How KC-Based Global Orphan Project Is Giving Hope to Children

Kansas City-based orphanage ministry improves the lives of children locally, nationally and worldwide.



 

   Living a life of comfort and privilege, Mike and Beth Fox never dreamed that one day they would be advocating for millions of orphaned and abandoned children throughout the world. But their Kansas City-based Global Orphan Project does just that.

   After spending the better part of 25 years in various ventures, mostly in the propane gas industry, Mike went to Thailand in 2003 and went home a changed man. After meeting children in need there, he talked with Beth and the Parkville couple soon decided to dedicate their lives to helping these children. With that goal, in 2004 Mike visited Haiti and in 2005 Beth joined him on a return trip there. That same year, their orphanage ministry that began in 2003 received nonprofit status.

   Parents to five grown children and grandparents to 18, the Foxes could have taken an easier route in life.

   “We retired at a fairly young age, and we did the golf and the boats and the homes, and we just realized that’s really not what it’s all about,” Beth says. “Then we were exposed to these little children and realized there was a lot more to do in the world than play golf.”

   “We don’t pretend to have the solution or all the answers for the needs of these kids,” Mike adds, “but we know that we’ve been called in a way to serve them, and we’re just answering that call.”

   It seems the first lives transformed were not hurting children a world away, but their very own.

  

 

 

 Partnering with Churches

   To do its ministry, the Global Orphan Project, or GO Project, depends on partnering with churches throughout the world. More than 100 churches participate globally and some 1,400 participate domestically by caring for orphans or children in need through money donated to GO Project. When people donate financially, 100 percent of the money is given directly to the care of the children. GO Project’s “Founders’ Circle,” comprising businesses, families and individuals, pay for all the operating expenses.

   “When you give a dollar to go to Haiti, I can tell you that dollar went to Haiti,” Beth says.

   It’s all about empowering local churches to care for local children in crisis.

   “We found early on that if you just keep on throwing money at it, it’s not going to be sustainable, and it also doesn’t add value to the local indigenous church,” Mike says. “We want these kids who come into the care of that particular facility to understand that it’s through the local church. So in a way, we’re just a conduit to make that happen. What we do is try to find the best-case practices around the world and see if we can’t make that home or that facility for those kids as good as it can be.”

   GO Project serves children globally with an emphasis on Haiti, the Dominican Republic, East Africa and India. The public is invited to come on one of its 35 annual trips to these third-world countries to experience firsthand how these children live, eat, sleep and play. So far, about 3,000 Kansas Citians have made these trips.

   “You would guess that you would leave Haiti feeling sorry for these children and feeling like it’s going to really break your heart in leaving them behind,” Beth says. “But they have so much joy and so much energy that you leave filled up. They are joyful, yet they have nothing. They don’t have joy in stuff. It’s a very humbling experience.”

   Stefanie Kelley has gone to Haiti three times with students or families from her church, Colonial Presbyterian, in Prairie Village. Each time, she has come back a changed woman.

   “It’s not really a mission trip,” she says. “It’s really a vision trip. It definitely changed my lens on how we provide care and how we live in community. You might not know the language, but you speak the same language in the heart. It’s just a phenomenal experience.”

   GO Project serves children in the Kansas City area and throughout the United States through CarePortal, its fastest-growing ministry.

 

   CarePortal

   CarePortal, launched almost three years ago, is about being willing to receive an email. Here’s how it works: Child welfare workers uncover the needs of area children in foster care and families in need and bring them to the attention of churches, giving them a real-time opportunity to respond. Participating churches in the network ask their members if they would like to receive an email that details what a family near them needs in order to keep the family intact. Whether the need is for a crib or money for a car payment so a parent can get to work, it’s all in an effort to create what the Foxes call “orphan-prevention.”

   Beth Faber is the point person for the CarePortal at Fellowship Bible Church in Gardner. She enjoys engaging with congregation members, social workers and families who are helped through the program. Email requests range from helping financially with utility bills to keep a biological family together, to helping support foster families with everyday care items, to helping families that were separated from their children for one reason or another to reintegrate as a family unit again.

   “The personal goal that I had when I got involved in this is that I want to make sure the families know that regardless of their circumstances, they’re seen, they’re heard and they’re loved, and it’s because they’re worthy of that,” Faber says. “You don’t have to leave your community, or even your neighborhood, to find these people. They’re kids my kids go to school with right here in my neighborhood. It’s really good to get that sense of community.”

    CarePortal is now in 14 states, with 1,400 churches signed up. But the Foxes hope those numbers grow with even more churches becoming involved.

   “I believe this CarePortal, when given the proper amount of fuel, is going to rewrite the foster care system,” Mike says. “It’s going to change the way the foster care system functions nationally.”

 

 

   How T-shirts Help

   An important part of the ministry involves, of all things, T-shirts. The ministry uses the simple garments as connecting links between buyers and makers who join forces in commerce to care for kids.

  As the marketplace arm of GO Project called GOEX, workers in Haiti or Kansas City are paid a living wage to break the orphan cycle through the dignity of work. Youth who age out of orphan care are trained to make the shirts, which are printed in Kansas City and sold to businesses, churches, groups or individuals. According to its 2016 Annual Report, GOEX has created 131 jobs in Haiti and Kansas City, resulting in $1.6 million in sales.

   “They make it, we sell it,” Mike says. “Why do we have this for-profit business? The real reason is we want to create an enterprise, a business enterprise that is wildly successful from a profit standpoint, of which the profits are then given back to the ministry to help the kids who actually have to be in an orphanage. The other side of it is we want to employ as many people in third-world countries as we possibly can to give them a living wage so that they can have the resources to care for their own family.”

   “If you have a job,” Beth adds, “you’re less likely to give your child up. Our goal is to stop this crazy cycle.”

   For more information, visit goproject.org.