Charlene Barr was born on the 18th July, 1990. Born with Cystic Fibrosis, she was very ill in her first year of life and spent all of that time in the hospital. At times it did not look like she would survive. Just after her first birthday social services began to look for a temporary foster placement to allow her out of hospital for the first time. Around this time, the Barr family were just entering the world of fostering children for respite care.
It was no coincidence that these two paths crossed. Charlene was introduced to Janice and Dickie as their second foster child, and they were asked would they give her a home to allow her out of hospital. Short term fostering became long term fostering became adoption (which is another story all in itself). The life of Charlene as a Barr had begun.
Every week 2 young people die as a direct result of having Cystic Fibrosis.
The condition of Cystic Fibrosis affects 8,500 people in the UK and affects the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with thick sticky mucus. This makes it hard to breathe and digest food. Every week 2 young people die as a direct result of having the condition. (Sign up here to do something about it.) On the 30th October, in her own home surrounded by her family – 20 year old Charlene Barr became one of them.
The story of her birth and death says nothing for the inspirational and memorable life Charlene lived in between, a determined and dedicated person she never let her condition hold her back – always taking every opportunity to spend quality time with her ever increasing family (there were only 4 when she became a Barr, there ended up being 8 with countless friends added on top over the years).
Here was a young girl who lived a hard life with the utmost level of dignity, never allowing anyone outside her immediate family to see her struggles, always focussing on the positives. This in itself is an amazing example to us all – however as she wrote in her diary in July 2003, she was developing a passion for Africa.
Charlene’s Diary entry 26 July 2003.
If you could ask for one thing from the Lord, what would it be? “That He would let me go to Africa orphanges. If it is Gods will.”
Come Christmas 2007 Dickie and Janice presented the family with their gifts, each one getting an envelope with the promise written inside of an Easter visit in 2008 to the place Charlene was fast developing a passion for… Uganda.
Dickie and Janice had written on the outside of this letter that they were sending some goats to Uganda, to find out when and where the goats were going, the children had to turn the page – when they did, they read the following message:
It was this trip which transformed Charlene’s focus on life. What she saw and experienced affected her and made her increasingly determined to make a difference. Read her interview here for more…
When Charlene had to drop out of school due to failing health she made the decision that she would raise money to build a school in Uganda so that children there would get a chance of an education, to help her achieve this aim she began her blog (see the first entry here).
She launched ‘Charlene’s Project’ in September 2009 and never gave up on her dream of building Hidden Treasure Primary School for children in Maya, Kampala, Uganda.
Charlene never craved attention, strongly disliking appearing on camera or TV to ‘promote’ the project, though she knew the benefits of doing so, and dutifully did her part – however it was her story intersecting with ‘their’ story in Uganda which really made people sit up and take notice.
How often have we heard appeals about Africa, or seen terrible images on our TV screens, and remained unmoved to react? The fact that Charlene suffered so much herself, yet still turned her attentions onto the needs of others separated this story like no other.
Charlene set off on her fundraising efforts – first £70,000 was targeted for the building of a school, then after it was raised in 5 months, she increased her target to £120,000
Charlene set off on her fundraising efforts – first £70,000 was targeted for the building of a school to accommodate 250 children, then after it was raised in 5 months (see here for her blog entry), she increased it to £120,000 in order to build a well for the whole village and provide teacher accommodation for the school. The committee that met to oversee the work grew as testimony to the worthiness of the cause, and her facebook followers exceeded expectations… The story was really getting out there, and people were responding… However, while Charlene was seeing the project grow, and was talking about getting out to Uganda after her transplant, her health was failing… Being on the transplant list for 12 months was taking its toll and still no call came…
The saddest day, the most exciting day…
On Saturday 30th October 2010, surrounded by the family she loved so much, and who loved her in equal measure, Charlene left this life of pain to be with her Eternal Father where suffering is no more.
What a faithful God we have – because one of the last things Charlene saw was how things were going at Hidden Treasures. Just one week before, 2 Trustees from Charlene’s Project went to Uganda to finalise the legalities and admin for the school building to begin. They were sending photos through to the facebook page as updates – updates which Charlene herself could see. In fact, if you go there, you will see these photos – and the captions underneath which are added by the young lady herself.
Her funeral was massive, a testimony to the number of people who had joined with her in her vision of Charlene’s Project. The readings and the tribute to Charlene are available here.
The day after she was buried photos came through of the ground being cleared, the trees being removed and the workers beginning the physical task of starting the work. However the Lord permitted Charlene to see the photos leading up to this before He took her home. He granted His faithful servant, and her family that precious memory that they will always share – that together they saw the beginning, together they experienced the excitement of knowing the money was now making a difference, that together they saw Charlene’s vision becoming a reality.
God is Good, all the time – All the time, God is Good
In the midst of grief and pain and loss, there is hope and light and life.
The project continues to raise money and gather followers and supporters. The work in Uganda has not suddenly stopped – indeed the school has risen from the ground with exceptional speed and craftsmanship. The children are being taught in their new school and clean water is available in the community for the first time ever, but there are still many vulnerable children and many community needs that Charlene would want us to impact. Charlene’s Project will continue to make a difference in this community.
Pastor Eugene is the man whose vision and prayers are being answered. Through the efforts of the local community and the support of Charlene’s Project, the children of Hidden Treasure community will have a better future.
In the midst of grief and pain and loss, there is hope and light and life. What better example of Gospel love, of a life lived in the service of others is there? People say God is dead, Jesus doesn’t move today – well take another look at the life of Charlene Barr, and contained within it, you will discover otherwise…
The School building at about 80% complete…
Water is flowing… Amazing!!!