Viewing entries tagged
Projects

Presidential Update: Exciting News from Iraq

Comment

Presidential Update: Exciting News from Iraq

by President Scott Vair & Assistant Middle East Director Tim Buxton

Shabak Women at Kawlokan Village
Shabak Women at Kawlokan Village

It has been almost two years since ISIS swept through the Nineveh plains in brutal fashion, taking control of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. For those who managed to escape to relative safety, the task of putting together the shattered pieces of their lives is often too much. The armies of ISIS are still in control of Mosul, and although the Peshmerga Kurdish Army, with the support of the US military and other Western allies, has retaken key territory in the region, the battle rages on. The possibility of these hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian families returning home anytime soon is an unrealistic dream. 

One of the greatest casualties of the war with ISIS are the thousands of children robbed of their future, no longer able to go to school to simply learn how to read, write, or just have fun. Guns, grenades, and untold acts of merciless violence have stolen so much from these innocent children.

Realizing the importance of education, our team in Iraq began to dream and plan a response. What began in July of last year as a couple days per week of fun games, learning activities, and informal English classes for 130 Yazidi and Shabak children (ages 3-18), has now grown into a full-fledged school that meets five days per week.

Today, there are five teachers of mixed ethnic backgrounds and two social workers (who are Syrian refugees) that provide English, math, art, science, geography, music, and sport classes.

These classes are held in six classrooms on the ground floor of our community center, where there is also a library, a large multipurpose hall, and an outdoor soccer field used by the children on a daily basis. Students are transported to and from the school by bus and are given daily refreshments that include fruit, cookies, juice, and water. 

If it weren’t for this school and other programs like it, these refugee children would be stuck in their camps, and likely be forced into child labor. Overcrowding and language barriers keep local schools from being an option for most refugee children. In some cases, the Iraqi and Syrian governments will not allow the students who miss more than two years of school to rejoin the classroom, forcing many students into the adult workforce prematurely. Without education many of these children will be left behind.

But, instead of losing all hope and missing out on their opportunity for an education, these children are now learning, growing, and dreaming in a caring environment. They are excited to come to school and their only complaint is that they cannot attend school more often. God has been gracious to give us this opportunity to make a difference in the lives of these precious children.

Unfortunately, our classrooms are busting at the seams. In just six months, the school has outgrown our community center. Without increased capacity, we will not be able to provide education for new children as we continue to expand our refugee ministry.

So, we are building a school!

Laying the foundation for the new school building

Laying the foundation for the new school building

Work is underway for the construction of a 16,000 square foot school that will have nine classrooms. The school will be built on a vacant area of land adjacent to our community center and soccer field. Not only will we be able to triple the size of our current student capacity, we will be able to provide more age-relevant education to the children, as we no longer have to combine multiple age groups into shared classes.

The community center will then be free to operate as an additional learning facility, providing various programs like trauma counseling, and sewing, cosmetic, computer, and trade classes.

We are grateful for all who have joined us on this journey to care for refugees and their children during these times. Would you consider joining us in prayer? Would you consider financially supporting this project as construction continues. It is both a daunting task and a wonderful opportunity, and we would be honored to have your support.

Comment

Comment

Looking Back : 10 Posts to Celebrate 2015

Well, we're about two weeks into those resolutions. The holiday festivities have ceased. It's back to work and back to reality. The decorations have been stashed until next year (hopefully). As we dive into 2016, though, we'd be amiss to not rejoice in the challenges we faced, lessons we learned, and victories we celebrated over the course of the last year. Without further adieu, we invite you to reminisce with us as we look back on ten of our favorite blog posts from the last year:

  1. Jeremy gave us the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia, where we saw women empowered and children being given the gift of hope.
  2. We stepped back in time with David, as we learned about the heart of the early church for children who have been orphaned.
  3. Kathy ushered us through the doors of secondary schools in Kenya, where we met children who are not merely surviving, but thriving!
  4. We discovered what's different about a trip with World Orphans.
  5. Kevin taught us practical ways to deal with conflict.
  6. We considered the beauty in the brokenness as we reflected on the Haiti earthquake of 2010 and the hope that springs anew there.
  7. Why a home rather than an orphanage? We looked at that question.
  8. With loud shouts of joy, songs of praise, and tears of happiness, we took a closer look into Iraq and saw God moving in powerful ways.
  9. As Matthew guided us through the process, we considered what it means to love each other well, to abide in Christ, and to be the kind of father that magnifies our Heavenly Father.
  10. We learned more about the orphan crisis and we considered what the church's role should be in caring for those that have been orphaned.

