By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp
Orphans Aid International is a charitable organisation founded in 2004 by Sue van Schreven, a mother from Invercargill, New Zealand. van Schreven visited Romanian orphanages and was saddened by the deprivation in the living conditions of the children there. She then set up “Casa Kiwi”, a home for orphans where they can be cared for, have as “normal” an upbringing as possible, and from which they may be adopted into families.
In Romania there were “Tb hospitals”, where children went for treatment of tuberculosis, which took six months. Many of the children were never picked up again because they came from very poor families who could not afford to look after them. “I found that really sad because they’re not visited and they’ve got no stimulation and they’re just sitting there – they’re treated worse than the way we treat our prisoners.”
Source: Article from: Southland Times; Author: Tracey Roxburgh; Date Published: 29-Dec-2005.
In October 2005, van Schreven was one of four winners of the “Vodafone New Zealand Foundation World of Difference” programme. This enabled her to go on to establish another centre, “Ayushki,” for orphans in Kostroma, Russia. From here, Orphans Aid International has grown steadily, with projects in India, Nepal and Uganda, as well as a number of “reactionary” projects to such tragedies as the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in Thailand, the 2007 Earthquake in Peru, the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti, and the 2011 Christchurch (New Zealand) Earthquake.
“Orphans Aid International isn’t limited by location or race. …There are over 150 million children without parental care in the world right now. It’s time for us to bring change and ensure orphaned children are cared and provided for. …”
“…We also provide for extreme needs in New Zealand”.
Orphans Aid International raises money for the projects it runs through donations and through Opportunity Shops (Op Shops) in Invercargill, Dunedin and Hastings, New Zealand. The Head Office is in Queenstown, where van Schreven and her family now live, with a “Trade Aid” type shop for tourists attached. Donations of money or items to be sold in the Op Shops are always welcome. I recently spoke with Hilary Campbell, manager of the Dunedin Orphans Aid International Op Shop, which is situated at 145 King Edward Street in South Dunedin (and which, for those living in Dunedin, is always looking for volunteers).
Campbell says she felt motivated to work for Orphans Aid International because two of her four children were adopted from orphanages in Russia. “Having seen what I had in Russia, during the process of adopting, and knowing that there were still hundreds of children in need there and in other countries around the world, I knew supporting Orphans Aid International was a constructive way in which I could do something towards helping the overseas orphanages from here. Initially I worked as a volunteer, but then moved on to become manager of the Dunedin Op Shop.”
Over 700 children are now fed or cared for by Orphans Aid International across seven countries, Campbell says. Some of these are cared for full time, like the kids in “Casa Kiwi” in Romania, while others are part of different projects, such as the day care centre in Russia for children whose parents are “not present” (which could mean they are orphans, street kids, abandoned children or children with circumstances such as their parents being in prison), or the “feeding” programme supporting nutrition for poor children in Calcutta, India. “These children in desperate situations overseas really have no other support,” she says. “These are poor countries which don’t have the welfare systems we take for granted. Children who are unable to live with their parents, for whatever reason, are really vulnerable.”
“We also consider New Zealand to be a country we support,” Campbell says. “We help local needs by keeping prices of clothing, blankets and other household items low in our Op Shops and through providing such things as grocery hampers to families in need at certain times of the year.”
The New Zealand programme is called “Aotearoa: Hardship at Home.”
New Zealand is not exempt from hardship: we are seeing an increasing number of families struggling with essentials. …We have been providing basics for extreme needs, food, power and also some counselling.
Every week the Invercargill Op Shop has a weekly draw for a grocery hamper nominated by the general public. We’ve been notified of families in need this way.
Whilst NZ does not have orphanages as such, we know we can provide for individuals and families here who have fallen through the cracks.
We at The Forever Years blog LOVE Orphans Aid International! How can you not love an organisation which aims to unconditionally provide help to vulnerable children everywhere? Orphans Aid International operates under the powerful belief that no child anywhere should be hungry or suffer and that it is possible to do something about it– a belief which we at The Forever Years enthusiastically share. I love the statement “One child at a time,” which recurs through Orphans Aid International literature. It puts me in mind of the “Starfish Story”, where a boy throws stranded starfish back into the sea, one at a time. (See the “About” section of this blog: Why “The Forever Years”? The Ethos and Ideas behind this Blog). Looking at a whole beach crowded with helpless starfish, some might feel overwhelmed and give up all together. But, as the boy in the story says, “it made a difference to that one.” Each child helped by passionate visionaries such as Sue van Schreven and organisations such as Orphans Aid International is a victory and another set of positive ripples into the future of our global family.
Congratulations Orphans Aid International on ten years of amazing work for children around the globe, 2004-2014!
Further Information about Orphans Aid International:
To read more stories about Orphans Aid International’s milestones over the last decade, as well as finding practical ways in which you can help, go to the archives page of their website (which dates back to 2005):
Also, see the video “The Orphan Lady” on TVNZ on Demand: