What happens when you invest in the talents of a widowed mother in Ethiopia? Something beautiful happens. What changes when you teach a group of Guatemalan women a new, profitable skill? Everything changes. Who is impacted when a collection of mothers routinely sit down together to share their struggles, learn how to save money, and challenge each other in their business ventures? Entire families, communities, and towns are impacted.
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In a perfect world—a world we dream about frequently—these words would never have to be uttered. Children would have homes, healthy families, and environments within which to thrive.
Moses was a child conceived through rape and abandoned by his mother, but he is now in the care of his grandmother. Twins, Sarai and Andrea, were left orphaned when their mother was imprisoned and their father left them, but a neighbor took them in, welcoming them into her home. Rachel's father died in a sudden accident, but she has continued to be raised by her mother, Veronica. Adriana and Daniella care for Camila—a woman left paralyzed by an accident—and her two sons.
The families receiving care through our partner churches have a variety of stories. Some children are being raised by biological mothers or fathers, while others have been welcomed into the homes of grandmothers, aunts, or friends. A commonality you will find among these stories (in addition to a child being orphaned or at risk for abandonment) is poverty or a severe lack of economic resources. Poverty is the leading cause of family disruption; therefore, it is impossible to talk about stabilizing families without also discussing the economic implications of such an effort.
So, what does this imply about orphan care? Well, the term "orphan care" itself is perhaps somewhat confusing . . . at least the way we use it at World Orphans. Orphan care at World Orphans typically looks more like family care, as we believe a child's well-being directly hinges on the stability and physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of the entire family. As churches partner with vulnerable families in their community, pastors and congregation members are not merely coming alongside a child, but they are standing alongside families in the midst of turmoil, heartbreak, and transition.
Thus, our belief in and desire to see strong, stable families has shaped and informed our economic empowerment efforts over the years. Guided by knowledgeable and caring pastors around the world, we've been embarking on a journey that—while it may not be easy—has been filled with joy, hope, and profound dignity for our caregivers, mothers, and fathers. We believe that economic empowerment is building the capacity of the men and women in our programs to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from economic opportunities in ways that recognize the value of their contributions, respect their intrinsic dignity as image bearers of Christ, build stronger families, and improve the quality of life for all members of the family.
As we rely on local leadership to guide our efforts in this area, the reality of economic empowerment varies based on location.
Economic empowerment initiatives were first launched in Ethiopia in June 2015, and began with savings groups—clusters of caregivers that met to discuss daily life, eat a meal together, and begin to save money. From those humble and simplistic beginnings, economic empowerment initiatives in Ethiopia have grown substantially.
- Savings Groups: All of our caregivers from all seven of our churches are participating in savings groups that give them the ability to save money monthly despite their inability to access formal financial institutions as individuals.
- Micro-loans: Eligible caregivers received a 500 birr (approximately $25) micro-loan to start or expand their businesses, and plans are underway to implement a second phase of micro-loans this year.
- Literacy Program & Empowerment Packs: Packs of supplies for literacy, education, basic first aid/hygiene, feminine hygiene, and nutrition are distributed at training seminars provided to the churches and families involved in our program.
Zeritu | Ethiopia
When she entered the program, Zeritu was desperate, hungry, and suicidal. She couldn't afford to put shoes on her children's feet. Now, she is teaching others in the program her secrets to entrepreneurial success and willingly giving up her spot in the program to provide space for another family to benefit from the same programs that allowed her to transform her life.
Ehetinesh is a widowed mother of seven children, and grandmother of three. Through the economic empowerment program, Ehetinesh has been able to craft and sell handmade jewelry—delicate pieces of art that she is eager to display and sell in her community. In addition to the jewelry, Ehetinesh also sells vegetables. This work allows her to provide for her children, despite previous economic struggles.
In 2017, economic empowerment initiatives were launched in Guatemala through partnership with local businesses, organizations, and the guiding wisdom of our local pastors. While our efforts in Guatemala are still in the early stages, it's already been a joy to see the confidence and joy that empowerment can bring to caregivers.
- Savings Groups: We are in the process of hiring a Savings Group Coordinator to oversee the implementation of the Restore:Savings Curriculum developed and tested by the Chalmers Center with our savings groups.
- Youth Savings & Education: A matched youth savings program will be launched in 2018 in conjunction with the financial literacy education that is already part of the curriculum at the AMG school in Guatemala City.
- Skills Training for Women: In collaboration with Women’s Partnership Marketplace, we are striving to implement a year-long curriculum to train women as artisans and business owners, equipping them in multiple areas from goal setting to the intricacies of being an entrepreneur.
- Supporting Existing AMG Programs to Empower Women and Youth: We are investigating ways to provide support to AMG efforts to facilitate financial education, artisan and business training, and job placement for youth.
Yoselin* lives in a small, single-room rented home with her children. Her hard work and assistance from a local World Orphans church partner, Sendero de la Cruz, has allowed her to send her two oldest sons to boarding school. Through the boarding school, the boys not only receive an education, but they are receiving healthy food and learning practical information about basic hygiene. Yoselin's two young daughters are cared for daily through the church's nursery, allowing Yoselin to start a small business selling chips outside of schools. The family has begun to faithfully attend Sendero de la Cruz, and they have gotten involved in home groups and other ongoing church activities.
Women's Partnership Market
These women are meeting together to create goals for their future at the Artisans Thrive training program in Guatemala City. Over the next couple months, these women will be investing time and energy to learn personal skills, gain understanding of how to start a business, and learn the process of bringing a product to market.
Estefanny | Guatemala
20-year-old Estefanny (third from the left) is employed at Grønn, a socially-conscious start-up using recycled glass to create drinking glasses. The company owner, inspired by Estefanny's work ethic and determination, recently promoted her to director of production. In addition to working at Grønn, Estefanny is a caregiver in the Home Based Care program, a volunteer at Sonrisas (a church-based outreach program for children), and she is attending school to earn a business administration degree.
