orphan care

Our Trip To Africa Last Month #31Days2016

Hello!

Hope you are still having a wonderful Christmas break! We wanted to tell you a bit about our trip to Africa last month. When you travel abroad, there is so much to take in…it’s kind of nice to have a few weeks to process…to let it all soak in…and to see what memories and experiences are still brimming up and over your heart & mind after some time has passed.

Our main objective was to go up to the HOHA home in Zimbabwe and hang out with the kids up there. We didn’t have a building project this time…we simply went to have face-to-face time with the kids. Most of these kids have been at the house for almost 3 years and this marked our 3rd trip up there. These kids are all at the house permanently. The laws in their country do not allow adoption, so once they arrive, this is their forever home. We have built relationships with these kids and so our main objective is to keep up our end of our promise when we leave which is: “We’ll see you again! Until next time. See you soon.” They make it easy for us to keep...they are pure joy.

During this visit, we spent most of the time playing games, reading, doing puzzles, jumping rope, riding bikes, singing and eating some sugary treats! We thought we’d share some memories and highlights…and of course LOADS of pics because their little faces will make your heart skip a beat. Note: some of these memories are random and fun…some are more serious…we just want to give you a realistic view of our time there: 

  • When we landed, it was just as torrential rains started to hit the area. We are talking MAJOR FLOODING. It was crazy. We were waiting for Kate’s dad to pick us up from the airport but he couldn’t leave the grocery store he was in because of ALL OF THE WATER. Water was coming in the airport. We were waiting for the elevators and when the elevator doors opened, about 5 inches of water came rushing out of the doors. YIKES. We took the stairs. Thankfully the rain subsided and Kate’s dad made it safely to pick us up! Nothing like hitting the ground with a bit of excitement. 
This is a small glimpse of the flooding...and also that's the grocery store Bill was trapped in!

This is a small glimpse of the flooding...and also that's the grocery store Bill was trapped in!

  • It’s a 4 hour drive to the border and then an unknown time to cross the border...then about 3 hours past the border. We had angels watching us because we made it through the border in RECORD TIME both ways. Seriously. Sometimes there can be hundreds of people and no real organization and it can take anywhere from 3-6 hours. We made it through in about 1.5 hours! YAY!
  • We had our first real Grey’s Anatomy moment on one of our trips. A few hours after arriving, we got word from a house mom that there was a bicycle accident involving one of our orphans and the house mom was walking to see what had happened. She hopped in our truck and we went to go find him. (Important side note: we are literally in the wild bush of Africa. There is no electricity, no running water…the mode of transportation is bicycle or donkey cart. No joke.) So, she hops into our truck and we whiz through the bushes to try and find the accident. When we arrived we saw people gathered around, and a uniformed little boy face down in the ground with a bike behind him. Our hearts sank a bit. We had no idea what condition this little boy would be in and neither one of us does super well around blood or anything of that nature. But, there is adrenaline that kicks in and we all flew out of the car. As we approached we realized that the kid was conscious (thank God) and then we realized this wasn’t one of our orphans but a neighboring village kid. Still, this kid needed help and we all began to try and see what the problem was. We quickly figured out that his precious bare foot was bent behind him and stuck through the inside of the tire spokes. He had a gash almost down to the bone with blood trickling out. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Again, neither of us do well with blood or wounds so this was a shock. But, my dad, his friend Johnsy and I (Kate) immediately tried to see if we could pull the spokes lose so he could get his foot out. But it wouldn’t even budge. My dad remembered a tool he had brought with him that would cut the spoke so we jumped into his truck and raced to Philip’s house to grab the tool & a first aid kit I always pack but truthfully have never had to use. Jill & Johnsy stayed with the boy to comfort him. We got back as quickly as we could and a little crowd had gathered. Another villager had showed up to help and it took 3 grown men to cut the spokes and get his foot out. We were worried it was broken so we all had to be super gentle. I put on gloves, channeled my inner Meredith Grey and cleaned his wound, gave him some Tylenol, and bandaged him up. We were able to drive him to his home and offered to drive him to the clinic if his mother wanted us to. She declined so we left him with some pain killers and candy. That was definitely an experience we will never forget and we are thankful that he was okay and that the accident was not worse. 
The bike accident scene.