God is working in powerful ways across the globe, and we are thankful for the privilege to be his hands and feet as we equip, inspire, and mobilize the church to care for orphaned and vulnerable children. Let's press on...

...until they all have homes.

Comment

Comment

Compelled To Serve and Empower

By Jeremy Resmer | Senior Director of Projects

Working in orphan care, I frequently hear people talk about the latest orphanage and residential care models and how they are different from the ones that came before them; how the homes replicate a small, family environment where a widow (or house parents) cares for five or maybe up to ten children and provides the love and affection of a mother (and father). The children receive adequate shelter, food, medical care, and education. At times, they even take classes to learn important life and vocational skills and, in some cases, attend university. To be sure, these are good things. I get especially excited when I hear that these children are given opportunities and training that empower them to be economically independent and help themselves and their communities as they grow up.

Families Are Best However, the fact remains, children grow best in families. Biological families to be exact. This idea is backed up by years of evidence-based research as well as scripture. Any attempt to replace the love and care of a permanent biological (or extended) family should be secondary. Truly, orphanages of any kind are not a permanent solution to the complex challenges and needs facing orphaned and vulnerable children, especially when the children in orphanages have living parents. For those that do not, many have extended family members in the community or nearby that are willing and able, albeit financially, to care for these kids. It may not look exactly like we, in the West, typically expect and there may be economic hurdles the family will face, but it keeps children in families and connected to their communities. We believe that children growing up in financially-challenged families are better off than children growing up in freshly, painted orphanages with nice beds.

At World Orphans, we talk a lot about preserving and strengthening families and working with the local church to develop appropriate solutions in the context of the culture and, particularly, the community. We believe, wholeheartedly, that the church maintains the relationships and, in connection with local governments, NGOs, and businesses, has the experience to offer encouragement and the best solutions for vulnerable families.

An Example: Verbo Sur Let’s look at one of our partners in Nicaragua. Heyler Rodriguez is the pastor of Verbo Sur Church in Managua. He has an incredible vision for families in his community. Not only is he passionate about sharing the gospel, he wants families to experience a better life in this world. Right here. Right now. He lives in his community and knows it well. Pastor Heyler is constantly listening and looking for ways to serve and meet real needs. His ministry isn’t focused inward toward his church property but rather pushes outward, overflowing into the community of Colinas del Memorial Sandino.

A few years ago, Pastor Heyler noticed several problems facing single mothers. There were no options for affordable daycare. Every day, many single mothers were forced to make very difficult decisions: stay at home and care for the kids with no income, go to work and leave the children home unsupervised, or take the children to work. As you can imagine, each of these creates problems. The family has to pay rent and eat. Not working is seldom an option. Leaving the children at home exposes them to significant risks including physical and sexual abuse. Taking the children to work prevents them from attending school and receiving an education that is so desperately needed.

Based on his observations and discussions with members of the community, Pastor Heyler was determined to help. Through partnership with World Orphans, Verbo Sur Church created a child development center that offers very affordable, and in some cases, no-cost daycare for families in the community. This ministry allows parents to drop off their preschool-aged children at the church for the day and enables mom and/or dad to go to work and earn a living or attend school in hopes of obtaining better employment opportunities. The child development center provides nutritious meals, quality classroom instruction, and teaches stories from the Bible. It focuses on meeting the physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs of the children in a familiar community setting while freeing parents and caregivers to earn livelihoods and meet the financial needs of the family. There are between 12 and 25 children in the program at any time.

This ministry eases the burden on parents, especially single mothers, protects the children and offers early childhood education while strengthening the family unit. Most of all, the child development center gives families options and flexibility, not to mention an open door to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We believe that every church is equipped with unique skills, relationships, resources, and the biblical mandate to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of their community. There’s no better delivery mechanism than the local church and Verbo Sur is one of countless examples of the Church being the Church, utilizing its creativity, resourcefulness and compassion to advance the Kingdom.

