A Heart for the Orphan: Providing Help and Healing Around the World and Here at Home

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. Our mission is rooted in Christian values and the belief that, like Jesus, we are called to care for “the least of these.” Whether we’re providing a box of food and essentials for a family of four in Kentucky or feeding an entire school in the Philippines, we believe we are serving Christ himself: “for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat” (Matthew 25:34).

Most of what we do supports children right where they are—in the families and communities that know them best. We build feeding centers to supplement the meals kids receive from their families. We construct latrines and hand-washing stations in villages and provide preventive medication to slow the spread of disease. We give parents the training and support they need to make good health decisions for their children and increase their own livelihoods. We call this the four-pillar strategy—Food & Nutrition, Health & Water, Education, and Livelihoods—and it’s working to transform communities and lift them out of poverty, one family at a time.

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.

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 launches in conjunction with Orphan Sunday, 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 church@feedthechildren.org 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 agencies, Feed the Children distributed over $344 million in food, other necessities, educational supplies, and medicine, impacting close to 9 million individuals in the U.S. and over 4.9 million individuals globally in fiscal year 2014.

Casa del Niño, Honduras
Casa del Niño, Honduras

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?

But 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, part of Dagoretti Children’s Center 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.

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Samuel at Dagoretti Children’s Center

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 toy 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 died 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 be in his corner no matter what happens.

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.

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Look out world–she walks!

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.

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Sherlyn at her high school graduation

Today, Sherlyn 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 (see photo at the top of this post). 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, Sherlyn. We at Feed the Children are humbled to be Christ’s hands, feet and hearts around the world, and we invite congregations and groups around the country to stand with children like Sherlyn, Agatha, Nathaniel and Samuel right here at home. To find out more about the Foster Hope backpack program, or any of our programs, email church@feedthechildren.org.

How We Make Sure Kids Do Not Get Hungry Again

This is the last in a four-part series introducing you to our proactive, sustainable approach to ending poverty and improving lives. Our Four Pillars of international community development — Food & NutritionHealth & Water,  Education, and Livelihoods — comprise an 8- to 10-year integrated program that equips and empowers impoverished families and communities to achieve self-sufficiency.

Today we’ll take a look at the Livelihoods pillar, where we work toward positive, lasting change by helping parents and kids learn new and better ways to make money—because that feeds their whole future.

Why livelihoods?

The fight against childhood hunger isn’t just about stopping kids’ bellies from growling. Feed the Children provides programming to help expand parents’ sources of income—from sales of small livestock, participating in savings groups, and other means—so they can provide their children with food, life essentials, and a future.

Our programs also help communities make improvements in gender equality (like helping more girls attend school and reducing domestic violence), environmental stewardship (like planting trees to reverse deforestation), and disaster risk reduction (like training community leaders to develop disaster prevention and response plans).

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They say if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. At Feed the Children, we want to do both—feed kids who are hungry now and give them tools so they won’t go hungry again.

Sometimes, we actually do this with fish—like in El Salvador and the Philippines, where tilapia sells at high demand in local markets. We give families a kit with everything they need to begin the cycle of fish production, including a tilapia pond, fingerlings, and fish food, and we provide education on the best way to care for them. Raising tilapia gives the family their own nutritious food and an income.

Women in El Salvador preparing tilapia to be sold

Sometimes neighbors do this for each other. Our animal gifts—including tilapia, chickens, bees, cows, and goats—are also an incredible way for families to help strengthen their own communities through a pay-it-forward system.

And sometimes, a couple of goats help a devoted dad keep his family going.

Etani’s mother died when he was just four months old. In Malawi, it’s not uncommon for a widower to ask his relatives to keep his orphaned* children, but Etani’s dad wouldn’t have it. Maxon wanted to take full responsibility for his son.

Now 3-year-old Etani has a step-mom to help take care of him, but that’s not the only blessing that’s arrived for the little boy and his family.

When Etani was 2, he began attending a community-based childcare center, where he regularly received nutritious meals fortified with the VitaMeal we provide. But the solution to childhood hunger can’t just be to serve meals—we have to provide opportunities for families to become self-sufficient or else the cycle of poverty will continue.

And in Malawi, that’s where Feed the Children’s Tiwalere OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) project comes in. With funding from USAID, Tiwalere has multiple initiatives that build the capacity of communities and households to effectively and sustainably meet the health and nutritional needs of children under 5.

While Etani was coming to the center for meals, the staff identified him as an orphan and vulnerable child and determined that they could do more to help. They registered his household for the Tiwalere OVC project, and that has made all the difference.

