The Young Heroes Foundation, founded in 2006, aims to provide financial support for the provision of basic necessities for orphans in Swaziland in addition to providing HIV testing and care programs. The nation is home to the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS globally, illustrated by a staggering number of 70,000 orphans and 15,000 households led by children as reported by Aid for Africa.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), rates of HIV among pregnant woman have reached 39.2 percent and approximately 17,000 children contract the disease every year. It is also reported that more than 120,000 Swazi children who are under 18 have lost at least one parent to AIDS, while more than 60,000 have experienced the loss of both parents to the disease.

Young Heroes has now reached more than 1,000 children in Swaziland by stabilizing households of orphans and vulnerable children, consequently improving the rates of school attendance among those receiving aid. Events such as the Swazi Cycle also help to raise monetary support for Swazi orphans by supporting the Young Heroes Foundation, where American cyclists embark on bike routes from border-to-border across the nation. In 2010 the cycling journey raised more than $100,000 for children in dire need of support in Swaziland.

In addition, citizens of Swaziland are affected by high rates of malnutrition, food insecurity, poverty and extremely unpredictable weather patterns, as cited by the World Food Programme.

Other programs such as the Centre for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (CHAPS) have developed voluntary public health programs such as the Male Circumcision Strategic and Operational Plan for HIV Prevention, projecting to avoid an estimated 31,000 new incidents of HIV by 2028. The initiative utilizes tools of education through mentoring, sports programs and public health outreach administered by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

– Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

"Thomas Rhett and Friends" Concert aids 147 Million Orphans
Thomas Rhett emerged in 2016 as one of country music’s notable rising stars. This year he released his sophomore studio album Tangled Up, which spawned multiple hits including “T-Shirt,” “Star of the Show” and CMA song of the year, “Die a Happy Man.”

Off stage, however, Rhett’s success is supplemented by his enthusiastic support of relief projects for impoverished communities in developing nations. Following the conclusion of his ‘Six String Circus Tour’ co-headlining Jason Aldean, Rhett hosted the first annual “Thomas Rhett and Friends” charity concert benefiting 147 Million Orphans.

On Twitter, Rhett often calls attention to 147 Million Orphans, an organization sponsoring trips to Africa and Latin America with a purpose of building up local communities. Beginning in 2009, the organization’s original mission was to provide food, water, medicine and shelter to children in Uganda.

However, it has since expanded to Haiti and Honduras with remarkable achievements such as funding the construction of a large-scale medical center in Gressier, Haiti. According to its website, the organization accomplishes its goals by focusing on sustainable income projects that encourage healthier technologies and family preservation.

As a longtime supporter of the organization, Rhett announced a charity concert held on the evening of October 4, 2016. Tickets were limited and hopeful attendees raised money by bidding for the chance to take part in the event. Before the concert, guests participated in a silent auction to bid on exclusive items such as autographed guitars and appropriately customized t-shirts. Guests then arrived at The Old School in Nashville for dinner and drinks, a private concert, a personal meet and greet and an after-party bonfire.

Drawing additional publicity, Rhett’s performance was accompanied by fellow musicians: Dierks Bentley, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line, Walker Hayes, Shane McAnally and Russell Dickerson. With all proceeds benefiting his charity, the concert all in all raised over $250,000.

Further, Rhett’s wife Lauren Atkins is an avid supporter of the organization. Atkins is professionally trained as a nurse, and she frequently embarks on mission trips herself to deliver medical supplies, new mattresses, and bed covers to the aforementioned nations.

Most recently, the couple also celebrated Giving Tuesday in Kenya by raising awareness of a wildlife refuge. Rhett then announced a few dates for his solo “Home Team Tour” beginning in spring 2017. While a follow-up “Thomas Rhett and Friends” concert has not been formalized yet, it is clear that the causes in developing nations will remain an important component of the Atkins’ family philanthropy.

Zachary Machuga

Photo: Flickr

EducationIn the Arabic language, the word ‘hidaya‘ means “to lead and to guide.” This is a central theme of the Hidaya foundation as it seeks to perpetually guide orphans and disadvantaged individuals to an educated life.

Since its official launch in 1999, the Hidaya Foundation has participated in solutions to a wide range of global issues: making potable water accessible, planting trees, helping individuals create small businesses and more. The foundation also addresses public health issues through a dissemination of healthcare programs and medical camps to regions where treatments are difficult to obtain or simply not to be found.

Though it participates in many facets of humanitarian work, the principal aim of the Hidaya Foundation is to create educational opportunities in remote and impoverished areas. However, Hidaya’s founder, Waseem Baloch has pointed out that the promotion of education by itself in impoverished regions can be futile without other methods of support. “We realized that when people don’t even have one proper meal, how can they worry about education? Hence we support social welfare and health care as well.” Baloch said.

The Hidaya Foundation achieves its objectives by providing subsidies for orphans, operating and maintaining schools, funding education for impoverished individuals and even providing education courses to adults. In addition, the organization diverts at least half of its resources towards projects that center around agriculture, farming, science and technology.

The “No Orphan Without Education” project provides food, medicine, water and other commodities to ensure that the orphan has to worry about only his or her schooling. The foundation removes all obstacles that could impede the educational progress of involved orphans, and simply requires that the orphan is continuously attending school. All these services are provided based on need with a cost to the foundation of $10 per month for each orphan.

Impoverished students, from primary education to university levels, are able to receive support from the foundation to continue their education. The foundation is currently offering support to over 11,000 individuals. Support comes in the form of tuition fees, school supplies, housing costs etc. The foundation is able to support these students with anything from $5 to $50 a month depending on individual circumstances.

Through funds that are largely received from individual donors, hundreds of thousands of dollars are provided monthly to the Hidaya Foundation’s various humanitarian programs across Africa, Asia, and North America.

Financial support for the foundation has grown exponentially since 1999. In that year the organization fell just short of $112,000 in donations. Six years later, the foundation had raised over $4 million in support of its cause. This rapid growth has given the foundation the ability to begin hiring employees overseas and to develop teams that can respond efficiently to natural disasters when they strike.

Aamir Malik, the foundation’s IT and Advertising Director, and a long-time volunteer for the organization, commented on the rapid success of the foundation, “Donations have increased because Hidaya Foundation has been able to make an impact as it is quick to respond to calamities. Hidaya Foundation always backs up its work by updating the public about what it’s doing.”

The associates of the Hidaya Foundation are very optimistic about the future of the organization. They have confidence that the growth they have experienced will continue, and that they will be able to replicate their efforts in many more locations throughout the world.

Preston Rust

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the Democratic Republic Of The Congo
Since the development of the Democratic Republic of the Congo—commonly known as the DRC or the DR Congo—the nation has been the center of what many historians refer to as “Africa’s World War.” Although the country is vastly populated with an innumerable amount of resources, poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo still defines the lives of children and adults.


Examining Poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo



One of the main causes of poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is health threats, specifically a malaria outbreak, which resulted in approximately 6.7 million cases nationwide in 2009. Infectious diseases, like malaria, divert intentions for economic investments, threaten public health and contribute to child mortality rates.

Yet, health risks are not the only notable sources of poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is estimated that there are about 4 million orphans whose population has been created not only by disease but also by the intense conflict in the area.

However, the violent area of South Kivu is gradually returning to a more peaceful and prosperous region, improving the lives of people in the conflict zones.


In 2001, the World Bank reengaged with the DRC by providing financial and technical assistance through the application of several emergency plans to aid in the recovery of the health of the region’s people.

Projects like the Karhale Water Supply Project improved public access to potable water for 2,750 households in Bukavu, reducing travel time by placing water standpipes in strategic locations. With more access to potable water, Bukavu significantly reduced the transmission of water-borne illnesses, like the parasitic worm infection, schistosomiasis.

