A few years ago, Norma Nashed thought again about what to do with her life after having discovered she had cancer. She had modest retirement savings, which she decided to use in improving the lives of young people in developing countries. She targeted Africa and Asia as recipients of the project she calls Reaching Hearts for Kids..
“It was a time when I had cancer and wanted to do something with my life, other than just work for myself,” Nashed said.
Nashed now builds orphanages, schools, and assists young people to make better lives for themselves. The non-governmental organization she founded and heads helps more than 600 children who have lost their parents to AIDS and other disasters. “I was willing to give whatever retirement savings I had because of my love for children,” said Nashed who sometimes works with local shelters which do not have appropriate means to provide care to children.
In Kenya, Reaching Hearts for Kids helps a shelter for 70 children founded by Kenyan Mary Metobo. But the means to meet the growing demand is a daunting task for Metobo.. “These children have to be fed, they have to clothed, and have to be educated,” Metobo said.
Reaching Hearts for Kids has provided furniture, and a three-month supply of food and clothing. Nashed has formed a link with an Adventist community service group that facilitates fund raising. Her NGO has also has drawn funds from congregations and friends from the Middle East. “The donations have grown in the last five years from $5,000, the first year, to over $140,000 this year,” she said.
In areas where there is shortage of water supplies, Reaching Hearts for Kids is digging wells. In Indonesia and Ethiopia about a hundred children get food, education and medical care. Her plans in the next five years include the construction of an orphanage in Kenya and a school in India. For the effort, Nashed will need to raise up to a million dollars.
Nashed remains optimistic about the prospect of acquiring such funds. She said the challenges are immense but help is always there. “I just need to do my part and sacrifice and commit myself. And God will do the rest.”
According to UN estimates there are more than 20 million children on the streets in Africa. The children, mostly runaways from home and victims of other natural disasters, face abuse and crime on the streets.