More than six years ago, Project Orphans began with a mission to build homes for the most vulnerable orphaned children. Over the years, we have seen walls built through the generosity of donors and friends who believed in and supported the vision. Through partnerships with vetted organizations and years of experience, homes were planted in Uganda, Brazil, Haiti, and Guatemala. This was a testament to our challenging but rewarding journey. Little did we know that the idea of safe-homes, warm beds and house parents would be just the beginning.

Witnessing the overwhelming need in Uganda, we realized the urgency to plant roots and establish a non-governmental organization (NGO). The passion in our hearts seemed to grow to another level of intensity after establishing an office in Kampala, Uganda. Our vision increased and we saw a massive need for so many hurting and fatherless souls in the villages where we worked.

Thousands of children, women and broken families needed a voice. The communities we began working within needed people to encourage them to dream again and have hope for a better future. Most importantly, they needed support that would allow them the chance to not only survive but thrive.

Tears overcame us as we stood on the unoccupied land of the Pearl Village, envisioning its potential. We knew Project Orphans was so much more than an organization making a difference. Project Orphans had become a life-line that would help lives live again.

Today, Project Orphans sees the impact of a dream we never thought possible. This dream didn’t happen overnight, but the impact we have had is more than we ever imagined. It is often overwhelming to have so many lives depending on an organization, depending on us. We didn’t plan on building a church, medical centre or transitional homes for the abused. Our goal wasn’t to create life-skills training courses, spiritual development programs, elderly and widow services and provide assistance to children with special needs.

But our eyes have been opened to the dire need; saying no or turning a blind eye is not an option.

We have dreams for the future that are overwhelming and sometimes scary. We know that with this comes more responsibility and more lives depending on the families who support Project Orphans. But we are expectant that as we deepen our stakes and expand our reach, we will continue to bring hope and restoration to the people of Uganda.

With this, we are thankful, thankful for all you have done and all you have sacrificed. Because of you, transformation is happening. Together we are paving a path toward a brighter future for many. The people of Uganda are hopeful and grateful as they are being educated, empowered, and equipped.

With love, Brittany and Christina, Co-Founders of Project Orphans


Most people are able to think of several advantages that come from giving education, medical care, a safe home, and counseling/therapy to those in need. At Project Orphans, we immediately grasp that meeting these basic needs provides improved health, access to jobs, increased income for a family, and much more. But over the years, we’ve gotten to see some of the unexpected ways Project Orphans has changed lives in Uganda. In addition to providing children and vulnerable communities access to healthcare, education and a safe living environment, we have shown them the unconditional love of Christ. Your giving has enabled us to inspire confidence, dignity, hope and healing in this community.


Project Orphans provided access to free healthcare and medication to over 1,100 patients through our CURA Medical Centre and Medical Camps hosted in the slums of Kampala. Three of the Project Orphans children tested the limit of what we thought we were capable of doing. Ian, Mark, and John needed care that proved every life is worth fighting for. Ian underwent spinal surgery, Mark received an emergency brain surgery and John will be receiving heart surgery next month. Today, when you look into these boys' eyes you see something that wasn’t there before. You see hope. They have faith they can climb mountains to overcome any obstacle because they defeated death which would not have been possible without you!

Ian Duke Global Health University

Education for a Nation sponsor child


A few years ago, the children in our sponsorship program were on the streets, often begging for food and not dreaming of attending school. They can confidently say their names, share their stories and what the aspire to be. Today, our kids stand proud after taking national exams. They can confidently say their name, share their story and what they aspire to be.They have gained confidence knowing their futures are bright and we could not be more proud.


In many countries around the world, women and girls are often at dangerous risk of rape and abuse. This year, we were able to open the Pearls’ Transitional Housing, offering homes and a life-skills program to many girls who lost their childhood too early. When they moved in you could feel their fear. Today, they sing in the newly built Oasis Church at Pearl Village. They are empowered as they learn new skills that will one day support them and their children. Most importantly, through emotional and spiritual healing they have met a Heavenly Father who is healing their wounds and rebuilding what was taken from them. There’s no better time than the holidays, a season all about giving, to take a step back to think what you truly have the power of offering when you give. We can’t put into words how grateful we are to walk alongside you and as we continue to make an impact and bring hope to our villages in Uganda.

Pearl Of Africa Hope

In 2019, we have some exciting projects we can’t wait to share with you. From building a women’s birthing center, rescuing the orphaned and opportunities for quality education, our journey together has just started. Thank you for being part of our family! Cheers to a wonderful year together as we pave the way for a brighter future, expectant for what’s to come.

PS. Join us for an extraordinary evening in celebration of the future by attending the Project Orphans Gala on March 7, 2019, at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 100% of what is raised will give continued hope and open new opportunities of impact to the communities and children we serve in Uganda.


A home of hope and love. A place to come just as you are and never leave the same. A place you are instantly family. My heart grew by a mile my first day in Kampala. Who knew you could love a new place and faces so quickly? 

The work that is being done through Project Orphans and their team is truly remarkable and a honest testimony of trust and obedience. I only had a glimpse of what Project Orphans was through the last year of sponsorship, but to go and see and! 

Deanna Swope Project Orphans

To see these remarkable children in person and to see the care and love they are given and to see where every dollar is spent and the many prayers answered was such a blessing. I was so impressed with how things were run, planned and managed. There were many bumps along our journey and time in Uganda, but that is life. You roll with it and do the best you can. 

That is a lesson that so many of these kids have learned at an age they should not have to. Life is not always fair, there are many things out of your control and there are things we may never understand, but we always need someone to be there, to encourage us, to love us, to speak truth into our lives and to stand by us no matter the circumstances. 

For so many children and their families, this is what Project Orphans is. They are shown by example day in and day out how to live a godly life and the importance of spiritual growth and unity with one another and to not give up. 

Someone to take them by the hand and to show them they are worthy, valued and loved deeply by their Heavenly Father. 

There is no doubt that God is over this precious organization. Things that only He can do, things that only He can orchestrate are taking life and flourishing due to the commitment and faithfulness of Project Orphans and its co-founders. 

I’m blessed to have been apart of this journey and my heart only grows bigger for this family. 

The definition of Joy describes the children in the Project Orphans program perfectly. 

JOY: [joi] noun.  Gladness not based on circumstances. 

"You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; you rejoice with glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls." - 1 Peter 1:8-9

These children have so much joy and they now have hope, support and someone who not only believe’s in them but to help them pursue their purpose and calling! What greater gift in life could amount to this?

Love and hugs to my Ugandan family! 

Deanna Swope, Project Orphans Missionary & Friend

An Experience I Never Dreamed Possible

About a year ago, I came to find Project Orphans, a non-profit organization based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma that focuses on helping kids and families in Kampala, Uganda who are in serious situations and poverty, on Instagram. At that time, I was doing a lot of soul searching within myself in regards to what I wanted my life to be about. I've always had a heart for kids, especially orphans and coming across Project Orphans was a reminder to me on what God has called me to do with my life. With that in mind, I made the decision with the help of my parents to sponsor a child and that's how Ronald became a part of my life from miles and miles away. Through this organization I have communicated with him through letters, have had the ability to send him gifts and receive updates from him, and provide for him to have an education. I always said I wanted to take a trip to meet him, but I never thought the opportunity would present itself so soon and in all honesty I would say that with the hopes that in the future like years from then it would happen, but I didn't wholeheartedly believe it would happen. When Project Orphans reached out to me and other sponsors to go on the next trip, my reaction was immediately, "Yes!"

There were so many bumps along the way to getting there, especially financially, but God is truly our provider and with His provision comes peace despite the current circumstances. God provided in ways that only he could. Starting with a job that I didn't even apply for, extra checks that came in the mail that weren't expected, and with the kindness and patience of the Project Orphan's team. Was it stressful? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes, yes, yes. Satan really tried to get in the way of this trip. There were times where I wondered if God was even in it because it was causing so many problems behind the scenes, but He came through. He always does.

I felt so much peace when we landed in Kampala, Uganda. The Project Orphans' team welcomed us with open arms and it honestly felt like home rather than a strange place. I went on this trip with the expectation to see God and more importantly to give of myself to the community in Kampala, but I ended up being filled with the joy and love that fills the hearts of the Ugandan people more than I believe I gave of myself. I didn't realize how empty I truly was.

