Helping build hope for orphans

Christian-based group to offer seminar on how to assist children in Africa, elsewhere

May 07, 2006|By ABIGAIL TUCKER | ABIGAIL TUCKER,SUN REPORTER

A group of Christian business executives, who bought a 230-acre farm in Zambia to make into a sanctuary for AIDS orphans, is encouraging others in the Baltimore area to help.

The nonprofit group All Kids Can Learn International is offering a seminar next weekend for people from all religious and professional backgrounds on how to help orphans in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere.

"When you take all the skills that have been built into a person over the years, all of them can be put to use in third-world countries," said Benedict Schwartz, the chief executive officer of the Harford County-based All Kids Can Learn International, which bought the farm last month. "Administering, establishing, teaching, even just holding babies."

"The equivalent of one trip to Starbucks would cover the school fees for an orphan for a semester," said Schwartz, a former software company owner who lives in Havre de Grace. "It's just crazy how much impact we can have."

The seminar - scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday at Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Bel Air - will discuss charitable options such as donations, adoptions and foster care. Representatives from various local churches will talk about their work in African children's villages and medical clinics.

Spokespeople for All Kids Can Learn also will be looking for support for their program. The group wants to build more "Villages of Hope" like the new Zambian facility, which will take the shape of a self-sufficient farm where older children take agricultural classes and till fields, Schwartz said. There will be a school, a medical clinic and housing. Children will also receive Christian instruction.

Although board members of All Kids Can Learn International hail from different churches, several are members of Mount Zion, which, along with Havre de Grace United Methodist, built a children's village in Namibia in 2002.

"With the seminar, we're trying to take the building blocks that we know to be foundationally solid and share them with other churches and other businesses," said Pat Tuttle, the nonprofit group'svice president, who lives in Havre de Grace.

Tuttle works for Network Funding, a Texas-based mortgage company that provided much of the seed money for the Zambia project.

All Kids Can Learn International hopes to build eight more Villages of Hope in Zambia in the next 36 months, Tuttle said.

For more information about Saturday's seminar or to register, call 410-939-5900 or e-mail info@akcli.org.

abigail.tucker@baltsun.com

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