2014 – Counting God’s many blessingsRich Stigall
Residential Orphan Care for children who would otherwise fend for themselves remains our core calling. More than 2,340 previously- orphaned and abandoned children from 230 communities around the world are now in the care of their local church family. This includes children in newer partner countries of Ethiopia, India, South Sudan, Congo, the Dominican Republic, and probably our largest growth area…the United States. We’ve “grown home,” adding U.S. Orphan Care (primarily in Kansas, Missouri and Texas) to our international ministry. We celebrate all of that, but God has also shown us that we needed more tools in our bag.
Our partners meet children in varying areas of need. Some need 24/7 care. Others may just need their school fees covered. Our school sponsorship program educates 6,680 students worldwide. Often, the child’s parents/guardian may need a job. Through efforts like The GO Exchange and agricultural initiatives, GO Project provides 725 quality jobs to breadwinners worldwide. According to UN statistics, an average person with a good job in a poor country supports 7 to 8 family members. 725 jobs equals 5,000 people (many of them will be children) who can stay in their homes and with their families.
We’ve also launched our Pathways Program, a two-year, Vo-tech finishing school located in Croix Des Bouquets, Haiti. Pathways serves young adults who have aged out of orphan care. (The government mandates they leave residential care at age 18.) Young men are taught skills like farming and diesel mechanics. Girls are taught cooking and sewing. All are developing life skills, like how to take public transportation, build a budget, shop at the market, do laundry, interview for a job, and interact with others as an adult. A major emphasis is on Biblical character development, so that the cycles of family and personal brokenness will stop. Last year, the first class of 21 Pathways’ students kicked it off. Locals told us half wouldn’t be able to handle the discipline of the program. They were wrong. The first class soared. This summer, we received successful internship reports from their real-world employers in and around Port Au Prince. Today, the program has 62 students (41 in resident and 21 day students), and it is serving as a model to launch a similar program in KC.
U.S. Orphan Care
In our US Orphan Care ministry, GO Project’s influence is being felt in Kansas, Missouri, and Texas from the top state-level executives to individual children that are transforming churches and families. At the grassroots level, programs like Protective Homes, Strengthening Families, several church transitional homes, and scores of church Foster/Adopt ministries are helping families help children.
One of the most exciting initiative might be the simplest. The Care Portal is a platform that can bring this (hurting children/families, the government, churches, and church families) together to ignite the timbers scattered all over the US Orphan Care window. We are actively moving beyond the pilot area of Austin and in the first quarter will launch in several other areas of Texas, along with Kansas and Missouri. The CAFO conference at the end of April will be a “go national” launch. 84 churches are currently enrolled…..it’s a race to keep up with the technical requirements and training these churches while asking them to invite others to join.
KC Sending Academy is funded for the first year and on its way to operation, and our GO Project team is being transformed. Eight staff families have opened their homes to the broken and hurting. We are being made new.
The GO Exchange
The GO Exchange, our global boutique dedicated to orphan prevention, is our primary ministry initiative to help keep families together by creating living wage jobs. Roughly 80% of children who are abandoned are “economic orphans,” meaning that they’ve been abandoned because their parents – most often single mothers – cannot afford them.
We piloted the GOEX concept in 2012 with a single product, GO Jammies, and sold nearly 5,000 pair in November & December. In 2013, we formed GOEX and expanded our product line through production partners in Haiti and Uganda. We started to sell through two channels: direct online and via in-home parties. As we near year end, our product line includes high quality apparel and artisanal products (e.g., jewelry, purses, accessories). Our production partners in Haiti and Uganda sell via GOEX and other channels and employ more than 375 workers. Each one of these jobs supports 8 people on average, so this workforce is strengthening the 375 employees and the roughly 3,000 people they support.
GOEX’s offering now includes selling Group Apparel wholesale. Our anchor product, Group Tees, is aimed at the niche – but large – market for event tees, where the uplifting messages printed on shirts doesn’t match the quality of what went into making the shirt. We rolled out Group Tees in Q4 2014, and sold 200% above forecast. This is a serious job-creation opportunity.
GOEX has also become the majority owner of an apparel production boutique in Haiti. That production center has grown beyond its capacity, and we are finally ready to expand into a 25,000 sq. ft. facility. We will produce for GOEX and other private labels seeking a “fair trade” production environment. We also our own pick, pack & ship division, in order to provide internships and jobs for kids aging out of the local foster care system. We are now partnering with Jacki Easlick, former Design Director for Kenneth Coles and Vera Bradley in NY to design our spring line and beyond. God willing, we are poised for a breakout year in 2015.
International Orphan Care. US Orphan Care. Education. Jobs. Pathways. GOEX. More than 770 Americans GO’ing to serve on Vision Trips this year. More than 2,500 making financial investments in the ministry. We’re leaning in!
Our plans for 2015 are, by far, our most ambitious. We face significant growth needs to keep up with the children and families we serve, and to meet opportunities that are before our very eyes. We fully expect that 2015 will require new levels of faith, work ethic, and focus. This is where the Holy Spirit has us. And we’ve never been more passionate about what God has asked us to do.