Our first day in Kampala, was a memorable one. We went from home to home performing medical check-ups on the children sponsored through Project Orphans and got a first glance on where the kids live and at the Kampala community. The poverty level in Uganda is very high and it was honestly overwhelming to behold the circumstances in which a lot of people in this country, at least in Kampala, live in, but the Project Orphans' kids were extremely taken care of. The work that this organization has done in this community has been life changing for not only the locals but to those who are a part of the organization whether it be through sponsoring kids or supporting the organization both financially and through prayer. That same day we met Ronald. He happened to fall in a ditch a few minutes before we were there which we all found rather humorous. It was such a sweet moment for my sister and I to meet him and his family. The pictures and letters that were sent to us from him perfectly depicted him and his personality. It was humbling to see the difference a few dollars a month can make on the lives of these kids and the gratitude of their parents. As a sponsor, it brought me relief and peace that Ronald was better of than I deemed and that I have been able to make a difference from miles away. The days after that consisted of big medical outreaches in both central Kampala and Pearl Village where we assisted with measuring and recording height and weight, taking blood pressure, giving out de-worming pills, and prescribing glasses. I loved serving in a way that I hadn't before. When your willing to be used by God, He uses you in ways you never thought possible. He takes you out of your comfort zone, across the world maybe, with strangers at times to show you how endless His power and love in you and for you is. He uses what you deem as incapable within yourself and equips you to do the very thing you said wasn't for you. There is nothing too hard for God or with God and sometimes it takes taking a leap of faith to witness that. 

Out of every single experience on this trip though, the one thing I loved the most was witnessing the strong sense of community. No one felt like a complete stranger, rather a fellow member. It was a glimpse of the Kingdom of God for me and what it truly means to live as one body of Christ. It was inspiring to see how their joy was rooted within themselves and not their surroundings. Everyday in Kampala was full of laughter and another measure of God's joy. From listening to the kids worship in their native language, to dancing with them in the middle of the village, to witnessing an elderly cry because she could finally see with her new glasses, to seeing some of the kids swim for the first time, and getting to know some amazing people this trip pierced my heart and I whole heartedly recommend for anyone to partner with Project Orphans in whichever way that they can. This organization is about more than just feeding children and providing them with an education, but about changing their lives, including your own, giving them a solid chance in life, and bringing glimpses of heaven on earth. Thank you Project Orphans for allowing me the opportunity to serve by your side.  

Written with love,

Maali Padro, Project Orphans Missionary & Child Sponsor

Walking Through the Doors God Opens

My last visit to Uganda was pretty intense. I know how extreme most situations are in Uganda; however, I think for the first time I witnessed first hand how many lives and families are truly dependent on Project Orphans. This was overwhelming. These families and lives we are supporting aren't just distant names we are helping overseas. They are family!

When I returned from Uganda this past week an Amber Alert went off, in the middle of the night, and out of my subconscious I screamed to Kyron, "Don't leave me. You don't know what I've seen and heard. I'm scared."

That morning, when I woke up I knew something wasn't right. I even tried to get my lashes done and literally laid down and started to weep. Thankfully, I have a close friend who is a Trauma Therapist and was able to meet with me immediately.

(Ya'll, I've never even seen a therapist and never believed I would ever need too! Who truly needs to talk through things to feel better? This concept always seemed silly to me.)

That afternoon, I walked into her office and began to cry again (literally, what is wrong withe me). I started to share with her the story of the kids who were in our program and were being extremely physically and sexually abused by their father. Hearing my children, who I love so dearly, share with the police such horrific stories made me want to throw-up and nauseous for about a week. Then having to drive to arrest the man and seeing him brought up so many emotions. (This story is entirely too long to share right now. However, we will share as we continue to move forward with pressing charges and court hearings.)

Then, I shared with her about this sweet girl named Janat Nalujja.

During my first day in Uganda, our team was hosting a medical clinic at Pearl Village. I had met a sweet girl, Nafika, who we were enrolling into our sponsorship program and I wanted to see where she lived and slept. Tom, my favorite boda driver, Stevens and I asked Nafika to take us to her home.

(Note to everyone - anytime I jump on a motorcycle and venture away from George, our Director, I always seem to find myself in a position I did not expect).