Economic empowerment is changing the way we care for orphaned and vulnerable children, and it's building confidence in our caregivers, as they now have opportunities to pursue a better life for their families. While these efforts are young and we're only beginning to see the first beautiful fruits from these programs, we've already been captivated and inspired by the stories. Even more beautiful, in an effort to come alongside additional vulnerable families, we recently launched economic empowerment initiatives in Haiti and will update you as the program grows.
*Identity changed for protection
At World Orphans, we talk a lot about orphan care, but you may have noticed that we don't talk about orphanages. Instead, you may frequently hear the words "church partnership" or "family-based care".
Those that are fierce are sometimes thought to be unloving. Those that are strong are often believed to not be gentle. Those that are brave are sometimes thought to be unkind. But this–of course–is not always true.
Yeshiwork's story is the stuff of sensationalized media, yet it's all true. As a child solider, she barely survived a battle along the border of Somalia–a battle which killed 75 people. She became a child bride at ten years old and stood by his side for 55 years . . . until he left her. To this day, she doesn't know if her husband is alive or not, as he could not be located after a flood.
Yeshiwork has suffered much, yet has overcome.
She is a tall, fierce woman. She is strong. She is brave. Yet, she is also loving, gentle, and kind, as evidenced by the little boy who has so clearly stolen her heart.
Moses walks into the room, weighed down by the heavy backpack on his tiny shoulders. He looks shyly at the guests in the room, yet marches over to Yeshiwork, and climbs onto her lap to plant a kiss on her cheek. A sparkle can be seen in her otherwise serious eyes.
She prays for him, believing he will be a leader. Though she loves him, she is not given to nonsense. Yeshiwork expects him to be disciplined in his studies and to attend the after-school programs at school in addition to his regular schooling. Without her, Moses' life could have looked so different . . . if his life had come to be at all.
Yeshiwork is Moses' grandmother, and without her desperate plea for his life to be spared, Moses would have been aborted. Conceived through rape, Moses was a sign of shame. Tradition dictated that, once he was born, he would be an outcast and he would forever be reminded of the pain that brought him into the world. One week after he his birth, Moses' mother left him in Yeshiwork's care. Out of humiliation, his grandfather left.
Yeshiwork had nothing but a tiny, defenseless infant. She was a warrior for him before he was even born, and yet that was only the beginning.
Believing it was important to "give him a life," Yeshiwork has loved him like her own son. Through the World Orphans Home Based Care program, a local church has partnered with Yeshiwork, enabling her to care for him well. The church's partnership helps to ensure that Moses is being provided for physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Home Based Care enables Moses to grow up under the loving care of the woman who fought for him. Without the local church, Yeshiwork would most likely have been forced to surrender Moses at an orphanage, unable to provide for his needs as a single elderly woman.
Orphan care, at its roots, should always be about strengthening families, both the families that have welcome orphaned children into their homes and those families whose children are vulnerable to abandonment. Through Home Based Care, families are strengthened through the local church with support, educational resources, and provisions for the child's education, food, and medical needs as is necessary. We know that children thrive when they are in families, and we seek to see those families stay together rather than be torn apart by poverty.
Yeshiwork has fiercely and selflessly loved Moses, a boy previously destined to be an outcast. It is a privilege, as the global church, to stand in her corner and celebrate Moses' precious life.
And thus, Frimose began the hard work of parenting a grief-stricken 8-year-old girl.
"An architect." Her boldness and creativity caught me off guard. It was the sixth classroom of the day in which we'd asked the students, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Her response surprised me because it was one I hadn't heard yet.
The teenage students were packed into a tiny classroom, and though their language was unfamiliar, the stares, giggles, and whispering felt very similar to the way a US classroom would feel brimming with teenagers.
The heat, the language barrier, and the mental exhaustion of the day was making us run close to empty, but we mustered up more energy for this new group. We began, as we had with other classes, by asking the expectant faces about their plans for the future. We heard dreams and plans bounce off the walls: teacher, doctor, nurse.
Esther* claimed she wanted to be an architect.
We began to talk to the students about the importance of not only choosing a career to pursue, but the importance of choosing their words carefully. We discussed how they talk to their friends, to their parents, to God, and to themselves. Recognizing the lies imbedded in the saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," we told them how hurtful words can be. But, of course, they already knew this.
When we finished talking to the class, we offered to take questions. Esther's hand immediately shot up and she whispered for what felt like 30 minutes to our translator, Davidson. In reality, it was probably less than two minutes, but have you ever stood in front of a classroom full of teenagers? They stare at you.
Davidson turned to face our group—me, Mike, DeAhna, and Shydonna—and he relayed the story of a broken-hearted girl who so confidently announced her desire to be an architect, yet deep down was considering being a criminologist. She'd confided in someone she loved about her dreams, but that person told her she couldn't be a criminologist, and Esther wanted to know what to do and where to go from here.
Shydonna in Haiti
What Esther didn't know is that our team was blessed to have the brilliance and heart of Shydonna Tossie, director and owner of Ampersand School in Longwood, Florida. Shydonna is an educator, motivator, and big dreamer, but most importantly, Shydonna's love for children cannot be exaggerated.
Shydonna communicated many things to Esther that day, as she encouraged her to continue pursuing her desire to be a criminologist, but the most important things she conveyed to this heavy-hearted young woman were hope, love, and confidence. The conversation ended in tearful prayers and the kind of hug that must have made the angels sing.