The bike accident scene.

Bill, Johnsy & Jill working on the bike. If you look closely you can see his foot in the spokes. 

Bill, Johnsy & Jill working on the bike. If you look closely you can see his foot in the spokes. 

Jill was comforting him and giving him water.

Jill was comforting him and giving him water.

Johnsy, Jill & the little boy all bandaged up.

Johnsy, Jill & the little boy all bandaged up.

  • We brought jump ropes and these were a big hit! The kids jumped and jumped and the smiles on their faces when they were in mid-air are forever cemented in our hearts. PURE GLEE. Such simple fun. Also...Jill's still got it.
  • It was really hot. LIKE probably over 100 degrees with 100% humidity but we couldn’t check our phones to confirm because you know, NO electricity. Also, no running water means no showers. Kate’s dad has rigged this “make-shift” shower at Philip's (the orphan home director) home. Go to your sink, turn it to a trickle and that basically what the “shower” was. It’s a bucket that is filled up and just trickles out. But, we were thankful for even the slightest relief from the heat and the ability to get somewhat clean. 
Philip's son, Tsepo, climbs up & pours in our water for the shower. One of the favorite shots of the trip. Water = life. 

Philip's son, Tsepo, climbs up & pours in our water for the shower. One of the favorite shots of the trip. Water = life. 

  • We saw 3 scorpions. One was in Zimbabwe at Philip’s house where we were staying and it was a TINY baby one. Jill spotted it and she must have ninja-night-vision-eagle eyes. Apparently the smaller the scorpion the deadlier it is….yikes. 
This was the big scorpion we saw in Kruger Park. Jesus take the wheel...this was not a happy moment.

This was the big scorpion we saw in Kruger Park. Jesus take the wheel...this was not a happy moment.

  • Bill (Kate’s dad) wanted all of the kids (that are old enough) to have their very own bike. The children have access to bikes from their school but they are only allowed to use them when school is in session…so during school vacation they have no bikes. My dad thought having a bike during school vacations was important so he got new bikes to give to each kid. It was awesome to see their excitement and having something that was THEIR VERY OWN…with their names sharpie'd on so no one would mistake it as theirs. So fun! The older kids also gave rides to the younger kids…precious. 
The men who went to get the bikes!

The men who went to get the bikes!

New bikes!

New bikes!

  • We sang a bunch of songs and Jill even gave out some guitar lessons. Music is universal and it’s beautiful to see music translate & break all sorts of barriers. The kids love singing but finding songs that they all knew and we knew was a bit of a challenge. We have learned some songs in their language so that’s always fun to give it a whirl. 
Jill teaching some guitar!

Jill teaching some guitar!

  • The littlest guy at the house is named Thumi and he was terrified of us. He wasn’t there the last time that we visited the house and has probably not had much interaction with white people. So…anytime we got near him he would just melt down and wail. Also, we realized when we played tag with the older kids he didn’t realize it was a game. He thought we were chasing them and going to take them away so he would just sit and scream. The smiles and laughter were apparently not enough proof for him. Ha! Finally we realized and had the older kids explain that we weren’t taking anyone away and it was a game. He understood but still watched cautiously. Since the home operates like a family unit, it’s really a beautiful thing to see the older kids look out for the younger kids. The older kids take pride in caring for the younger ones..truly inspiring. PS. The only time Thumi allowed us to hold him was when we were feeding him cake and ice cream or holding balloons…hahaa…smart kid. 
Thumi's "get away from me" face. 

Thumi's "get away from me" face. 