More recently, the World Bank’s assistance has shifted its efforts to supporting institutional capacity through the Enhancing Governance Capacity Project (PRCG) and the Public Administration Capacity Building Project (PRC-GAP).

Before the PRCG closed in February 2016, the project implemented new human resource management and public finance systems in the central and provincial governments of the region, which allowed the South Kivu Province to double its revenue between 2009 and 2014.

The project’s final goal is to reorganize the current government to permit the development of economic performance at the local level. Currently, the project has facilitated the rehabilitation of eight centers to facilitate the ongoing training of government officials throughout the nation.

The DRC will be able to reduce its dependency on external technical assistance via resources such as training at universities and higher education institutions. The Catholic University of Bukavu benefitted directly from this project, as it now runs one of the most recognized centers for excellence for the area.

When visiting Bukavu for the first time, the World Bank Country Director for the DRC, Ahmadou Moustapha Ndiaye, explained in a 2016 press release how the World Bank progresses with the success of the nation. “Our goal is to lay the foundation for sustainable development in the South Kivu Province, and throughout the country, which entails establishing efficient and transparent institutions and management systems.”

Veronica Ung-Kono

Photo: Flickr

Tiny_Hands_InternationalThe Christian-based nonprofit Tiny Hands International is an innovative organization helping abandoned children and fighting sex trafficking in South Asia.

Tiny Hands is headquartered in Nebraska and operates in Nepal, Bangladesh and India. The organization targets poverty-stricken areas of the world and focuses on child ministries and human trafficking.

The prevalence of drug abuse among orphaned, abandoned and abused children often results in a life of prostitution, disease and violence. Once identified, the organization places these children with a family in one of their dozen children’s homes in Southeast Asia.

The organization offers a plethora of unique programs that contribute to its success. Prevent a Second Tragedy is a program designed to help child victims of natural disasters. Young victims of natural disasters in developing countries tend to become vulnerable due to familial separation during the aftermath of these disasters.

In addition, Tiny Hands utilizes three primary methods to combat human trafficking: data collection and analysis, prosecution and intelligence-led investigations. Data collection and analysis are executed through interviews of human trafficking survivors.

The qualitative data allows the organization to compile valuable information. The method of transport, recruitment, the distance and destinations are examples of the areas of focus. These types of research allow the identification of trafficking trends and international networks.

The information collected is also useful in the prosecution of human traffickers. As of February 2015, the organization has been involved in providing supporting evidence for 28 cases that are legally active against human traffickers.

The last method that they use is intelligence-led investigations. The model of investigations that are normally conducted by NGOs is known as anti-trafficking missions.

These investigations are usually in destination or transit countries. The aim of these sort of investigations is to recover current victims of trafficking and, upon recovery of the victims, prosecution of the traffickers. The main target areas are those with large numbers of victims.

The organization’s methods are innovative and unique. The target of the research is to successfully identify the establishments, networks and structures which enable human trafficking.

The primary aim of the investigations is the prevention of human trafficking, intervention to help current victims and prosecution of human traffickers. Destination, source and transit countries with high rates of poverty are the locations of focus.


Erika Wright

Sources: Non-Profit Facts, Tiny Hands International
Photo: Flickr

The small mountainous nation of Lesotho, landlocked by its neighbor South Africa, is home to two million people. According to UNICEF, of these, more than 40 percent live below the international poverty line.

Lesotho is also home to the second highest adult prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world, leaving more than 150,000 children orphaned and under-prepared or unable to enter school.

In the rural districts of Lesotho, where three-fourths of the population resides, residents depend primarily on herding livestock and cultivating agriculture to support their families.

Unfortunately, food shortages aren’t uncommon in the region, and according to Lesotho’s Ministry of Social Development, during times of shock and hardship, children are often pulled from school, put to work in the fields and have less access to health care.

With the additional strain placed on relatives taking in children that have been orphaned or sent away by their families during hardships, the risk of worsening food insecurity often becomes a reality.

In 2009, the European Union joined forces with Lesotho’s government to create a program in support of orphaned and vulnerable children.

