A couple of weeks ago, I spent a morning back in the classroom. The setting was an International Studies class at Valparaiso University, where I had been asked to talk with the students about the need for nonprofit organizations to be transparent, accountable, and operate with integrity as they connect with their donors and supporters. The students and I engaged in some lively, healthy discussion!

As part of my talk, I explained to the students that one of the hallmarks of Kids Alive International is the pursuit of excellence – and this means we feel a responsibility to share with our supporters the impact that their gifts have in the lives of orphans and vulnerable children. And I was pleased to be able to share with these students some of the statistics and stories from around the world that clearly demonstrate the remarkable difference Kids Alive makes in the lives of individual children – and even in whole communities.

In Guatemala, for example, we operate a primary school for children in an impoverished community where sickness, abuse, and low educational attainment are critical problems. Yet 88% of the children in our program now complete primary school – a figure much, much higher than the national average of 55%. In addition, parasitic infections in our children have been reduced by 80%, a direct result of the quality healthcare that our program provides. Very similar educational and health impacts have been recorded in Kids Alive’s programs in other countries, including Haiti and Dominican Republic.

Matt Lebanon 041116Meanwhile, at the end of 2014 we started a new education program in Lebanon called the Oasis, working with refugee children that had fled from Syria. More than three-quarters of these children had never been to school, and at first many were unruly and illiterate. Incredibly, within a year 75% of these children were reading, writing, and doing math at a level appropriate to their ages. Best of all, more than half of the children have accepted Christ into their lives. “They are like sponges, soaking up Bible stories that teach about an amazing God of grace, redemption, and hope for the future,” our Lebanon Director, Joseph Ghattas, reported.

Perhaps the most powerful examples, however, are the individual “real life stories” of young men and women that I have the privilege of meeting as I visit Kids Alive programs around the world. A few weeks ago, I was in Kenya where I spent some time with James. James experienced the trauma of seeing both of his parents die when he was very young. Even worse was to follow, however. James was left in the care of an elderly grandmother who lived in severe poverty and simply didn’t want him. He was not allowed to attend school and was treated so harshly that, at the age of 9, he ran away to live on the dangerous streets. Here he experienced hunger, abuse – and daily fear for his life.

IMG_0872 (002)Thankfully, James was rescued by Kids Alive. He came to live in one of our Family-style Homes and, from that moment, began to thrive. He went to school for the first time and studied extremely hard. After successfully completing high school, he worked as an untrained teacher in a local school. This was a life-changing experience for him and he discovered a real gift for teaching. With Kids Alive’s support, he embarked on obtaining a teaching certificate – and we soon employed him in our own school, Hall Mead Academy, where he is now Deputy Principal. A committed follower of Christ, James thanks God for the rescue and care that has been provided to him, and he is now determined to do all he can to help other young children who are in need. From being a small, hungry child dressed in rags on the streets, to a young man using his God-given talents and abilities to educate orphans and vulnerable children – what a transformation!

Restored lives and changed communities. Loving homes and promising futures. That is the Kids Alive difference – and the impact that we are committed to sharing with our faithful child sponsors, supporters, and partners as we begin our second century of ministry!