Part of this project is the Goat Pass-On initiative, which promotes not only nutritional feeding in OVC households, but also increases their household income levels. And of course, it means each family gets to help others by passing on more goats!

When Tiwalere was distributing the goats, Etani’s family got two females, and one of them was already pregnant. Five months later, that goat gave birth to two female kids. Soon the other goat gave birth to a female kid, too. After one year, the first goat to deliver gave birth again, this time to two male kids.

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Etani and his brother outside their house taking care of the goats

In just one year, Etani’s family went from having hardly a thing to their name to owning 7 goats.

When the first two female kids were ready for the pass-on, another family got the same opportunity, and Etani’s family kept the other five goats. Then the growing season came. Maxon had cultivated one acre where he wanted to grow maize, a staple food in Malawi, but he didn’t have enough money to afford a bag of fertilizer. That year he didn’t benefit from the government’s subsidy program either. But Maxon had another option – he sold one of his goats to buy the fertilizer he needed.

Maxon is confident that he will harvest at least 10 bags of maize this year. And he’s overcome with joy when he looks at his field: “My children will have enough food this year—something which I have not managed to achieve in the past years—thanks to Feed the Children.”

And Etani? When he’s not playing outside with his family’s goats, he is working hard in pre-school, dreaming of being a police office er when he grows up, and staying busy just being a kid.

Love this project? Give a goat today!

*Unlike in the U.S., where children are only considered orphans if both parents have died, children in Malawi who have lost one parent are considered orphans; if both parents have died, the child is called a double-orphan.

Beginnings: Exploring Work North Korea Part 2

Recently, we shared an interview with you about a trip that Corey Gordon, our Chief Marketing Officer took to North Korea. He traveled to this place that few Americans ever visit. He explored the possibility of feeding hungry children in this country. In July, Corey traveled again to North Korea to meet with more government leaders and see the results of our first shipment of food into the country. We thought you would like to hear this update on his trip and the work we are doing.

Feed the Children: What did you do on this trip to North Korea?
CG: I traveled to North Korea to validate with my own eyes, the Vitameal distribution. My guides took me to 9 different orphanages. One day I also visited a children’s hospital and a physical rehabilitation center.

I also had several meetings with higher-level officials, including those with the Korea Education Fund (KEF), an internationally recognized NGO established by their leader, Kim Jung Un. KEF’s mission is to ensure the feeding, education and health of the childen in North Korea. Here, I was able to meet with and have a really productive conversation with their president and their senior program manager. We discussed partnering together, and how best to work in conjunction with the governmental agency that oversees Feed the Children’s involvement in the North Korea.

Feed the Children: What did the North Koreans think of the shipment of Vitameal?IMG_0053

CG: We couldn’t have picked a better product to send than Vitameal. Everyone I met with, the orphange directors, the doctors at the larger orphanges, the government officials, the team from KEF, were all very supportive and saw the value of the protein and nutrients in the Vitameal for the kids.

We knew this would be far more nutritious than just sending rice, with the added vitamins and minerals necessary for the healthy development of the kids. However, what we didn’t know at the time was the cultural good we were also doing.

Rice is cliché in Asian cuisine – everybody eats rice. But if you go to a nice restaurant and ask for rice, they don’t just give you plain white rice. You get something else mixed into it – other grains or beans, which is a sign of higher level in society. Vitameal is a combination of lentils, barley, and rice, and they mixed it into the rice they already had. So this made the children’s meal more like a special treat or occasion. Needless to say, they are very eager to receive more. They also told me countless times how thankful they were that Feed the Children followed through on its promise. It added greatly to our credibility that we made good on our commitment, before going back there.IMG_0022

Feed the Children: Did you see anything else interesting on your trip?

CG: My guides wanted me to see more of their country, to learn more about their history and culture, things that made them proud of their country.

I visited Kaesong, the cultural historical birthplace of Korea, the home of the Koryo dynasty. I love history, so it was fascinating to see things that were 1000-1200 years old. I was also given a tour of the birthplace of Kim Il Sun, which holds as much honor to them as we would view Mount Vernon.

I traveled to Panmunjom, which is the actual border between north and south (not the demilitarized zone). DPRK soldiers escorted me right up to the border itself. And I saw the building where the UN and Allied troops met with the DPRK leaders and where they signed the armistice. Everything was there just as if the meeting took place yesterday! I even sat in the chair where the UN negotiators sat to work out the deal.

Feed the Children: What were some aspects of your time in North Korea that surprised you this time?

