I (like several others on this site) share a passion for starting an orphanage. My wife and I (along with our church) are beginning the exploration process of starting an orphanage in El Salvador, and we would really welcome sharing creative ideas on the how to’s.
I have read 3 books written by Christians who were inspired to start orphanages and did it! I’d really recommending reading all three – A Leap of Faith by Alcyon Ruth Fleck, Hands & Feet by Audio Adrenaline, and When Invisible Children Sing by Dr. Chi Huang. A Leap of Faith shares the inspiring story of how Alcyon Ruth Fleck started International Children’s Care (which began in Guatemala before expanding to other countries). Hands & Feet shares the story of how Audio Adreneline (a Christian rock band) felt God’s call to start an orphanage in Haiti. When Invisible Children Sing is a VERY personal account of Dr. Chi Huang’s experiences with street children in La Paz, Bolivia, that became his inspiration for starting Bolivian Street Children Project – a non profit organzation.
Being someone who hasn’t started an orphanage yet, I haven’t experienced (yet) all of the bumps along the way. Nonetheless, I have given some significant thought to the idea, and here are some things that I’ve thought to be very important:
Prayer – Spending time in prayer with God to understand what He has placed on your heart and what He is calling you (individually) to do.
Form a Core Group for Discernment – Spending time with other Christians who share the same interest, as a group, faithfully discern God’s will as a group. Consider, too, including people that bring specific expertise – For example, the core group that we are looking to form includes our pastor, a pediatrician (my wife), a pschologist (a big plus due to the huge psychological challenges children in orphanages have faced), and me (a business mind (as an accountant), who also brings a desire to faithfully follow God’s will).
Strategy and Plan (incl Finances) – Development of a strategic vision, with specific goals, and with tactics to achieve the specific goals – This is the business part of me talking, but I think it, too, is a critical step. This puts to words what the vision is and lays our a plan to achieving it. What type of model will it be (today’s newer models involve a smaller home type setting with a mother and father in each home, vs. a large building that has less of a feeling of home – 2 of the books I mentioned above (Hands & Feet and A Leap of Faith) talk a good amount about these types of models. Starting an orphanage outside the US carries many challenges (assessment RE: which country to do it, how to connect with trusted in country resources (for example, we are looking at a church group in El Salvador), how to finance the initial cost, how to finance the ongoing costs, etc…). Regarding the ongoing costs, one thing to consider is a model that will result in as low of costs as possible since the idea must be sustainable. For example, I have seen orphanages that use agricultural techniques (growing crops, animal husbandry, Tilapia fish ponds, etc) as a source of food and income to help reduce costs. Consider also green energy options (solar power, etc), to keep ongoing costs low.
Just some ideas to share – If others would like to get more specific with idea sharing, that would be great!