Wa-Hi orchestra teacher Julie Woods volunteers with Embracing Orphans, a Walla Walla-based nonprofit started by Garrison Middle School PE teacher Carl Robanske.
Embracing Orphans mainly helps with childcare, field trips and financial gifts. The two major facilities Embracing Orphans helps at are:
-Blossom Gardens ages, birth – eight years old
-Windsor Girls’ Home for teen girls ages 13-17
“We’ve taken the Blossom kids to the beach, ice cream and the zoo. The Windsor Girls we have brought to the Dunns River Falls, treated them to a movie and game nights, and put on a YoungLife camp for them last summer,” Woods said.
At the Windsor Girls facility, there is an 8-foot silver cyclone fence surrounding the premises. At dusk, men prey on girls by calling to them through the holes in the fence. These men lure them out, use them sexually, giving them drugs and offering them up to others. These girls will likely not return to a life of hope and love.
“I love to hold them and to be able to love someone who may not otherwise be loved on,” said Stacey Johnson, a Wa-Hi alum and volunteer who participated for her first time in December.
Woods has been going every school break since the summer of 2009. She recently returned from her fifth trip.
Last summer she spent seven weeks in Jamaica. “I love singing to the little ones until they fall asleep on your shoulder. Also bringing them to the beach is one of my favorite things,” Woods said.
Embracing Orphans has had over 150 volunteers travel to Jamaica over the past two years, ranging in age from 8 to 70. Some volunteers journeyed from Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Australia and Canada. Typically, the volunteers are adults. Students may participate if they have a parent or adult chaperone.
“I guess the short answer of why I continue to do this is because I have to … I think God calls every Christian to care for the orphaned. If I call myself a Christian, then what am I doing to care for the orphaned, abused, and neglected?” Woods said.
Since Embracing Orphans is Christian based, they encourage people to pray for those volunteering, share the knowledge of Embracing Orphans to friends, and family, yet also to give money. Financial help is needed to keep Embracing Orphans going.
“There are over 143 million orphans in the world, and if I don’t do my part, who will? There’s a definite need in Jamaica, as in so many other countries, for people to care for those who need help. Embracing Orphans is just my vehicle to do that,” Woods said.
The most important thing Embracing Orphans would like you to do is to join them and to go on the trips over to Jamaica to see for yourself what is happening over there.
“What do those kids need most? A family. Not just toys and money, although that helps, but people to love and care for them,” Woods said. “I’ve chosen to share my resources with the orphaned, abused and neglected of Jamaica.”