2009 & 2010
A Statistic She Couldn’t Ignore
An orphanage worker in Guatemala told Susan Volnosweski that 80% of the children in her care had experienced sexual abuse. This caregiver shared with Susan that for these children, the abuse they had experienced was the biggest barrier preventing children from receiving the love of God.
Susan determined to develop a tool that would equip caregivers to help children heal from their trauma so that their hearts would be open to the love of God.
In 2011, Phyllis Kilbourn, the founder of Crisis Care Training International, Christa Crawford, of Human Trafficking Connection, and Lyn Westman, of Operation Mercy Ships, provided the learning objectives for the project.
In 2012, Kathy Buchanan, a senior script writer for Adventures in Odyssey, began script writing for what would later be known as Holding Esther. Kathy is not only a script writer, but also has her master’s degree in counseling and, at the time, was pursuing international adoption.
In 2013, the script for the first three episodes of Holding Esther was finalized. Todd Busteed came onboard as the producer casting the script with British African actors to assure that the dialect would be widely accepted. Cathy Sara, actor on BBC’s Downton Abbey, played Maria, and sisters, Natalia and Rachel Hinds, played the sisters Esther and Sarah.
Production of Holding Esther was completed and tested in Kenya and Uganda.
Cindy Finley joined RiverCross as the Associate Director and led a team to Zambia to test the effectiveness of Holding Esther. Dr. Charles “Chuck” Madinger, International Director for the International Orality Network, conducted doctoral level testing with the assistance of facilitators from Every Orphan’s Hope in Lusaka Zambia.
RiverCross affiliated with Trans World Radio providing the ministry with operational structures and systems so that Cindy and Susan could focus on development of the ministry.
In September, Cindy, Susan, and Scott Hollinger, audio consultant and staff member with TWR, traveled to London to join Todd Busteed at Soundhouse Studios to produce the remaining episodes of Holding Esther.
In January 2016, all seven episodes of Holding Esther were complete and third-party evaluation by Dr. Chuck Madinger took place in Zambia. The results of the testing proved that Holding Esther is an effective tool to equip caregivers in trauma-informed care.
In July 2016, Cindy Finley became the executive director and Susan continued to serve as a board member.
In 2017, Cindy convened a team including scriptwriters, Marshal Younger and Kathy Buchanan, for a whiteboard session to map out the next series, Jabota Bridge.
Cindy and colleague, Martha Cameron, traveled back to Zambia to train leaders in both Lusaka and Livingstone. Also, One Love Radio and Christian Voice aired Holding Esther across a potential listening audience of 5 million.
Cindy, Scott, and Adelyn Boling joined Kathy Buchanan, Marshal Younger and Todd Busteed in London for the recording of the first eight episodes of Jabota Bridge.
Cathy Sara and Natalia and Rachel Hinds once again anchored the cast for this drama that is designed so that vulnerable and traumatized children can identify with the characters and begin their journey toward the healing and hope that only Christ can bring.
Frank Strider joined the RiverCross team as the Operations Director using his skills and experience in corporate project management and operational development to help the organization to develop systems and processes enabling greater effectiveness.
Sanderson Sianjina joined the team as the first RiverCross National Coordinator. Based out of Livingstone, Zambia, Sanderson conducted trainings not only in his community, but in Lusaka and the Northern Province as well.
Sanderson, along with Cindy Finley and intern, Piper Finley, traveled to the Northern Province to assess ministry potential at a refugee settlement in Nchelenge. With the help of a volunteer team from the U.S., they facilitated workshops and a children’s camp.
On October 1st, RiverCross launched from Trans World Radio. This launch enabled RiverCross to stay laser-focused on the mission to build bridges of hope for the world’s vulnerable children.
The RiverCross board set an audacious goal of equipping 100 new advocates to stand with orphans and vulnerable children. The research tells us that one caring adult can radically change the life of a child for the better.
RiverCross trainings are held in-person, but when coronavirus hit, the RiverCross team quickly moved to a media strategy airing programs from Livingstone, Zambia into Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe as well as Zambia.
In July, RiverCross partnered with World Vision and Tehila Zambia for a child protection initiative aired on One Love Radio in Lusaka, Zambia.
Sanderson Sianjina and Tino Rusike, National Coordinator for Zimbabwe, conducted open-air workshops and held children’s camps resulting in the training of more than 100 advocates.
Covid-19 continued to ravage the world, but the impact of the virus upon orphans and vulnerable children in Africa was not only from the virus itself, but from the impact of the virus upon local families. Children were home and abusers were home. Additionally, the economic impact increased levels of poverty and orphanhood, and as a result, child marriages, child trafficking, and child abandonment all increased significantly.
Devon Tarr joined the RiverCross team as the Training Director and Trauma Specialist. With her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling and a graduate certificate from Wheaton, Devon adds essential expertise to the team.
Preparation began for production of a complete audio drama library of trauma healing modules. Each of the twelve modules will be comprised of five 25-minute episodes to be used for training, broadcast, and as a trauma healing tool for children.