CG: Even after visiting once, I didn’t realize how many preconceived notions I had about North Korea. I was very humbled by that, as I had considered myself to be fairly balanced and open-minded.

Probably what surprised me the most was the level of criticism directed towards American NGOs. I had expected there would be such towards the U.S. goverment, but it’s pretty evident that they don’t think much of the arrogance and tactics of American NGOs and visitors.

IMG_0123Unfortunately, the perception of the “Ugly American” is still very much alive internationally, with our seeming belief that we have all the answers and can solve all the world’s problems. Yet they can just as clearly see that we have our own issues and sins as well. I reiterated over and over that we would not be there to be critical and judgmental, we would always be respectful guests and partners.

Feed the Children: What are your hopes for Feed the Children’s relationship with North Korea in the future?

CG: Working in North Korea is very much a step-by-step process, as we continue to work hard to establish credibility and trust, both ways. Kim Jung Un recently visited an orphanage himself, and was quoted as saying, “Children are the king of this country.” That statement clearly highlights that the North Korean leaders really do want to help their children, but just need help to do so. Our response – a second shipment of Vitameal arrives into North Korea this week, with the next container to be shipped at the end of the month. These shipments cost us $5,000 per container, so if you look at it from a per serving basis, that’s less than 3 cents per meal. It’s such a small cost for making a huge impact on the future of so many children!IMG_0134

Beyond providing food, the North Korean officials have already authorized us to begin bringing into the country deworming medicines and Vitamin A, as we look to expand our work to focus on the health of the children. As funding continues to be available, we are looking forward to a long-term relationship with our North Korean partners, expanding the type of products we can send to help more kids.

To help futher this work, I will be traveling to South Korea this week, where I will be meeting with a number of potential board members and supporters and moving forward with the launch of Feed the Children Korea. Our office in Seoul will direct our programmatic work in South Korea, as well as help support the work in North Korea. Our goal is to have our office up and running by the end of the year, and I hope to return to North Korea in December.

Love Notes Delivered, Part Two

Back in February, we asked our readers to post comments of love and support for the children who live in our orphanages in Kenya and Honduras. Your response was amazing! We loved sharing your gifts of words with our children.

A month ago, we posted an update from Kenya showing you some of the beautiful smiles of kids who received your notes. Today, we have photos from letter delivery in Central America.

We support a boys’ orphanage near Barrio Ingles, La Ceiba, Honduras, thanks to our donors. Casa del Niño is a safe home for between 30-40 boys aged 6-17. Here, loving caregivers surround the boys with encouragement. In this home, they can dream about a better life with real hope that it will happen. The boys go to school knowing their school fees will be paid. They come home to a hot meal and clean bathroom. The boys say they love Casa del Niño because, “It’s a place where I’ll always have everything I need.”

With your help, boys like these in Honduras have hope.

Thank you again for sharing your love notes with them! IMG_0652

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Love Notes Delivered

In February, we asked you to help us share our love with the children of our orphanages notes of love and support in response to our blog post, “Love Does Not Conquer All.”

Your response was overwhelming and wonderful!

We received so many notes of kindness and support for the children in our care.

Recently, we were able to personally deliver many of your messages to our children’s center in Nairobi, Kenya. Soon we will do the same for the children we serve in Honduras.

We believe the joy on the faces of these photos speak for themselves. Thanks again for helping us love the children so well!

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What Makes Feed the Children Unique? A Look at Kenya

Feed the Children recently interviewed Ben Greene, Vice President of Sponsorship and Media, after his first trip to visit the communities we serve in Kenya. 

FTC: Could you tell us when you joined the staff at Feed the Children and what your role is on our team?

BG: I joined Feed the Children in November of last year. I serve as the Vice President of Sponsorship & Media. This simply means that I work with our child sponsorship team to find ways to ensure even more children in developing countries are given the opportunity to thrive in life.

FTC: You recently traveled to Kenya to visit our staff and field programs there. Could you tell us when and why you made this long journey?

BG: Yes, from January 28- February 5th I traveled to Nairobi alongside one of our artist partners, Warren Barfield and his team. As a new member of the Feed the Children staff I was eager to get to the field and see the work myself. And because artists like Warren will be telling the Feed the Children story at events to potential child sponsors, they need to see and experience firsthand what we are doing on the ground. Together with Warren, it was wonderful to see the children we serve in the Dagoretti Children’s Center orphanage, those we serve in the slums in the city of Nairobi, and also those in Maparasha, a rural community.