This was on the last day...he was giving us a thumbs up!

This was on the last day...he was giving us a thumbs up!

  • After we left ZImbabwe, we drove back to the airport in Johannesburg via Kruger National Park. If you’ve followed us for any amount of time you know that this is our ultimate happy place. There is nothing that compares to seeing animals in their natural habitat like that. We saw the Big 5 (elephant, cape buffalo, lions, leapard & rhino) all in one day. It was INCREDIBLE. Such a nice way to end the trip. 
Giraffe!

Giraffe!

Elephants!

Elephants!

There is an elephant behind Kate...can you find it?

There is an elephant behind Kate...can you find it?

So there are some highlights from our trip. Many of you have asked how you can help: www.housesofhopeafrica.com/support You can sponsor a child monthly or you can give a one time donation. Also, if you are the praying kind…we ask you to pray for the children up there…for safety, for health and for their futures to be bright and prosperous. 

Thanks for loving these kids with us! 

Much love,

Jill and Kate

Here are some more pics from our trip! xo

Reading time!

Reading time!

Thumbs up in the back of the truck!

Thumbs up in the back of the truck!

Bill with the kids!

Bill with the kids!

This is Remember. He has the best smile and also hung the moon :)

This is Remember. He has the best smile and also hung the moon :)

Moon.

Moon.

Brought little point & shoot camera for the kids!

Brought little point & shoot camera for the kids!

Group shot!

Group shot!

Clarence on his new bike!

Clarence on his new bike!

Kate & Remember. 

Kate & Remember. 

Jumping on the last bit of paved road we saw in a while. 

Jumping on the last bit of paved road we saw in a while. 

Kate, machete scorpion killer. Just kidding. I didn't kill any scorpions...

Kate, machete scorpion killer. Just kidding. I didn't kill any scorpions...

All smiles!

All smiles!

Walking from Philip's house to the orphan home. Literally NOTHING around. 

Walking from Philip's house to the orphan home. Literally NOTHING around. 

Some of the HOHA property.

Some of the HOHA property.

Smiles!

Smiles!

Coloring & arts + crafts in the shade!

Coloring & arts + crafts in the shade!

Bill had this crazy idea to make ice cream for the kids...cause that's what you do in 100 degree weather with no electricity. HA! But, the kids had never had ice cream and he made it happen! They each got a turn to "churn" the ice cream...thankful for Bill & his crazy dreams!

Bill had this crazy idea to make ice cream for the kids...cause that's what you do in 100 degree weather with no electricity. HA! But, the kids had never had ice cream and he made it happen! They each got a turn to "churn" the ice cream...thankful for Bill & his crazy dreams!

Look at those smiles...eating ice cream for the first time!

Look at those smiles...eating ice cream for the first time!

Bill gets big hugs for his ice cream making!

Bill gets big hugs for his ice cream making!

It's 5:30am in the morning....ahhh!!! Oh also...the last day we were there is dropped to like 40 degrees. IT WAS FREEZING. Note the sweatshirts and cold looks on our faces. 

It's 5:30am in the morning....ahhh!!! Oh also...the last day we were there is dropped to like 40 degrees. IT WAS FREEZING. Note the sweatshirts and cold looks on our faces. 

Jill reading to the kids!

Jill reading to the kids!

Surprise. Always the best smile!

Surprise. Always the best smile!

This is Beyonce (no kidding) and she's the sweetest thing ever!

This is Beyonce (no kidding) and she's the sweetest thing ever!

Tsepo on his new bike!

Tsepo on his new bike!

Kate washing her face with a nalgene & her fav Renee Rouleau face wash!

Kate washing her face with a nalgene & her fav Renee Rouleau face wash!

Beyonce & Kate.

Beyonce & Kate.

