Orphanage Support Service Organization is working to help raise awareness on how people can help support orphanages.
This month, OSSO is having a campaign called October for Orphans.
Members of the OSSO hope that this campaign will help people grow more aware of how they can help orphanages locally, without the need of travelling abroad, said Suzanne Durrant, volunteer and travel coordinator at OSSO.
“You don’t have to travel abroad to serve an orphan; there are ways that you can do it in your own community,” Durrant said. “Everyone has a talent or an interest that they can use that can bless an orphan’s life. We want people to realize that it is not about traveling abroad or donating thousands of dollars, but it is about what you can do to bless the orphan’s life.”
After adopting his three children, Rex Head, founder of OSSO, and his wife had the desire to help other children who were orphans.
Head and his wife travelled to Ecuador and provided service for orphanages around the area.
“After adopting two healthy little girls and a young boy with cerebral palsy, my wife and I wanted to do more to help children without parents,” Head said. “We visited and gave assistance in orphanages in several countries, but when visiting girls in an orphanage in Cuenca, Ecuador, I had the feeling that somehow these girls were different. It was like they were my own children. We returned a couple of times as a family and then with a group of volunteers from Ricks College.”
In 1999 Head and his family formed OSSO to help orphanages and send volunteers from around the world to give service to the orphanages in Ecuador.
“We have had volunteers from all around the world — United Kingdom, Canada, all across America — but the majority do come from BYU and BYU-Idaho,” said Andrea Lott, OSSO Program Coordinator for Thailand
Chalae Smith, a senior studying social work at BYU-I, said she has participated as a volunteer in Ecuador with OSSO.
“I first volunteered for OSSO in 2008,” Smith said. “I was looking for an opportunity to serve, and OSSO kind of came to me in a way and at the perfect timing. It was always a dream of mine and for many personal reasons. I have a passion for children and want to help them recognize their divine potential and to value their self-worth.”
Smith said it is important for students at BYU-I and people around the community to raise awareness and take part in October for Orphans.
“We are a service oriented student body, and there are many opportunities to be of service within our church and our communities,” Smith said. “Sometimes we want to make a difference but might not know how, or might even believe that we can’t. We would like to raise awareness to those willing to help save the lives of these orphans, and to make a difference. OSSO looks first to meet the child’s basic needs, such as love, food, shelter, clothing and safety, and then assists them in gaining further resources that allow them to progress further.”
OSSO is unique, compared to other orphanage support organizations, because of the time that the volunteers spend doing service in the orphanages, Durrant said.
“The part that is unique about our program is that we are in the orphanages full-time or even more than full time,” Durrant said. “Our volunteers get the experience of the culture and the tourism, but our main focus is to serve the orphans first. Whereas other programs spent a bulk of their time touring, and then they just stop and do a short service project.”
Head said that since starting OSSO in 1999, the organization has been able to expand and be able to help more than a dozen orphanages in Ecuador. He has recently opened a new orphanage in Thailand thanks to the financial, volunteer and consulting support given graciously.
There are more than 132 million children classified as orphans; only 13 million have lost both parents, which shows that most orphans are living with a surviving parent, grandparent or other family members, according to UNICEF.
In the U.S., 397,122 children are living in the foster care system, and according to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, 101,666 of these children are eligible for adoption.
On Oct. 24, OSSO will be hosting a Color for a Cause event, where all the proceeds that will be made will go to support orphanages in need.
Durrant said OSSO is hoping to raise as much awareness as possible this month. He said they also hope that their slogan, “Raise Awareness, Raise Funds, and Raise Hope for Orphans,” can bring people to help these orphanages and bless the life of orphans around the world.