The good work of Good Shepherd Homes: Part One

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It had been 9 months since we last visited Good Shepherd Homes, one of the children’s residential projects that we partner with as Business for Orphans. Good Shepherd homes first opened 18 years ago and now has 6 homes serving nearly 100 children!

It is always a delight to visit these children: to hear the personal stories of impact, to witness the growth not only physically, but on all levels – mentally, emotionally and spiritually! Since our last visit, one major change to the Pune location of GSH is the addition of this little man: meet Lakesh.

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Five years ago, Lakesh was born in the red light district – in the heart of Pune city – to his mother who is working as a prostitute. Her home is a room large enough for a single bed and a small gas stove. She lives and works in this room. It probably goes without saying, but it is no place for a child to grow up. Nearly one year ago, Lakesh was brought to Good Shepherd Homes and is now incredibly well adjusted and thriving in his new home environment.

At the beginning of his transition to GSH, Lakesh was still suffering post-traumatic-stress from his earliest years, that he couldn’t enter into any room alone. Even going to the toilet with the door closed stirred up fear. Over time, he’s witnessed – through the fellow children, his house parents and the wonderful staff of GSH – the love and presence of Jesus in his life. He invites Jesus to come with him to the bathroom and knows that he’s not alone anymore.

From the time that we spent with the kids at GSH, it’s obvious that Lakesh is the most beloved boy in this house full of girls! He loves having so many older sisters to look out for him and is the center of attention! Yet the care and love he is receiving from these girls is just a testimony to the care all of the kids are receiving at GSH.

What is unique about GSH to other residential children’s projects is the size and ratio of staff to children. GSH has a maximum of 6 children per house parent. Generally 12 children maximum per home. It is a costlier form of care because it requires more money to pay for the addition staff and space. However the fruit of this model is obvious: these children are receiving personal attention and care that is more closely resembling a natural family model. Every child needs and deserves personal love and attention for their growth and healthy development. The affects are obvious: these children are so well-adjusted, well-behaved,  able to give and receive love, and are succeeding in school.

There is so much more to tell about the work of Good Shepherd Homes…

To be continued in the next days…

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Happy International Women’s Day

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Happy Women’s Day!

We’re so thankful for the opportunities we have as Business for Orphans to be investing in the lives of women in India!

Nicholas Kristof from the New York Times just tweeted: “On Int’l Women’s Day, remember that 100 million young women can’t read a single sentence, because of lack of education for girls.”

Many women and girls are still incredibly marginalized around the world: Shut off from an  education, job opportunities, and left to remain in the cycle of poverty. In this vulnerable place women in poverty are at high risk for being trafficked and sold into sexual slavery.

Through Business for Orphans’ jewelry businesses we employ young women, who grew up in children’s homes, opportunities to learn new skills and prepare for a better future. We also provide work opportunities for survivors of trafficking and destitute women from poor rural villages in India.  Small enterprises and economic support are one step towards freedom for these women!

We hope today is only a reminder of the respect and worth and value we should be showing women of every color, nation, and background. Here’s to another year of more opportunity for women!


Wilson and the willing women

There was an energy and life in the room. Everyone dressed in their brightest and finest of colors and patterns.  A sense of eagerness and anticipation filled the air…

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The only man pictured in the photo above is Wilson. On a monthly basis he meets with the leaders of about 25 self-help groups, which in total add up to about 345 women, all of whom come from dire situations of poverty in the Tamil Nadu region of India. Each of these groups of 12 – 15 women come together on a regular basis to encourage one another in the running of their own businesses and each take part in a collective micro-loan which allows them to get the business off the ground. Wilson provides coaching and training for the leaders and can act as a sounding board for wisdom with challenges that arise along the way. The women love to meet together…

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These self-help groups have an incredible success rate. Women are able to start supporting themselves and their families, pay back the loans they’ve taken out, and from the collective fund begin hiring and supporting other women in need!

