by Feed the Children
A Heart for the Orphan:
Providing Help and Healing Here at Home and Around the World
Feed the Children began in 1979 with a simple mission: To stand with hungry and vulnerable children and to work for a world where no child goes to bed hungry.
But some of the children we serve have no family. Around the world and here at home, children are abandoned every day by the ones closest to them. It’s a desperate decision with life-long consequences. But there is hope: “But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted… you are the helper of the fatherless” (Psalm 10:14).
You Can Help Foster Hope
Here in the United States, we are a “helper to the fatherless” in a variety of ways, but we’re especially excited about our new Foster Hope backpack program that serves children in foster care. When children are removed from their home and placed with a foster family, they often come with nothing but the clothes they’re wearing. And many of them are young—half of all children in foster care in the U.S. are five or younger, and 85% of them are ages 10 and younger. “We’re partnering with churches across the country to provide backpacks to these children, filled with the things they need, plus a little love too,” said Kevin Richardson, director of church and volunteer engagement at Feed the Children.
Congregations get involved with Foster Hope by giving both financial resources and time. It costs just $20 to sponsor each backpack, which contains a coloring book and crayons, a spiral notebook, shampoo, body wash, toothbrush, toothpaste and a teddy bear. We ship the supplies directly to churches, so members of your congregation can roll up their sleeves and fill the backpacks, pray for the children who will receive them, and deliver them to a local foster-care agency. For an additional $5, you can also provide a 50” x 60” fleece blanket for each child.
Foster Hope was launched in conjunction with Orphan Sunday (an initiative of the Christian Alliance for Orphans to raise awareness and lend a voice for orphans), November 8, at churches around the country. But the program is ongoing throughout the year. Our work continues, because the needs continue. Learn more about Foster Hope by emailing [email protected] or check out our informational video about the program.
Hope for the Orphans
At Feed the Children, we believe our work is urgent. It’s Kingdom work—building a world where kids can be kids and dream of a better future for themselves. Through our network of agencies, Feed the Children distributed more than $344 million in food, essentials, educational supplies, and medicine, impacting close to 9 million individuals in the U.S. and more than 4.9 million individuals internationally, for a total of 13.9 million individuals globally in fiscal year 2014.
Feed the Children currently has two facilities specifically for orphans, Casa del Niño in La Ceiba, Honduras, and the Dagoretti Children’s Center in Nairobi, Kenya. Casa del Niño first opened its doors in 1996 and currently houses some 40 boys ages 7 to 18 years. The boys receive three nutritious meals a day and opportunities for sports and art activities. All children attend school and classes may include computers and English. All told, we’ve provided a stable home, love and care for more than 500 Honduran youth over the years.
But too many children still struggle. And who’s more vulnerable than a child without a parent in their corner?
However, the children we serve are also our heroes. Their zest for life, their curiosity, and their courage in the midst of tremendous struggle are what keep us going. God has not forgotten these children. And neither have we.
We’d like to introduce you to some of the heroes we’ve gotten to know through our work with orphans around the world. Names have been changed to protect the privacy of these young people—but their stories are all real.
Heroes Come in All Shapes and Sizes
Our Abandoned Baby Center (ABC), part of Dagoretti Children’s Center (DCC) in Nairobi, is filled with pint-sized heroes who inspire us every day. Samuel, for example, was brought to the ABC about a year ago as a toddler. A woman whom we believe was Samuel’s mother asked another woman to hold him while she used the public restroom in a busy commercial area of town. She never returned.
Our staff has been caring for Samuel, ensuring his physical, emotional and social needs are met. They are also conducting the necessary searches and documentation to see whether kin can be found for Samuel. In the meantime, Samuel delights and charms the staff of Dagoretti. He’s an enthusiastic eater, he plays in the sand, and his favorite toy is a play phone.
He willingly shares with the other children. “Samuel loves attention,” said one Feed the Children staff member. “When you show him that you care, he will not let you go.”Nathaniel is another one of our heroes.
Nathaniel came to us after his mother passed away and his aunt could no longer adequately care for him and his siblings. Nathaniel had a twin sister, but she was so poorly nourished that she had to be admitted to the hospital rather than Dagoretti. Tragically, she passed away in the hospital.
When Nathaniel was admitted to Dagoretti, he showed classic signs of malnutrition: pale, swollen face, discolored hair, a white tongue from lack of blood, and a distended stomach. Most heartbreaking of all was his vacant, moody expression. And at 2 1/2 years, he could sit on his own but could not crawl or stand.
After only a month in Dagoretti, Nathaniel was transformed, able to stand with support and grasp items on his own. After six months, he seems like a completely new child. He is now in good health, he walks steadily, his speech has greatly improved, and he has hope and a future. “Feed the Children saved Nathaniel’s life,” says Purity Nyamu, one of our social workers. “If we hadn’t admitted him [at the Center], I doubt he would be alive today.”
Meanwhile we’re working with Nathaniel’s aunt to get her the support she needs so she can care for Nathaniel long term. Our ultimate goal is to reunite Nathaniel with his family—but we’ll Or consider eleven year old Agatha, who was brought to Dagoretti Children’s Center when she was six years old. She was malnourished, hardly ate, was a slow learner in social settings, and could not stand or walk without support. At the DCC, she was provided with a nutritious diet that enabled her body to grow and develop. She also attended continuous rehabilitation exercises as part of a treatment plan to build strength and coordination in her leg muscles. As a part of the Dagoretti community, she spent time with other kids at the early learning center, which helped improve her coordination, cognitive and social skills.Agatha has made great progress, but in her five years with us, she’s never been able to walk on her own—until a few months ago.
Agatha brought the Dagoretti Children’s Center to a standstill in July, when she took her first unassisted steps at age eleven. It’s a miracle that wouldn’t have been possible without the teamwork of dedicated staff at the DCC, staff at our headquarters in Oklahoma City who support the field work, and generous donors around the world, including corporate partners and congregations like yours.
Our final hero is the one who’s captured our hearts most recently. When Sarah was about a year old, there was a fire in her home, resulting in a six-month hospitalization. She was eventually discharged, but is an amputee. Home life continued to be chaotic, and Sarah found her way to Dagoretti Children’s Centre when she was 2 years old.
Dagoretti became a place of healing, including physical therapy, fittings for prosthetics, and continued rehabilitation. Sarah was ultimately reunited with a grandmother, whom she visited during holidays. And she began attending school, where she proved herself to be bright and curious.
Today, Sarah is 19 and is attending college in the United States, where she is studying biology and chemistry. On her way to the airport, she was escorted by a busload of fellow children and friends, Feed the Children staff representatives, her grandmother, and an auntie. There were tears of joy and sadness, laughter and hugs. It was a bittersweet experience for Sarah, who said, “I am blessed, and intend to pass the feeling along to others too.”
We know the feeling, Sarah. We at Feed the Children are humbled to be Christ’s hands, feet and hearts around the world, and we invite congregations around the country to stand with children like Sarah, Agatha, Nathaniel and Samuel right here at home. To find out more about the Foster Hope backpack program, or any of our programs, email [email protected]