When we arrived at Nafika's home, we noticed so many children living their at her home; but my attention kept getting diverted as I would hear a faint cry. I started walking through the dark home trying to find the noise. Then I looked down and thought I saw a baby laying under a blanket. I kneeled down and uncovered her only to find a sweet, young girl extremely malnourished who was laying in filth.

Pearl Village - Janat Rescue

Poor Stevens, it was his first week with Project Orphans and I immediately told him to let the only adult in the home know we are taking the child. We cleaned her up and jumped on the boda to bring her back to the medical clinic. Holding that sweet girl on that drive to Pearl Village broke me in ways I can't even begin to put into words. She was seven-years-old and weighed less than my two-year-old daughter, Kynlee.

This past week was rough. However, there were several moments when I was extremely encouraged. For example, talk about a miracle, I randomly was put in first class on my flight to Uganda and was seated next to a person who ended up being a Duke Neurosurgeon. We spoke less than five minutes before we realized he was the doctor who helped coordinate care for Ian and Mark (two of our boys who needed brain and spine surgery). He literally was like, "Wait, what's your name?" Then typed my name in his phone and said, "Is this you?". Talk about an obvious in your face God moment!

(The conversation and God moments I shared on that eight hour flight encouraged me on so many levels. Dr. Mike spoke life over Project Orphans and lifted my spirits. I was honored to gain a lifetime friendship with a man who has the heart of the Lord and saved two lives who meant so much to our family.) 

Haley DOlive carrying Janet to a Doctor at the Medical Clinic

Well, as I shared that story with the therapist she stopped me and said, "Brit, just like you obviously see God in that moment when you were seated next to Dr. Mike - you need to see that the same God had you walk into that home and see Janet (the suffering, malnourished girl) whose grandmother needed the support of Project Orphans! He is the same God who brought those three children, who were suffering in silence and abuse for so many years, to Project Orphans - who finally gave them a voice and advocate to protect them."

It's hard to see God in the darkest times; but truly looking back on it - He shines so bright! Sometimes it can become overwhelming; but, what encouraged me was being reminded that all we can do is continue to walk through the open doors God sends us through and care for the children He puts in our path.

Project Orphans probably won't eliminate poverty, save every orphan, or change an entire country - but we will save lives. One-at-a-time. Day-by-day. And each and every life saved is worth it.

With Love, 

Brittany Stokes, Co-Founder of Project Orphans

***Our team would like to extend a special thanks to Allison Wagnon and The Gift Clozet for supporting the nutritional support and medical care for sweet Janet.

Meet Sherina

Sherina _ Project Orphans Uganda

Sherina is no ordinary girl. At seven years old, she possesses a powerful personality that is warm and captivating. She is always smiling and loves being around people. Her pure young love has made her everyone’s friend. She is the kind of girl whose beautiful smile and presence light up the room.

Before joining Project Orphans, she used to attend a nearby school in her community. However, since her mother was unemployed, she couldn’t afford to pay school fees. Sherina had to drop out of school.

Ever since Sherina joined Project Orphans, her life has tremendously changed. She has made so many new friends, learnt how to read and write as well as articulate herself proficiently. I believe the future is bright for her,” says Sherina’s mother.

Sherina attends Top Class at Kampala Academy. Her favorite subject is numbers and she loves Teacher Teddy because she teaches her numbers. Sherina wants to be a teacher when she grows up so she can teach numbers to her students.

Her best friend is called Martha because they to play dodge ball and skipping rope together.

In her free time after school, she loves reading her Bible. Her favorite Bible story is the Birth of Jesus. She also loves shading her coloring books that her sponsor gave her.

I love my sponsor so much. I want them to visit me every day so we can play together,” Sherina says with a huge smile.

When I asked what she likes most at Project Orphans, Sherina says she enjoys devotions because they sing and read story books as a family. Her favorite song is Baby Jesus.

The Power Of A Collective Impact

Often times when donations are given it comes with a message of: “I hope this truly helps and makes a difference,” or “What Project Orphans is doing is incredible and I hope I can help make a difference through my support.”

No matter the size of donation - your generosity is opening doors and helping Project Orphans further its mission of caring for the vulnerable women and children of Uganda. 

