The Hope Effect values education, self-discipline, work ethic, and service to others as essential foundations for kids to succeed in life. I was fortunate to be part of a large family growing up. There were 6 children—5 girls and me. My parents worked tirelessly to provide for us a roof over our heads, in a quiet neighborhood, with a good school just over the back fence. We were involved in sports, pushed to excel in school, raised to be independent, encouraged to work hard and contribute to our local community. As I reflect on my childhood it is easy to be amazed at what my parents accomplished. Each of us was so different and yet my parents ensured each child was treated as if we were the only one. In my younger years, I was pigeon toed. Instead of my feet facing perpendicular to my legs, they turned in causing me to walk funny and limiting my mobility. As a child, I remember the long drive to the specialty doctor and shoe store to get me outfitted with braces and undergo treatment. I never heard him complain about the cost or the time it took away from his day. Instead, he would tell me as I geared up that I could do anything I set my mind to. In so doing, he turned those negative circumstances into positive teaching opportunities. My dad is not one for sharing emotions, so I can’t know for sure. But I often wonder how he felt when I signed the papers accepting my Division 1 scholarship for cross country. I might have been born pigeon toed, but my parents must have known I was born to run. Without their efforts, who knows what my life would be like today. Like many of us, I took for granted most of what was afforded me as a child: parents, family, nutritious food to strengthen my growing body, a quality education, and access to health care and physical therapy. We often overlook the significance of these blessings—especially when they have been ours since birth. But if you are a parent, you know the sacrifices and the intentional choices you make every day to mold, develop, and steer your children into the best possible future. When a child is orphaned, often times, this part of parenting is lost. If an orphaned child is lucky, their basic needs will be met. But very few will reap the benefits that come from being in a family with parents who are doing everything they can to prepare them for the best possible future. That’s why, at The Hope Effect, one of our top values is to structure our care like a family. We are seeking to lovingly prepare children who enter our care with the same amount of effort each of us take with our own children. We seek to provide the best education possible, instill self discipline and a strong work ethic, secure the right healthcare each individual needs, and model the importance of living life in service to others. These are the foundational blessings needed to thrive in the future. And we seek to provide all of them for every child.
From the earliest days of The Hope Effect, we have had conversations surrounding the approach and quality we will pursue for our family style homes. We searched for words or phrases that would help clarify our intentions and set the bar high for our team and our future. As is often the case with brainstorming sessions, the list grew long and complicated. However, one simple question seemed to sum up our conversation: If any of our children were being cared for at one of our homes, would we be pleased with the care they are receiving? The answer to that question prompted six orphan care standards that would eventually define our values: 1) Family, 2) Excellence, 3) Spirituality, 4) Preparation, 5) Sustainability, and 6) Innovation. Over the next several weeks, we will expand on each standard in greater detail.
Because family is the most effective model for development, we seek to mimic the family in all strategies. Traditional orphan care solutions around the world too often function like “institutions” rather than “the family unit.” In order to maximize budgets and space, institutional care focuses on meeting basic physical needs. To be fair, they do this very well. While not the best solution, millions of children over the years have had their situations dramatically improved thanks to the generous and selfless work of orphanage directors and their supporters. They have helped children get off the streets, out of dangerous situations, and onto a better path for the future. However, in recent years, studies have shown the life long negative effects on children who are reared in an institutional setting. Therefore, given the choice, I could not imagine many parents who would want their children to only have their basic needs met in a larger institutional care situation. If my wife and I, God forbid, could no longer care for our kids, we would want their basic needs met, but more than that, we would want them to be part of a family! We would want our kids to be raised by people who would love them as they would their own biological children. We would want our kids to feel safe and secure. And we would hope our children’s uniqueness would be affirmed, strengths developed, and challenges helped to overcome. At The Hope Effect we are seeking to change the way the world cares for orphans by offering children the opportunity to be part of a family. Rather than constructing large buildings that house a high ratio of children to caregivers, we are building smaller, one-family size, structures. Each home will house six-eight orphaned children and two parents. In this way, we mimic the family in all orphan care solutions. Not only is this what we would want for our children, but a family is what every child needs and deserves.
In 1998, my family began to explore international adoption. Until we did, we were simply unaware of the overwhelming number of children in need of a family. We quickly began to realize the problem is greater than we imagined. We are not alone. Most people are shocked to discover there are 153 million orphans worldwide. According to UNICEF (The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund), if orphans were a country of their own, the population would rank 9th in the world—ahead of Russia. How can this be? And why is nobody is talking about it? Part of the answer lies in the definition of the word: orphan. When most people hear the word, orphan, they think of children with no parents. This is certainly true. However, children with no parents comprise only 17% of the total number (26 million). More precisely, these children are referred to as “double orphans.” They have lost both parents to any number of possible reasons: war, disease, poverty, natural disasters, abandonment, and accidents are among the leading causes. The vast majority of orphans (83%) are classified as “single orphans,” denoting children who have lost at least one parent. They generally live with a remaining parent or a member of the extended family (grandparent, aunt, etc). Here in America, and other Western countries, we don’t regard children with one parent as an orphan, so why do UNICEF and other organizations use this classification? The broader definition of orphan began to be used in the mid-1990s. As AIDS began resulting in the deaths of millions of parents around the world, an increasing number of children were left without one or more parents. To help draw attention to this vulnerable group of children, many of whom lack support, resources, or opportunity, the terminology was created. But it has certainly caused confusion among the general public. At The Hope Effect, it is our desire to see every orphan helped. However, at this time, we are committed to changing how the world cares for double orphans. While this group is smaller in size, the number is still significant (approximately the size of Saudi Arabia) and they are the most vulnerable. We are providing solutions that mimic the family: two-parent, family-style homes offering opportunity for each child to flourish. Coupled with access to health, dental, and social care, each child is being prepared for the future through education, responsibility, support and the structure that parents were designed to provide. We invite you to join this movement to give every child the opportunity to be a part of a loving family! Get informed, get involved, be generous, and spread the word. Together we can see lasting change.