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The women involved in these groups have started many different kinds of businesses – becoming seamstresses, embroiderers, organic vegetable farmers, and even leather-crafters. Business for Orphans has also provided job opportunities through our jewelry business called Dignata. We provide the designs, supplies, and training for the women. Through the jewelry that is made and sold we are able to provide salaries for the women to be self-supported. IMG_5659 copyIMG_5531 copy

It was such a beautiful experience to be able to join with Wilson in visiting the women’s group leaders, as well as provide skill training for new trainees and new designs for those who have already been employed in the work over the last few years. They were so attentive to James’ directives and many new women (more than we had anticipated) were eager to learn the skills. People often think that people living in poverty are lazy…but the thing is, they are just waiting for opportunities to work – to get their hands busy; They are longing to see the fruit of their own work. Poverty goes much much deeper – many find themselves caught in a system of brokenness that has been at work long before these women were even born…

“Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings”

- When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

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The concept of these self help groups is an incredibly dignifying and holistic way of addressing the issue of poverty. The women are not given handouts which might help in the moment but are quickly dried up and not solving the underlying problems. Instead they are empowered to work and provide for themselves through skill training, loans, as well as the emotional and social support and encouragement of their fellow group members. There is something powerful that happens when the group takes ownership, not only for their own lives, but for the well being of all the women involved.

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Although we are nowhere near solving the issue of poverty -  BFO is taking steps to bring more peace and shalom. How we love seeing smiles such as these: smiles are signs of joy, dignity and wholeness being restored!

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Do not despise small beginnings…

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In the last couple days we’ve held two brainstorming sessions with Freddy – the director of Life Springs water business… There’s something refreshing about seeing each other in real-life conversations after 6 months of only connecting via Skype. Encouragement is all the sweeter and challenge goes all the deeper.

Freddy is new to managing a business – and has faced challenges like any new business owner in the last half a year. But he has the vision to see greater things. His dream is to see his children’s home Rescue and Restore fully funded through Life Springs. There may very well come a day when international relations are strained to the point that foreign funding and gifts no longer possible to send or receive. Or what happens to the kids when the funding drys up? Freddy wants a more local and reliable way to see this home sustained.

In order to see this business thrive – transportation costs need to cut in half in order to deliver the water to customers. We’re still hoping to provide a small used truck for him, but the funding hasn’t come in – However, we haven’t lost hope and believe there is a way before we leave India.

Giving to businesses like Freddy’s is like making a mustard seed investment. A mustard seed is so small – it doesn’t seem to be of any significance or impact. But that investment “… is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” That seed is not something that returns empty: It grows into something much greater than it’s small beginning – even becoming a place of rest and refuge for others.

We believe that investing in this business now will have a much greater return in the future. We may not see the return immediately – but in time it becomes something beyond what we could’ve imagined. We won’t despise these small beginnings…

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What is the Answer to Begging?

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We spent this morning visiting one of the areas hit by the devastating Tsunami of 2004 - Marina Beach where hundreds of thousands of lives were lost. Ten years have passed, but the weight of the tragedy still seems to hang in the air. We took a moment to pause: reflecting on what happened and praying for those still impacted to this day. As we stood there, people began to gather around us…

We were like magnets for beggars. It started with a man with one leg, he made his way to us on the sand, walking with crutches. We prayed for him and gave him enough money for a good meal. Then the children came, along with their little monkeys drawn on a leash.  The only English word that seemed to come from their mouth was ‘Money! Money! Money!’ and then they would point to their hands to their mouths as though needing something to eat. Rather then giving children cash,  we found some food to buy instead (as they persisted in following us across the beach). Yet they refused and didn’t want to take it… The thing is, these children are just puppets for someone else. They beg and beg in order to give the money to whomever has control over them. Giving them some small change doesn’t help the issue, but feeds into the cycle of begging all the more.

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It was heart wrenching to come face-to-face with these children: seeing the reality of their lives – living and begging off the streets. It’s even more difficult to walk away from them, leaving them still empty handed and feeling powerless to do anything.