When the community who stands behind Project Orphans works together through a donation, shopping our online store, sponsoring a child or funding a specific project - the impact is immeasurable because we are collectively bringing change and making a difference. 

Over the past year your generosity has gone above and beyond. 

You attended Projects Orphans 3rd Gala and showed your support by raising the most funds we have ever raised in one night! 

You traveled and served, shared the gospel, provided medical care and served some more! 

You have sewed into the building of Suubi Home - our missions base and guest house, the residence for George and Sarah, Project Orphans Executive Directors, and also houses children (on a temporary basis) who are unable to live at their home due to an immediate danger or risk. 

Breaking Ground on Suubi Home
Suubi Home Being Built
Project Orphans Kids at Suubi Home
Ashiraf 5.png

You have provided education for now 42 children in our Education for a Nation sponsorship program, along with medical care, food and the basic necessities. You are changing their story and helping to put an end to the cycle of poverty in their families. Your kindness is helping to keep families together, as grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents now have hope that they so longed for! 

Ian Recovering from Surgery

You provided medicines for thousands, surgeries for children with hernias and provided a life saving surgery for Ian! 

You opened the gates of the Pearl Village, planted 80+ trees to help feed the local community and brought hope to an entire village - that would have never seen it otherwise. Not to mention brought employment to many allowing them to better provide for their families.

Pearl Village Party

And this doesn’t cover it all! You have travelled long hours to visit and care for the children, loved on them, provided medical care, a bed or a mosquito net!

And for those of you stateside your love has been felt all 8,000 miles away in Uganda and the smiles say it all.

Thank you for all you have done, for all you have given, for all you have sacrificed- because of you transformation is happening. The people of Uganda are being educated and empowered - their families equipped and cared for; and fewer children will fall into poverty. We look forward to walking alongside you and continuing this journey together in 2018, and the many years to come.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

- Christina Yarid, Co-Founder of Project Orphans

A Father To The Fatherless

Often times, people ask us why we are called Project Orphans - seeing that often times we also serve hundreds of people and children who aren't technically or statistically labeled 'orphaned'. In 2012, we started with the idea that we would simply build homes and provide family style orphan care for children who were completely orphaned. However, along the way we met children, women, teenagers and so many others from different walks of life and circumstances who all had this feeling of abandonment and a feeling of being 'orphaned'.

Widows and Women in Uganda

Many children may have parents, but come from an abusive home or have been abandoned to live with nearby relatives or neighbors who are also struggling. Others may have lost one parent and never knew their other parent. Women may have been abandoned by their husbands, left with several children to care for with no resources to survive. Adults would share with us how they felt alone and had no one to go to or lean on in times of despair. Whatever case it was or story they had - each person had one thing in common... they felt alone and orphaned. We call this the orphan spirit and how could we turn our hearts from them?

When we realized that we could and would continue to serve orphaned children but also not turn our backs to the 'need' of so many knocking on our door it was a bit overwhelming. However, our organization felt a weight lifted from our shoulders. Although it seemed as if we were tackling a bigger problem - it felt much better to trust that God would provide the resources needed to care for His children and that He would guide those to Project Orphans who needed us most.

A burden was lifted because we no longer carried the gravity of determining which child we would open our hearts to and which we would turn away. We realized that we would give that burden to God and open our doors to help as many children as possible - abandoned and helpless on the streets and out casted and abused by family – whether orphaned or not. We would continue to humbly help feed widows or clothe the poor because they couldn't afford the basic necessitates to live. Our organization would work to help children who needed a life-saving surgery and not let them be turned away just because his mother and father cared for him; but lacked the ability to provide the finances to cover the medical bills for their child to live. We allowed the mission of our organization to care for God's children: the widows and orphans, sick and poor, and the fatherless and broken hearted. We wanted to bring the Father's love, introduce people to the real Jesus, and provide hope to His children - all of them!

Project Orphans Van Uganda

Our organization has a statement on the side of our vehicle in Uganda and it truly describes the heartbeat of our organization. 


The only way to break this orphan spirit is for all of us to be filled with a sense of the Father’s love and understand who we are in Christ. The feeling of loneliness and abandonment may be one of the greatest curses on the earth today. Too often, we see teens, young adults and others from all walks of life taking their life because they never felt accepted or wanted. 

