Mark Coffey/Wednesday Sun photo
FORMING A HEART:
The Williams family knows a few things about love, commitment and the passion of the heart. That passion has been translated to a foundation which helps orphans in China. Their ultimate goal is to open a private orphanage in about 10 years. The family is, from left, Judy, Ken and Heather Williams.
People show care for orphans
by Kellie Houx
For Heather Williams, an Avila University graduate, dreams became reality quickly when she traveled to China in 2004 with parents Ken and Judy. Heather, with a master's in social work, found her heartstrings tugged while visiting orphanages.
Rather than despair to see millions of children without families, Heather and her parents started Hope's Heart a few months after returning home.
Judy sent The Wednesday Sun photos from the nonprofit foundation's most recent trip to China. One photo shows a child in need of a cleft lip and cleft palate surgery. I found myself almost in tears for this infant.
I have seen similar faces and wondered how these children gain weight with such deformities. It breaks my heart.
Happily, the next picture sent, appeared to be the same child, cradled in Heather's arms. The photo showed the child's mouth repaired and only a hint of a scar that should fade with age.
Such accomplishments count as miracles. My personal small miracles include getting to work with my sanity and car in one piece; getting my stories done before deadline; and having the best cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Beyond having daily needs met, my best miracles are my 7-year-old daughter, Maddie, and my husband, Aaron.
Maddie is our blessing and miracle. She is a daily reminder that good things come in small packages. Though she had no health issues, her adoption is a reminder that love is a rare and wonderful miracle.
I can see how Heather, Judy and Ken find their hearts tugged on by little girls and boys with black hair and almond-shaped eyes. I can understand how a person can offer love unconditionally to a child that may not speak the same language.
Aaron and I hope to experience more such love as we pursue adopting a toddler from Vietnam. We received a newsletter through our adoption agency. One story states the world has more than 140 million known orphans. In China, the numbers are in the millions and seem acerbated by the One Child Policy. Most families, through this policy, wanted boys. Girls often found themselves in orphanages. While the government is trying to get families to have girls, the numbers do not seem to decline in these orphanages.
In other parts of the world, poverty AIDS and other diseases sent children into orphanages.
Love is a gift and a miracle. Heather and her parents try to offer love to children when they travel. They also hope to reach the basic needs of medicine, development and education.
I want to offer my words of encouragement to the Williams family.
They are turning their dreams of helping into reality. Through their action, children living in an otherwise loveless world fine people who care.
Local foundation travels to China to help orphans
The Wednesday Sun
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
By Kellie Houx
Heather Williams has a heart for China.
After spending two weeks at a social welfare institute in south central China in July 2004, she decided that December, with the help of her parents Judy and Ken, Olathe, to start a foundation to help orphaned infants, toddlers and children.
Hope's Heart is a charitable, tax-exempt foundation administered by the Servant Christian Community Foun-dation.
“The foundation is a personal venture,” Heather, who lives in Olathe and works at ABC Adoptions in Lenexa, said. “When we went as a family in 2004, we played with kids and helped the staff. I knew I wanted to continue to help. I wanted to see children adopted and those who are not adopted – I wanted to see the best life possible for them. From this side of the world, I knew I could help supply funds that could benefit these children's health, overall care and education.”
Heather's parents stand beside their daughter in her decision to reach out to Chinese orphans. Ken traveled with Heather and Judy so the women would not travel alone, but he said he found himself happily consumed by children in need of love and care.
“I really feel that our actions are a visible representation of our faith,” Ken said. “It is how we show the love of Christ. We know words and actions speak louder. We get to live out our faith as we meet the needs of some of China's children and those who care for them.”
Hope's Heart seeks to raise more money and help more children. The Williams' ultimate goal is to build a private orphanage in China in 10 years.
The name Hope's Heart came about after the 2004 visit when Judy became attached to a girl and dubbed her “Hope.”
“We feel that God has a heart of hope for the children in China, so we just combined the two ideas and came up with a great name,” Heather said.
Heather, who received her bachelor's and master's degrees in social work from Avila University and the University of Kansas, respectively, said some donated funds are being used for medical procedures. As the family gets reports on children, their hope increases.