But then I realized something – that’s exactly what we’re doing with Business for Orphans. The reality of these children’s situation is complex and cannot be fixed with simply giving them what they’re being forced to ask for. It requires much more investment, time, and wisdom to solve these complex societal problems…

Late this afternoon we visited the children’s home Rescue and Restore. Some of the children who’ve been rescued were actually survivors of the Tsunami. They too could have been left for begging on the beaches, but Freddy and Daisy were courageous enough to intervene and provide the care and investment that they needed.

IMG_5318 copyWe’re incredibly honored to be a partner in supporting the work of Rescue and Restore - a children’s home which we aim to see financially sustained through the water business. Seeing these kids thriving and healthy in their loving home environment brought so much hope after this morning, where we had been left overwhelmed by the need.

While we may have left some children on the beach today, Rescue and Restore has interrupted the cycle and made a difference in the lives of these children. It’s reminiscent of  story, which is told time and again. It’s the story of a boy who walked along a beach throwing starfish (which had washed up to shore after a storm) back into the ocean. An old man came by and told the boy “…there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.” And the boy replied while throwing another as far as he could out into the ocean:

“It made a difference to that one!”

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We’re heading back to India

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In just 3 days the Business for Orphans team is flying to Mumbai, along with two others who are joining with us for their first look at the work of BFO.

We’re incredibly excited to return to this country – A land of great contrasts and contradictions: the delight of tasting authentic curries and the disgust of pungent smells of sewer water; to hear the distinct voices singing along with the rhythmic beats on the radio and the loud smattering of beeping horns in traffic; to encounter the weight of the poor and broken on the streets and the wonder of the lovely smiles of the people. It is an experience of color, chaos, and extremes…

Speaking of contrasts: Mumbai, the capital of India, has been ranked sixth among top ten global cities on the billionaire count, and seventh in the list of “Top Ten Cities for Billionaires” by Forbes magazine (March 2013) Mumbai is the third most expensive office market in the world, and was ranked among the fastest cities in the country for business startups in 2009. And yet, widespread poverty and unemployment are rampant in Mumbai with Dharavi, Asia’s second largest slum, housing between 800,000 to one million people in 2.39 square kilometers (0.92 sq mi), making it one of the most densely populated areas on earth.

These slum areas are full of children who often have little or no hope of an education, plagued with disease, and are often forced to work in order to survive. Many of the children living in the homes connected to BFO have come from slum areas of Pune and Chennai, but also from Mumbai.

And these children are the true reason why we are returning to India. We’re heading back to visit the businesses which we’ve invested in to provide more long-term funding for the children’s homes, so that more kids can be rescued from the slums and off the streets.

We’d love for you to join along with us on our journey- we will be posting daily to our blog and twitter account with pictures and thoughts of our encounters along the way. Be sure to check back regularly!

Christmas Cards 2013

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About the card designs:


The artist’s name is Komal. His favorite subject is Geography. His dream is to become a doctor, a teacher, or to serve the Lord one day.


The artist’s name is Monica. Her favorite subject is Math. She dreams of becoming a professional sports player when she grows up.

Nativity Scene

The artist’s name is Shravani. She is very bright in her studies. She and her sibling Yash are both HIV infected and are orphans.

Kids in snow

The artist’s name is Vijaya. Her favorite subject is English. She dreams of becoming a psychologist.


The artist’s name is Enelarebecca. Her favorite subject is English. She dreams of becoming a software engineer.

All of the children are currently living in Children’s Homes in Pune, India which we support through Business for Orphans. All proceeds from the cards go towards providing Christmas gifts for these children.

One box of cards has 3 of each of these 5 designs with a total of 15 cards per box.

Cards can be ordered by emailing us at

Sun setting over India.

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Sun setting over India. 

Our time here is coming to a close. Time to say goodbye to everything messy and lovely in India, and all the wonderful people in-between.

