Student-founded nonprofit to create Christmas for orphans

Katy junior Maggie Saint John holds one of the orphans from All Nations Charity Home in Ghana.Courtesy Art
Katy junior Maggie Saint John holds one of the orphans from All Nations Charity Home in Ghana.
Courtesy Art
By Sara Katherine Johnson

After three trips with Baylor Missions in Ghana as an undergraduate studying social work, Bartlesville, Okla., master’s candidate Emily Hood fell in love with the orphanage All Nations Charity Home.

The poor living conditions of the 43 children who lived there inspired her to found Abba’s Children International with Conroe senior Josh Hansen, and now the duo is working to bring Christmas cheer to orphans.

The organization, whose goal is to relieve basic stresses so the orphanage can focus on growth, is accepting donations until Dec. 1 to make sure all 43 children of All Nations Charity Home in Ghana have Christmas presents.

“A lot of the kids are malnourished and it’s a very impoverished area that they live in,” Hood said. “It’s not that it wasn’t well run, they just didn’t have any consistent funds.”

Hansen and Hood started talking about helping the children in June 2013. Hood serves as the director of operations of the new nonprofit that launched in September.

Originally, the founding pair envisioned starting a small charity to help raise money. Within the first month, however, the organization was able to secure a sponsorship for all of the kids at the orphanage, effectively changing their goals.

Sponsors provide money to support health care, food and school needs. There is also sponsor for a staff member who resides in Ghana to provide constant insight on how their work is implemented.

Because the children are sponsored, the nonprofit is now focusing on projects to help improve the building.

When Hood went to Ghana for the fourth time over the summer, girls in the home were sleeping on the floor. To remedy this situation, Hood said they are now raising money to build a girls dormitory where they can feel safe.

Going forward, they hope to keep giving consistent financial support to the orphanage, Hood said. After the dorms are built, they want to continue revamping the building. Once the building is in its best shape as determined by Abba’s Children International and the orphanage, they would like to work with another orphanage.

“We want to find off-the-beaten-path orphanages,” Hood said. “You can’t really do that unless you’re physically there walking around.”

Katy junior Maggie Saint John, communications coordinator for the nonprofit, said they hope to empower individuals in Ghana instead of pretending they have all the answers.

“A big thing is empowering people who already know how these kids have grown up and are familiar with Ghanaian culture,” Saint John said. “We want to give the power to them, because they get to disciple in their lives directly.”

Dealing with cultural differences has been one of the challenges for running a nonprofit in the United States that serves in Africa, Hood said. She said learning how to work across seas and cultures has been a long process.

“We live in America and we expect that to see familiar things internationally,” Hood said. “That’s not how it works though. It hurts more if we go in trying to impart western ways in an environment that isn’t the west. Ultimately we have to bring the best of both cultures to give the best to the kids.”

Saint John said her goals are to introduce Americans to Ghana and let them know Abba’s is about relationships.

“Each kid has a name and a story,” Hood said. “That’s what makes us a unique nonprofit. I know everyone of those kids individually and we want everyone involved to know them as individuals too.”