“We see children who have cleft lips and palates and they are so underweight,” Heather said. “The after pictures are so amazing as we see them gain weight and know they are going to have a better life. Their chances look better.”
Family support has kept Heather focused on her passion. Ken said the girls in China touched Heather's heart.
“I love being a father to a daughter,” he said. “I could not understand the decision to place a child in an orphanage. Of course, culturally, it is something they do.”
Contributing to Heather's concern for Chinese children is the country's one-child policy, in place since 1979. The policy sprang from the communist government's attempt to control its burgeoning population, which currently stands at 1.3 billion – one-fifth of the total world population of 6.4 billion.
Judy said her heart got tied up quickly too.
“Making a difference in every child's life is a giant step. But if we make improvements for one child at a time, that is so critical for our young foundation,” she said. “When we help one child rather than five, it is hard, but visible improvements are rewarding. We know there are huge numbers that need basic life care and someday we want to have the capacity to reach every one of them.”
The foundation also is working to create a school for special needs children in one of the government-run orphanages. Heather said she wants to give 20 students a chance to gain an education so they have skills to call on after being released.
“Five years ago, I knew nothing about China or their policies on children,” she said. “I had a passion to learn and an even greater passion to experience this. I knew I hated feeling helpless and wanted to make a difference.”
In July, the Williams' led a group of 17 friends to China to help children in various orphanages.
“As an only child, I always wanted a sibling, so I think I have a connection with them that has fulfilled part of that need,” Heather said. “As a family, we had some seed money and a couple grants. We are applying for others. Adoptive parents and folks in the community have helped. We have had a few fundraising events, but our biggest effort is to spread the news and our story. We are a grassroots group that God continues to bless.”
Heather attributes her values, years at Avila and profession for helping shape her interests.
“We have been in six different orphanages,” she said. “We have seen awesome nannies that give so much love to the children, but the orphanages are understaffed.”
Judy handles Hope's Heart's day-to-day operations. She gets financial help from Ken, who serves as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chief operating officer.
“I wish we had millions and we could help every child,” Judy said.
For more information, visit www.hopesheart.org.
Williams family takes group to China
By Kellie Houx
Hope's Heart founders Heather, Ken and Judy Williams, Olathe, made their third visit to China in July.
Unlike previous visits in 2004 and 2005, this time the family led a 17-person team on a two-week trip. The group spent more than a week at the Children's Welfare Institute and visited three other facilities with more than 250 orphans and their caregivers. They bought clothes and shoes for about 100 orphans.
"This was a group of people who put aside preconceived notions and their own feelings, and devoted themselves to all these children," Ken said. "They worked without complaining. There were long days, but it was amazing to show their love to other people."
Janet Goreham, south Kansas City, a co-worker of Ken's at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, said one of his office e-mails piqued her interest.
"My heart leapt at the chance to go to China with Hope's Heart," she said. "I had traveled to Mexico with a group from FCA, but this was really my first missions trip abroad and I could not have had a better time."
Goreham said the idea to minister to children appealed to her. "We take for granted what we have here and often forget the rest of the world," she said. "I first wanted to serve the children and anyone else, and second, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and see how God would work through people who don't speak the same language."
As an athlete, Goreham said she likes being part of a team and learning people's strengths and weaknesses.
"We made up for each other, " she said. "I really enjoyed seeing the impact on the children. They were not asking us for anything but attention. I knew I would be attached to a couple of the kids and I thought I would have a hard time leaving, but God showed me that I could love those kids and he would make sure they would be OK."
Goreham said she understands orphans and orphanages. "My brother was adopted from Russia and I have two cousins adopted too," she said. "I believe my ties to the Williams family will continue, either through finances or another trip. I believe in Hope's Heart."
Chinese Orphans Capture Family's Heart
Desire to help children leads to fledgling foundation
Kansas City Star, Olathe Neighborhood News
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
By Kate Beem
Special to the Star
Four years ago, Heather Williams found herself at one of life's first crossroads: the start of college.
She didn't know what career she wanted to pursue, so she did a little investigating. And she found herself drawn toward the field of adoption: working with families wanting children, helping children who've been abandoned.
But as she began her studies at Avila University, the Olathe woman also realized something else: She wasn't just interested in adoption generally. She zeroed in on adoption in China, where upwards of 200,000 children are abandoned each year.