Esther's school was attached to the local church, and following that final conversation in the classroom, we went into the church auditorium with our group. It wasn't long before a backpack-bearing girl with an orange gingham top and navy skirt made her way into the auditorium. Her eyes raced around the room before she quickly located Shydonna. Esther, seemingly forgetting the language barrier, sat down next to Shydonna to rest her head on Shydonna's shoulder. Words weren't important anymore. Esther needed hope, love, and the knowledge that someone had confidence in her. She'd found that in Shydonna, and that was enough.
This is the kind of impact Shydonna makes every single day at Ampersand School, where she frequently whispers in the ears of young learners, "Somebody is waiting for you to be great." Isn't it fascinating how some messages need to be communicated regardless of the culture? Isn't it amazing to think that children everywhere are dreaming big and waiting for us to encourage them to fly? What Shydonna knows and what you and I may fail to remember is that education isn't just about education. When children learn and dream, they're setting a pathway for their future.
If you were to ask her, Shydonna would tell you she wasn't always this inspiring to those around her. As a college student feeling the weight of the world, she stood at a Christian youth conference in a sea of depression. Tears were staining Shydonna's face when a strange woman approached her and said:
"What you're going through right now isn't even about you. Somebody is going to come behind you who needs to know that you survived. That person needs you to get through this because they need to know they can survive, too."
15 years later, Shydonna holds those words tightly in her hand, carrying them with her every day, knowing that this woman—whose name she'll never know—changed her life.
Arguably Shydonna may have done the same thing for Esther. Words of wisdom. A prayer. A hug at the perfect time. Children around the world need to know that we're waiting for them to be great. Orphaned and vulnerable children especially need to know that the world is waiting for them to be great. Though their circumstances understandably may seem insurmountable, we need 153 million orphaned children to know that we're waiting for them.
Shydonna and Esther
At World Orphans, we talk a lot about wholistically caring for orphaned and vulnerable children, ensuring their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs are all being addressed, but orphan care at the end of the day isn't really about orphan care at all.
We aren't caring for orphans. We're pouring into future doctors, teachers, and nurses. We're empowering architects, engineers, and mothers. We're investing in fathers, mechanics, and entrepreneurs. When you look into the eyes of a child, you are looking into the future of that community, town, and country. The child's circumstances may have rendered him or her orphaned, but that is not the child's permanent identity.
The second we start believing that orphan care is merely about orphan care, we've forgotten the potential that lies in those beautiful brains, the passion that burns in those big hearts, and the dreams that soar higher than the clouds. These boys and girls . . . they're going to be great.
*Name changed to protect identity.
By Becky Hoffman | Director of Rescue Teams Growing up. Leaving the nest. It is something most of us have done or will do. The time comes when we leave our parents behind and set out on our own. Free. Independent. Terrified. Some will attend college, while others join the workforce. Many will rent apartments or buy houses. Bills are now addressed to self, not parent or guardian. Though the process of entering adulthood is daunting, it is also exhilarating. Well, it should be.
Others experience a different story: aging out. An 18th birthday means it is time to go. You are out of the system. Out of the orphanage. Out on your own. Whether you are leaving foster care or an institutional orphanage, the process is abrupt and final. No one is required to care for you anymore. Your bed will be filled by another.
In an interview with Neal Conan on NPR, Dr. Mark Courtney, Research and Development Director of Partnerships for Our Children, describes the status of the former foster children he has been following into young adulthood. He says, “…less than half of them are employed at 23, very high rates of involvement with the criminal justice system, lots of struggling parents, rely on public assistance…”
Not a pretty picture. If that is what happens in the United States, imagine what it must be like for children in impoverished nations. The fear of being left to fend for oneself must plague the minds of many 17-year-old youths.
This does not have to be the case. In fact, it is not the case for the six young women in India who are cared for by the local church in partnership with World Orphans. These young women have a different story.
After losing their parents to tragedies, including accidents, abandonment, and illness, these women were brought into the loving home of a pastor’s daughter and son-in-law. There they grew up as sisters and formed a tight bond with each other and their guardians. Now, at 18, 19, and 20 years old, they have not “aged out". Instead, there has been a gradual, natural transition.
Each young woman attends university and they share an apartment above the church. After nursing school, Ujala comes home to help her new mother sew beautiful wedding gowns and sarees to sell. Aalia and Mahla have taken on many of the church’s administrative responsibilities. Each one has her role.
What is even more special is that Ujala, Mahla, Aalia, Heli, Prema, and Aahna* were recently baptized. Not only are they growing in independence, but in faith. They are truly blossoming.
None of this would have happened without the local church stepping up to care for the fatherless. It would not have happened without the US church providing finances for food, school fees, medical care, and other necessities. It would not have happened without three-fold partnership between these churches and World Orphans.
We love our church partners and praise God for all they are doing to show Christ’s love to orphans. We invite you and your church to jump in and be part of changing the story for orphans who otherwise would have aged out of the system.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
By Matthew Hanks | Projects Manager – Africa Every time I’m in a developing country, such as Ethiopia, I consider how radically altered my life would be by simply being born on a different plot of dirt on this earth. Most of the privilege I’ve experienced has nothing to do with my efforts, abilities, or upbringing, but is primarily related to geography. I am also reminded of this reality as I watch my Ethiopian born son grown up in the US. At almost four years of age, in rural Ethiopia, would he be tending to the family goat? Maybe he’d be hauling water from a near by stream? Would he even be alive if he were never adopted, or would the seizures he was having as a baby have left him among the statistics of children who don’t make it to their 5th birthday? My thoughts also arise as I watch the news: would the Syrian born boy have grown up to be an ISIS terrorist if he thought he had an opportunity to go to college and become a doctor? Would there be nine more church members at the Emanuel AME church if Dylan Roof’s father had been transferred to Seattle when he was young, decreasing the fuel of his anger and prejudice?
I think about “my lot in life” and am incredibly thankful; however, it’s hard to reconcile the blessings I’ve received when people I’ve come to care about, who are every bit as deserving of good things in life as I am, seem stuck in hopeless situations. I’d like to tell you about two of those people: two boys who have equally invaded my heart, soul, and comfort seeking lifestyle since I’ve been back from my latest trip to Africa.
The first boy I’ll call Stephen. Not only was his “lot” to start out life as a double orphan, but as a reminder of his biological parents’ shortcomings, he was also born into this world with HIV/AIDS. Last month, when we arrived at the church compound where the children’s home is located, Stephen was one of the first faces for whom I was looking. Based on previous trips, I knew about his fight with HIV/AIDS, but I hadn’t heard how close he’d come to loosing the battle until just a few weeks earlier. It’s heartbreaking to witness a 90-pound child losing 18-pounds. The dagger drives even deeper when you wrap your arms around the 11 year old and feel nothing but bones under the baggy clothing. Feelings of helplessness, anger, and guilt left me completely speechless as we laid hands on and prayed for Stephen. Despite my best efforts to keep it together, tears spilled over the dammed reservoir of emotions. Though I couldn’t pray aloud, my heart was silently screaming for help on this child’s behalf. Without parents in this world who is going to fight for him? WHO!?
The story of the second child, whom we’ll call Gabriel, is even more complex. Our Ethiopian Program Manager, Belgi, attempted to explain, in broken English, a situation at one of the churches where one of our children has “two sexes”. Upon examining the child, my doctor buddy used the term ‘ambiguous genitalia’. Hermaphrodite is the technical term; a term and condition hardly known by the “highly educated” in the US, and one certainly not known by the midwives of the child’s rural village. The condition requires delicate, specialized care and surgery, but where Gabriel comes from, those in authority decided that the most fitting solution to this “curse” was to end his life. That was the fate of his little brother when he was born with the same condition. Out of fear for the older brother’s life, the father brought him eight hours away to a church on the edge of Addis Ababa. The “what if’s” surrounding this child’s future hover over the situation like giant African vultures waiting expectantly for a meal. Without parents in this world who will ensure his heart, soul, and body get the specialized, delicate care that he needs? WHO?!
There Is Hope
I am thankful to say that, at least for these two boys, the answer to the question of “Who will be there for them?” is the Church. Primarily, the ones sharing the responsibility of providing love, attention, and the meeting of physical needs is the local church in their community, partnered with a US church family. Knowing this helps; yet, I still wrestle inside with the ‘why’ for these two.
Luke 9:1-3 gives us a clear answer:
“As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him...”
I am overwhelmed with the feelings of helplessness when I put myself in the shoes of the desperate father of Gabriel, who had no known resources to turn to for help - no government assistance, no known grants to apply for, no hospital to set up a payment plan, no daytime TV program like Oprah on which to share his story. Rather, his only possible hope was for God to intervene through His people. All the details that have fallen into place are nothing short of miraculous - that the father heard of a church eight hours away, with people who have a heart for children like his, for the church to accept him, adopt him into a family in their congregation, carry the burden as their own, and for a US church partner to come into the picture and offer resources to help. Amazing! These are the “works of God” on display in both Stephen and Gabriel’s lives. It’s why the Lord allows broken pieces in the world and why the Church is the vehicle by which He plans to restore the brokenness.
Look at what Jesus tells us “we must do”, as we continue reading in verses 4-5 of that same passage in Luke:
“…we must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
What a privilege to be included in the “We”. We are how He’s chosen to remain in the world. Because of Jesus in us, we too are the light of the world.
By Bailey Kalvelage | Director of Mobilization
Who doesn’t like to come to the end of a year, look back, and count all the blessings of the past 12 months? It’s no wonder that all the way back in 1863 President Lincoln established an official day of national "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens". In light of the turkey eating and celebrating of last week, I’d like to celebrate with you a few lives that our beneficent Father has transformed through World Orphans partnerships in 2014.
Below are World Orphans top 5 favorite child stories of 2014! These stories are a result of God’s work through World Orphans vision and effort to empower the church to care for orphans – until they all have homes.
Church Partnership: Eglise Baptiste Par la Foi (Haiti) and Harvest Presbyterian Church (Maryland)
"Last year there was a new girl in the Orphaned and Vulnerable Child (OVC) program. Her name is Olivia* and she was five years old. When we first met Olivia she was quiet and didn’t interact much with the other kids...it was very apparent to everyone that she had gone through much trauma in her short life. She didn’t smile, and had trouble trusting people.
One year later, though, it almost seems like she is a different person. She is interacting with the other kids, smiling and as much as we can tell, is happy. One year in the program under the care and supervision of the church was absolutely life changing (she is one of the kids who lives in the Pastor’s house).
But that isn’t the most amazing thing. This year there is another new girl in the program. She, like Olivia the year before, acts and is even treated like an outcast due to a physical disability. Olivia, instead of poking fun of her like the other kids, takes care of her and even defends her whenever she can. Olivia’s experience as an outsider and outcast didn’t leave her jaded or bitter. Because she was shown the grace and love that allowed her to experience healing, she is now empowered to show compassion and empathy to someone who is hurting. At such a young age she is demonstrating the love of Jesus."
– Written by Pastor Walter of Harvest Presbyterian Church
Church Partnership: Father’s Divine Love Ministries (Uganda) and First Baptist Church of Siloam Springs (Arkansas)
“One story [from the trip] that was powerful involves a young man named Akello* who has lived 18 years with a club foot. His mother, Helen, is a mama and a church leader. Through connections with a nurse [at the guesthouse where we stay when we visit], we were able to get Akello enrolled in a program that will allow him to have surgery to correct his foot at no cost to his family or the ministry. They are waiting until a break in the school semester, but he should have the surgery before the end of this year!”