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FTC: You came to Feed the Children after having worked with two other similar large international non-profits. What stood out to you as you experienced Feed the Children’s programs first hand in Kenya that distinguishes Feed the Children from other organizations?

BG: In my work with organizations, I have been all around the world. And I know this: it seems that most organizations choose to either meet immediate needs and deal with the pressing issues of a community, or they decide to participate in development which helps the communities think long-term. I see a unique distinctive with Feed the Children in that we do both.  We do feed children, especially in schools. Full tummies means effective learning for the day. But we also work with community leaders to develop better systems of healthcare, agriculture and education as well as livelihood development for the future. While in Kenya, it was wonderful to see communities engaged in all sorts of projects dealing with beekeeping, greenhouses, and water and sanitation. We truly are doing the work of holistic development— or as many folks in our industry like to say “giving a hand up and not just a hand out.”

FTC: Could you tell us more about a memorable experience you had while you were in Kenya.

BG: Being in this line of work for a while now, I’ve always said I aim to support the work of an organization that looks after the most vulnerable in our world. But, what an eye-opening experience it was visiting with the “Hardy Boys” in Nairobi! I realized I still had much to learn about what this means. The Hardy Boys are a group of 10 young men in their 20s who have aged out of our orphanage, but for whom Feed the Children will have a life-long relationship with because they are unable to care for themselves on their own due to certain disabilities.

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As soon as we walked into their home, I was overwhelmed by their joy as the smiles never left their faces. After sharing a meal together, Warren began to play his guitar as we sang the song, “Everlasting God.” When we got to the words that said, “You’re the defender of the weak and You comfort those in need” I couldn’t help but think about the poignancy of those lyrics in that moment.  I realized that these “boys” are what my work is all about. You can’t get much more vulnerable than living with special needs in the developing world. But even with all of their challenges the Hardy Boys couldn’t help but sing. This is what my work at Feed the Children is all about—protecting the most vulnerable like them. I think about them often now.

Love Does Not Conquer All

Last year I attended a conference of several thousand Christians who were engaged and wanting to learn more about the ministry of caring for orphans. Many of the attendees were adopted themselves or were adoptive parents. Most everyone in attendance had visited or prayed for an orphanage at some point in his or her journey.

You could easily leave such a conference floating on a cloud as if the ministry of caring for orphans (and widows) as directed by the book of James was the equivalent of laying in a bed of roses.

Not that there weren’t breakout sessions about the difficulties that older adoptive children face. I encountered adoptive parents walking the halls telling about their emotional battle scars of grueling attachment processes. But the general message of the event was “Love conquers all.  As people of faith, we must learn to love orphans.”

am i worthy

It’s easy to believe this is all it takes: willingness to love. But during my visits with Feed the Children’s orphanages around the world, I’ve experienced a different story. Love, while essential, is not always enough.

In November, I spent time at the Dagoretti Children’s Center in Nairobi, one component of Feed the Children’s work in Kenya. On a sunny afternoon, I walked to the playground on the compound with about 12 children ranging in age from 3-12 years, both boys and girls. I was excited to jump rope and kick the soccer ball and hug these precious ones I’d previously only spent time with in more formalized programs.

And over the course of the afternoon, no matter what I did, there was not enough of me to go around. The children’s English language skills were still developing so instead of saying words I was used to hearing on a playground like, “Come push me” I got a lot of my name. “Elizabeth, Elizabeth!” they’d say.

I was constantly running between children. And for as much as I took individual time with one child to push her on the swing and be present in that moment of connection, there was another boy doing a flip on the monkey bars wanting the same attention. When I praised one girl for swinging really high, I could tell by the look on the others’ faces that my actions were making them sad. But this wasn’t a pouty, temper-tantrum manipulative reaction we’re used to seeing in the United States, but a soul-deep internal doubt that asked “Am I worthy?”

Sure, this playground scenario is similar to that faced by parents of multiple children on a daily basis. But these moments laid bare the danger of loving particular children in an orphanage. Even the mildest, most harmless display of favoritism (what any parent would naturally show his or her child) in an orphanage causes pain and suffering in all of the children there. It is not good to be known as “the favorite” in an orphanage – not if that child is to remain in the community of children.

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Even as I hurt for these precious ones—what I experienced growing up in a two-parent home is something most of them will never have—I remembered that these kids are the lucky ones. In Kenya, many abandoned children live on the street. The children at the Dagoretti Center receive care, clothes, food and schooling. They live in cottages with housemothers and fathers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  They have drivers to take them to school. When you see their faces, you see a hopeful future full of possibility.

