RANDOLPH – In a village of less than 2,000 people, a charity is finding ways to have a worldwide impact through the work of volunteers and the help of social media.
For the past nine years, the World Orphan Fund has worked in several countries to help orphans by funding transitional services for children, and sustainability programs, so more money can be diverted from energy bills to programs for youth, among other efforts.
R.J. Johnson of Randolph founded the nonprofit in 2011 after taking a mission trip to Honduras with his daughter and 17 other volunteers. Through “lots of steps of faith,” people came together to assist in the cause.
Over the years, Johnson amassed a network of volunteers, who visited 80 orphanages internationally, Advisory Board Member Anne Bauer, of Middleton, said.
“He has been able to make so many connections that have benefited orphan children,” Bauer said.
Volunteers’ expertise assists children
When Bauer joined their ranks, she brought years of experience working with children with special needs, as well as a background in trauma-informed care. As children in orphanages often experience trauma, Johnson was exploring how the nonprofit could assist in providing appropriate care, and worked with Bauer to do so.
“It was an important piece we wanted to make sure we were adequately addressing,” she said.
Following additional specialized training from the Christian Alliance for Orphans, Bauer went to Honduras, traveling with another volunteer with a background in engineering who’s focus was to work on a solar project at the orphanages. On her mission trip, she visited the Walker Center, an organization which provides various therapies to children with special needs from 17 different orphanages — all non-governmental agencies, she said.
While there, Bauer got to see the full circle of care children receive as she visited the orphanages, as well. Those which partner with the Walker Center are “very intent on being involved” in the children’s therapies, Bauer said. Not only do children develop skills at the center, but staff from the orphanages accompany them and take notes so they can continue to practice outside of the organization.
“For me, having been involved with therapy for early childhood kiddos for years, the small milestones are so monumental,” she said. “It really can make such a difference.”
Using social media to reach donors
Bauer is just one of the volunteers who makes the World Orphan Fund run. Unlike some nonprofits, the fund is completely volunteer-driven and donations all go to its services, rather than overhead costs or administrative fees. Volunteers even pay for their travel and meal expenses, Bauer said.
To fund the projects, World Orphan Fund collects money through the charity fundraising platform Network for Good and events, such as a gala held in fall 2019.
One of their largest sources is through Facebook. Since beginning to collect donations on its Facebook page in 2017, the fund has raised about $25,000 through the site.
On the platform, World Orphan Fund can share information where their audience already is, connect with those who support the organization and reach younger donors who prefer to donate through Facebook, Bauer said. Each individual can donate up to $2,500 to the organization.
When there is a need, they “very easily” post information on it, and to raise money and awareness about the organization, volunteers and donors can host birthday fundraisers through the site.World Orphan Fund has the ability to not only reach its followers on the site, but their followers’ networks as well.
“We know that every dollar counts for nonprofits of all sizes, and Facebook waives all fees so 100% of donations go directly to the organization being supported. We’re so proud that nonprofits like the Wisconsin-based World Orphan Fund can tap into support from their community and further their mission without worrying about additional costs,” a spokesperson from Facebook said in a statement to The Reporter.
These donations, in turn, fund projects throughout the world. Care given through the World Orphan Fund is tailored to the community, its needs and the partnerships available.
“I think the thing that I have appreciated is coming together with a group of volunteers that have such different backgrounds, that the trait that everybody shares is their investment in orphan children and improving (their lives),” Bauer said.
Contact Sarah Razner at 920-907-7909 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @misssarahrazner.
RELATED: Jersey Mike’s to bring taste of New Jersey to Fond du Lac
RELATED: New development: Waupun seeks to meet housing shortage as population projected to increase
RELATED: New Fond du Lac theater company seeks to make impact as it readies for first performance