– Written by Scott Vair, President of World Orphans
3. SIZANI: ABUSED BUT NOW RESTORED!
Church Partnership: Christian Life Centre (South Africa) and Castle Oaks Church (Colorado) and Families Outreach (Arkansas)
“Christian Life Centre in Chatsworth, South Africa, cares for children that are extremely sick with HIV, and for those that have been orphaned, abused, and neglected. Two-year-old Sizani* is one of those children. Sizani was recently brought to Christian Life Centre by government social workers with bruises, disfiguring scars, a perforated eardrum, and a swollen eye due to abuse. She is now receiving much needed medical treatment, love, and affection as the restoration of this precious child begins. We are grateful for Pastor Siva Moodley and the staff at Christian Life Centre, for their unwavering love for the abused, neglected, and orphaned children of South Africa.”
– Written by Scott Vair, President of World Orphans
Church Partnership: Eglise Baptiste Bellevue Salem (Haiti) and Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church (Maryland)
“One memorable story was of one of the Orphaned and Vulnerable Child (OVC) kids named Edgard*. The very first time we met him, he came off as a bit of a trouble-maker and constantly wanted all the attention, but this time around we could definitely see growth. The people that had seen him just last year noticed how much he grew physically in just under a year. Another member of our group told us a story later of how after we had finished up our craft time, she saw him stay by himself and pick up all the trash left in the room, even with no one watching. It was great to see his growth: physically, socially, and spiritually.”
– Writteny by Jimmy Choi of Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church
Church Partnership: Mission Eglise El-Shaddai (Haiti) and Daybreak Church (California)
“Meet Elsie*. She is 14. She has a lot of responsibility in the home in helping care for her younger siblings and often has to stay home while her older brothers have much more freedom to go out and play sports. She’s usually really shy and withdrawn, but she opened up to a couple of us about her frustration. We invited her to spend the evening at the guesthouse with us, and her caregivers gave their permission. We ate junk food, played twister, and just enjoyed celebrating life and laughter together. It was a really special time for Elsie and for our team. “
– Written by Kindra French of Daybreak Church
I know I said top 5, but I have to share just one more!
Church Partnership: Eglise Baptiste Par la Foi (Haiti) and Harvest Presbyterian Church (Maryland)
“One of the biggest ministries of the church is a yearly missions trip the kids and the church members take to the countryside. They go with the intent of sharing the gospel with the unchurched. It was during the trip this year that they “adopted” a young girl with disabilities into the program. Her name is Lyne*, she is twelve and she has a degenerative eyes disorder that has left her virtually blind. She was left on the side of the road and Pastor Gaston’s daughter and husband felt compelled to take her home.”
– Written by Pastor Walter of Harvest Presbyterian Church
I hope you’ve enjoyed these profound accounts of God transforming the lives of children through His church. These stories would not be possible without World Orphans partners: Church Partners, Rescue Partners and Rescue Teams. If these stories have inspired you to get involved in advocating for the orphan, you’ve come to the right place.
Please click on the link below or email the corresponding address to get in touch with World Orphans and learn more about advocating for orphans today. We can’t wait to hear from you!
*Child names and pictures changed for the protection of children in our programs.
by Scott Vair | President
The Story of Belnysh
In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Belnysh lives in a corrugated metal house on the side of the street with her two boys, Dawit and Beniyam. As a widow, she’s struggled to provide them with the basics needed to survive - food, clothing, shelter, and education. Five years ago, Belynsh was so desperate that she took her youngest Beniyam (only four years old at the time) and left him at an orphanage, fearing she would not be able to provide for both of the boys.
Desperation, death, anguish, helplessness, hopelessness, extreme poverty – all culminating in a mother abandoning her child to an orphanage, hoping for a better life for him.
Avoiding this exact scenario is one of the primary goals of our Home Based Care (HBC) Program, as we seek to work with local churches to preserve families and keep children out of orphanages. Study after study points to the dangers, inadequacies, and developmental delays associated with institutional care. To put it bluntly: a child belongs in a family.
Two years later, Belynsh missed Beniyam, who was no longer recognizing her when she went to visit. Her family was broken, and she wanted him back. There had to be another way.
Fast forward to today. Belynsh has Beniyam back in her home, they are part of our Home Based Care Program at Lafto Kale Heywet Church, and Belynsh is running her own teashop. She works six days a week to earn enough money to keep the boys at home, with a little help from the HBC Program that provides some food, medical care, and education expenses for the boys.
The teashop was started through a small business loan Belynsh received through a savings plan as part of the HBC Program at the church. Through the encouragement of the HBC Coordinator, Belganesh, the Home Based Care participants started a savings program where they each put in the equivalent of about $1 a month. A few months ago, World Orphans staff members matched what had been saved so far, allowing the group to start issuing small business loans. Each loan is about $25 and is paid back over 10 months. So far, 8 of the 22 caregivers in the HBC Program have received such a loan.
While it doesn’t seem like much, a small loan like this was enough to help Belynsh start the teashop and begin to earn a living.
The Story of Pastor Siva
In Chatsworth, South Africa, World Orphans partner, Pastor Siva Moodley, has been caring for orphans through his church, Christian Life Centre, for over a decade. He too has a passion for seeing caregivers empowered to earn a living so they can take care of their children. In the past, they’ve taught widows how to make and sell jewelry. Today, they are in the final stages of completing a Training Center. This Training Center is a two-story building that will house a sewing project.
Most sewing projects I’ve seen over the years are designed to employ people. Women come to the project and work at sewing garments that the project then sells. The project is the employer.
The sewing project at Christian Life Centre has a different vision. They too will have women come to the project, they will be in community as they learn to sew, but the goal is to teach them a skill. Christian Life Centre will then network with factories to get them jobs at the end of a six-week training program. They will bring women in (many are widows), teach them to sew, find them a job, send them out, and bring in others. The cycle repeats. Women given skills and help so they can support and care for their families themselves.
