USA (MNN) — Stores across the U.S. are stocked with binders, paper, pens, crayons, lunchboxes, and backpacks as children prepare for a new school year. In developing countries, children also await their opportunity to attend school — but in many countries, admission is denied if the child isn’t equipped with school supplies.
Amy Norton of Orphan Outreach says education is essential to eradicating poverty and providing a better future for not only the children but their communities as well. So the ministry is hosting their annual Mission Backpack drive for school supplies, backpacks, and more.
Norton says, “It’s just so important for these kids. For example, in Guatemala, if you don’t have a school uniform, you can’t attend school. This goes for all the schools there. Same thing in Kenya. If they don’t have a uniform, they’re actually not allowed to go to school. So part of our Mission Backpack funds actually help buy the clothing that’s needed for these kids to be able to attend school.”
More than 3,800 children are currently involved in the educational programs of Orphan Outreach in Guatemala, Honduras, India, Kenya, and Latvia.
Norton says the programs include both traditional school environments and after-school programs. “We have a lot of after-school programs too, for children. We’re trying to help them to be able to do well in school.”
Norton says there is a Gospel-centered approach to the education the children receive – and a special gift inside each backpack.
“Every child receives a Bible, and that Bible goes home with them. So not only are they receiving the Gospel there at school, but they’re also taking taking those Bibles back home to their families. And as they’re working on schoolwork, they’ve also been sharing what they’re learning in school with their families, so it’s also reaching out to the community as well with the Gospel — even through the school.”
The program provides two ways for people to contribute. School supplies and new backpacks are collected by churches, schools, community groups and individuals, and are then delivered to the ministry’s U.S. headquarters in Plano, Texas. “We have mission teams deliver those supplies throughout the year,” shares Norton.
But she says the preferred donation method is through financial contributions designated for the program. According to Norton, those donations help more than the student. Materials are then purchased in the countries themselves, lifting up the local community as well.
“$24 will purchase a backpack and school supplies for one child,” shares Norton.
In addition to donations for Mission Backpack, Norton says prayer is essential. “Especially be praying for these children as they are beginning a new school year. Pray for the staff in the schools where we partner and serve. The staff and the leadership in the schools, they certainly need to be lifted up in prayer all the time. It’s very exhausting work, and they’re working with a lot of kids from very needy families.”
And she asks that Orphan Outreach be lifted up in prayer as well, for much-needed resources to be provided as they continue to serve orphans and vulnerable children around the world.