It’s been such a crazy trip… as I just wrote to a friend:

It truly feels like one of those life changing times. Things are changing, moving, I’m not going to be the same after this…”

We leave today from Chennai back to Mumbai. And then we have a late flight out of Mumbai at 12:30 AM back to Amsterdam! While our real-time visit is nearing it’s end – there are still so many stories, people, and dreams left to be shared with you. 

Stay tuned-in to the blog the coming days (weeks even!) for more impressions from the journey. 

Indian train ride

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A visit to India is not complete without a ride on the train.

Crowded. People. Everywhere. No personal space. Everyone is together; There’s something magical about this.

The mass of people make their way to the platforms. Women pick the trash off the tracks until they hear the train’s approaching. People stand at the open door – ready to make their quick exit. The mass crowds onto the train car – inching their way to the nearest handhold.

As I took a few photos of my impressions – one boy stood up in the corner, raising his hand, and motioning that he wanted his photo to be taken. He might be hard to spot at first, as I’ve been left to a fixed lens on this trip and have no way of zooming-in to my subject… However the light gleams perfectly on his face – his eyes alit with wonder as he is the star of the show now.

I can be quite sensitive to taking pictures of people I don’t know – but I’ve found that many here are delighted to be the chosen subject of a complete stranger (well, perhaps white westerner with a big camera is more like it…) It’s quite special to have the opportunity to enter into people’s worlds and meet face-to-face for a moment in time through the lens.

As people exited one-by-one with each approaching stop, I made my way to an empty seat, which happened to be next to the family of the boy who wanted his photo taken. This Hindu family was a delight to meet. Their daughter having some form of disability, made me wonder how she, and the family as a whole, are looked upon by their surrounding community. As a Hindu, it is the belief that this disability was brought to them by some bad karma, most likely through the wrong doing of the parents. They are shamed and often parents choose to rid themselves of the disabled so as not to be ridiculed.

But this family was different. The mother lovingly looked after her daughter, wiping the drool forming around her mouth…they smiled and were grateful that I would pay attention to her. Commenting on her beautiful bangle bracelets and dress. They were delighted for me to take a picture of her too.

There’s something about being on the train that brings a closeness. Forced into each other’s spaces…friendly exchanges of smiles and attempts at speaking to try and understand through some common words – but mostly through catching eyes and getting glimpses into one another’s souls.

Life Springs

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A couple days ago we had the opportunity to visit one of the most recent startups with BFO Life Springs – a water bottling business!

Freddy’s dream is to reach people with one of life’s basic needs: water. But he’s doing it differently. He wants to offer high quality purified and good tasting water at low cost. But his vision goes beyond the customer. He’s also employing people from the slums at a fair wage –  the same slums where many of the children have been rescued and brought to their children’s home. It doesn’t end there. Proceeds from the profits go towards the orphanage! This is what BFO is all about.

It’s been exciting to see the process from start to finish. We were brought into the water bottling plant through the side door, as all the water plants have been shut down by the government over the last days for testing after a scandal had recently surfaced. We saw the product from start to finish: From borehole, to water tanks, through the sand filtering systems and reverse osmosis purification, mineral additive, cleaning of the recycled bottles, filling, and of course, the final touch of the cap and seal!

As of today – the good news broke that the water plants are allowed to re-open and tomorrow will be the first selling day for Life Springs at five different distributing locations!

Christian, James, and I rolled up our sleeves late this afternoon and labeled 500 bottles, made ready for filling! Maybe this is TMI but we were literally dripping with sweat after we finished. The heat has been intense this week – but I think we were all grateful to get dirty with our partners in this new business.

As I write this, at nearly one in the morning, James and Freddy are still out at the water plant – filling those 500 bottles to be ready for tomorrow’s selling!

Last visit to a children’s home

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The last visit to a children’s home on our whirlwind tour…

This orphanage was started by Freddy and Daisy more than 10 years ago – over 2000 children have come through their doors since they opened!

