SOW 2023 Year in Review

SOW Year in Review 2023

We have always believed that our place in the ever-evolving landscape of orphan care is to support children’s homes, because they are often the last line of defense for orphaned children around the world. If anything, 2023 reminded us that the landscape of orphan care is in fact, ever evolving. From global conflict and economic hardship, we took som unprecedented steps this past year to stand up for orphaned and abandoned children around the world. Our global footprint has increased to over 80 homes in 39 countries, and we are stepping out in faith to meet more needs going into 2024. Here are some highlights of our global impact in 2023:

War in Ukraine

On February 24th, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, a sovereign nation once connected to Russia by the Soviet Union. We immediately became concerned about the safety of the staff, volunteers and children living at the five partner homes we have been supporting in the regions directly impacted by the shelling. Together, these homes care for over 310 orphaned and vulnerable children. 

A week into the invasion, it became evident that banking and access to other basic commodities would become more difficult. In an effort to be proactive, our executive leadership made the decision to send our field coordinator to Poland and Ukraine to assess needs, and ensure every dollar donated would be immediately mobilized to get the children to a safe location. SOW was able to not only evacuate the children, but also partner with a coalition of churches in Germany, Poland, and Romania, as well as connect with the European Theological Seminary. Through these partnerships, we were able to facilitate the rescue of hundreds of Ukrainian civilians and mobilize over 20 tons of food and supplies to those who need it most. 

Going into 2024, we have secured a new property for the Mariupol ministry that was completely destroyed, and we have secured a new building for Pearl and resettled them back to their home in Ukraine. Our partners in the field report that we are in the “eye of the storm” with regards to Ukraine. There is still a lot of foreign aid pouring in and supporting orphans to reside with foster families. Once that government program ends and families no longer receive compensation to take in foster children, we believe this region will be devastated with a major orphan crisis not seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

Rise in Violence as Civil War Escalates in DR. Congo

Since the start of the year, the war in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has significantly escalated. In 2023 alone, over 60,000 people have fled into Goma from surrounding areas because of the increase in violence. We launched a new campus in Bunia north of Goma. There is a very large refugee camp in the area with thousands of undocumented children rescued from the jungles and rural areas. The situation in DRC became the most critical it has been since the UN’s military got involved years ago. 

This presented two large challenges for our partner homes in the region. Prices on everyday goods have doubled and in some cases, tripled. Since the rebels took over that strategic point, the inflated costs of these goods have become scarce and too expensive for most residents to acquire. On top of the supply and pricing issues, banks shut down, leaving everyday residents in a bind. For our partner homes who are caring for up to 100 children, these challenges have become even more overwhelming.

All of our partner homes are facing serious financial and supply issues as well as security and safety threats. They are also trying to meet a much larger humanitarian need, while also trying to grapple with a tighter budget due to inflated goods. Our staff at SOW is working hard to assess the needs and provide some immediate relief. This year, we sent additional funds to account for inflation. Open Spring Children’s Home launched its brand new baby wing which now has the capacity to take in up to 10 infants. Between all of our children’s homes in DRC, 230 children are safe and have a place to call ‘home’. 

Harris Memorial Scholarship Fund

This year, we provided scholarships for dozens of young people, who all came into their respective children’s homes at a young age in such desperate situations. Through the Harris Memorial Scholarship Fund, they now have the opportunity to pursue their dreams through college-level studies. We also received three students to reside full-time in Kingsport TN at our “mission house.” They are on student visas and will have the opportunity to graduate with a US education and further their English studies. 

Latin America 

We were able to provide ongoing operational support to 11 children’s homes in Latin America. In Mexico and Central America, most projects raise additional support by hosting church missions teams during summer months. Since Covid, many of those team visits have slowed down and so has the support. In additional to the operational support we send each month, we were able to meet a variety of special needs and increase support to many of our partner homes in this region who took a hit both from covid and inflation. We purchased a new appliances and household items which also helped with the overall efficiency of their day to day operations. 

South Central Asia 

In 2023, the most critical issue in this region seems to be religious persecution. A couple of our partner campuses were inspected by local authorities and deal with ongoing intimidation. Despite the challenges, the children seem to be thriving. One young man who grew up in an orphanage received a SOW scholarship to obtain his Master’s degree in Social Work. He is now on staff full time at one of our new partner homes in India. Across India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, SOW has recently voted to expand and partner with more projects including the building and launch of two new partner homes in the regions. 

Southeast Asia and East Asia

We continued serving hundreds of children in Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, and Mongolia. Our new project in Laos is doing amazing work rescuing girls directly from enslavement. The trafficking and drug abuse in the mountainous border regions is a serious problem, and the true number of orphaned and abandoned children is not fully known. 

Big Bold Plans for 2024

At our December board meeting, SOW leadership voted to take on additional projects in 2024 which will represent an increase in monthly support and special projects. We are stepping out in faith to impact as many lives as we can this coming year. Just as it was at the beginning of our work, 100% of everything you give goes directly to the field. We run a very lean operation, and a group of special supporters cover all the SOW administrative costs. With your help, we can rescue more children who have been abandoned or orphaned this coming year. Thank you and God bless you.