Orphan Outreach Trip to Latvia

Orphan Outreach Trip to Latvia

BY LAVERNE STEVENS

Ashley Bell and Wesley Barnett are dating and doing their graduate work at UCLA. They reside in California while at school, but both are Polk County residents. Wesley graduated from All Saints Academy and Ashley has worked for the Polk County School Board. This past summer they both had a desire to reach out to someone in need. They wanted to get involved in a Christian based outreach project. While searching the web for information in this area, they discovered Orphan Outreach. After an in-depth study of this organization, Ashley and Wesley decided this would be a place that could use their volunteer service in an effort to help orphan children.

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Orphan Outreach is a non-profit organization that helps children in need in many countries. They primarily work in Guatemala, India, Kenya, Latvia, and Russia. They provide support programs designed to give at-risk children a better chance in life. They sponsor mission trips, provide program funding and partnerships to accomplish this goal. They reach out to emotional, physical, educational, and spiritual needs to improve living situations.

Both wanted to go to the eastern European area. They chose to take a one week mission trip to Latvia. They worked in two towns, a half week in each one. An orphanage in Jelgava gave them the opportunity to work with children from ages eight to eighteen. These children had become orphans due to being taken from their parents or they had lost their parents. Ashley and Wesley enjoyed interacting with the children, playing games and talking with them. The children understood and could speak English very well, but were afraid to make sentences because they thought they might make a mistake. There was a lot of non-verbal communication. “They know a lot about American Pop-Culture,” said Wesley, “They know more than I do about the current pop stars.” The children at the orphanage are taken care of by the state. They needed more outreach due to emotional depravity than physical daily needs.

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In Liepaja they visited a Day Center that is a private charitable enterprise. This is housed in a former naval base that has been renovated into residential housing. As this is a very low income area, both parents have to work to survive; so the Day Center is a very necessary part of their lives. “There were Latvians there, but we also saw a higher population of Russians,” said Wesley. Latvia is a former Soviet country. “We sat at a table and ate with the kids at the Day Center. We ordered pizza for them. These families are deprived and economically living in poverty. Pizza is a delicacy for them.” Wesley and Ashley planned and interacted in Bible study activities with the children.

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Ashley and Wesley still are in contact with a representative of Orphan Outreach. This December Ashley’s parents are hosting three sisters from the Orphanage in Latvia for a vacation. The girls are ages eight, ten, and thirteen. Wesley and Ashley will take the lead and spend time with the girls while they are staying with her parents. They will be here for almost a month.

It is refreshing to see young adults reaching out to improve a quality of living for someone in need. This experience is a two way win situation, as it provides emotional, spiritual, and educational enrichment for Ashley and Wesley as well as the orphans.

For more information on Orphanage Outreach go to website www.orphanoutreach.org.

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