We only spent a few hours with these kids – bringing some cheer with bubbles, baseball, and stickers. The fun only lasts for a short time and then the reality starts to sink in again with the daily routines…

My heart got attached quickly. Especially to this little guy – Chandru. He was brought to the home from the slums just two years ago and has needed a lot of attention due to his rough beginnings – abandoned by his father, abused by his step-father, and used by his own grandmother as a ploy to beg for money on the streets. She would put alcohol in his milk causing him to sleep longer, subdued so as not to disturb opportunities for money making.

It wasn’t long before Chandru reached his arms up to me, knowing I wouldn’t resist his plea to be held. Once I picked him up, he wouldn’t let me put him down again… up the stairs, down the stairs, spinning in circles, a tug this way, a pull that way… he knew how to get himself around with me as his personal chariot.

As James put it to me yesterday – every bit of time we spend with these kids – if even for 15 minutes, we are showing them the love and attention that they long for. The fact that they now have a home and good care was once unthinkable in their circumstances, but these kids were meant to have one dad and one mom who love them… and hold them for hours.

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Visiting the children’s home of Dr. Lalita.

All of these children are HIV positive.

I went home from this visit a wreck. Something about seeing children left me broken. It’s just not fair. It’s not the way it was meant to be. These children have been abandoned by their parents and left with terrible future prospects. No child should have to face such a world.

It gives some hope to know that there are people like Dr. Lalita who are taking them in – providing a home, a community, education, and needed care for a better life. But what about all the thousands, perhaps even millions of others? Who will care for them? Dr. Lalita is seventy-four. Who will follow in her footsteps after she’s gone?

Children’s home Hope of Glory






We visited the new grounds for the children’s home Hope of Glory just outside Pune. Joy (pictured with James above) is the director of this orphanage. He shared with us the story of how they decided where to drill the borehole. They are surrounded by Hindu landowners, even a temple is being built within meters walk from their property. Hills can be seen just in the distance and are the home of an idol depicting the god of water.

The people in the area encouraged them to go and find favor with the god of water in order to successfully drill the borehole – but Joy refused. Instead, he told the children to pray. One of the kids even took a stone and laid it in the corner of the grounds – “This is where we will drill the borehole! This stone marks the spot!” Joy laughed, “Not even I have enough faith for this, but let’s do it – Let’s start drilling right where the stone has been laid.” Already within 80 feet – water bursted forth from the ground. He told them to keep drilling. At 150 feet – more water came out. He wanted more, even though he was told it was pointless to keep drilling – and at 250 feet the water kept pouring out the entire day. The people in the area were amazed by this.

We pray that this orphanage will be like a light on a hill that cannot be hidden. There are 33 million gods in India – but who is a God like ours who is a Father to the fatherless and sets the lonely in families. We have a God who is near to the lowly and forgotten of this earth.

Joy is a man who is set apart from many in the Indian culture. He doesn’t give in to bribes. He doesn’t cheat the system. And this is partly why the building and development of these new grounds go slowly. Yet he patiently waits, in order to go about things in a right way, standing against the corruption that so rampantly controls society. In the end it’s the destitute, the least of these who are most hurt by this broken system because they are unable to pay up to those who have the control.

Join us in prayer as we ask for more provision for Joy. He desires to buy more land in order to move his family to live in front of the orphanage’s property and for all the building regulations to be approved in God’s perfect timing.

It is people like Joy, a man who is full of integrity, that BFO is looking to partner with in their work to bring transformation to the lowest of society.




