Tomorrow's Helpers Today | Orphan Helpers, EO South East Virginia
Updated: Apr 7
The intersection of hope and help often leads to some of the best work possible. In the case of Orphan Helpers the mission to help abandoned children was born out of a sense of compassion and faith, coupled with the dedication to affect positive change for those society may have forgotten. The foundation’s founder Gregg Garrett’s faith was what led him to look to help children in El Salvador and Honduras, building in earnest a model that has grown over the years.
Back in the year 2000, Greg Garett was online researching cruises to take with his wife Libby on for their anniversary. He instead found himself looking up orphanages and orphans he and his wife could help, pivoting towards a trip to Central America. Electing to take a trip to El Salvador over the cushy cruise, he and his wife found a church near their hotel where their journey would begin. Their journey took them to a century-old orphanage with 250 children being cared for by only six adults. In that moment, Greg and Libby knew that help was going to have to come from them. After three months, they returned with fifteen friends to help their first orphanage. This laid down the foundation for what would become Orphan Helpers in time.
Today, the model of Orphan Helpers has developed, scaled, and grown to become a real force for change. The name Orphan Helpers however can be misleading nowadays, especially since their efforts have expanded to helping abandoned children and incarcerated youth in similar government institutions. A lot of young people in Honduras and El Salvador are getting chance to realize their best selves through Orphan Helpers’ assistance. The organization partners with the national governments of these two countries as a multi-denominational partner, delivering services that are both faith-oriented and forward thinking. Across Central America, too many children suffer from the ails of a broken society. With the prevalence of gang activity, drug trade, and armed conflict have made it difficult for children to grow up under what many of us consider normal circumstances. State custody for these children is nowhere close to an ideal way to live, let alone a place to thrive. Where Orphan Helpers comes in is that they ensure that the children in those facilities have a chance to experience a loving, nurturing environment. Orphan Helpers provides them with a number of services with a Christian evangelism at their heart. The organization employs in-country partner staff who focus on the aspects of discipleship, leading up to vocational training workshops, mentoring and counseling for everyone, alongside faith-based material. In terms of educational offerings, grade-school level classes in reading, writing, and math; workshops are held occasionally for life skills and leadership. All of these are done through what they call Success Academies, where the students work on improvement projects within the facilities they are in, and surrounding communities.
Where Orphan Helpers has succeeded most clearly is by giving dignity to those that may be forgotten by society. Their Success Academy system has, over the past three years, graduated 301 students, with 340 currently enrolled until the end of the 2019 school year across their 9 total academies. Many of their graduates have found success outside of institutional life, setting themselves up for a hopeful future, with much of their work documented on their Vimeo page, featuring testimonials from their success stories. It has come to the point that the Supreme Court of Honduras issued a statement, applauding the work that Orphan Helpers has done, saying that “Orphan Helpers is declared a subject matter expert in the fields of reinsertion and rehabilitation, both educational and spiritual, and can stay in the juvenile detention centers as they deem convenient, regardless of the administration that is ruling the center.”
Before graduating, students of the Academy complete a life plan to try and map out their own futures. The strong faith of the teachers and program partners energizes these kids to graduate not only academically, but also from institutionalization with a positive mindset. This unquantifiable hope, that shift that occurs through faith-based education that the Academy graduates leave with arms them to face the realities of the world. It’s not only about skills training, but also the spiritual growth of these orphans that makes the program work. For some, that is all the difference in the world. The prevailing hope of those who work with the Academy is that the orphans that benefit today can be the helpers of tomorrow. It sounds like a brighter tomorrow that we can all look forward to, especially for the kids who have earned it.
If you want to support the cause of Orphan Helpers, you can connect with them directly on their website. Stay updated with their activities, particularly all of their outreach work on their Facebook page.