Clean Water Relief Fund

The Story of Hope International Orphanage, Inc.

by Jennifer M. Keane-Dawes


In July 2015 I traveled as a Faculty Chaperone with Bridge Education Abroad Institute (BEA) to Johannesburg South Africa. One of the activities that was planned for the group of students and I was a visit to a vegetable garden in the Mpumalanga Province.  I was to learn later that Mpumalanga means “The Place of the Rising Sun.” 

I stood by and watched as the group of about four men were bending over the small garden beds, demonstrating to the three students who were with me, how to insert the cloves of garlic amongst the carrots and lettuce---an insect repellant to protect the small roots of vegetables which were the livelihood of the community. These indigenous people spoke no English, but through a translator, I learned that one head of cabbage, bundled with a few carrots could be sold to any family from the province for about ten Rands. The office of Agriculture a few feet away underscored the economic importance of the garden. The office had a porch, and on it were posters with diagrams in colors of green and yellow and black and white, along with carefully laid out instructions on how to plant and get the best yield from the crops. 


While the men planted, a woman was shifting a hose around and about watering the beds. I walked over to her and said hello. She smiled, but we both remained in comfortable silence as she continued to water the beds.  We had no common language. As I took the hose from her and started watering, the interpreter walked over to us. She said that the woman was a stalwart in the community, working the vegetable garden and then leaving to go from place to place to take care of orphans, many of them abandoned. “Orphans?” I asked. She explained that there were many in the community, an unbearable situation caused by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The interpreter said the community needed help, and that an orphanage would go a long way in addressing the challenges. I felt like I was in the middle of the worst situation, but nevertheless, in awe when she said that the woman would often feed the children out of the meager resources she had for herself. I looked at the woman, and somehow she understood the question “how?” stamped in the expression on my face, and in response, she looked up and pointed her index finger toward the heavens. We hugged each other.


I walked away from the plot that afternoon with a knowing that Jesus had brought me to Mpumalanga to show me the work that He had for me to do. I would have to initiate the efforts to build an orphanage in the community. I did not know how, I did not know where I would get the money, I did not know how it would be staffed and managed, I did not know anything. All I knew was that if He wanted it built, He would show me the Way. The following afternoon I was at dinner with the students at the hotel. I told them about the intention to build the orphanage. Very quickly, each responded, “I will help you.”

On my visit to Johannesburg, I had met Ruth, a nurse. I told her about the orphanage idea. She, too, wanted to help. She said she wanted the opportunity to serve Christ by utilizing her expertise in program management and caring for people with HIV.  Since July of 2015, the orphanage has been given a name—Hope International, to love, care for and provide hope to the orphans of Mpumalanga in the name of Jesus Christ.  Pastors Tom and Mark Bunting of Emmanuel Wesleyan Church in Salisbury Maryland, prayed for its success. Pastor Bolaji Okulate of the Redeemed Christian Church of God prayed for its success.  Hope International Orphanage was incorporated in Maryland, USA in September 2015. Its Executive Board is comprised of the founder and co-founders.  We have submitted a proposal for land in Mpumalanga to build the orphanage, plant crops to sustain it, and for a recreational area where the orphans might play.  We continue to move forward, trusting God for His provision at every turn. Please pray for us
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Jennifer Keane-Dawes 
Salisbury, MD
Hope International Orphanage 
Registered nonprofit
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