Slums Uganda

It will take a community of people 'adopting' children, families, widows, orphans, broken families and others hurting and feeling abandoned - to break this curse and introduce a love that does not judge and cares unconditionally, no matter what the circumstance. Only when a person is healed of fatherlessness through the love of God will the feeling of being orphaned be broken. This is when a person can begin the process of entering into an identity of being God's child.


What can you do to help advance our mission in Uganda? 

Consider sponsoring a child this holiday season. Yes, this is a huge commitment and will last longer than the holidays; but with a sponsorship of $25 or $50 per month you can 'adopt' a child who needs introduced to the Father's love and who needs a family or person to consistently encourage and love them - no matter what background they have. You can provide them with food, education, medical care, and other necessities that show them they are worthy and have a purpose. 

What can you do to help care for those who feel abandoned, lonely or orphaned in your own community? 

During the holidays, feelings of loneliness and abandonment seem to creep up the most. If you know someone in your community who lacks support of a family, comes from a broken home, may be in foster care, doesn't have a place to spend the holidays, or is simply placed on your heart - we encourage you to show them the Father's love. Invite them to holiday traditions and share with them how they are valued - no matter what their background or circumstance may be. Allow this passion to care for the orphaned long after the holidays and see how your own family will grow in strength and love. 

Surgery For Ian

A little boy, named Ian, will soon learn that he will receive a surgery that will completely change his life... And it's because of you! For almost three years, Ian has had no control of his bladder. His condition caused his father to abandon him, his friends to leave him, and ultimately made Ian drop out of school. For years, Ian has been picked on by his peers and rejected by his community. His sweet mother has worked hard selling produce on the side of the road to help fund operations and medications for Ian. However, nothing succeeded. 

Ian's Picture.jpg

In July 2017, Ian came to the gates of Project Orphans Suubi home covered in urine. He shared his condition with our Co-Founder, Brittany Stokes, and the missions team members who were staying at the house. There wasn't a dry eye in the room as Ian pleaded for someone to love him and help him find help! 

Ian, with his big smile and gentle spirit, has captured the hearts of so many people around the world and together we have worked to raise all the funds needed to cover all his medical expenses, travel and other costs we have incurred or will receive (i.e. passport, visas, x-rays, MRI, etc.). 

Over the next month - Sarah Sanger, our Project Orphans Uganda Director, will work to gather the documents needed to expedite Ian's passport, book airline tickets and make arrangements for Ian to travel with her to Tanzania. Ian's medical care and operation will take place at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre. Dr. John Bartlett, Director at Duke Global Health Institute, has been a huge key in making this all possible for Ian! 

We will share the news, that the funds have been raised for the operation, with Ian and his mother soon! In addition, we will make sure to keep you updated on Ian's journey and his recovery! Thank you to those listed below who made this all happen. We could not do it without you. 

A Special "Thank You" To Those Listed Below Who Helped Fund Ian's Operation:

  • The Mayben Family
  • The Madison Family
  • Paige Morris
  • Linette Nash
  • Brook Ninowski
  • Misty Proffitt
  • Paulette Rolston
  • Dustin Ross
  • The Smith Family (Curtis and Keira)
  • The Swope Family
  • Zach Tomlinson
  • Aaron and Kathleen Troutman
  • The Wiens Family
  • Evan Willian
  • Camp County Chiropractic
  • Duke Global Health
  • KCMC - Tanzania
  • Paige Knight Anderson
  • Jessecca Bassett 
  • Tanner Boles
  • Jennifer Buchannan
  • James Cheek
  • Haley Dolive
  • Kim Davila
  • Alicia and Tyler Dueck
  • Angela Finch Moore
  • Christine Flores 
  • Alla Fuller
  • Kendra Fulton
  • Mr. and Mrs. Gaylord
  • Kassidy and Chey Harris
  • Laurie Hazen
  • The Hendrix Family
  • John Hollingsworth
  • Jennifer Marshall

Why Short-Term Missions Make A Difference

Recently, I've read blog after blog sharing why so many people and organizations felt short-term missions trips were bad, selfish and a waste of time. These blogs and articles had titles that ranged from: "Why You Should Consider Canceling Your Short-Term Mission Trip", "Service Trip Selfishness", and "7 Reasons Why Your Two Week Trip Doesn’t Matter: Calling Bull on 'Service Trips' and Volunteerism."

