Helping hands build houses

Bradenton, Fla., senior Ariel Pecoraro and Granbury senior Kelsi Cathey are in Kenya, where their organization is building houses for Kenyan orphanages. (Courtesy Art)
Bradenton, Fla., senior Ariel Pecoraro and Granbury senior Kelsi Cathey are in Kenya, where their organization is building houses for Kenyan orphanages. (Courtesy Art)
By Rae Jefferson

Two Baylor students from the interior design program have found a way to use their own academic and financial resources to fulfill their passion for international missions.

Bradenton, Fla., senior Ariel Pecoraro and Granbury senior Kelsi Cathey have partnered to form a tax-deductible organization called My Child Ministries.

Pecoraro, the organization’s president and CEO, and Cathey, the project manager, have been working with International Vision Center, a church in Eldoret, Kenya, to fund the building of orphanages.

Pecoraro and Cathey said some of the knowledge they have gained from their interior design studies helped during the construction planning.

“We had some background knowledge of what we were doing, so we weren’t totally high-and-dry,” Cathey said.

Pecoraro said changing her major to interior design was “the last piece of the puzzle” for her vision of My Child Ministries, which is to build and gift orphanages to international pastors and missionaries.

“It really sharpened the vision of the ministry,” she said. “We get to have a huge part in the building, which is what our passion is.”

A large part of the organization’s vision is to build orphanages in foreign countries.

These places are where churches or missionaries have been established in the community for an extended period of time, but do not have the resources to build these kinds of facilities, Pecoraro said.

“We get to pair with people who have already laid the foundation for years,” she said. “We can give it to someone who is already working there and already has the resources of the town, as well as the children.”

Cathey said they had some working knowledge of what materials and designs would be the most effective for their projects.

“It helped us when we had meetings and were discussing the plans – whether what was good in our eyes was good in their eyes as well,” she said.

The orphanage center will consist of 15 homes and an education center on a plot of land owned by the church. After about a year of fundraising and planning, construction of the first unit is nearly complete, with Kenyan contractors working to finish the building’s interior within the next four months.

Complete with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a living room, each home is designed to house a host couple and no more than eight children – four boys and four girls.

The orphanage will be structured so that children are able to live with the same foster parents and other orphaned children in a family unit, rather than being housed in a large orphanage with caretakers.

“Sometimes when people think of orphanages, they think of big buildings with tons of beds, but this isn’t like that,” Cathey said. “These are separate homes with separate family systems in them so that the children are able to have hope within that family.”

Pecoraro said they are looking to “instill hope and faith” in the orphaned children their buildings are home to.

“We want to nurture these children by giving them a home,” she said.

Cathey said construction of the first home cost $24,000 and was funded completely through donations and T-shirt sales.

“It’s been amazing and it’s kind of crazy,” she said. “It makes us realize it’s not our doing, and it’s totally God using our hands to do his work.”

My Child Ministries has even picked up a few monthly donors since the organization’s conception.

“It’s cool to get the check in the mail every month,” Pecoraro said.

She said the organization has made appearances at the on-campus Vertical Ministries service, and has also partnered with the Baylor Interior Design Association to fundraise for the completion of construction in Eldoret.

“Because they’re a Baylor organization, we’re able to pair with them and do some fundraising on-campus,” Pecoraro said. “Next semester we’ll have our first big on-campus fundraiser with them.”

Pecoraro and Cathey met in the interior design program during their sophomore year at Baylor and learned of a mutually held passion for building orphanages in other countries.

“Ariel said she was waiting for the paperwork to go through, and two months later when the paperwork was approved, we started planning things,” Cathey said.

After visiting the church during a trip to Kenya, Pecoraro said she used money from her savings account to jumpstart the project during her freshman year at Baylor.

After filling out the necessary IRS paperwork, she waited a few months and was approved to start the certified charity.

“Many nonprofits are not official tax-exempt organizations,” Pecoraro said. “We wanted to do everything right from the beginning because we’re college students, and we wanted for people to take us seriously.”

Cathey serves as Project Manager for the organization and works closely with Joseph Likavo, the church’s pastor, to coordinate ideas between the organization and the church.

Her responsibilities include budgeting and keeping track of project spending.

Pecoraro said the experience of leading an organization has taught her about thriving as a spiritual leader despite her young age.

“It’s been kind of a joke between me and God,” Pecoraro said. “He’s like, ‘Yeah, you can do that.’ I don’t want to be held back by my age.”

Humility has also been a byproduct of working with the church in Kenya, Cathey said.

The community, although dominated by poverty, is still overflowing with people who desire to give all they have to people who have even less than them, she said.
“It’s been very humbling,” she said. ““It’s really interesting to see how even the people who live in poverty over there completely understand giving.”

Both students said they have seen God move from the organization’s beginnings to the current construction that is being accomplished now.

“There’s no question,” Cathey said. “It’s God. One hundred percent, all God. It’s a blessing.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the organization can visit to learn more. Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 826, Waco, TX, 76703.