Birth Family Care

Today we are introducing our first topic of 2017:
Birth Family Care.

All this month we will be sharing stories from an organization that empowers vulnerable mothers as part of orphan prevention. We’ll also be debuting a brand new film at the end of the month featuring a domestic adoption which shares both sides of the story: the birth mother and the adoptive parents. Stay tuned!

All this month we will be sharing stories from an organization that empowers vulnerable mothers as part of orphan prevention. Well also be debuting a brand new film at the end of the month featuring a domestic adoption which shares both sides of the story: the birth mother and the adoptive parents. Stay tuned!

Throughout all of our travels and work in the world of orphan care, we have seen a lot of hard situations--one major issue is the care (or often lack there of) of vulnerable families who, out of desperation/lack of opportunities/lifestyle patterns etc., place their children in orphanages or for adoption.

Sometimes complex issues are more understandable when explained through a typical example. Imagine this scenario:


Woman: Impoverished upbringing, lack of opportunity, uneducated.

Woman gets pregnant.

Woman loves baby.

Woman has no money to feed herself or baby.

Out of love and hopefulness that her baby will survive, Woman places baby in an orphanage.

Baby grows up in an institution, often lacking quality care and the love of a family.

Baby sustains significant issues relating to attachment, failure to thrive, learning disabilities, etc.

Baby grows up.

Baby does not know how to function in society in a way that emotionally, socially or economically healthy and stable. 

Baby gets pregnant.

Baby loves baby.

Baby has no money to feed herself or baby.

Out of love and hopefulness that her baby will survive, woman places baby in an orphanage…

The baby turned orphan turned mother replicates the same cycle of creation of orphans...


....And on and on the cycle goes.

As mentioned previously, this is not always as cut-and-dry as we’ve described, but what is critical to understand is that just because a child is in an orphanage does not mean that they are justifiably “orphaned”. Many of these situations that led to an orphaned child could have been prevented.

So why are we addressing this issue? Why Birth Family Care?

If we are to truly get to the root of the orphan crisis, we must address and care for families and their children. To only care for children is putting a bandaid on a much deeper issue, and can even promote unethical adoption practices.

But how do you care for birth families? How do you help adults so that they are able to parent their children in a safe environment? 

You come alongside, in a number of ways, to these men and women to train, educate, empower, employ, extend psychological help and allow them to fail and succeed, but never to give up! 


Everyone can care for orphans; follow us in 2017 and discover the many ways to get involved. 


The idea of caring for orphans is incredibly daunting and often overwhelming.

Orphan care.

Caring for orphans.

What does it exactly mean? 

As a Westerner, 5 years ago if you would have asked me what it meant to care for orphans I probably would have answered something like, ‘Well it means you adopt.’ But over the years, as we’ve dug deeper into and investigated a lot into those two giant words, Orphan Care, I’ve come to realize that there are numerous ways for one to care for orphans.

Let me take you on a brief evolution of The Archibald Project. I’ll spare you the details of how and why we began, but if you’re interested, (it is my favorite story [besides sharing how my husband and I ended up together]) you can read the full story here.

After we documented our first adoption in 2011 and saw the power of media and storytelling to get another orphan adopted, we felt called to use our art to inspire more people to adopt. We began using all of our free time traveling the world and documenting international adoptions and thought that the more adoptions we documented, the more people would be inspired to adopt! 

And then we went to Uganda. 

In Uganda we learned that a large percentage of children living in orphanages were not orphans at all. They had one or both living parent(s) and more often than not, those parents wanted their children. They did not want to place their child in an orphanage nor want to place their child for adoption. But often times, because of extreme poverty, families in developing countries, like Uganda, are torn apart and children are placed in orphanages. 

Our minds were blown. 

We then met person after person who had stories of being matched with a child for adoption and later found out that their ‘child’ had living parents and had been tricked or manipulated into signing their rights away from their children.