Yet even with all of this “privilege,” their hearts still hurt. Even with the support teams the Feed the Children family has formed, even though churches send food and missions teams deliver toys, even though the caregivers in our orphanages love and treat the children like their own (which ours do!), even though we rescue more kids off the street and place them in homes like Dagoretti, it doesn’t heal the wounds in their hearts.

Orphan care is complicated, non-linear, and begs many questions. How do we get through to their hearts? How do we help orphans know, really know, that they are beloved?  How do we heal the wounds they carry without creating more? It’s a big conversation, and we need your voice in it.

you are enough

But despite the unanswered questions, we don’t want to leave you with no way to respond.

At Feed the Children, we like to write and deliver cards to the children in our orphanages. If you visit our break room in any given month, you’ll usually see a box of cards, a pile of pens, and a list of names so that staff can take just a few seconds to write a personal note to one of the children in our care. We would like to include you, too.

Write a note to a child in the comments below telling them you care, and we will hand-write them into cards and deliver them for you. In a few months, we will post photos of them receiving the cards, so you can see how a kind note to say that someone cares brightened their day. And please, share this with your friends, family, and coworkers. Let’s shower these children with affirmation!

The Journey of Hope Begins with the End of Violence

Today, we’re honored to partner with International Justice Mission on the launch of IJM president Gary Haugen’s book “The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence.” When they spoke with us about the book and the video below, they asked us to share a story of the impact of violence on the children we serve. We immediately thought of a poem and story we received recently from Seintje Veldhuis, Feed the Children’s Regional Director of Operations and Programs for Africa. But before we share her words with you, please watch this video.

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People ask me all the time, “How can one person make a difference?” And when they ask, I hear what they are saying. The problems of this world are so huge and our despair so great. It can be overwhelming. I know this from personally dedicating over 19 years of my life to communities in need in Africa.

However, in the end, I believe it is always just about one child. It’s about making a difference in one boy or girl’s life. It’s about doing what we can to ensure he or she has a better future. Acts of violence can steal the innocence of a child and take from them the security that all of us deserve to have.

I’ve seen this loss of innocence, security, and hope over and over in the children we serve. My years of work among the poor have taught me this: our work is to love.

I wrote this poem to introduce to you one of the babies that recently arrived at Feed the Children’s Abandoned Babies Center in Nairobi. She came to us because a senseless act of violence took her family away. Her story, while unique, is not completely dissimilar from many of those who come into our care. Without the support of Feed the Children, children like this would not have hope for a better future. With all our support, their future is boundless! We proclaim loud and clear that violence will not win, but hope does!

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“Journey of Hope”

I was tightly wrapped in a blanket and my sister’s arm; newly born,
Mother next to me on a rough road, in a bus keeping me safe and warm.
Just discharged from the hospital, on our way home,
Hardship and poverty ahead, but at least not alone.

Before I could even make one choice
My family was housed in a slum, filled with junk and noise.
One sister wheel chaired for the rest of life
And a brother fighting AIDS to survive.

But all of us were building hope on Faith, the educated one we adore,
As she was completing this year in form four.
She was our only source of hope, for my brother in despair,
And my sister in wheelchair for my Mum with no income
Is there a way out from this slum?

Suddenly, I am shocked and shaken by a loud bang and blast
It all happened very fast,
No longer was I hiding in my sister’s embrace,
Or could I gaze on loving eyes of my Mother face.
People screamed, cried and died
The terrorists, El Shabaab were as killers identified.

I was later found by my Auntie as a miracle child.
She took me to ABC Home were everyone was so kind.
I was cleaned, fed, cuddled and loved from the very start
Though my beginning was forever marred.

I cannot tell you my real name, as I became the Media’s fame,
And news spread very fast about this criminal blast.
I don’t know why I was born in such misery
Losing my Mum and sister in this tragedy.

But terrorists who throw grenades and bombs
Will not forever murder babes and Mums.

As long as you will stand up, and join the voiceless loud and clear
Your work will shine, spark and speak without fear.
I have joined the homeless, fatherless and motherless just after my birth
But the poor of Spirit will inherit the Earth.

Feed the Children became Christ to me
As hope and light came into my tragedy
As I now walk the Journey of Hope with you today
Knowing that all children will be found and freed one day.

I will be found by a Mum and other Home
Dream of a better slum, and never be alone,
His Kingdom come,
His will be done
On Earth
As it is in Heaven.

Baby Blessing.

Seintje Velduis was born in Holland and has worked for Feed the Children for seven years. She currently serves as Interim Director of Operations and Programs – Africa, based in Kenya.