By Rebecca Flannery and Lauren Tidmore
Bearsforphans, an organization that has been in the works since April 2013, will hold its long-awaited first meeting at 5:31 p.m. on Feb. 11. Gummy bears may be involved.
Started by sophomores Caroline Giles, Madie Wisnie, Meghan Bell and Carly Kloack, Bearsforphans is a club that seeks to bridge the gap between Baylor’s campus and the international orphan by raising awareness of what can be done to improve orphan care worldwide.
Specifically this semester, the club will focus on supporting an orphanage in Gonaïves, Haiti, through Coreluv International.
Coreluv International is a non-profit based out of Pinehurst that was started by Mike and Mandy Reiszner to “defend the orphan” in Haiti. The organization branches out to campuses like Texas A&M University and now, Baylor, to get involved in the lifesaving orphan care they provide to Haitian children.
The orphanage will soon have a school to accompany it, financially supported by Bearsforphans. Along with the new school, the club will provide care in the form of food, shelter and education through Coreluv’s partnership.
“It’s so much more than just a fundraiser though,” said Katy sophomore Wisnie. “Those are our goals right now, but after the school is finished, certainly we’ll want to work with Coreluv a lot. But there’s no capping what God does with obedience. It’s really hard to put an end goal on it and to say ‘this is where we want to be in 10 years.’”
Since being chartered, the girls have been working to raise awareness for their organization and add to their growing numbers. Anyone can join the organization after paying dues.
“Whatever talents God has blessed you with, we will use that somehow,” Wisnie said.
The club has been gaining momentum since its first day being recognized by Baylor as an organization. However, the process to get to this point took longer than any of the founders expected.
It started last year when Spring sophomore Caroline Giles traveled to Haiti for the second time on a mission trip with a Texas A&M University group called Agsforphans. While there, she felt the need to start a similar group on Baylor’s campus. This idea was met with encouragement from her teammates.
“When I was there, Jesus said, ‘You need to start Bearsforphans,’” Giles said. “I thought, ‘Wow.’ I wasn’t disappointed but I thought, ‘This is a lot, but OK, God. I don’t know anything about business, I don’t know anything about logistics, but OK.’”
When Giles returned to Baylor, she and the three other founders considered starting a club to ignite a passion in the Baylor community and beyond, about international orphan care. When Giles told her friends about her desire to start Bearsforphans, they couldn’t wait to get started.
“I told them, and immediately they said ‘let’s do this,’” Giles said. “I told them that we couldn’t talk this up. We couldn’t say that we were starting a club about orphans because that would have been too easy.”
The Baylor Department of Student Activities’ online information lists six steps to complete before a club can be considered chartered as a Baylor University organization. The time it takes to complete these steps can be extensive. In the case of Bearsforphans, it took up to eight months. Parker, Colo., sophomore Carly Kloack said emotions during this time wereall over the place.
The steps include anything from writing a constitution to meeting with graduate apprentice for Student Organizations, Katie Styles, to go over details.
When the girls figured out how long the process could take, they decided when they met with Styles, they wanted to make sure she knew how important Bearsforphans was.
“We didn’t want to just say ‘we want to start an organization,’” Giles said. “We wanted to let her know what this was about. We didn’t want to be surface level with her.”
The amount of time and work the girls had to go through felt like a marathon, Giles said. Time outside of class typically devoted to social groups and ministry was spent writing essays, constitutions, bylaws, religious statements and more.
After the final submission of their paperwork and required materials, the process was still far from over as drafts had to be revised.
“I just wanted an email that said, ‘Yay! You’re an organization,’” Giles said.
When Bearsforphans was selected as one of the final 10 out of 25 organization applicants, a three-part workshop stood between the founders and a charter. The organization finally received its charter in December 2013. The four co-founders of Bearsforphans were invited to a banquet at which they were awarded the charter.
Commenting on their emotions about the charter ceremony, Germantown, Tenn., sophomore Meghan Bell said, “That was a great day.”
Guerrilla Comedy Troupe will hold a charity event for Bearsforphans at 9 p.m. Feb. 1 in the Hooper-Shaefer Fine Arts Center. There is a $3 admission fee at the door. Those interested can donate more to benefit the organization.
Bearsforphans has set up their Facebook page at facebook.com/Bearsforphans, and its Instagram and Twitter accounts with the handle @Bearsforphans.