Would you pray with us today for the continued ministry and fruitfulness of Verbo Sur Church?

As you pray, enjoy viewing the precious children at the child development center.

1.14.15_1

1.15.14_4.jpg

1.14.15_5.jpg

1.14.15_6

1.14.15_7

1.14.15_2

Comment

Comment

Preservation to Empowerment

By Jeremy Resmer | Senior Director of Projects

If you pay close attention, you’ll see poverty everywhere you look. If you don’t, it could be that you’re only viewing poverty through an economic lens. While material poverty is only part of the story, it seems to be the most observable and difficult to hide (especially in developing countries). It’s a leading cause of family breakdown that often results in separation of family members and placement of children in orphanages, among other issues.

When we carefully consider the best interests of a child, there is no greater need than to be in a loving family. Truly, a loving family is more important than shelter, food, education, medical care, and so on. Yet these things are also needed, and children trust family - usually mom and dad - to provide these basic financial resources in order to experience shelter, adequate food, clothing, medical care, and attend school.

There are a lot of organizations involved in various forms of family preservation. Some are doing incredible work and making a real impact. It’s unbelievable how big our hearts are to give financially and to go and serve. To be sure, we must continue and do more. But it’s time that we utilize our brains as much as our hearts.

While I believe real transformation comes through Jesus Christ, we need to bring more than Bibles and fish to our brothers and sisters in need. We must bring fishing poles too. You see, the church (individuals and collectively) is responsible for meeting the spiritual and, at times, physical needs of its people. The church has a critical role to play in family preservation.

To preserve is to exist. To empower is to advance. And until we develop and implement local solutions that go from preserving and stabilizing families to empowering and strengthening families, we will continue to bang our heads against the wall trying to reduce poverty and, ultimately, keep families together. If the root cause of our problems is sin, then poverty is one of its most effective weapons. In the same way that we can’t take on sin without Jesus Christ, we can’t take on economic poverty without relationship. Through relationships with local leaders and the people themselves, we create conversation. Through conversation, we include the very people who understand the problems and, more importantly, the solutions. As our relationships deepen and trust builds, we begin imagining a better world and casting vision together. Until we can imagine a world we desire to see, we will never be able to develop a plan to get there.

Here’s where I’m going with this. Now is the time for individuals, churches, NGOs, and governments to put aside our agendas for the greater good. We talk about it but it seldom happens. Every single one of us has unique personalities, skills, knowledge, and resources, but none of us can do everything. Instead, we do a little bit on our own when, in reality, we can be far better and accomplish much more by working together.

World Orphans strength is to partner international churches with US churches to encourage each other and work together to serve vulnerable families. In addition, we are effective at equipping and mobilizing churches to care for orphaned and abandoned children. We hope both churches inspire each other and serve their communities around them more effectively and compassionately as a result of that partnership. We play a role in family preservation, whereas other organizations excel in the areas of vocational education, business training, apprenticeships, and microloans. Every day we work with the MOST vulnerable families in the communities where we work. We do our best to encourage them, pray for them, share scripture, and meet physical needs, but without fishing poles we can’t teach them to fish.

What’s encouraging is there are many individuals and organizations out there with fishing poles that could teach marketable trades to single mothers and youth so they can provide for themselves and their families without becoming vulnerable to prostitution, drugs, labor exploitation, and all sorts of other dangerous activities. Yes, helping to pay for school fees, medical expenses, food, clothing, and housing, when appropriate and led by local leaders is essential, but family empowerment initiatives that improve the economic outcomes of parents and children including skills training, leadership development, financial stewardship, business training accompanied by access to credit, and apprenticeships are equally important. It’s not an either/or but a both/and. Can you imagine the impact we could realize if we put aside our own biases and agendas and actually witnessed NGOs working with other NGOs working with churches working with governments?

This dream is happening!  Two organizations World Orphans is currently partnering with are AMG Guatemala and Bethany Christian Services in Haiti.  Next week’s blog is dedicated to sharing about our new partnership with BCS.  Through these partnerships, children are restored and communities transformed by the Gospel.  Won’t you join us?

12.10.15_WaldringKathyCassandre

12.10.15_AMG_Scott Chad and Pastor

Comment