Simply titled, the Child Grants Programme (CGP), the project is designed to give cash grants to improve the nutrition, health care and education of vulnerable children.

Since its introduction, CGP has made a noticeable impact on the overall well-being of those who participate in the program. After receiving the grants, families are more able and likely to invest in the children in their care.

According to the most recent data from 2014, CGP is responsible for an increase in birth registrations by 37 percent, a 15 percent decrease in childhood death under the age of five and an increase in school enrollment of boys by 6 percent.

As a nation where nearly 23 percent of children ages 5-14 work, and where boys, in particular, are more likely to leave school in order to work, an increase in boys’ enrollment in school is a critical indicator in the program’s success.

Since March 2014, CGP has been extended to nearly 20,000 families throughout the nation. The Ministry of Social Development reported that CGP has not only benefit the direct recipients of the grants but also their communities.

“The CGP had a significant impact in strengthening the informal sharing arrangements in the community,” The Ministry reported, “particularly around food.”

The program, originally funded by donations in partnership with the European Commission and UNICEF-Lesotho, is now fully-funded and operated by the Lesotho’s government. Due to its success and positive results in the 10 districts in which it is currently operating, the government is considering offering CGP as a nationwide program.

Lesotho hopes that the program will begin to stimulate the economies of the beneficiaries by having an influx of cash to spend within their communities at local businesses as they purchase goods and services.

Although it is too soon to know if CGP will greatly change or transform Lesotho’s economy, the program has already benefited and elevated the lives of approximately 65,000 children.

Claire Colby

Sources: CIA World Factbook, Kingdom of Lesotho, The Guardian, UN, UNICEF
Photo: worldglobetrotters

In September of 1997, Gloria Nieto and her husband, Angel, adopted a baby girl from China. They already had a 4-year-old biological daughter and wanted a second child. Adoption from a developing country seemed like a great option.

Adopting baby Irene was an arduous process—more than they believed it should have been. One big legal issue was that the Spanish government did not understand that the adopted children would have to become Spanish citizens.

When Gloria and Angel came back to their home in Spain, they met with other adoptive parents and decided to start a non-governmental organization that would help future Spanish adoptions from China. The group of adoptive families met in Madrid and made the NGO official. ANDENI translates into English as the National Association for Defense of Children.

There are two avenues for foreign adoption in Spain. One is through the government, the other is with private adoption agencies. ANDENI helps families adopting through the government.

The organization has a central office in Madrid. A small number of administrative people work there for a salary. The remaining workers are volunteers. Each part of Spain has its own leader that serves as a spokesperson and a source of guidance for families. Instead of having to contact the government for help, parents can contact their section leader.

Parents who begin the process of adopting from China join ANDENI by donating every three months or so to the organization. Donations are based on what the family decides it can pay—there is no obligatory donation amount.

The organization provides families with adoption assistance for every step of the journey. They learn what has to be done in Spain before they go to get their child as well as what has to be done in China. The organization helps parents fill out adoption papers, prepares them for their trip to China and provides them with a translator and a safe travel agency.

After parents successfully adopt their child, they become a part of the ANDENI community of adoptive families. The group supports each other and their adoptive children as they grow up. Both of Gloria and Angel’s daughters, Aida and Irene, now work with grown adopted children. Irene counsels teenagers on how being adopted affects their identity.

In its 18 years, ANDENI has helped 4,500 families. Spain is second to the U.S. in the number of children adopted from China. Proportionally, they are #1. Spain is currently home to 18,000 adopted Chinese children.

In recent years, Chinese adoptions have been slowing worldwide. There are fewer children in orphanages and the Chinese government gives priority to national adoptions. People that began the adoption process in 2006, are just now starting to get their children.

This is great news for orphans in China and suggests a positive outlook for poverty levels there. Yet for ANDENI, it means fewer families are joining and fewer volunteers are needed. Volunteer numbers have fallen from 2,100 at its peak to just 1,600. Many families have stopped paying since they have lost their jobs due to the Spanish economy.

