take that from a woman who just a couple years ago was looking to adopt two children and now has found her own little corner of the world to change.

"It is so exhilarating to live this life where I know that something I do everyday impacts the lives of people on the other side of the world, that I may or may not meet, that there is purpose in meaning to what I'm doing, and I think everyone can find that purpose and meaning," she said.

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