The only sign in the middle of the wild African bush. Houses of Hope Africa! Until next time :)

The only sign in the middle of the wild African bush. Houses of Hope Africa! Until next time :)

 

 

 

Annnnnnnd...we couldn't forget awesome fan pics! Only 3 more days of #31Days :)

This was in Boston with Haley!! She's awesome!

This was in Boston with Haley!! She's awesome!

At the Storyline Conference!

At the Storyline Conference!

Kate with her dark hair! Does anyone think she should dye it dark again?

Kate with her dark hair! Does anyone think she should dye it dark again?

My Dad, Bill #31Days2016

My dad is one of the best humans on the planet. Sure, I'm a bit biased but really, he's amazing.  He is literally happy and excited about everything. You see, my dad is actually a real-life superhero. We were just in Africa with him about three weeks ago visiting the Houses of Hope Africa. He is so selfless and cares so deeply for these kids. He travels back and forth to Africa roughly six times a year and has more energy and enthusiasm than most 18 year olds I know. It’s incredible.

But don’t take my word for it. Read this post from a friend that went on a trip with him a few months back. It’s so good. I love the way captures my dad’s heart and energy. And I love my dad’s vision behind it all. He’s not trying to be the biggest non-profit on the planet. He literally is so focused on the 20 kids at the home right now. He wants to see these kids loved, well cared for, have purpose in their lives and change the cycle for the future. He also respects the culture and learns alongside the local leaders that have been established there.

Anyway...Jill and I love the work that’s happening there. We can’t wait to tell you more about our most recent trip. If are looking for a non-profit to support...we can vouch for the incredible, life changing work that’s happening there. 

Love you Dad.

-Kate

In continuing our theme this month of highlighting fan meet & greet pics...here are some more :)

This was in Massachusetts with Jessica! She's supportive, loyal...so grateful for her. 

This was in Massachusetts with Jessica! She's supportive, loyal...so grateful for her. 

Blurry picture, but full hearts. This was in Nashville...right? 

Blurry picture, but full hearts. This was in Nashville...right? 

On our first UK tour! 

On our first UK tour! 

This was somewhere in Canada. LOVE the people of Canada!

This was somewhere in Canada. LOVE the people of Canada!

Trip to Houses of Hope Africa!

 Hi friends! Finally had some time to sit down and write some words about our recent trip to Africa to visit the children living at Houses of Hope Africa. On May 25th we (Ryan & Carolyn & us) took off from Nashville and headed across to the other side of the world...Southern Africa!

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...with a seven hour lay over in London-town. That's always fun right?

photo 3 We found some comfy chairs in the lounge (hallelujah) in the London airport and checked email for the last time since we would be in Zimbabwe with zero cell reception of any kind.

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It was an 11 hour flight from London to Johannesburg and we landed just as the sun was coming up.

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Kate's dad, Bill, met us at the airport with the van. He has more energy than all of us put together :)

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We got settled and headed over to the House of Hope in Temba. We were SO HAPPY to see these faces after two long travel days.

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 We passed out party supplies which included hand clappers and little noise makers--we were a LOUD bunch.

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 Some of the kids in the pictures have been at the house since it opened and some are so new to the home that they'd only been there a few days. 

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 This little guy below is amazing and such a fighter. When he first arrived at the home he needed serious medical attention. Since being at the house for a few years we are happy to report that he is doing SO WELL!

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Bill brought a guitar for the kids and so we got it out and Jill played songs that the kids were familiar with. Music...it's what brings us all together :)

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 We left the kids as the sun was setting and headed back to the hotel. We went to bed early cause we were leaving for Zimbabwe bright and early the next day...

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 Bill was our dedicated driver...he drove sooooo much...it was about 14 hours on the road to Zimbabwe (!!!)

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The open road in Zimbabwe.

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Why yes. Perfect place for a jumping picture. 14490828945_b046274677_z

One more with Carolyn!