Or parents believed that the only way to give their child a future was to send them to the west through adoption. Our hearts were broken and we felt defeated. But then we learned that there are thousands of organizations out there working to empower and equip vulnerable children and families. And we realized, right there on the red soil of Uganda, that orphan care goes beyond adoption and we wanted the world to know! 

Next we traveled to Romania where children are not allowed to be adopted by non-Romanian citizens but the institutions are overflowing with children who desperately need families. So how do you help? It’s not always possible or healthy/safe for a child to be resettled with their biological family, so what do you do? How do you care for these orphans, especially when adoption isn’t an option?

And then we went to India, and China and the U.S. and we realized that there are so many reasons why children are orphaned and so many ways to pour into and build up these love seeking humans. 

But why are more people not involved? Why aren’t more people helping? 

We believe at our core, that people want to help, that people desire to extend love and safety to children. We believe in our fellow man. We believe that people do not know the issues OR where to help. 

That is why we are shifting gears this year. 

In 2017 and beyond we will be tackling core topics of unique ways to care for orphaned and vulnerable children. Throughout the next 2 weeks we will be releasing the 6 topics that The Archibald Project will investigate, educate on and expose the world to in the year of 2017. We believe that everyone can find a way to care for orphans. 

There will always be orphans, but it doesn't have to be a crisis. We need a mass amount of people to care for orphaned and vulnerable children so that, together, we can end the orphan crisis... So we’re starting a movement. 

This is the movement. It’s starting now.
Join us.




Ben Baxter – 5 Months Later

Everyone loves a good, powerful adoption story. It pulls at the heartstrings – making you laugh, cry and feel all the feels. Ever wonder how the child is doing weeks, months, even years after their adoption? 

On July 14 of this year, The Archibald Project traveled to Beijing, China with the Baxter family to document the adoption of their son, Ben. Ben was born with Down Syndrome and living at Morning Star Foundation – a home for children with sever heart diseases. On July 31, after travel, paperwork and official hearings, the Baxter's were able to bring Ben home to their other five children.

Home for the Baxter's just so happens to be one hour from where I grew up so, while being home for Christmas, we wanted to give our audience a follow up on Ben! It's been five months since he was placed in the arms of Rachel and Dave and so much has changed!

I walked in to the Baxter home in Charlotte, NC and was greeted by six children wearing matching Christmas pajamas and eager to make sugar cookies, cookies that would be given to people who helped them throughout their adoption process. Rachel and I chatted in the kitchen while the kids danced around and then we got to baking. There may have been a few fights over who got to use the Kitchen Aid or how many scoops of sugar Charlie got to put in over Henry but, honestly, I was highly impressed at how Rachel and Dave handled themselves... impressed but not surprised. It was obvious in China that the two of them were great parents.

I remember when we were in the Baxter's hotel room, right after Ben's "Gotcha Day," and Ben seemed nervous and exhausted. He had just been taken from everything he had ever known and, even though it was for his long-term good, he was hurting and scared. Most of our video and photos of Ben in China aren't of him laughing or running towards his new parents – they are real photos and video of the beauty and pain that comes from adoption.

Five months later, in Ben's new home with his five siblings, mom and dad, he couldn't stop laughing, dancing and wanting to be held by his parents. Rachel and Dave told me about how he was about to start walking, had learned 20+ new words and can sign, too! They also told me about the harder moments, the moments when he acts out and the days where they can tell he seems down.

Kendyle: What are some of the biggest changes you've seen in Ben?
Rachel: As he has adjusted to his new family, language and home he has come more out of his shell! He had a great sense of humor and is very adventurous. Both of these aspects of his personality have become more evident with his comfort level growing. 

Kendyle: What are some goals for Ben's development in the next few months?
Rachel: Walking! He is making progress with standing and walking with assistance but we can't wait to see him walk independently! He starts physical therapy in January. Another goal is growth in speech. He is speaking a lot, considering his age and his new language. He has about 20 words he regularly uses and 20 baby signs. He is a smart boy!
Kendyle: What has been easier than expected?
Rachel: His overall adjustment has been pretty smooth, I think I assumed it would be harder for him to feel at home but he fits right in!