Well I'm here to tell you that I disagree. I've seen firsthand the impact short-term missions trips can have. Without volunteers, missionaries and medical professionals from all ages and backgrounds - Project Orphans would not have the impact that it does today. Why do I say that? As a non-governmental organization in Uganda that seeks to serve orphans, vulnerable children, broken families, forgotten villages and so many more hurting people - short-term missions trips is one asset that makes it all possible.

Our organization and staff doesn't have time or the man power to host medical clinics that would treat thousands of people. We don't have time or the resources to give hundreds of families meals and clothing on a regular basis. We aren't equipped to build houses, paint schools, train teachers, and evangelize hut to hut.

What we are equipped to do is be there after the team goes home from a trip which has opened new doors of opportunity and new hearts willing to receive our resources which can help them change their life long-term!

We are there after teams come and bring hope to broken families. We are there after a team has helped serve thousands in a village or fund a water well - which opens hearts to allow us to begin working with the community and its leaders. We are there after a medical team leaves to follow-up with patients and continue treating them with the necessary antibiotics they need. We are there to connect people who have accepted Jesus into their heart with a church and/or disciple them as they begin a new journey with Christ. 

People say that short-term missions trips are entirely too focused on how the volunteers benefit. How is that possible? People have worked, sacrificed and fundraised for thousands of dollars to take time off work or school and leave their families to travel across the world to meet people they don't know and unselfishly serve them!

One blogger said, "The issues are pervasive after you leave. And your temporary presence may only contribute to their fears of abandonment." I would say to any person who agrees with that statement that they are then undermining the local organization or church that is committed to serve those people long-term. 

Personally, I've seen how a short-term missions trip has opened hearts to allow our organization to work within a new community. In January, Project Orphans purchased acreage in Luwero, Uganda. This land was purchased so that we could build The Pearl Village - a community that is designed to come alongside widows, orphans, and broken-families in need of a helping hand.

This village, where we purchased land, has struggled immensely. They have had to battle land thieves, watch people kill their women and children, and experience so many other problems - I can't even begin to describe. Every time I would visit this village I could feel the darkness that inhabited it. Well this past June things began to change, and that is all because a short-term medical missions team came alongside our organization to serve. 

We hosted a medical clinic for over 800 village members, fed the entire community a large feast and then shared the vision that Project Orphans planned to build on the property just next door. Do you think these people's hearts would have been open to our organization coming into their community to work without showing the people that we are there to actually serve? No. They wouldn't have been open to that. I know this first hand because we were given a cold shoulder so many times as we shared the vision with people in the community. They didn't believe we were there to actually help their people. It wasn't until a short-term missions trip served the people - that they would begin to welcome Project Orphans with open arms. 

We've had many struggles with local land thieves who have tried to combat our organization - and what has been encouraging to us is that the community and its leaders have started to step up and protect us because they know that hope is coming because they were able to see a glimpse of it in June while this missions team served them and their families. 

One author of a blog wrote, "People on such short trips usually don’t stick around long enough to realize how ineffective they are being.  In Uganda, I became used to seeing groups of young people come for week-long visits at the orphanage where I taught English. They would play with the kids, give them a bracelet or something, and then leave all-smiles, thinking they just saved Africa. I was surprised when the day after the first group left, exactly zero of the kids were wearing the bracelet they received the day prior. The voluntarists left thinking they gave the kids something they didn’t have before (and with bragging rights for life). But the kids didn’t care, because what they really wanted was school uniforms, their school fees to be paid, guaranteed meals, access to healthcare, etc. — the basics." 

I find this statement amusing and a little dramatic. I remember Sarah, our local Ugandan Executive Director, share with me that sometimes it's okay not to be so serious and to just have fun and give kids or people a memory to hang onto. Those bracelets that the team gave meant something and I guarantee that the kids weren't wearing them the next day, because they treasured them so much.