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The paved road turned into a dirt road and it was SO bumpy. Almost two hours on a dirt road rock road. Wowza. 14304090338_686a83c3a4_z

Hooray. We finally spot the brand new House of Hope Whunga sign in the bush!14304248037_21275fda8f_z

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We arrive and get to see these faces. These faces. You guys, these are the faces that you help support. You are the ones helping to provide housing, food, and an education for these beautiful souls. The kids are doing really well and we were so happy to spend a few days with them.  14304097610_325de82588_z

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They love playing with balls--so much fun!14304141268_e6ac1c34d2_z

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Life is pretty simple up there. Our van was the only vehicle in the area because their main mode of transportation is donkey cart. The building on the left is the out-house. Let's just say that there is no electricity or running water.  Enough said about that. 14510894533_d24a2b8f9d_z

Group shot!! So many giggles. 14489507382_0b3336f5ed_z

This was one of our favorite parts of the trip. We woke up at the Philip's house (he is the orphan home director & builder of HOH Whunga) where we were staying and walked with his two kids to the orphan home. It's about a 10 minute walk and we left right around 6am--just as the sun was coming up.

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There is literally nothing around. If we look all bundled up it's because it's winter over there right now. Cold in the morning and evenings. Off to the orphan home we went...14510950313_ba91a0316e_z

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 The kids were in their uniforms all ready to go...we did some morning stretches & just general goofing off before we began the 6 kilometer walk to school (that's 3.72 miles.)

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We even ran for a few minutes cause we thought they were going to be late! Look at the smiles as we ran...they LOVE going to school.14467704166_82e79a5385_z

Long walk for this guy but he doesn't complain.

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After an hour walk we arrived at the school grounds. There are about 300 children at the school and some of the other surrounding village children have to walk up to 3 hours to and from school each day.

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We got to meet the teachers and the head master (principal) of the school.

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We might have been called into the head master's office...ugh oh...we weren't in too much trouble ;)14489514874_b5ff0abf71_z

We left the older kids at school and hung out with Suprise (the littlest guy at HOH) for the morning/afternoon.

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 ...after some playing he decided a nap was in order....right in Kate's arms. Love!

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The older kids got back from school and we played, played and played! We even got to watch some of the kids milk the goats!

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The sun set on the crops and the stars were INCREDIBLE!! Having no electricity has it's perks.

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We brought some glow sticks with us and decided to make our own shooting stars.

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Last couple of pictures on the morning we were leaving... just as the sun was coming up...we were half awake...and cold. 14489485042_d52a9790dd_z

This might be the most attractive picture of Kate you've ever seen. Hahaha.

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Philip's wife made us fried dough...it was sooooo good.14490701625_16c4458015_z

Then we hit the road again back to South Africa...

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But, we had to take one more picture on our way out! You know last year when we were in Zimbabwe and we got stuck cause the bridge was totally flooded? This was the bridge. Woohoo...no water :) Jumping picture had to be taken!14487310921_561107c31e_z

We had such a great trip....we'll post more pics from Kruger Park and of course the rest of our travels that took us over to the UK for the #jkUKtour :)

xoxo

j&k

PS.  Houses of Hope Africa is doing amazing work for the kids over there and we know a lot of you are just as invested in their lives as we are. So for that, thank you. Thank you for caring for these kids. We took all your love with us. If you are unfamiliar with Houses of Hope Africa click here for more info.

A Month For Hope! (Day #2)

9153350510_e8ce07d46b You may or may not know that half of our hearts are half way around the world...in Africa...where we spend time every year with the amazing kids at Houses of Hope Africa...an organization that Kate's dad started to care for the orphans in Southern Africa.

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Sooooo many of you have been asking about "A Night For Hope" this year (if you don't know what that is, check out our last A Night For Hope concert recap from 2012) that we are are excited to announce this year that we are doing A MONTH FOR HOPE...a whole month dedicated to raising money to care for these kids for the next year. We have a BIG goal this year which is good because HOHA is growing and doing awesome things over there!

Like most everything, we cannot do it alone. We need your help to reach this goal. We always feel like when we are over there spending time with these kids that you are all there with us. So many of you have already donated money, sent hand-made items for the kids, sent friendship bracelets, etc....we are really all on this team for hope together.

So thanks so much for already being awesome!

Check out A MONTH FOR HOPE and help us spread the word...

1. You can Buy a T-shirt. (Really cool shirt designed by Emily Coey)

2. You can bid on an Ebay item. (autographed memorabilia and what not)

3. Or you can just give straight up Cash money :)

4. You can help us spread the word by following Houses of Hope Africa on Facebook, Twitter & Tumblr.

5. PLEASE... re-tweet, share and re-blog (this is seriously SOOOOOO helpful!)

Every little bit helps...so THANK YOU!!

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Thanks for believing in hope with us. Lots of love.

-j&k-

 

 

Moms

At the end of this Mother's Day, a really heavy thought is on my mind. I keep thinking about all of the babies out there that have no one to call mom. The mom-less. I watched this SoulPancake video today (which is so ridiculously cute...I swear all the videos from #KidPresident I watch at least 10 times) and in the video he talks about how moms make everything better. How moms tell us that everything is going to be okay. How moms change the world with their love. And that has certainly been my experience with my mom. She is my number 1 fan. She has demonstrated sacrificial love for my siblings and me over and over again. This notion of "moms make everything better" is absolutely known in my heart, mind and life. (Let me also make mention that my dad is just as amazing but since it's Mother's day that's where my focus is :))

And so tonight I think about all those babies with no mom. The children that need their moms to tell them that they can chase after any dream. That they can achieve great, incredible things. They need a mom to tell them that everything is going to be okay.

I think about the kids that I know by name that have no one to call mom. The kids in Africa that I know personally...their individual stories of heart ache and abandonment. Their stories of loss and grief and sadness. These kids are just the tiniest percentage of kids all around the world that can identify as mom-less.

My heart is heavy tonight for those precious faces that so long for that "mom role" to be filled in their lives.

I am such an action person and "fixer" that it literally kills my soul sometimes to know that I alone cannot fix this problem. I know it sounds silly but that is how my brain works...that's how I'm wired....I want to find moms & dads for all those kids out there that don't have any.

What can I do from here? What can you do? Well I've brainstormed a little & here are my thoughts:

Locally, step up for someone who might need that role of mom filled. You don't have to be someone's biological mother to help mother a child. Spend time with them. Show up for them. Find a kid in your neighborhood or through a Big Brothers/Big Sisters program or The Mentoring Project...it doesn't need to be an orphan or a kid from the projects...maybe it's a kid whose parents are going through a divorce and you've been there so you can relate. Maybe you've noticed a younger kid in your school that doesn't have many friends. Find someone who might need that extra encouragement and go cheerlead for them.

Globally, find an organization that is helping care for orphans. Educate yourself on the orphan crisis. Whatever country you are in there are most likely orphans. Find ways to help. Raise money. Raise awareness. Talk about it. Talk about it. Talk about it. I definitely don't have all the answers but I think discussion is a great tool for this great need/crisis. I know that my dad's organization African Leadership Development is constantly looking at new projects for the Houses of Hope Africa and so if you are looking for an organization to get involved in, that's a great one. (Pardon my bias.) And by all means, if Houses of Hope Africa is not your thing there are a number of other ones that might be: Warm Blankets International, Kids Around The World, World Orphans , Thirst Relief , Amazima Ministries are just to name a very few.

There are also super cool organizations that allow you to help people in third world countries by buying their stuff: 31 Bits & Crotchet Kids are just a few off the top of my head. This can help moms that may be in danger of losing their children (because they are not able to provide for them) to earn money and keep their kids with them. This helps keep kids out of the mom-less category.

Show love.

Love.

-Kate

PS. Here are some little faces that I get to love in South Africa...