Keeping Families Together In Tanzania

The day I met Ibrahim, he was two months old, yet he weighed only 2 kilos, a kilo and a half less than he had weighed at birth. He was gasping for breath and it was clear he also had pneumonia.

As was the norm in these situations, Social Welfare had prepared the papers to admit Ibrahim to our care. I run a Baby Home called Forever Angels in Tanzania and since 2006 we have cared for hundreds of orphaned and abandoned babies. The work we were doing was undoubtedly essential in many cases - and hundreds of babies had been saved. There was simply nowhere else to care for a baby pulled out of a pit latrine or abandoned at the local graveyard – a Baby Home was needed. But as I watched Ibrahim's Aunt sob as she turned to leave the nephew she loved in our care, I just knew there had to be a better solution.

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Cherish Uganda

When we received the call to see if we had a bed for a little girl we did what we always do – ask questions and gather as much information as possible. This child, like many of the other emergency placements we have taken into our STCF (Short-Term Care Facility), has experienced more horror than I will ever experience in 10 lifetimes.

“She is HIV+ and living in Kampringisa. She was a street kid and we believe her parents are dead. We do not know where she came from, so we have no idea of the whereabouts of any extended family. Can you take her? Because of her HIV status no one will take her.”

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Prevention Is The Best Medicine

“If my life circumstances were different, this could have been my story. In 1982 I had an injury that required 2 hospitalizations, and without the amazing care I received my future would have looked completely different. During my time at the hospital, I witnessed the incredible compassion of the nursing staff. I was so moved by their kindness and care, that I was inspired to become a nurse!”

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Living in a Hospital for 3 Years

The other day I went to the hospital to visit an 11 year old boy. It wasn’t a normal visit, I was there to photograph him so that a local orphan and vulnerable family organization, Mwana Villages, could advocate for his life. 

You see, Dieuveille’s parents passed away when he was 2 years old. From ages 2-4 Dieuveille was raised by his sisters, however, circumstances led him into an abusive caregiver’s custody and he found himself scared and wounded. At the age of 8 Dieuville took matters into his own hands, sneaked onto a train and tried to escape back to his sisters and grandmother. 

Dieuveille fell asleep on the train and fell off…

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Humanity’s Cry For Help : Health Care and The Orphan Crisis

The more we learn about the orphan crisis, the more we learn about the interconnected issues which make this crisis so complex. The orphan crisis is (among other issues) about generational poverty, gender inequalities, unequal access to education, socioeconomic challenges, and most certainly healthcare

Let’s paint a typical picture to give a bit more insight into the connection between healthcare and the orphan crisis. 

Let’s call her Fleur, a 21 year old whose parents died before she was 10; she was raised by multiple extended family members, but experienced abuse and mistreatment.

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whitney runyonComment
How To Keep Families Together in Rural DRC

“I’ve always believed that kids best thrive in a family. So from the beginning, Restore Elikia was formed to work on community development.. all with the aim to prevent children from ever becoming orphans. Despite our clean water, food security, health promotion programs, and educational grants to vulnerable children, there are still some kids that just can’t remain in their home situations. As I watched the first kiddos come through our doors for permanent care, it felt like we had failed. I knew then, that while they couldn’t stay at home, we HAD to make Elikia be as close to a home as possible. I truly believe that health and healing aren’t possible if a child feels isolated or alone. They need a family to show them unconditional love. SO, Restore Elikia isn’t a traditional orphanage…”

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How Restore Elikia is Empowering Mother's to Raise Their Kids!

“One of the ways we partner with these mamas is through our vulnerable women’s training program at Restore Elikia. At risk women of all ages participate in training classes for several hours a day, three times a week for an entire year. We focus a lot on how they can keep themselves and their children healthy through basic hygiene measures, family planning with spacing of children to allow for appropriate length of breastfeeding before weaning, and how to maximize nutrition and diversify diet with limited resources…”

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Restore Elikia is Restoring Families in DRC

“One day as I walked through the maternity ward at the local hospital, it dawned on me. Young women were dying in labor every day, orphaning not just their newborns but their other children as well. One in five women were dying. One in five. Day after day. I stopped right there in my tracks.. beyond overwhelmed. We had to try and do something to change this or the orphan crisis would never end. But what?? It seemed bigger and harder and more complicated than I could even begin to try and get my head around…”