To adapt, ANDENI began to focus on orphans and people living in poverty in China. They started collecting money to send to Chinese orphanages to pay for amenities like washing machines, air conditions, food, clothing, etc. One of the poorest providences in China, Yunnan, received enough money from ANDENI to build four schools and hospitals.

In total, ANDENI has raised and sent one million dollars to China. The organization collaborates with the Chinese government to ensure that the funds are doled out appropriately.

As for the future of ANDENI, Gloria’s family sees it collaborating with other NGOs helping orphans and others in need living in third-world countries such as Sierra Leone in Africa.

Lillian Sickler

Sources: ANDENI, ANDENI Valencia
Photo: Flickr

orphanage tourismIt is thought to be an admirable and charitable act to engage in orphanage tourism in Southeast Asia. Those who hear of the desperate plight of children are often inspired to help.

A collection of orphanages allows tourists to come and view the children, a practice known as orphanage tourism. This type of tourism is contributing to the well-being of the tourism industry, albeit as “pet-an-orphan” type entertainment. Poverty-stricken children are often the subject of endless attention from tourists, and the attention is damaging.

Even with the increased traffic to these homes, one thing remains: children who live in orphanages still live in poverty. Orphanages have become a financially lucrative business.

Upon seeing advertisements, tourists may opt to participate in pre-arranged tours to visit either a few different orphanages or one specific orphanage. These tours are often booked through intermediates: hotels, taxicab drivers, tour companies and even at airports. In addition, those affiliated with the orphanages can be seen waving signs on the street that say “visit our orphanage.” Some are seen dragging “sample” children throughout the streets of tourist-filled bars. At night, they attempt to illicit business for the following day. Some tours are straightforward about the fee, while others advertise free orphanage dance shows, yet demand donations.

The orphanages typically charge an entry fee or a mandatory minimum donation which is collected by the tour company. Visitors have the option to bring gifts for the children they especially like. Prior arrangements are made between the tour company and each separate orphanage to receive a certain price per tourist. There are no visitor restriction policies that pre-screen individuals on the tours.

The ability to pay becomes the only requirement that needs to be met, despite the industry standard requiring background checks on all orphanage visitors in most countries prior to any contact with the children. Usually, unethical orphanages are hidden fronts for child abuse and child sex-trafficking. An orphanage that does not require a background check for a tourist prior to interacting with the children places the children directly at-risk.

Most of the children in the orphanages are not orphans. Countries, where malnutrition is rife amongst the population, have many parents who do not earn an income that will enable them to support themselves or their families. Desperate parents renting or selling their children to orphanages is a growing epidemic throughout Southeast Asia. In addition, research indicates that some parents are not suffering from extreme poverty yet still choose to sell their kids, treating their children like materials goods. This year in China, a father of three sold his sons for 30,000 yuan, or $4,797. He arranged the potential buyers before the children were even born.

Orphanage tourism is cruel, not compassionate, to the children. The children of these orphanages are economically exploited and vulnerable children are precious only because of their economic value.

– Erika Wright

Sources: Born to Bunk, China Daily, Huffington Post, CNN
Photo: Flickr

On April 3, the Middle East honored Arab Orphans Day with university campus-based movements to honor abandoned children. Students in Cairo held an event in which individual participants would treat an orphan like a younger sibling for a day, while Kuwaiti Minister of Planning and Development Hind Al-Sabeeh touted the legislation of protective laws

Orphans in Kuwait are one of the most disadvantaged groups in terms of legal protections. In addition to the initial injury of parental abandonment, these children suffer the stigma of “illegitimacy.”

Many in the Middle East discriminate against children born to unwed parents. Often, they base their prejudice on a misinterpretation of the Qur’an. Their choice can have deleterious effects, ranging from overt displays to more subtle denials of academic and job opportunities.

That said, Kuwait has made some significant strides. Abandoned children are first sent to social care facilities for 30 days while the Ministry of Social Affairs attempts to find their parents.