Our kids in our Education For A Nation sponsorship program get gifts all the time. From underwear, new shoes to soccer balls and dolls... they don't wear them or play with them. Why? They value them and treasure everything that has been given to them. We literally purchased our kids underwear and new shoes to play in because they would get infections in their private areas or cuts on their feet. I noticed the kids not wearing their new clothes or playing with their toys. I was very disappointed and semi frustrated... I asked, "Why are the girls not wearing their underwear or the kids not wearing their new shoes?" I was annoyed that their sponsors had been sending them things but they weren't even using them.

Soon I realized that kids were saving their underwear, clothes and new shoes for church on Sunday. Saving their underwear, clothes and shoes for church? I thought it was crazy; but when you have never had something like a pack of underwear, a baby doll, or a pack of crayons - why would you expect them to use it or treat it as something they receive on a normal basis? Just like many of those kids who received a bracelet... it was something that had value and meaning so they treasured it and didn't wear it to school where a kid could steal it or it may get dirty. 

So I say this - because Project Orphans has many upcoming short-term missions trips and our team both local and abroad want it to be known that we value the commitment and time that people make when they come oversees to help our organization in whatever capacity they are there to serve. Thank you! 

We encourage you to do these things or think this way - when you go on a short-term trip with Project Orphans or whoever you might serve with:

  1. Take photos with the kids you impacted and that made an impression on you - and post them all over social media. You aren't selfish. You aren't exploiting a time that you had while you cared for a poor orphan. You are sharing a moment that impacted your life and I guarantee that child! Plus, you are showing how lives can be touched and encouraging your followers to do the same. So post away! 
  2. Visit orphanages and slums and don't let anyone tell you that you are turning them into tourist attractions. Without volunteers like you - those kids may not get a meal that week. They may not get a new pair of shoes or be treated for an infection they are battling. The kids in the orphanage may not ever hear how beautiful they are or get one-on-one attention from some person who just came to play with them for a day! It's okay to step into someones life for a moment and bring hope or joy. Plus, that moment may one day move you to start an organization or fund a project that could be life changing for thousands. 
  3. Don't feel bad raising money to support your trip to serve! People may say - it's a waste of money and "how thousands of dollars is spent to get to these nations which could be money donated to feed an entire community for a longtime or pay a local doctor's yearly salary." You have every right to go and see the people that need help. Most of our missionaries often become our largest sponsors. It's because they see the difference we are making and the impact funding a project or sponsoring a child can have!
  4. Never feel you don't have the skills to serve. Every person is valuable. Whether you can help carry a new bed for an elderly woman who has been sleeping on the floor and is fighting back pain, you can pray for someone and bring them Jesus, or you are an amazing organizer and want to sort donations - everyone is needed and everyone is valued. 

I will end this blog with a brief story from a trip I led to Guatemala a few years ago. A short-term missions team had come to visit three homes which we had built for families to raise orphaned children in Zacapa, Guatemala. During the trip we hosted a local outreach in a village not to far from the homes. At the local village the team ministered the gospel, provided produce for the families to take home and played with the local kids. We were getting ready to pack up when a younger man came to me and shared how his mother was in her home and was to weak to come to the outreach. He begged for me to come. So I asked the youth pastor, Kassidy, who was on the team and our translator to walk down with me to this ladies home. When we reached the "home" she lived we realized how frail and sick she was. She explained to us that she was dying and had called for the priest to come visit her before she passed. She was very upset that no one had come and that she was afraid she would die before seeing the priest. 

In that moment, I shared with this sweet but very sick lady that we did not know how to find the village priest but that we had someone who had traveled all the way from America to meet her. I explained how Kassidy was a pastor from Texas. How he loved Jesus and that he came on this trip to meet her and pray for her before she got to see Jesus in heaven. Tears filled her eyes and she smiled. An overwhelming sense of peace filled the wood-tin structure. Kassidy prayed for her and shared how she had nothing to be afraid of. He told her how God couldn't wait to hold her in heaven and how precious she meant to Him. 

That moment saved that women's life. She could pass away knowing that Jesus was with her and cared so much about her. It was a short-term missions trip that God used a youth-pastor from Texas to change someone's life. That moment had nothing to do with our organization or the programs we established and the staff we work with. It had everything to do with someone being obedient to sign-up for a short-term missions trip then raise funds and take time away from his family to travel to a country where he was open to serve.