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Giving Women A New Life in Ethiopia

“When she was one-year-old, Redhet had no idea that her mom, Fikirte, had placed her on a government list as a “half orphan.” In Ethiopia, a half orphan is a child who has no support or contact with one parent and no chance of reconciliation. By placing a child on the “half orphan” list, the mother recognizes she may not be able to continue feeding or providing care for her child. Half orphans are not uncommon in Kore, with many children being taken to government orphanages on a weekly basis. Redhet’s name was on the list as a last resort for Fikirte.”

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whitney runyonComment
A Love That Motivates and Moves You Past Fear

Since the crisis broke out in Syria we’ve been following the reports and asking ourselves, “How can we help? What are the practical ways that we can respond?” When we look throughout history we see it is not changed by those who accept the world as it is. Who resign an issue to “that’s not my problem.” History is written by those who let themselves be consumed with empathy for others and let love motivate them to create change. It’s love that will motivate us to go far beyond where comfort could take us.

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Digging In

Over the next couple of months, we are thrilled to share the incredible stories of individuals and organizations who are working in the trenches to put an end to this crisis at the source. Their work is liberating millions of future families and children from vulnerability.  

What are these dubious causes? One of the biggest culprits is poverty. In fact, poverty is the number one cause of the orphan crisis…"

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whitney runyonComment
It Takes A Village

Chrsytal Smith created Foster Village with one thought in mind—to give the foster community in Austin a village of support, of people who get it, of people who are present. Now, two years later, Foster Village has become a haven for both children and adults, a space where you can feel loved, supported, and most importantly, seen. With a background in child development and experience in teaching parent-education courses, Smith uses her skills to teach, encourage, and walk alongside foster parents in their journey. 

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Road Trips and Connecting With Foster and Adoptive Families Along The Way!

“We first adopted Elijah, our very first placement who came to us at eight months old. His biological brother Mattais was our next child we adopted who we had brought home from the hospital as a newborn. The surprise call for baby Liam came a few years later, also a newborn from the hospital. We will tell anyone that the love we have for these boys is as if they had come from our own DNA and no less than that. We are now joyfully raising our tribe of three wild, wonderful boys who are now 6, 8 and 10…”

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How To Support Foster Youth

If every child aging out of foster care THIS year had a home, we'd have a societal saving of $6.5 billion in the United States! For every youth that ages out of foster care and enters a world of homelessness, poverty, unemployment or the criminal justice system, the community loses an engaged and contributing member to society. Instead, society gains a lonely adult often in need of continued, expensive public support. Studies show there's an estimated savings of $235,000 in total public benefits, including child welfare and human services costs, per child for every child that is adopted before aging out of foster care.

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Thrive, Not Just Survive

I’m Sarah Wilson and I’m a CASA advocate. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. I first got involved in CASA in 2014 while still an undergraduate student at the University of Iowa. I have always loved working with children, which is why I decided to study speech pathology.  While working with children with special needs, I felt like I wanted to do more and that I had more to give. However, because I was a student, I felt like my options, as well as, my time, were a bit more limited in how I could reach out to help children in crisis. I had always thought about possibly becoming a foster parent and after doing some research, I found the CASA program and I knew immediately that it was the opportunity I was searching for! 

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Self Preservation is Not a Virtue

My interest in foster care started because of my job as a NICU nurse. My patients came from all over our state, and they were the sick of the sick. We would frequently see patients go home with foster parents while, their birth parents were trying to get back on their feet and create a safe home environment for their children. I mentioned to Clay several times over the last 5 years that we could be foster parents, and he agreed, but we never felt the timing was right. After a year of infertility, I clearly heard the Lord tell me one morning that He had closed my womb so we could open up our home. Clay wasn’t as sure as I was, and was hesitant to agree.

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The Joys of Parenting Foster Youth

From the other room we heard our eldest son whisper, “I know this is scary. When I went to my first home I was scared too. But we are safe and we will feed you and we won’t hurt you at all. I’ll be your buddy.” For the next week, that little boy was never more than two feet away from our eldest son, he was his safe person through that difficult and confusing time. 

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