“Responsible for Their Story”
Written by: Giving Children Hope’s Executive Director, Sean Lawrence
“Now you’re responsible for their story,” my dad said to me after my first humanitarian trip 25 years ago. We were packing up to fly home after several weeks visiting orphanages and hospitals in Vietnam, and my dad, a man who spent his career as a journalist telling the stories of the world’s suffering, wanted me to know that the stories that we’d witnessed and heard couldn’t end with us. With the privilege of hearing these stories comes the responsibility of passing them on, of entrusting them to others and doing our part to have a positive impact on their stories outcome.
To this day I still feel the responsibility to share the stories that have been entrusted to me. Whether it be families here in Orange County struggling to put food on the table or survivors of natural disasters, we have the opportunity to be participants in their stories.
Recently I was part of a small team that visited the Bekaa Valley, a beautiful agricultural hub of Lebanon whose fertile fields end in the foothills of Syria. Over the past several years these fields have become a temporary home to over one million Syrians seeking refuge from the terror taking place in their homeland.
We spent part of our time distributing food and hygiene kits to refugees living in makeshift camps filled with temporary tents, but the majority of our time was spent sitting and hearing their stories. We sat on their floors, drank coffee, asked questions, listened and prayed. The stories they shared were repeated throughout the week by different families in different temporary homes: tales of bombings, kidnappings, torture, harrowing escapes, lost family members, destroyed villages, and hopeless futures.
Most conversations would end with us praying together and the first prayer request in each home was always for an opportunity for their children to get an education. The remaining requests included safety for themselves and for family members left behind in Syria, peace in their homeland, food and warm clothes. One family with five young children asked us to pray for protection for their three-month-old baby who kept getting bit by rats as she slept.
Sadly, the people that we met represent only a small percentage of the approximately three million Syrian refugees living in temporary camps like this in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq.
So what do we do with their stories? GCHope has been actively sending relief items over the past two years. Every month, 40-foot containers filled with food, clothes, soap and medical supplies are packed up and sent out of our warehouse; fifteen have left so far.
But we need your help. Our partners in Lebanon and Jordan are in urgent need of winter relief items such as new clothes (jackets, sweatshirts, adult and children), blankets, new shoes and hygiene items. Winters in the camps are cold and wet.
Unfortunately, the needs continue to grow as the conflict in Syria escalates. We invite you to join us in being responsible for their story.
GCHope’s Community Development Director, Elizabeth Saldana said, “Through our Tackling Child Hunger event we have been able to make new friends that share our passion for helping the less fortunate. It has been a blessing to see so many people across various cities come together to collect food for the homeless children and families we serve. A simple bag of rice or canned meat can make the difference between a child going to bed hunger or not. Many children will be going to bed with a full tummy because of our new friends aka Hunger Fighters. On behalf of all the children we serve we thank you for your generosity and look forward to doing it again next year!”
Tackling Child Hunger wrapped up on September 30! We had an amazing turn out from four cities and 40 schools that participated in order to help local families in need. GCHope staff was amazed by the willingness of so many people to make a month-long food and fund drive possible. A HUGE shout out and thank you to the City of Buena Park, City of Stanton, City of Fullerton, Los Cerritos Center, and Buena Park Downtown for hosting food drives. More importantly, thank you for believing in GCHope’s mission to serve vulnerable children across the street and around the world. GCHope is lucky to be surrounded by so many cities, business, organizations, and individuals that joined Tackling Child Hunger to make our local community a better place.
The grand total donated was 18,800 pounds of food! All of the food received will go directly to the homeless children in WGYB that receive a backpack of nutritious food every week.
There are 30,000 homeless children in Orange County. In order to bring more attention to that statistic, PawnShop kings came to town! As part of Tackling Child Hunger, GCHope’s hunger awareness month, we hosted a benefit concert on September 13 for WGYB. In addition to enjoying the live music and food, we celebrated GCHope’s newly finished aquaponic garden! Thanks to all who attended the show, GCHope raised over $2,000!
Tackling Child Hunger is a month-long food and fund drive to kick off WGYB’s school year. GCHope’s goal is to increase the number of backpacks distributed by 15% which is close to 200 more backpacks each week. In order to accomplish that task, GCHope must ensure we have enough donors and food to commit to those on our waiting list.
This year we are proud to say that Tackling Child Hunger will be held in partnership with the City of Buena Park, the City of Stanton, the City of Fullerton, Buena Park Downtown, and Los Cerritos Center. GCHope is so grateful for the growth in support to end hunger in Orange County through these partnerships.