If and when the children are not found, they become wards of the State. In Kuwait’s case, state guardianship grants the orphans Kuwaiti nationality, free health care, fiscal stipends, and free housing.

Kuwait treats its orphans well. According to UNICEF, life expectancy for these orphans was 74.2 in 2012 and approximately 93.9 percent of orphaned youth are literate. The high literacy rate is largely due to a high enrollment rate in primary schools, which UNICEF estimates to be around 98 percent.

The disadvantage, though, lies in the wards’ legal inaccessibility. Once Kuwaiti orphans are declared as wards of the State, only Kuwaiti citizens can adopt them.

This is a particularly problematic law in part because of the popularity of non-White orphans among adopting couples in developed countries. Most of these adoptive parents are financially secure and outfitted to accommodate fewer children at a time, ensuring that the lucky adoptee gets the personal attention and care that she needs.

Kuwaitis may be generous with their aid to orphans, but no amount of generosity can replace parental love. The nation often acts as a mecca for wartime orphans, but its people usually cannot restore a child’s birth parents.

Furthermore, little is reported regarding the care of orphans once they age out of the institution. According to the ILO, the Middle East has some of the highest youth unemployment rates worldwide, with an average of one in four young adults out of work.

This statistic places additional pressure upon Kuwaiti citizens, who have to pay for orphan care through taxes. Kuwait’s economy may enjoy high incomes across the board, but as long as its neighbors suffer, the nation will be operating upon heightened political risk. If it becomes involved in its neighbors’ conflicts, the country’s orphans may very well become the first victims.

Evidence of orphan victimization has already made the news. In 2011, an anonymous blogger commented on a story run in Al Qabas about Kuwaiti orphanages that had been turned into brothels where rape, drugs, smoking, and prostitution were rampant.

While exaggeration by the media is not improbable, orphans remain one of the most frequently vulnerable groups. Kuwait, like its neighbors, is still in development and its media may not always be trustworthy. In any event, it is imperative that the reader checks the validity of news sources. Conditions in Kuwait may not be as rosy as recent propaganda may imply.

– Leah Zazofsky

Sources: KUNA, Middle East Eye, Muslim Observer, SOS USA, The Aggressor, UNICEF
Photo: Flickr

bethany christian services global
Due in large part to the consequences of poverty, 150 million children around the world are considered orphans. Institutionalized care such as orphanages have been found to be anywhere from 20 times to 100 times more expensive than community-provided care. This community-provided care is available for some children who are taken in by extended family members, but these family members do not always have the resources to care properly for the children due the poverty rampant in their communities. This makes institutionalized care the usual and sometimes only option. In addition, children raised in orphanages are not likely to receive the individual care that children with families receive.

As the number of orphans has only increased with time, Bethany Christian Services Global has made it a priority to place children with foster families around the world. By partnering with organizations in vulnerable countries, Bethany Christian Services Global helped 100,761 children—including the potentially disenfranchised such as children with special needs— find loving and nurturing environments last year. Starting in 1944 for finding homes for U.S. orphans, the organization expanded their reach to up to 14 countries in 1980. They have even introduced the concept of adoption to countries where adoption was not originally considered an option due to their culture and traditions.

Bethany Christian Services Global advocates for the welfare of children in multiple ways by providing culturally-sensitive education and financial assistance to families willing to take care of an orphaned child in their community. They are one of the few (if not the only) U.S.-based adoption organizations that are allowed to bring together families internationally. From Albania to Uganda, the organization believes that a child can truly prosper when given a structured and loving family environment.

Not only is community-based care considered a better option fiscally and for a child’s welfare, Bethany Christian Services Global follows through by providing services for a family post-adoption, giving support to the families and adopted children for years to come. Every child deserves not just to have their basic needs met, but also a group of people who love and care for them. When a child is given this love and care, he or she can benefit them for a lifetime.

Melissa Binns

Sources:Bethany Global, Better Care Network
Photo: Our Quiet Hope