This small business loan program in Ethiopia and sewing project in South Africa are both examples of what we call Family Empowerment. This form of empowerment, deeply rooted in the Gospel, not only invests in the family but also walks families through the ongoing process of providing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual care for those they love. Each step is intentional. It’s dynamic. It demands mutual respect, economic accountability, and constant engagement in the local community. But the greatest part of it all, it transforms families and communities for generations to come!
Our goal is to see families empowered to raise their children physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We believe this starts with, and is found in, the Gospel of Christ.
This past August, we conducted our first caregiver training in Haiti for the 200+ caregivers in our HBC Program. Caregivers were trained in child protection, oral hygiene, and biblical discipline – all undergirded by the Gospel and identity found in Christ. We believe the work of the Gospel is foundational. Our hope is only found in Him. The Gospel has much to say about all areas of life, including economic empowerment. When sewing projects and loan programs designed to empower caregivers are a function of the church, where community is established and the message of Christ is primary, real family transformation takes place.
When talking about economic empowerment, two of the more popular topics in missions today are “dependency” and “self-sustainability”.
These are indeed important topics, but also very complex issues that aren’t as easy as we’d like them to be. As Daniell Rickett points out in his must-read book, Building Strategic Relationships, there is both healthy and unhealthy dependency. Obviously we must be cautious to avoid unhealthy dependency (where the sole focus is on the exchange of money rather than on the complimentary contributions each party makes). But, we must also embrace healthy dependency (where each partner is willing give and receive, to teach and to learn, to lead and to follow).
We have several projects that have, over the years, spent considerable time, energy, and resources on “self-sustainability” projects – chickens, gardens, farms, bakeries, transportation companies, etc. – and these projects have generated some income. Yet even with the additional income generated, we continue to walk with these projects, continue our relationship, continue our partnership, and continue to provide funding. Partnership with these churches is more than the exchange of funds, it’s primarily about relationship; long-term genuine relationship working toward the accomplishment of the shared goal of caring for orphans. We can do so much more together than we could ever do on our own.
As we move into 2015, World Orphans is more committed than ever to see growth in our ministry in the area of Family Empowerment. These areas are where we believe we can have the most impact. We want to see more families like Belynsh and her boys stay together. We want to see more children stay with their parents and/or relatives - not sent to orphanages. We want to see more caregivers given opportunity to support their families with dignity, honor, and respect.
Do you share our passion for raising-up men and women through Family Empowerment? Do you know a business, foundation, or church that might want to get behind such an initiative? Are you able to help us see more women like Belynsh selling tea to support her children instead of resorting to sending them to an orphanage?
You can be part of empowering caregivers and families, and in the end, providing solutions and alternatives to some of the most difficult challenges in orphan care today. Supporting families to keep their children in their care. It’s a real-life solution. Family Empowerment.
By Kevin Squires | Senior Director of Church Partnerships
America was taken aback in recent weeks by the sound of an orphan’s cry. Davion Only, a 15-year old boy in Florida’s foster care system, put on his finest clothes, went to church, stood on stage, and cried out for a family. I keep replaying his words in my head. “I’ll take anyone,” he said. “Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don’t care.” He wasn’t looking to be rescued from foster care; he simply wanted what so many of us take for granted… he wanted a family. So, he desperately cried out for someone, in his own words, “to love me until I die.”
No doubt this story will continue to captivate America. At the time of this post, over 10,000 requests to adopt Davion have come into the main offices in Florida. Thanks to talk shows, news stations, and bloggers everywhere, Davion’s cry for someone to love me until I die will not only get him adopted, it will most certainly get thousands of others adopted as well. In many ways, Davion has become the face of the orphan crisis in America, where over 100,000 children currently “live” in foster care. But it’s his voice, his nervous and trembling voice, that has become the cry of over 150 million orphans worldwide. In many ways, his “Love Me Until I Die” speech was his version of “I Have A Dream,” a dream and a quest to be loved by a family.
So, that begs the question… with so many children around the world on a similar quest, what will it take to get these kids into loving families, especially when adoption is not an option?
For hundreds of years, orphanages have monopolized the global orphan care industry. With great intentions, limited options, and a growing orphan crisis, many churches, governments, and NGOs plunged into the business of running orphanages in hopes of saving as many children as possible. While we in America were desperately trying to keep up with the Joneses, those in the Majority World were frantically trying to keep up with the ever increasing issues of human trafficking, sex trade, disease, starvation, and a plethora of other causes that were leading to a growing crisis of orphaned and vulnerable children.
Amidst all the chaos, many of us have come to realize that simple band-aid solutions were prescribed at a time when complex wounds were gushing at an alarming rate. Somewhere down the line, without even meaning to, we replaced families with institutions. Meanwhile, orphans like Davion are crying out for families, not caretakers. They want homes, not buildings. They want to be loved until they die, not loved until they age out.
In hearing those cries, World Orphans is continuing to fight to keep children out of orphanages and in loving and caring families. We are currently searching for American churches to partner with churches in Haiti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Cambodia, and Guatemala to care for orphaned and vulnerable children through our family-based care model. These church partnerships provide education, food, medical care, and counseling to a growing number of families who are caring for children in need. By inspiring, equipping, and mobilizing local churches throughout the world, these children are able to remain in their communities.
Are you ready to join the fight? Engage your church in conversation today about partnering with World Orphans. For more information, go to our website at www.worldorphans.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jeremy Resmer | Sr. Director-Projects
James 1:27 reveals God’s heart and desire for his people to look after orphans and widows. Throughout scripture, the church is called to respond with compassion to all sorts of needs. These include and are not limited to the needs of orphans, vulnerable children, and families. But how do we find ways to help without unintentionally hurting, while remembering that how we give and what we do matters? In addition to prayer and discernment, our strategies should include both good practice and biblical principles.