Info on Tackling Child Hunger: gchope.org/tackling-hunger
WGYB Stewardship Update
Value of food distributed last year: $1,592,000
Fundraising goal this year: $209,880
Amount raised thus far: $14,000
GCHope’s greatest desire for those who hear the story of a child we serve is that they would desire to become part of that story. Wilshire Avenue Community Church in Fullerton has become a large part of many children’s stories in recent months.
GCHope was first introduced to Wilshire Avenue in February and they have shown us what love in action really looks like. Within two months of hearing about WGYB, Wilshire Avenue adopted Richmond Elementary and began backpack distribution at the school. Wilshire Avenue picks up food from GCHope, packs it and then prays over it with their volunteers and delivers it to the families.
As if adopting a school wasn’t enough, Wilshire Avenue’s involvement expanded when they took on the project to help build and maintain GCHope’s aquaponic garden. Volunteers of all ages and different skill sets joined together in this project.
Wilshire Avenue’s heart for others is reaching those in the city of Fullerton, but also touching lives in places like Guatemala. GCHope was thrilled to help further Wilshire Avenue’s vision to serve by supplying a missions team with medical and prenatal supplies in June. Wilshire Avenue has an incredible heart for loving others and GCHope is humbled by this transformative partnership that truly is making a difference to so many lives.
GCHope’s very own aquaponic garden has been completed! In just two weeks a transformation occurred at GCHope’s facility in Buena Park, turning an empty courtyard into a sustainable garden oasis that will provide fresh produce and fish.
GCHope wants to remain inventive in the methods in which we serve vulnerable children and families, so when given the chance to extend our serving capacity, we jumped at the opportunity to build our own garden. This garden will potentially produce 850 fish annually and 150 pounds of produce every single month. This new food source will be a great addition to the meals we are currently providing for 5,000 people every week.
GCHope’s aquaponic garden is a completely sustainable system with zero waste left in the environment. It was built in partnership with Renewable Farms, a socially-minded organization that “aims to bring life and resources to underserved environments.” The garden is self-sufficient, producing an ecosystem that grows produce ten times faster than a normal environment.
It sustains itself by recycling the fish waste and water through the grow beds as a natural fertilizer for the plants; in return, the plants generate a bacteria that helps the fish grow healthier and stronger. It’s a beautiful revolution resulting in delicious food.
GCHope loves the idea that we will be able to personally ask the families we serve what their favorite fruits or veggies are and grow them in our own backyard! In addition to the food provision benefits, this garden also offers a new volunteer opportunity to those in our community. We are grateful to Wilshire Avenue Community Church in Fullerton for their help with construction of the garden, as well as the continued support to maintain it. We are blessed by our volunteers and always thrilled to have new ones join the family. Bon Appétit!
The garden completed!
On September 11th, GCHope had a group of 60 volunteers spending a day serving others in honor of the anniversary of a very memorable and important day in American history. The companies that volunteered that day were Union Bank, Starbucks, and K & L Gates. We were lucky enough to have 20 new volunteers from Union Bank. September 11th was this group of Union Bank employees first time volunteering here at GCHope, and it won’t be the last! Our new volunteers love to give back to the community. They even have a Volunteer Coordinator for each division. This division is from the Orange County and Inland Empire. Their Volunteer Coordinator found an opportunity at GCHope for them to volunteer and the rest is history! Tina Robinson from Union Bank said she loves giving back and volunteering by packing backpacks for WGYB is close to her heart. We love sharing our passion and mission for serving vulnerable children and families with new volunteers.
Thanks Union Bank, Starbucks, K & L Gates for coming out to serve that day! Come back and visit us again soon!
“We’re not the ones treating patients in the Philippines but we are supplying the hospitals who do. We don’t build wells but we send shovels to those who are. That’s the type of organization GCHope is – one that believes in the mission of serving the poor and helps equip those who serve well. Instead of believing that we know best about a person’s situation or what can help them overcome poverty, we partner with groups who are on the front lines of the greatest needs and we do our best to support their needs no matter how large or small they may be. The order on GCHope’s plate right now is providing hope for homeless youth in Orange County.” ED Sean Lawrence shared these thoughts and goals with concert-goers from a candlelit stage at GCHope’s benefit concert on Saturday, Sept 13.
Joel and Scott Owen, otherwise known as the PawnShop kings, and former The Voice contestant Trevor Davis played this weekend to help GCHope Tackle Child Hunger in Orange County. PawnShop kings have been a great friend to the organization and have a passion to help vulnerable children.
“For whatever reason a parent struggles to provide, be it from debilitating drug dependence to unavoidable bad luck, as fathers ourselves, it breaks our hearts to know that there are children suffering and/or falling behind as a result,” said Joel Owen. It makes supporting the vision of GCHope an easy answer. Not only are there needs in every other part of the world, but here, locally, spread across even our own county. We feel privileged to stand beside this movement in any way we can.”
The concert was held as part of GCHope’s campaign, Tackling Child Hunger in Orange County. All proceeds went to support the homeless children in GCHope’s We’ve Got Your Back (WGYB) program, which provides meals for 5,000 homeless people every single week. The concert was a huge success and raised over $2,000! There were close to 120 people in attendance from all over Orange County to be part of the solution for these deserving kids. GCHope also showcased our new aquaponic garden, which will be producing 150 lbs. of fresh fruits and vegetables each month for the WGYB food program.The entire evening was a blast and included a photo booth, food, drinks, and a raffle.
Thank you to all the vendors that helped make the event so successful: PawnShop Kings, Trevor Davis, The Robbin’s Nest Wine Bar, Paris Baguette, A’roma Ristorante, Bootleggers Brewery, and E2G2.
To help tackle child hunger in Orange County donate here.
It’s the time of the year that makes me want to have a bouquet of sharpened pencils on my desk and a new outfit to wear for the first day of school. For many of the families in GCHope’s We’ve Got Your Back (WGYB) program, back-to-school items are hard to fit into a tight budget. GCHope decided to do a little extra something to help out.
Recently GCHope was blessed with enough brand new school supplies to provide two of our WGYB schools with a wonderful gift. It was a complete surprise to the families; when they arrived to pick up their regular backpack of food, they found out they were being given some lovely gifts. Each child in the family was given a dazzling new backpack with notebooks, folders, pencils, erasers, rulers and more. In addition to the school supplies, parents received a care package with hygiene products, including toothpaste, hand sanitizer, shampoo, soap, tupperware and a few other household items.
When the mothers heard what their children were receiving, one could not help but notice the sincerity in their eyes when they said, “Thank you.” These parents had such gratitude that their children were being provided for and would have these things to start the school year off well. The kids had a blast getting to pick the red backpack or the pink notebook, explaining how excited they were to take it with them on their first day of school. GCHope is so grateful that we were able to supply these kids with a bit of joy and pride as they step through the door of their new class and new school year. Restoring dignity in people’s lives once again is something we strive for everyday at GCHope.
September is Tackling Child Hunger month! Tackling Child Hunger is a month-long food and fund drive to kick off the We’ve Got Your Back (WGYB) school year. Hundreds of schools, businesses and churches will be collecting non-perishable food items for WGYB families. GCHope’s goal is to increase the number of backpacks distributed by 15% this year, which is nearly 200 additional backpacks provided each week to homeless families. In order to accomplish that task, GCHope must ensure we have enough donors and food to commit to those on our waiting list. This year we are proud to say that Tackling Child Hunger is in partnership with the City of Buena Park, City of Stanton, City of Fullerton, Buena Park Downtown, and Los Cerritos Center. GCHope is so grateful for the growth in support to end hunger in Orange County through these partnerships.
Help end hunger in our community!
Consider donating to the cause! We are able to purchase food for lower prices than at your grocery store so if you want your donation to go farther, this is the way to do it!
$10 Donation = 71 meals for a family in need
$25 Donation = 178 meals for a family in need
$50 Donation = 357 meals for a family in need
$100 Donation = 714 meals for a family in need
$500 Donation = 3,571 meals for a family in need
$1,000 Donation = 7,142 meals for a family in need
Most needed items:Peanut Butter, Water or Juice, Canned Meats, Rice, Pasta, Oatmeal
Our volunteers continue to amaze us! From packing backpacks for We’ve Got Your Back to sorting through medical supplies- they never stop giving. We are so lucky to have had 17 Nutrilite volunteers come into GCHope. Nutrilite is an active volunteer group here. Once a month, Nutrilite visits GCHope to volunteer. This week, these volunteers helped build 500 hygiene kits for Syrian refugees. Amazing! We cannot begin to thank Nutrilite enough. We are thrilled Nutrilite is taking part in our mission in serving vulnerable children and families across the street and around the world. Thanks Nutrilite!