Kendyle: What has been harder than expected?
Rachel: Ben has had some aggression, biting, hitting and scratching especially his little brother. He also hits his own head when angry. I think it is a response to feeling out of control. We are trying to figure out ways to help him deal with his feelings in a healthier manner.
Kendyle: What are some other challenges you've faced throughout the transition of bringing Ben home?
Rachel: Mostly just the regular adjustments to adding a child period. He is more babyish than his 3 year old brother; they are six months apart so I had to adjust to caring for a baby again. But with 5 kids born in 6 years, having a baby is pretty much the norm. He is really heavy (39lbs of dead weight, haha) and wants to be held a good bit so I see a chiropractor entering the scene very soon. He needs me more than a typical three year old and I know it's just because of all the transition and leaving those he loved and loved him at his foster home. I try to give him the extra comfort he needs as best I am able but he still has "sad" days where I think he misses his old foster family.

Kendyle: How have your other children adapted? 
Rachel: Extremely well. Ben is pretty adored and treated like a super star most of the time. Charlie, the 3 year old, has struggled with some jealousy issues but overall has been a real champ and an awesome big/twin brother. 

Kendyle: What are your favorite things to do with Ben?
Rachel: I love playing outside with him, he is always up for an adventure like his mama. He loves swinging, the trampoline and riding his bike and push car. 

Kendyle: What are some other favorites of his (food, toys, etc)?
Rachel: The boy loves food! I am afraid he used to eat healthier but he has fallen in love with french fries and ketchup... but he still loves rice and noodles. His favorite thing to play is wrestling and games with balls. His favorite book is "Blue Hat, Green Hat" by Sandra Boykin – he laughs hysterically! 

Kendyle: What are you most excited about for Ben's first Christmas at home?
Rachel: I am just so happy to have us all together this year! There was a hole last year and now it is filled! I also can't wait watch him open presents! He tore into them for his birthday! He knew exactly what to do. 

Kendyle: What would you want people to know about adopting a child with Down Syndrome?
Rachel: I can't compare it to adopting a typical developing child but my husband and I have commented often that we do not think about him as having Down Syndrome very often, he is simply our son. We took it slow getting started with doctors appointments and therapies because we knew we all just needed time to adjust. So, the "extras" associated with a special needs child haven't been a huge deal yet. If God is leading you to a child with Down Syndrome don't be afraid, yes there will be differences and long-term care needed but mostly he or she will feel like your baby and bring you incredible joy!

A few days before visiting the Baxter home, Whitney, Nick and I received a photo from Rachel of a comment on one of her Instagram photos. A family messaged them to say that following their adoption story, led them to start the adoption process of a child with Down Syndrome! 
This is why we do what we do... we tell stories to give others an example of what it looks like to care for orphans, whether that be adoption, fostering, moving over seas, education sponsorships or one of the many other ways to get involved.

"Our family is a mess, we didn't have all the resources to do this adoption but we did have the faith. Faith that God would provide in all the ways we are insufficient and He has proven faithful over and over! Hearing that another 'messy family' is stepping out in faith to adopt special needs is such an encouragement!"
– Rachel

To see the Baxter's Adoption video, click here!


Day 11 – Better Life Bags

And on the eleventh day of Christmas, The Archibald Project gave to me a shop that creates custom bags with a cause: job creation and empowering women in Detroit! We got the chance to chat with founder, Rebecca Smith and hear how her boredom during pregnancy lead to a successful and ethical company called Better Life Bags!

PS: They created a custom bag just for The Archibald Project that gives a portion of the proceeds to help us fight the orphan crisis! Click here to buy!

Where are you from and why did you start Better Life Bags?
My name is Rebecca Smith and I live in the middle of Detroit, MI in a small town called Hamtramck. I started my business in 2009 as a way to keep busy as a new stay at home mom.  I made custom fabric bags that gave a percentage of each sale to low income entrepreneurs in developing countries through KIVA. I sent a picture of the loan recipient with the bag to connect the customer with the mission behind Better Life Bags. It was initially an ETSY shop, but as it grew over time, we opened our own interactive website to help our customers visualize their custom bags they were creating. We also shifted the mission from sending money overseas to hiring women from our under-resourced community. 