In his book, The Poor Will Be Glad, Peter Greer states, “The church is the best distribution system in the world.” In many countries, local churches are often best positioned to identify and minister to those in their communities who are in greatest need. Pastors, church members, and community members can work together to motivate and lead by establishing relationships, offering care and support, and mobilizing local resources.
In our home based care model of orphan ministry, we partner with the local church to support vulnerable families. The church has ownership of the program and provides leadership and guidance. Volunteer committees are recruited and trained to visit the most vulnerable families in the community, share scripture verses, build relationships by talking about life, and praying for one another. The interaction is two-way and encourages both the family and the visitor. Through relationship, cultural context, and leadership of local pastors, we ensure that our responses will appropriate and contribute to real and lasting change.
Efforts to support orphans and vulnerable children should incorporate the importance of family and a wholistic approach that addresses each aspect of the children’s well-being: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. Here are a few key principles and ideas to keep in mind when launching or supporting an orphan care ministry:
- Focus on the most vulnerable children – those in greatest need.
- Preserve, stabilize, and strengthen the capacity of families and communities to care for children – is it possible to help inspire and equip the local church with biblical teaching and practical training?
- Reduce stigma and discrimination of the orphaned children – focus instead on the whole family and all the biological and “adopted” children equally. Pastors and community leaders can downplay these social attitudes, bring dignity, and elevate self-worth to those in need.
- Increase the ability of caregivers and youth to generate income and support the family – it is estimated that 88% of the children in orphanages are not “true” orphans. Poverty is the leading cause of family separation and reason for placement of children in orphanages. Our church partners understand that families need basic financial resources to provide adequate food, housing, clothing, medical care, and to send children to school. Savings programs, microloans, and business, vocational, and stewardship training can help caregivers and youth provide for their families.
- Ensure access to health care, medicine, and home based care – adequate health care reduces the risk of family separation. Churches can initiate home based care programs to visit vulnerable families and offer emotional and spiritual support, encouragement, and monitor the wellbeing of the caregivers and children.
- Support schools and provide daycare and other services that ease the burden on caregivers – women, in particular, are often limited in their ability to generate income to support families if they do not have access to daycare. These services allow children the opportunity to learn and grow while allowing caregivers to work. This strengthens the family and protects children.
- Become a mentor – get involved in the lives of vulnerable children to model paternal care, teach them about good decision-making and build confidence
- Support the emotional needs of children – orphaned and vulnerable children need help coping with trauma: loss of a parent, separation from siblings, violence and sexual abuse. By demonstrating God’s love and care, the church supports the healing process. Counseling, support groups, and art programs also provide children with encouragement and support.
- Engage children in decisions that affect their lives – invite children to participate and allow them to bring valuable ideas, information, and viewpoints to decisions that will affect their lives. They will feel less fearful and a greater sense of ownership.
- Protect children from abuse and exploitation – the church can help caregivers better understand the needs of children. Pastors can promote the protection of children as a shared responsibility of the community. Children can be taught how to recognize and report abuse when it occurs.
This post was inspired by From Faith to Action: Strengthening Family and Community Care for Orphans and Vulnerable Children
You can see the sadness in his eyes. It bears down deep into his soul.
During our time at one of our church-based children’s homes in the Ivano-Frankivsk oblast (province) of Ukraine, Roman had his head downcast and didn’t interact with the other children around him. It was explained to us that he doesn’t talk, doesn’t play, doesn’t act like a normal child in search of fun and friendship.
For good reason...
Roman’s young eyes witnessed a tragic horror that no boy of any age should have to experience.
During a drunken argument between his parents, Roman’s mother grabbed a large carving knife and, in a frenzied rage, stabbed Roman’s father multiple times. Roman and his two sisters watched their father crumple to the ground as blood spewed out of his punctured and torn body. He bled to death right in front of their frightened, tear-filled eyes.
Roman’s mother is now in prison, her parental rights and freedom permanently terminated. She didn’t just murder her husband on that sad day. She murdered her family. She murdered her kids’ sense of security and identity. Both of their parents were ripped away from them on that day. They were orphaned in a single, angry, blood-stained moment.
But the Church is there to help Roman and his sisters. It is there to ‘bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted’ and to ‘care for the orphan in distress.’
Roman’s new home is in the same building as the church that meets there, each sharing one end of the common structure. Both figuratively and literally, the home and church are one. Roman has found care in the house of the Lord, through the love of the Lord’s people.
It will take time. Such trauma and loss isn’t overcome easily. But only the Church has the power, the love, the motivation, and the resolve to see it through and to see deep healing and transformation occur. Only the church can take a broken little boy like Roman and turn him into a hopeful young man who realizes his divine purpose. Only the church can turn his tragic experience into a tool and means for giving God glory.
You can help children like Roman by getting involved in our Home for the Holidays campaign or starting an online fundraising campaign.
By Paul Myhill (July 2007)
Dressed in a small pink shirt, he had his head buried into the arm that was holding his weight against the corner of a bleak concrete wall. No older than three years old, he was sobbing incessantly, his chest heaving in utter anguish. He looked and sounded as if he were about to hyperventilate at any moment.
This was Abrahim’s first day at the second institutional orphanage we visited in Iraq.
His mother had left him at ten days old. His father left him yesterday. He was abandoned on the outskirts of the town during temperatures soaring to 120 F. His two young sisters were discarded at the same time, during the same blazing heat.
Everything Abrahim knew, everything he identified as being his life, everything he held as being normal and secure, changed in an instant.
I’m sure I’ve been at many orphanages and orphan homes on the day that children were brought there for the first time. However, I’ve never been consciously aware of it during the 200 or so such places I’ve visited over the years. This was right in my face...and right through my heart.
