No one imagined back in 2009, when a group of moms and their 13-year-old daughters forever changed by a mission trip to Guatemala created a volunteer-led auxiliary for Orphan Outreach that—10-years later—the group would raise more than $1 million dollars for the comprehensive care of hundreds of orphaned and vulnerable children and families living in extreme poverty.
The girls were so moved by their experience that they wanted to do more. Together with their moms, they formed the auxiliary and named it WOW—Women for Orphans Worldwide.
“We loved the name WOW, because when you turn it upside down, it spells MOM,” says WOW Founding Member and Orphan Outreach Director of Development and Marketing Tiffany Taylor Wines. “And it is the mom in all of us, even our daughters, that wanted to make a difference for the children in Guatemala.”
Many others have joined forces with the founders and over the years, WOW has grown in legacy, love and influence. Since its inception, more than 1,000 people have participated in 44 WOW mission trips, and members have raised countless gifts through fundraisers and supply drives.
A Legacy of Love in Dallas
This year, the founding chapter of Women for Orphans Worldwide celebrated its 10-year-anniversary luncheon on December 7th at the Westin Galleria in Dallas. The event raised more than $100,000 and had more than 400 attendees.
Proceeds from this year’s WOW luncheon will help launch a new preschool at the Community Care Center in Chimaltenango, for the children of parents who work to make less than $1 a day working at the Guatemala city dump. The preschool will provide a safe learning environment and a daily nutritious meal.
In addition, WOW funds will continue to meet critical needs for five Orphan Outreach ministry programs in Guatemala. These programs help orphaned and vulnerable children receive an education and psychological support. They help ensure that the children develop physically, spiritually and emotionally. Funds also support programs to strengthen families at-risk of separation in order to prevent children from becoming orphans.
A Guatemalan market with hundreds of handmade crafts, purses, blouses, nativities and Christmas decorations allowed attendees to make purchases, and a new Big Board and place bids on larger, local items all benefiting the children WOW serves.
Before the market opened, a group of vibrant young women and their mothers huddled for pictures. The original middle schoolers have all graduated from college and are now pursuing masters degrees or launching their careers.
Most of the girls have known each other since kindergarten, if not earlier.
“Through this whole experience, I think we just learned how much of an impact you can really make,” says Marlee Tarwater, who is completing her masters in tax accounting. “You can have an idea and turn it into something so powerful.”
Inna Wines, who is working on her masters in occupational therapy at Abilene Christian University, says she eventually hopes to move to a developing country to work directly with orphans. She has returned to Guatemala every year since the initial trip.
“It all goes back to the impact of that first trip to Guatemala,” she says. “It was just an incredible experience to go through that with my friends.”
A Circle of Joy in Houston
The Women for Orphans Worldwide Houston chapter hosted its first-ever Circle of Joy celebration on Thursday, December 6th. Hand-crafted items from Guatemala were available, along with lots of conversation about how to provide ongoing care for orphaned and vulnerable children in the Central American country. More than 100 people attended the event, and close to $30,000 was raised in two short hours.
100% of the money raised is being used to provide sustaining support to Love the Child baby home and the Community Care Center (CCC), a community outreach program serving severely impoverished children and their families in Chimaltenango.
“Our community is so incredibly generous and supportive,” exclaims Robin Conner, WOW Houston President-Elect. “To love children they’ve never met is overwhelming and we’re forever grateful for that.”
Board member Julie Treadwell agrees. “After being in Guatemala and investing time in the children and those who care for them, this fundraiser is something thing we can do right here at home to help the ministries in all they do there.”
Terri Tarwater was a WOW founder 10 years ago and was instrumental in launching the Houston chapter of the volunteer-led auxiliary for Orphan Outreach. “It’s almost surreal that 10 years later this is starting in Houston – and starting HUGE!” she shares. “This isn’t just a little idea. This is a huge movement to support the children of Guatemala with women who love these children. I’m so excited that a whole new generation of people see today what we’ve seen for a decade, who feel love for these children and embrace God’s call to help them.”
The Impact of Service
At both events, two guest speakers from Love the Child, a Guatemala partner ministry, shared testimonies of three children who have benefitted from WOW funds through their time in Love the Child. Love the Child is a baby home that provides refuge to abused, abandoned and orphaned infants and toddlers.
Shyrel Atkins, Love the Child Founder and Director, talked first about Benson, who arrived at the home when he was 3. His mother was incarcerated and he was in the custody of an neglectful and abusive relative until a neighbor reported the situation to authorities.
Atkins says that, thanks in large part to the low caregiver/child ratio and the special attention given to each child, Benson is now a 4-year-old who is doing well. Love the Child staff continues working to help him overcome the trauma he suffered before arriving.
“Milagros was only 6 weeks old when she arrived at Love the Child,” Atkins says, adding that as a newborn infant, she had been dumped in a deep latrine by her own mother. Someone heard her faint cries and reported them to the authorities, who worked to pull her out of the human waste and into urgent medical care. Today, Milagros has formed a healthy attachment with a Love the Child nanny who offers her one-on-one attention.
Angela’s story is one of hope—and permanency. Her mother chose to create an adoption plan for her, and Angela has been nurtured by her Love the Child nanny as she awaited her adoption – which took place as the Dallas WOW luncheon was happening.
“At this very moment, Angela actually is becoming part of a forever family,” Aktins shared. “Today, she is visiting a courthouse and being adopted.”
Love the Child Board Chair Dr. Mary Hibberd thanked those in attendance at both events for their support of WOW and Orphan Outreach.
“I think you can tell that what Sheryl does, what Love the Child does, what you help us do is so much more than food, clothing and shelter. You are changing lives.”