Asha warmed herself immediately to my heart when she started telling me jokes. “I’m full of jokes… Want to hear another one?” And again… “Want to hear another one?” And again and again… I was a captive audience. I couldn’t move as my arm was a blank canvas for Rebecca’s Henna paint. Then Asha started rattling off verses she had memorized word for word… “I’m full of verses” – “I’m full of stories” – “I have so many testimonies of God working” … “God spared my life 4 times!” …

Just yesterday she had been swimming deep down in the pool – she had stayed below for too long  but someone noticed she had been gone missing and dove down in after her…”if He would spare my life four times I know He has a great plan for my life…”

What if we all had this mindset? This kind of confidence that God has a great plan for our lives? Asha was rescued from the slums in Pune when she was only three-years-old, just after her mother had died of AIDS. Asha cried for three days straight after she was brought to the children’s home …”but I don’t cry anymore – There is never a reason to cry because God is always good – He always hears when I call to Him. Even if He didn’t answer me, I will keep praising Him for He is good!” This now 10-year-old orphan girl is preaching it! I’m humbled as she speaks. Perhaps her words seems cliche or like empty phrases, but I believe she’s speaking from her heart. She’s experienced His redeeming hand as real and active in her life.

Asha is a living example of the beautiful things happening through Good Shepherd Homes in Pune. These children are the fruit of all the time, money, investment of those who work with GSH – the houseparents, the director (like Binu himself), and the people who invest time and money into these homes so they can continue. Business for Orphans wants to sustain this work through businesses.

Asha’s dream is to become a teacher one day – she wants to rescue more children from living on the streets. Her dream is to do for other children what she herself has experienced through GSH.

Before I left she asked that I would pray for her. Her request for prayer was for God to give her friends at school. How this breaks my heart! Such a beautiful and bright girl has such a deep need for intimacy – for friendship – just like we all do! Sometimes it’s easy to just think of orphans’ needs as basic bodily needs – clean water, food, education… but one of the deepest human needs is relationship.

This is just one of the reasons that I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to meet these children face-to-face. I’m thankful that I could be Asha’s friend for the day and laugh at her silly jokes.

Dr. Lalita

Dr. Lalita

This picture doesn’t quite do justice – Dr. Lalita is one of the most inspiring and radiant women I have ever met. She’s worked alongside the world’s most destitute and ostracized people in the world – children and prostitutes with HIV and AIDS as well as focusing her attention to the transvestite community of the red light district of Pune. She’s full of stories, full of life, heart full to the brim and overflowing – I feel so blessed to have met her today. There is much left to share, but one thing she asked for us to pray I leave with you now:

“Pray for miracles – pray that the children in our home will be healed of HIV…”

Her life is a living testimony of one of my favorite verses:

If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a well-watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

Isaiah 58:10-11


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Rebecca is one of the girls living at Good Shepherd Homes. She taught herself how to do Henna – she draws and then creates her own Henna designs! It was so beautiful to watch this intricate design unfolding – she was so concentrated and focused for hours. It was an honor to sit with her and just be with her as she demonstrated her ability to me. The girls crowded around as she worked. We talked about girly things – like our desires to be married one day…

Now I wear the mark of her art.

So what’s this all about?

So why are we in India? (You may be asking yourself) … or who is ‘Business for Orphans’ anyway? The short version of the story goes like this:

It all started a few years back when Streams of Mercy invited James to go on a trip to India for the first time… He and the team wanted to do something nice, so he took a bus load of street kids to a water park for a day – half of these kids on the streets had formerly lived in an orphanage – fed daily, with a place to sleep, and a school to attend… but it all ended when the funding ran out. The kids went back on the streets.

Encountering those kids that day, meeting them face to face, knowing their names… James could no longer return to his hotel room comfortably that night.

Poverty is no longer an elusive word once you meet a living breathing human being, not too different from you or me. Not too different from your own children who also need loving care, community, a place to learn and grow and become who they were made to be.

Business for Orphans was birthed out of a desire to see that these kids would stay off the streets – for good. James and Shannon came alongside those involved in caring for these orphans – whose desire is to see these children thriving – and provide sustainable means for them to continue in the work that they do through starting small businesses.

The ideas come from the people and are run by the people. We just provide the means to put these ideas into reality.

Christian and I are along for the ride because we’re excited about what they do. We want to see what’s going on – meet the people involved – the orphanage directors, the children – and see how we can be a part of the journey with them.