What is the mission and vision for Better Life Bags and why are you passionate about it? 
We live in a highly first generation immigrant community. We have lots of refugees and asylum seekers being resettled here.  Finding a place to live and a job is a high priority. I love that Better Life Bags can come alongside and provide the job they need to start their new life in America. We also partner with various organizations around the city to help provide for other physical needs like exercise, ESL classes, citizenship, and driving classes. 

What is your favorite part about your organization?
I love our workshop. We moved into a 1600 sq foot space this year and were able to have a say in how it was remodeled. Of course, I went with white everything and concrete floors. I love being here by myself. And I especially love being here when it's bustling with women speaking various languages as we make all the bags our customers order!

What is the hardest part of your business?
Being a business owner was never something I signed up to do. I wanted to be a stay at home mom. So, balancing time with my sweet three little kids and being a good boss is always a challenge. I rely heavily on my amazing operations manager and as we grow even more, I hope to build a core team here at BLB that will help to relieve a lot of that pressure. 

What advice do you have for people out there about shopping ethically?
Get to know the company. Interact with them and ask questions. A true ethical company will be transparent and honest with their operations and supply chains.

Why is it important to support small and/or ethical businesses?
We can't keep going without your purchases! We, personally, chose to be a for profit company.  We don't rely on donations, so all of our efforts are supported by the products we make!

Please share anything else you would like about your shop!
Not only do we have custom bags, but we also have prayer cards that we hope will be used to bless people! And two more prayer card sets are coming in January!

How can we follow along with Better Life and shop your amazing bags?
Our website is, Instagram is @betterlifebags, and Facebook Better Life Bags. My personal website and Instagram are and @rebeccasmithonline!



On the tenth day of Christmas, The Archibald Project gave to me a store for the whole family that helps feed malnourished people in Haiti – Camplight Apparel! Camplight makes the most encouraging and cute apparel that will be a perfect gift for anyone left on your list! 

Where are you from and why did you start Camplight?
Our names are Tiffany and Jacob Blaze and we live in Nashville, TN! We started our business with a desire for a creative outlet that helps others in need!

What's your mission and vision for Camplight and why are you passionate about it? 
We design our clothes with the hope of spreading positivity and hope, both for wearers as well as people who see our products. We also partner with Harvest107, an organization working in Haiti, making donations to enable them to do their work with malnourished children. I (Tiffany) was born into a difficult situation where I was severely malnourished. After suffering from failure to thrive and then being rescued from that life, we want to use what we have to help others with the same challenges.

What is your favorite part about your business? 
We love working as a husband and wife team; it’s been so much fun to build something together. CampLight has also been an avenue for us to share our story, and in return, our customers sometimes share theirs with us. We love hearing how a specific design plays a part in someone’s life. It’s really humbling, in a good way.

What is the hardest part of your business?
Starting CampLight has been a huge learning experience. Like with any new venture, there are things you have to figure out along the way, so sometimes we have to make some really quick decisions!

What advice do you have for people out there about shopping with small businesses? 
We’re not experts in this area, but we’ve always loved giving gifts that give back in some way.

Why is it important to support small and/or ethical businesses? 
Shopping at small businesses helps directly support the families who own them. We know a lot of small shops, ours included, which enable moms to stay home with their children while also contributing financially to the household. For us, this has meant more time together and better connection as a family.

Anything else you'd like to tell the Archibald community about Camplight? 
We really enjoy what we do. After a little more than a year and a half as a company, we love what we’re building together and the way we’re able to help make an impact on the world in a small way.

We think what you guys do is so great! How can we shop and follow along with Camplight! 
Our shop is & our social media handles are:


Day 9 – Ara Collective

On the ninth day of Christmas, The Archibald Project gave to me a shop that is such a treat to the eyes – Ara Collective! You will definitely want to read more of what founder and designer, Sarah Contrucci Smith, has to say about Ara and shop her store for the most beautiful Christmas gifts! 

