CAPE CORAL, Fla. — A Southwest Florida non profit is on an international mission.
Those with Haven of Hope International will be traveling to Africa, raising awareness and funds to help provide vocational training for orphans.
The group’s mission is just scraping the peak of the global issue.
“I saw these young kids that would walk an hour to get to school every day. They want to be doctors, engineers, and I’m looking around at their surroundings and I’m thinking, ‘How in the world?’”
For Alice Sweet and her husband John, the two have been on a mission helping orphans around the world.
“We want to see them succeed in life so they need vocational training, college funding and I am specifically raising funds to raise a dream center at a home in Ruiru, Kenya,” says Alice Sweet, founder of Haven of Hope International.
Their work has taken them to Africa, home to much of the world’s orphan population. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports an estimated 153 million children worldwide are orphans, estimating that 99% will not be adopted.
"Of those children, every three seconds a child is aging out of orphan care," says Sweet. "60% of the boys will turn to a life of crime, 70% of the girls prostitution, and tragically 10-15% will attempt suicide because they just don’t have support when aging out.”
But despite the staggering statistics, some of the work the Sweets have done has made progress in the last five years both globally and nationally.
“We step into those children's lives who are so vulnerable and who have been through so much," said Dr. John Sweet, Executive Director of Heart of Florida Youth Ranch. "We start working with their trauma and their pain and getting them an education and getting them, hopefully, into families and into adoptive situations.”
"We’ve improved their surroundings, we’re sponsoring them on a monthly basis, getting psychologists and social workers in these homes to really help them deal with the trauma that came in with,” says Alice.
Part of this year’s mission includes climbing to the peak of Africa’s tallest mountain- Mount Kilimanjaro. A journey they once trekked five years ago.
"It’ll be six days up, two days down," said Alice. "And we’re ready for the climb.”
Even with a difficult path ahead, the Sweets know fully well that not everyone can visit or climb mountains. But anyone can help be an ambassador for the voiceless.
"One of the challenges that I want to make to people is don’t turn away," says John. "There’s something you can do in your community, there’s something you can do around your neighborhood, there’s something you can do for the world. Challenge people to do something.”
Alice and John, along with the Haven of Hope, leave for Africa on Sunday.