Four years later, Williams, 22, is an Avila social work graduate and director of her family's fledging philanthropy, the Hope's Heart Orphan Foundation. The foundation, which was established in December 2004 and provides financial support for the children living in China's many orphanages, is planning its first fundraiser event in early September.
Williams can't explain her fanscination with China or adoption, really. She's not adopted herself. Until she began her studies she didn't know anyone who'd adopted a Chinese child.
Something just touched her heart.
Now "it's a dream of mine to adopt (a Chinese child) when I'm 30," said Williams, who's pursuing a one-year master's degree in social work at the University of Kansas.
Contributing, certainly, to her concern for Chinese children is the country's one-child policy, in place since 1979. The policy sprang from the communist government's attempt to control its burgeoning population, which currently stands at 1.3 billion - a fifth of the total world population of 6.4 billion.
Under the controversial policy, ethnic Han Chinese are discouraged from having more than one child through tactics ranging from economic sanctions to coerced abortions. Many more girls are abandoned each year than boys in China because of this policy, experts say.
Williams was appalled when she found out what was happening to China's children, and she shared her newfound passion with her parents, Judy and Ken Williams of Olathe. They soon embraced their daughter's cause, learning all they could about Chinese orphans and the many international agencies that exist to help find some of them permanent homes.
"Ken and I were just catching this excitement and this passion for the orphans of China, just as Heather was," Judy Williams said.
Soon the older Williamses began sponsoring orphans in China, sending money that would be used to help pay for school and other basic needs. But they wanted to do more.
The three traveled to China in summer 2004 with a U.S. adoption agency that had been invited by the Chinese government to work for a week in an orphanage. The Williams family helped care for 200 babies, an experience that confirmed their calling, Heather Williams said.
"When we came back last summer, our hearts were still so much there," she said. "We wanted to still be there with the kids."
And the three wanted to do even more. That's when they hatched Hope's Heart.
The foundation doesn't assist American families looking to adopt Chinese children, although the Williamses can point folks in the right direction. Hope's Heart focuses on providing basic support for the orphans and their caregivers in four distinct areas.
Monies from Hope's Heart can go toward foster care for orphans, allowing them to leave institutional orphanages for home-based settings. The foundation also supplies funds to pay for developmental or educational needs because Chinese orphans aren't guaranteed an education. Some monies pay for medical needs, such as sugeries to correct cleft palates, while other funds go toward recruiting kind, loving caretakers to work in the orphanages.
In February, Judy Williams said, the foundation awarded its first grant to a little girl abandoned to a Chinese orphanage.
This summer, the family returned to visit another orphanage, a children's village, and the Hope Foster Home, which cares for children with disabilities.
Established through the Servant Christian Community Foundation in Olathe, Hope's Heart also works with such organizations as Holt International, an adoption agency, and the Hope Foster Home in Beijing, a privately run home that cares for abandoned children with special needs.
Chinese orphans are eligible for adoption until they're 14, but their chances decrease once they're older than 2, Heather Williams said. Giving those left behind some semblance of a normal home is the foundation's goal.
To that end, Hope's Heart will conduct its first fundraising effort from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 10 at the Hope Alive Christian Center, where the Williams family attends church. The Shopping Extravaganza and Bake Sale features 18 vendors, selling everything from Mary Kay cosmetics to Longaberger baskets. Each vendor will donate a portion of the sales that day to Hope's Heart. And the church's women's group will donate the proceeds from the bake sale, Judy Williams said.
The fundraiser is the brainchild of Lana Webster of Overland Park. A single mom and former Williams' neighbor, Webster said she doesn't have the discretionary funds to make a sizable donation to Hope's Heart. And because she understands the importance of adoption, she wanted to help. So she organized the event, which is free.
"I cannot help Judy financially, but at least I can do something for her," Webster said.
The Williamses are excited and already thinking of what the foundation will do with the money raised. They've learned of a little girl who needs surgery on her colon. The price tag is $1500.
"We see this as baby steps," Judy Williams said. "It's an extension of love beyond our family."
For more information on Hope's Heart Orphan Foundation, visit www.HopesHeart.org