To experience the very moment of gut-wrenching pain, loss, questioning, betrayal, change, destruction of self esteem, crushing of worth...was to also wound my own soul.
I wish that I could say that Abrahim will now find a new sense of belonging and a new sense of family but, sadly, that is hardly ever the case within a government-run orphanage.
You can help children like Abrahim by getting involved in our Home for the Holidays campaign or starting an online fundraising campaign.
Originally written in April 2008
Jonathon’s parents, David and Sarah, are dying of AIDS in the Kibera slum of Nairobi. A local church has been visiting them for months, providing antiretroviral drugs (ARV’s), other medications and meals, as well as school fees and tutoring sessions for eight year-old Jonathon. Various church volunteers help to bathe, feed and pray for the ailing family with regular visits each week. David and Sarah really look forward to the company since the members of the church are now the only people that come by to visit. Others in the community have long since stayed away, scared by the evil ‘stigma and spirits’ of HIV/AIDS.
David and Sarah’s fragile bodies were far too damaged during a prolonged period without access to ARV’s and proper care and nutrition. Their deaths are imminent.
The church is working to preserve family stories and memories for Jonathon. A book has been compiled with narratives on how David and Sarah met, fell in love and got married. Other pages chronicle broader family and clan history and give an account of their move from the village ten years ago. Additional entries tell of how Jonathon was given his name and of a younger sister that died when he was four years old. Jonathon’s young life is described in detail and his parents include letters to him, imparting blessings and giving him instructions for a life worthy of the family name and heritage. Interspersed between the pages are the few fading photos that the family possesses.
The book is placed into a keepsake box, along with what meager items the family treasures – a small wood carving of an elephant that Jonathon chose on a visit to the Rift Valley, his first t-shirt emblazoned with Tweety Bird, Sarah’s heart-shaped locket (the only piece of precious-metal jewelry she has ever owned), and the broken spectacles of their daughter who had also succumbed to the ravages of AIDS.
As a result of all their home visits, and the thorough process of establishing a memory book for Jonathon, the church has an intimate knowledge of his past and potential. They know his parents well; know their hopes and dreams for him.
Jonathon has no extended family in the slum. Relatives in their village of origin either scattered long ago or have no desire to welcome the son of AIDS victims into their families.
For Jonathon, the church’s family-style home is his only hope.
But he knows these people, has played with them, prayed with them. They are his friends. The family that is taking him in has visited his parents on many occasions and helped him with his homework. He is comfortable with them. He watched them nurture his parents. He will watch them give his parents a decent and dignified burial.
The pain will still be initially unbearable. But most of the deep and long psychological scars will be averted.
Jonathon will never have to wonder about who his parents were and struggle with being a person without a history, dropped off on the doorstep on an institutional orphanage.
He will be more whole.
You can help children like Jonathon by getting involved in our Home for the Holidays campaign or starting an online fundraising campaign.
Ethiopia is a beautiful land of beautiful people. It is also a land of orphans.
It is not uncommon to find families consisting only of children. This is one such family - five siblings all orphaned by HIV/AIDS. The four girls and one boy had seen their parents taken by the disease a couple of years before. Equipped with a tenacious resiliency, they decided to forge ahead together to keep living in the family home in Addis Ababa...five fingers of a hand working in concert to push, punch, grapple, and choke life’s adversities.
The concrete-blocked, metal-roofed building invites you across its threshold with five gleaming smiles and five pairs of open arms. This abode had seen its fair share of tragedy, the loss of parents compounded by the recent death of one of the remaining children who was struck down by a car. Yet, despite the overwhelming calamity heaped upon these precious children, there emitted a great sense of peace and joy from this humble dwelling. Believers all, the children radiated this peace from their spirits within, a peace that surpasses understanding.
On the mantle is a family photo in which the images of absent members were graphically inserted to compose a whole. It was a poignant reminder of the need to frequently capture pictures of gatherings for future posterity and remembrance.
The second oldest girl disappears into a back room and shortly re-emerges with a burner capped with an iron bowl. She grabs a few handfuls of raw coffee beans and, after lighting the contraption, proceeds to carefully roast them slowly over the flame. She stirs through them with a graceful sweeping motion to ensure that they are cooked evenly. The aroma of blackening coffee beans filled the small room as the children flit around.
After cooling, the coffee is patiently hand ground with mortar and pestle and then steeped in water that is boiled using the same crude apparatus. It is a beautiful and poetic process where the partaking of the grounds’ elixir comes a distant second to its tender preparation and presentation by this young orphaned girl. Three cups of coffee are ritually poured for each guest, each holding purpose and meaning according to Ethiopian custom.
The children begin to sing. The eldest daughter takes the lead with a soft melody extolling God’s loving faithfulness. She closes her eyes and raises her head to heaven as she sings with a voice of such sweetness that words can’t aptly describe. Her sisters and brothers join in with a hauntingly-beautiful chorus that melts hearts. It is as if time has paused and a glorious window to heaven has opened right there in the living room.
A light rain begins to pitter-patter on the tin roof above our heads. Starting as a gentle drumming it soon reachs its crescendo with a frenzied tympanic array of thumping beats. Still, the singing continues slowly, deeply, harmoniously. The juxtaposition of the angelic aria below and the percussion above creates a surreal moment that captures minds and spirits. The smell of fresh coffee continues to hang in the thickening air.
Here, five orphaned children are beating the odds, not only healing and surviving, but bringing others into the very presence of God through their worship and example. Here’ angels were dancing on the rooftop as God’s cherished children sang for Him underneath it, piercing it.
Child-headed households are extremely common in Africa. While these siblings are beating the odds, their circumstances are obviously not ideal. Through local churches in Ethiopia, World Orphans works to help child-headed households find foster parents or to find a church-based children's home for them to grow up in.