Where are you from and why did you start Ara?
My name is Sarah Contrucci Smith and I am the founder and designer of Ara (“are-ah”) Collective. I grew up bouncing around the Midwest (where my parents are from) but moving to Papua, Indonesia from age 7-15 where my dad was a bush pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). We returned to the States to Southern California, which I claim as my “home” in the US. (Although I still have a healthy love for the Green Bay Packers and fried rice!)

What's your mission and vision for Ara and why are you passionate about it? 
Ara Collective collaborates with artisans to curate handcrafted pieces, blending traditional craftsmanship with modern style. We travel to uncommon places in search of vibrant designs and time-tested techniques that reflect the communities from which they originate. Each collection is made in limited quantities to preserve its authentic detail, offering beautiful and meaningful products for home and traveler. In addition to paying above fair wages for their work, we invest 10% from every sale to help provide education and health care for the artisans and their children.
We believe every person – despite the social, economic or geographic situation they were born into – deserves the freedom to discover, to dream and to thrive. Ara is a brand born out of a love for travel, finding exceptional talent in distant places and discovering creative processes that are the heart of a culture. I believe these talented craftsmen and women – as with all human beings – have value and the right to freedom. I think good business, that is done differently and values both profit (sustain ability) and people, can make good changes in the world that empower others, open up global trade, and allow every person to build the future they want.

What is your favorite part about your business?
My favorite part of doing this the traveling and working directly with the artisans. I love wandering through local marketplaces and seeing where it takes me... stumbling upon exquisite traditional designs, meeting the artisans, seeing them in action, and rethinking the colors and products that will showcase these rich, cultural designs in a new and fresh way. Not matter how many times I’ve seen the natural dyeing and loom weaving techniques, it floors me. The process, the skill, the significance of every line, the quality! There is such extraordinary talent in tucked away places of the world, and it’s the kind of talent that has been perfected for generations and holds so much meaning. I love seeing the pride the artisans have in their craft. They are experts in what they do, which makes working with them a fun and truly collaborative process.

What is the hardest part of your business?
My biggest challenge right now is figuring out how to scale Ara Collective up and lead it in a direction that is beneficial for the artisans, our customers, and the heart of Ara. We’re growing quickly, which is exciting but also challenging. There’s a million ways to go but it’s hard to know what has the most positive impact in the long run. I think it can paralyze you but seeing the excitement the artisans have with every new and larger order is a constant motivation.

What advice do you have for people out there about shopping ethically?
Shopping ethically is expensive, which can make it hard to do as much as you want. But it’s a powerful action. Not just because you’re supporting artisans (which is great in itself) but because you’re voting for quality, processes, and values that will drive the entire marketplace. The more you do that, the more the entire tide rises and changes the way things are done, the way people are being treated, and the future of consumerism. So, shop selectively. Go for quality, pieces you truly love, and values you identify with.

Why is it important to support small and/or ethical businesses? 
Let’s be honest, running an ethical business is hard. The profit margins are small because you’re spending more on things like paying people good wages and using socially conscious packaging materials. Your competition is other businesses that are doing it cheaper and faster and sometimes use terms like “artisan made” (but not “fair wages”) for their marketing. But small, ethical businesses are doing it differently based on values, not profit.
For Ara, our collection is made up of pieces that are each handpicked as a reflection of the land, the rich heritage of the culture and the makers that have been mastering their craft for generations. It’s a collective of artisans who, in a sea of industrial production, create timeless pieces that tell their stories. It provides for their families and futures, and it does so in a way that they can have pride in, a voice through, and a sense of contributing to the world in a meaningful way. And I think that’s something we all want and deserve.

We have loved getting to read how you got started and see photos of the beautiful work you have created alongside artists around the world. How can we continue to follow and how can we shop your products? 
Ara's website & shop is  & our social media handles are: