Thursday, February 21, 2008

Raising Money for Acres of Hope?

Many of you have been reading this blog since it began. Others of you have followed our journey from the time we left for Africa and may have wondered why we felt the need to travel. It is because of this that we feel the NEED to correct a few things. If you read back through my old posts, you will notice that I was Acres of Hope's biggest fan. I raved about the agency we had chosen and wrote lists about how it was the best agency ever. I also spoke a LOT of their humanitarian work. In fact, this was the reason we choose Acres. I published over and over what we had been told about their work in Liberia. This is even why I started, "Fasting for Feeding" to raise money for their feeding program which read on the website, "we are presently feeding 8,000 children each day".

It is because of my, oh so public accolades that I feel corrections are in order. Over the last few months, we have learned many things that have caused us great concern. Unfortunatly, we have unknowingly misled you. Many (not all) of the things that I have posted here re: our agency and its relief work in Liberia were not true. For this I am very sorry. I especially apologize to those of you who have been sacrificially saving your hard earned money to send to Africa. We appreciate your heart so much and are dilligently looking for an organization that we can place our trust (and money!) in. We will let you know as we learn.

Notes to the reader: First of all, I must state that we are NOT disgruntled adoptive parents. In fact, our adoption went great. It was fast, we got TONS of pics (thank you Donna!) and our son is Amazing! We were, as I stated before, Acres biggest fans. . until we began to do some in-depth research. Second, for those grammar fanatics out there: I am going to drive you crazy! Throughout this post, I will use the terms we and I kind of interchangably! I know this is bad grammar. . .however, WE learned things because of emails I sent. Therefore, I think it's a bit misleading to say "we talked on the phone" when "I" was the one doing it! So, just try your hardest not to be annoyed! Ok. on to more important topics!

The MAJOR issue that I need to clear up, is in regards to the feeding program. We first heard of the feeding program through Acres website, the one that their office voicemail told us to check for all the info we needed. The website claimed (and I often repeated) that they "were presently feeding 8,000 children per day" through their feeding programs. This is the main reason we chose Acres (see my very first blog). A couple of months ago, though, we began to hear from others that there was no feeding program. This shocked us, to say the least! I doubted that it could be true. I had not only read it on the website, but had spoken to the founder of Acres about it. I told her this was something we were passionate about and told her we were raising money for this program. We even talked multiple times about me wanting very much to tour this feeding program when I got to Liberia. I even received an update on the program from the founder that seemed to indicate that everything was going as planned.* We often directed people to the website to see this very fact and spoke of it often (most of my friends here were tired of hearing about it!). Note: this information was on the "Acres Projects" page from 2005 until being removed in December of 2007. It was located in the section entitled, "Project Grow" and had a DONATE NOW button right below it. Upon hearing this disturbing information, we did not take one person's opinion on this, but emailed again asking for references within the organization they were working with and how this relationship worked. We never received a response with answers to those questions and were confused that the bare bones budget we had been emailed made no reference to this. We realized that feeding 8,000 children is a HUGE thing. This would require a fulltime staff member to oversee and deliver. Most of the schools or even orphanages that would take the food do not have adequate (or safe) housing for it, so it would have to be delivered often! I asked, via email, what staff member was in charge of this as well. . and never got a response other than the founder re-emailing me her proposal for me to raise funds for a future project. So, at the same time, we began to ask others, families that had travelled before us. We called at least 3 other families who had travelled to Liberia in the last year and had stayed for 3 weeks or longer and were involved in the work there while in Liberia. All answered that they had never seen a feeding program and didn't think it existed. I emailed a number of former staff, including the former adoption coordinator and former orphanage director who both said that there was not currently a feeding program. We even went as far as to ask Eric, the Country Director, upon entering Liberia. Present at that meeting, were also Buster and Daikou (other Acres employees). "No, there is no feeding program," they answered. Upon emailing Acres re: this issue the response was that, "Unfortunately, there was some outdated information on the website. Earlier this spring I asked my office staff at the time to have that information changed (to what it is now). I apologize for notfollowing up to see that that was done. I realize now that some of you felt misled by that. I was deeply disturbed to learn that this was not done and never intended for anyone to be deceived. In fact, I did what I thought was necessary to avoid that very thing."*** We were also told that there used to be a feeding program of that magnitude, but the food ran out. I will say, that I understand outdated websites. However, this information was first posted on the website in 2005 and has been "outdated" since it's inception. I, personally, do not believe that they ever fed 8,000 children per day for ANY length of time. This is also the website that WAS updated to reflect price increases while the "misinformation" remained. After reading that it was "outdated information", I called the organization that was supplying the food to see how much food had actually been delivered. This was the organization that the founder had mentioned in my "update"*. Kids Against Hunger, a ministry of Feeding Children International told me (via phone while checking their records) that in:

  • 2005, Acres of Hope Liberia was sent 489,960 meals. Their records did not indicate exact dates or number of shipments, just total meals
    This would feed 8,000 children ONE meal per day for 61 days
  • 2006, Acres of Hope Liberia was sent 142,560 Meals. This shipment was on Jan. 7th
    This would feed 8,000 children ONE meal per day for 17 days
  • 2007, Acres of Hope Liberia was sent 285,120 meals. This shipment was on August 6th.
    This would feed 8,000 children ONE meal per day for 35 days

Also, in an email from Kids Against Hunger, they told me that Patty (the founder) had said that the food would be used for the kids in the orphanage and then some in surrounding areas.** The Acres staff in Liberia confirmed this saying that they tried to give the food to the kids at the orphanage, but those kids did not like it. Now, they are giving it out to various orphanages around town when shipments come. This disturbed us (especially Greg) even more because we paid $1,200 (current families pay $1,500 - $2,000) for an "orphan fee" which would cover our child's needs. Kids Against Hunger usually asks the various organizations to cover their expenses by paying at least for the food, but ended up donating all of the food they have sent because they were told that there was no money for this. Unless there is a mystery organization that has been supplying food that the organization is refusing to tell me about (I say refusing because of the number of times I have asked in the past. . also, I sent an email mentioning these very facts (minus the information from the past 3 years b/c I just got that today) and asked for them to please respond with any proof to the contrary and received none).

There were other aspects of their humanitarian work that caused us concern, but because I was so outspoken about the feeding program and you were so graciously and sacrificially saving your money for this program, I felt this was the only one I needed to truly expound upon. . .Needless to say again, the feeding program doesn't exist and I am so sorry that I ever advertised it as such. I promise that we WILL find one that does and will continue "Fasting for Feeding"!

All of this really threw us for a loop! We wondereed where that left us as far as Liberia is concerned. However, we do have a passion for raising money and awareness for Liberia. Now, though, we feel the need to VERY carefully check out every organization. This is so hard when the bulk of their work and staff exist in Liberia. . .you know it's not an easy place to just jet on over to! So, here are a few areas that we will be looking for and questioning the new organiztions in. . .please feel free to add some good questions!

#1: Their Mission / Vision: This is an easy one. It's pretty easy to check. This is one of the reasons we loved Acres in the beginning. The stated mission and vision were awesome and we were excited about working towards that end. I also think, personally, that I felt relieved to be able to find an organization that "did it all". Now, I think that finding good organizations that specialize in each area is a great thing and that the very pursuit of these organizations is a wonderful thing in and of itself because it forces us to do more than just write a check!

# 2: Their Fiscal Responsiblity and Grasp of its Importance: We are still trying to figure out the exact questions to ask here. . .If you have any suggestions, we would love to hear them. We know now that we should ask for their tax info filed as their 501(c)3. We will also ask lots of questions on procedures and talk to multiple people to find out if these procedures are followed. We know there are a few websites here in the states that rate non-profits, but think this is harder when you are working with a non-profit here which is funding an NGO (non-governmental organization) there. After starting "Fasting for Feeding", as many of you know, we began to discuss raising more money for Acres and their expansion projects. In our initial conversation with the founder of Acres about fundraising for their expansion projects, she pretty easily threw around numbers. Asking us to raise more money than the project demanded (we had a number figured and she suggested raising $500,000 - 1 million more than that). This is the first thing that concerned us. However, as we began to put things together for fundraising, we had to get much more specific. We began to ask for more specific information with which to persuade our donors that the organization was one of integrity and honor and that they were fiscally responsible and transparent. To raise funds for a project, one of the first things that needs to happen is proving what the organization has done in the past. This goes along with the Biblical concept of being faithful in little so that you may be entrusted much. So, I emailed and talked to her asking for financial documents that would prove fiscal responsibility. After many emails, we finally received a bare bones budget. This budget concerned us as it did not come close to accounting for the actual number that the organization had to have dealt with based on the numbers of adoptive families that we had discussed and made no mention of the funds in savings Ishe had told us that there was $800,000 in the bank) or the funds being spent on humanitarian work.


#3: The Board of Directors: For non-profits especially, the Board of Directors is an important aspect of an organization. You see, we are HUGE believers in accountability. We believe that our hearts are deceitful (Jer. 17:9) and we can be easily led astray without even really realizing it and must have great accountability in place. This is even more important in positions of leadership! Therefore, we will ask lots of questions about who is on the board and how they got that position. As well as asking about the various relationships among board members. Unfortunately, we later found out that the Acres board is made up of the founder (naturally), her husband, her nanny, her carpenter and one lawyer. Obviously, even if the husband, nanny and carpenter have amazing credentials, they are not in a position of unbiased ability to hold the organization accountable. This would have caused us great concern from the very beginning had I thought to ask this question.


#4: How Money is Raised: Many organizations have different projects that raise money for the same thing. This is great, however, they must be very careful to not be rasing double money. . .basically, double dipping. Does that make sense? For instance, we pay an orphan fee to Acres for the support of the child we adopt and are told that the remaining money goes to cover the cost of kids who won't be adopted or will remain in the orphanage for an extended period. We think this is great and had no problem paying it. However, the website also advertises "orphanage sponsorship" in the form of "$25 a month to provide food, clothing and medical care for one of our precious angels". So, which of these is the way that the orphans are cared for?

#5: Well planned out Vision and/or Plans for the Future: We LOVE to see vision. However, there must be "feet" put to these visions. Planned out budgets including staffing, building, and other costs associated. Grant propsals even with benchmarks to be reached and qualitative goals. Also, this vision / plan must be laid out in advance with a reputation of sticking to what they propose and actually seeing it through. For instance, the proposal we were given that 3 million dollars needed to be raised f included 2 compounds 1 for missionary housing that would be rented out and 1 for an orphanage, school, medical center and elderly center****. However, a few short months later 2 adoptive families were given a tour of the facilities in process and were given a different explanation (Click HERE for their story). Then, a couple of weeks after that, the founder sent out an email saying explaining the building project now.***** This was now proposed as just 1 building and not the 2 that were shown to the visiting families OR the plans that we were to raise money for. I don't know if the plans changed 3 times over the last 6 months or what happened. . However, in the future, we will look for well thought out and proposed plans that the organization will see to fruition.


#6: Money well-spent: This will mean many things in different organizations. First, money is tracked specifically. For instance, if an organization allows you to donate to specific causes, they should have procedures outlining how that money is followed. Also, and this is a no-brainer. . making sure that money is not wasted. This is that same as it would be for a local church not wanting to see the pastor drive around in a gold rolls royce (sound familiar?!). The last point in this area may be a bit contested by others. . but, hey, these are our guidelines for projects we'll get involved in! This one involves paid in-country employees. First, let me say that we totally understand that people "in the ministry" don't make great money. We are not asking for that. However, we do think it is wrong to just pay someone what they'll work for, if that amount will not feed their family or provide for their needs. Now, if the ministry has no money and is asking people to sacrificially serve, knowing they cannot pay what that person is worth or deserves, that is another matter all together. You see, this is one of the most disheartening things that we saw in Liberia. Acres is not one of those organizations that has no money. In fact, the founder herself told me earlier this year that they had $800,000 in the bank and would have close to a million by the end of the year. I have since been told by another staff member that the number has shrunken a bit instead of grown, but is still well over $500,000. In fact, while we were there we rode in their brand new $40,000 LandRovers. They had just picked up 3 brand new LandRovers with leather interior and cd players which brought the total of working vehicles to 6! They have less than 20 employees (way less, but I'm overestimating!) who would need them. All of this, when their nannies that watch the kids at the orphanage make less than $0.50 an hour. These same nannies are literally living on garbage dumps (I was going to have you click here to see pics of one of their homes, but the lady who posted them felt her blog needed to "go private"). The highest paid staff member is the only one who can afford to live in a place with power (a generator) and running water and he lives at the offices! One of the guys offered to make us dinner one night which is an offer we excitedly took him up on! Little did I realize that this same employee (one of the top 3 guys) had to walk for water and cook this dinner over an open fire. I personally think it is slap in a man's face to pay him $2 an hour and have him drive around town in a brand new $40,000 vehicle. (note: we do believe that these types of vehicles are needed for the roads there, but this is excess). We know that Liberia does not have a competitive job market right now and people WILL work for mere pennies and be glad for the job that they have. That does NOT make it right! These people should be able to at least support their families while working full time for this organization.


#7: More to come: Yep, I'm sure that I will be adding to this list of guidelines as we go. We are in no way saying that this is a comprehensive list and are actively looking for how it can be improved and exactly what questions to ask! Personally, I hope to not have to learn the hard way again, but I'm sure I will in some capacity. Sometimes, when you are being deceived there is not much you can do about it. . .At some point, I'll have to let go and proceed with specific organizations. But, I want to have done my research too!


I think this whole situation has actually caused me to have a hard time trusting organizations. I think there will be a definite "living in the tension" (as my pastor so eloquently puts it!) of researching like crazy and haviing good guidelines laid out and then following my heart as well. If an organization can prove themselves by these standards, at some point, I'm going to have to trust them a bit. I think this may be hard for me for a while. Part of me felt really dumb when I learned all of this. I so wish that I had put this list in place before now. . I wish I known what questions to ask. I feel a bit like an idiot for touting so loudly programs that never existed. And yet, I know that the Lord is in control. He used those times in my life to stir up an excitement for reaching people for His Kingdom through meeting their needs. He used even those lies to cause me to research even more the plight of the people of Liberia. I pray that I will continue to be refined through this process. I'm now looking forward to the journey of researching different organizations. I can't wait to uncover every organization I can find that is working in Liberia. I'm also excited about just praying about where God is calling us to be involved. The need is great and harvest is ready. . now we just have to figure out exactly what our job is in the harvesting process! Please stay tuned as I'll share as I learn. . .though, you know that now if you've been reading for any length of time!

For those of you who may be offended by this post: Please know that I share with a hesitant and hurting heart. I hurt knowing that any of this has gone on. I am hesitant b/c I hate when people are upset with me, which I'm sure some will be. I'll admit to you now that I am not perfect. If I have worded things too harshly or didn't make sense in some area, I apologize. Please feel free to read the files I have posted on the Left hand side of my blog. . then, begin your own research. With any organization, I think it's important to know #1 what you value in an organization, #2 What's really going on. Just like you'd use a consumer's digest. . .call up the consumers! Don't take just one person's word, but do your own research.

PS: Check back early next week, because I think I may have already found some projects that I'm ready to support!

Brandi and Greg
NOTE: the Astericks (*) are used to indicate files uploaded. Please see the LEFT column for a listing of these documents
* indicates PROJECT UPDATE received from Patty, Acres Founder
** Indicates email from Kids Against Hunger
***Patty's Response Letter
****Village Proposal
*****Patty's Building Propsal Revised

40 comments:

steffany said...

I know this was not an easy post for you, but I'm sure many people will find the information incredibly helpful in their pursuit of information about adoption and agencies an/or how to research different organizations to support.
Great info.

Anonymous said...

Brandi,
I know this couldn't have been easy for you to write but I appreciate your honesty and wanting to correct false information that you had unknowingly passed along. Honesty and accountability should be appreciated-thank you!
Julie L

Donna Barber said...

WOW! You worded it well. I might add that had not you or other families like myself been so wrapped up in our adoptions; we might have been a little more open minded into what was going on around us. So many times families place all their hopes and dreams on an adoption agency and want them to bring it true for them that they over look the obvious or the unethical issues surrounding their adoptions or organizations they are working with.
I hope that through this; others are educated on this issue.

Missy said...

I know you have been worried to death over this post, but I think you worded it very well and supported it well with your documents and emails. Good tips and advice on how to choose who to support.
Missy

PS blogs don't have to be grammatically correct, nobody's grading them :o)

Pregont Family said...

What do you know about Samaritan's Purse work in Liberia? I know they have an office there.
~angel

Christina said...

Well written Brandi! You did a great job in sharing and getting the information out there and how to be more educated before jumping in with both feet. Thanks for laying it all out there and being vulnerable! Your appreciated!
Love, Christina

Jamie said...

You did a wonderful job sharing what you learned and doing it in a fashion that wasn't too harsh. I thank you for being so open and honest so families can be well informed on these things. Let's hope your blog doesn't have to be set to private now;)

Blu and Darbi said...

Great blog Bran! Such a wealth of great ideas and information for people like us who are about to set up a non-profit in Africa! I need to call you soon so we can talk about some of these!

Love,
Darbi

Kami said...

Brandi, well done. I am so impressed! I know that you have been working on this for a while and that you wanted to present information to families and guidelines for them to follow, and you totally succeeded in that. I am so proud of you and totally applaud your willingness to speak out with total honesty. I know that I found your post helpful, and I am sure that others will too.

I need to call/email you to get suggestions for our Orphange Project and how we can do a great job with communicating to donors. We want to be transparent and honest with everything related to that project.

Bogdan Family said...

Brandi,
I applaude you for the time you have invested in researching and exposing the issues with AOH. I know it will be a blessing and hopefully save other families from being misled and hurt. God will honor you for the spirit in which you have approached this unpleasant topic! Blessings! Vanessa

Alward Family said...

Good job Brandi. There is no need to worry about a thing...you are only speaking the truth.

And thank you for the encouraging words on my blog!!

Love,
Chris

jaz said...

Brandi,
I admire your courage and resolve to share about your experience, in the right way and with the right motive. I admire even more your commitment to serving Africa in the best way possible, and not losing heart as you figure out what that will look like for you!
Love you,
Jamie

Laura said...

I am so proud of you!

(and I am really thankful for AOH despite all the drama, because of our little man. He is such a blessing, and I feel like he has been a part of us since the beginning. That is just how God works! And I am glad that you stuck with it, because now you can be a source to help other adoptive families know the truth!)

DeniseinSC said...

wow! You should be an investigative journalist!!!! (haha, in your spare time!) Have a blessed weekend, Denise

Andrea said...

I know you are probably looking into organizations that adopt out and you already know about Rafiki. But, they are building a village there in Liberia. It would be worth checking into. I've enjoyed my time here.

Your post was great and worded well. I appreciate your passion, Brandi!

Scott said...

Brandi, please let Gregg edit your spelling and grammar before posting from now on. I couldn't get past all of the errors so I'm not really sure what all you said.


(just kidding)

Scott and Katy said...

Brandi,
Great job... though in all honesty, I had to print it to read it. I walked around with it for quite a while and changed 2 diapers in between paragraphs. All that to say... WELL DONE.

Love,
Katy

PS... I finally updated

Anonymous said...

This post was unnecessary. Well you have every right to share concerns and say "we are not longer in support of AoH" the lengths you went to do so verged on the level of inaccuracy. You do not know many things about Liberian culture and though you may have done some good research on some areas, your knowledge of others was inadequate and I believe very misleading. Should you share your change of opinion? Sure. But should your whole post discredit the organization? Absolutely not. AoH is doing things that no other organization is doing (caring for and adopting out special needs kids and lots of babies) and it would be heartbreaking if they did not have the support to continue. Well they have not handled everything the best way, and I wouldn't do everything they way they do, they are far from the dishonest organization you make them out to be. I have legitimate rebuttals for many of your points.

I'm sure you'll delete this. I just wanted to respond to the post.

-Melodie

Brandi said...

Melodie,

No, I do not plan on deleting comments just b/c someone disagrees with me.

However, I can tell you why we posted this is such detail. It had gotten to the point where all of the "questions" concerning the agency were being flipped off as rumors. We did not want anyone to think that we operated or made our decisions based on rumors. Instead, I feel that our donors have a right to know what we found out. I plan on asking these same questions of other organizations and publishing them as well. This research took a LOT of time and I felt it was right to share what I had learned. I agree that it wasn't an easy post. It wasn't easy to write either. It certainly wasn't easy to find those things out!

I know that AoH is doing some good things. However, I do not believe that the "end justifies the means" I believe that God can get children out of a country when they need it with us as believers still doing things with integrity. I believe that the process is just as important as the product.

Also, I do know that I don't understand Liberian culture like you do. I appreciate that about you and LOVE reading your blog for that reason. However, the only thing in my post that referenced Liberian culture was the pay issue. I clearly stated that this was a coflicted issue. Many people disagree with me. . and, I'm not saying I have all the answers b/c it's a complicated issue. In fact, I plan on posting about that issue in more detail later and would love to hear your thoughts. What I stated was simply my personal opionion and what we will look for in an organization or project. The other areas that I dealt with are completely in line within our culture.

I hope that makes more sense now. I would love to hear your thoughts on paying Liberian wages when I finally get around to posting that!

Brandi

thedelightfuldelaney said...

Hi Brandi - found your blog via your post on I think the AAR group yesterday. What a great post and what a great job you did researching and laying out the details. I spent about 1 1/2 years working on adopting from Vietnam, a program which is fraught with corruption top to bottom. To see someone (regardless of the country or program) come out after the fact and share what you've learned is so admirable to me. Yes, I'm sure there are those who will be critical of what you say and not want to hear it but I applaud you for having the strength and dedication to share it anyway. Though there are many things in your post that alarmed me, having $800,000 in the bank and spending $40,000 on new vehicles is way up there (especially when their employees cannot live adequately on what they are paid). Unfortunately I think there are a lot of other agencies out there practicing the same way. So I cheer you on and hope you do find an organization to support that you can believe in - sounds like you have a lot to give in support and passion to a group that does follow through on what it says. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Well said Melodie!!!
I hope this blog post does not affect adoptions.
Some of the info about money in bank accounts and stuff should not have been posted on-line for everyone to see. EVERYONE can see this blog post not
just adoptive families.
So I'm sure a lot of families who waiting referrals and for their kids to come home will be extremely upset if this jeopardizes their adoption in anyway.
This could also be considered as SLANDER. Everyone needs to get off their HIGH horses
and focus on the CHILDREN more than "money".
As long as the kids are fed and taken care of then who cares if someone has 6 land rovers.
Money especially a lot of money can lead to greed. But as long as the orphanage is still
running I think that is all that any adoptive parent is worried about.
They should be worried about when or if their child is coming home and all the other stuff
should definitely be secondary!!!

If someone decides to adopt, or not to adopt with Acres of Hope it's their choice and others should stay out of it. This is my opinion and I'm entitled to it just as much as anyone else!!!
If the orphanage is closed and all the kids are turned out on the street, then that will be a million
times worse than worrying about how big someones house, guest house or other things are and how much money, land-rovers and other expensive things someone
has! If the orphanage is closed and all the kids are left to fend for themselves and
many adoptive families lose their kids and all the money they paid for their adoptions, then
That will be on YOUR conscience!!!!!!!!

Brandi said...

Dear Anonymous,

First of all, you are on MY personal blog. Please use your name. I have allowed anonymous comments so that people who do not have blogger accounts can comment, but please use your name. You applaud Melodie, but she signed her name!

Also, I wrote as someone looking into their humanitarian work. I didn't even mention their illegal or unethical practices in adoption. If this information is damaging, it is the information itself, not the messenger. I have simply presented research. If that looks bad and if there are consequences, those would have to lay on the shoulders of those who committed wrong doing.

I DO care about the children. Truthfully, I think it is wrong for you to accuse me of not caring. If you would take the time to read my older posts, you would see a passion for not just my adopted child, but for all of Africa. In fact the reason I researched was so that I could do more than just adopt, I plan on being involved in other ways of care for children all across Africa.

By the way, this post was reviewed by my lawyer so I can promise you it is not slander, nor was it intended as such. I tried to present this material with as much grace as is possible.

I pray that the children of Liberia and many other African nations can be served with integrity that points to Jesus,

Brandi

Anonymous said...

Okay, I just have to respond to "Anonymous" because I am really surprised by your reasoning. You say that if the focus is on the children, why should it matter how much is being spent on vehicles and houses?? My question is, how is that about the children? Yes, the ones in the orphanage are being fed, but what about the thousands of others in the rest of the country that are in need as well?? Adoption fees are a lot of money -- much more than it takes to pay for the actual adoption and the care of the children in the orphanage. As an adoptive parent who had to scrape and save to pay those fees, part of the deciding factor in choosing an agency was the advertised humanitarian work in the country. It is upsetting to me to have been misled...
I don't think it's fair to say that if we are truly focused on the "children" we shouldn't care about where our hardearned money is going... Perhaps if we are only focused on the children in the orphanage this would be true... but it is about much more then the children that are being adopted. They are a drop in the bucket. There are so many others in need and if our focus truly IS on the children and helping as much as we can, then we need to make educated, informed decisions about which organizations to support based on how much of our money is actually going to make a difference.

-another anonymous- (c'mon people, let's sign our names here)

Jocelyn said...

All I have to say is that I am so grateful to have a beautiful son who I adopted from AoHL...but at the same time the end does NOT justify the means. By people saying it does they are saying that they don't trust God to do HIS will.

For those that have accused Brandi of slander. I can tell you that I have been accused of that as well and to accuse someone of slander is slanderous in nature, so do yourself a favor and practice what you preach. Nothing that was said here was slanderous in any way.

Though I am ever grateful to AoH for bringing my son to me and I am so in debt to Melodie, Sydnee, and the Sheppard Family for their wonderful care of my son while he was in AoH custody. I would not choose to adopt from them again because of the things that have come to light since I have been home with my son. This saddens me deeply since I put so much trust in them.

This is simply a personal choice, and everyone has a right to that. But all I have to say is well done Brandi, for stating the research you have come to with poise and grace.

Jocelyn

Karin said...

I admire that you said you had your lawyer look this over. this just shows your concern and integrity. I have not adopted nor had any association with this agency (since we're adopting from China) so this is not a comment about it... it's a comment to just encourage you! You are not a mudd slinger... but honest and a woman with integrity.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for not deleting my post Brandi. Just to clarify a few things, I do NOT believe the end justifies the means. As I said, not everything (mistakes, miscommunication, etc.) has been handled the best way. But I also said I have rebuttals for most of your points. No, I don't necessarily want to go back and forth with you about those, I have the feeling what I have to say will not change your mind at this point (otherwise we'd have had the conversation months ago). The cultural issues were just one of the areas I mentioned in specific.

Maybe this is slander, maybe it's not (that was good to have your lawyer go over it first), I just think everyone has spent way to much time pointing out what AoH is not doing right, and how they are supposedly unethical, instead of moving forward with new plans to help Liberia. I know you love Liberia. You HAVE made that very clear, but if you do you will leave AoH alone and focus on supporting whomever you deem worthy. Sure, if you aren't comfortable supporting AoH, that's just fine, but move on. This has been one of the things that has bothered me the most about all the anti-AoH folk. I have seen unethical and I have seen bad. Even if I did agree that AoH is doing illegal things, they are obviously not so outstanding that the Liberian government has noticed anything. (They picked on Addy's Hope, not AoH recently. Btw, I do support Addy's Hope). My point is, even IF AoH is somehow unethical, it really isn't to any extreme level that will somehow do more harm than good.

-Melodie

Brandi said...

Melodie, I don't really want to go back and forth with comments, but I did want you to know something.

The REASON I posted this was so that I could move on to helping Liberia. I had told people that we would be raising money for Acres so I HAD to tell them that wasn't happening and why not. NOW, we can move on. I am finishing up my research with 2 different organizations now. Next week I hope to announce major plans for helping raise money for wells in Liberia (we already have almost all the money for one in RockHill and I've spent my day figuring out what I can sell in my home to collect more money for future wells) I also plan on working with an organization in Uganda helping raise money for birth kits for villages to decrease the mortality rate of women giving birth. I am NOT going to be silent and do nothing but complain. I list these issues so that I may move on and DO something!! Come on back next week so you can hear more!!! Start saving your money now!

Brandi

Johnson said...

1 meal for an orphan = $0.50
3 new Land Rovers = $120,000

equals 240,000 meals for orphans

This would feed 657 orphans that don't live at the orphanage for a year (365 days). Is this math right?

Anonymous said...

Okay, thanks Brandi. Hmmm...not the way I would have gone about moving on, but hey, you are moving on. I DO look forward to hearing about your plans. Despite our AoH differences, it has been cool to watch you turn into a woman after my own heart! I am hoping to go to Uganda this fall with a new job, but I do not have anything lined up yet. It's just one of the countries I want to work in next!

-Melodie

P.S. After I pay off my student loans I can start saving money for projects ;-)

Donna Barber said...

So much to add-
Lets start with the special needs kids that AOH is "helping". AoH is making $1000s of dollars off of special needs kids and babies. Just ask any adoptive parent who has recently adopted them. NO ONE received a discount and those families are the ones with the expenses for the next ?? years. Other agencies there also do special needs adoptions so it is not like they cornered the market on this. If they had any ounce of compassion for these children; they would do it for far less than the 10-13000 that they are charging per child. This is not about orphans. This is about making money.

AOH is a public NOT for PROFIT organization and as such they are open for public scrutiny on how they spend their money. And they have not been honest about how they spend it. Had they honestly said we spend it on land, buildings, vechicles for ourselves; no one would have said anything. But they misled families to believe it was being spent on projects in Liberia which Brandi has proven otherwise.

AOH focus is on children more than money?? The opposite has been true. Families have called this into questions because they claim to be "Christian" organization. With that comes accountability and good stewardship.

If the orphanage closes- no problem. AOH does not take in kids off the street anyway. Other orphanages agencies have been doing that. Only kids they feel they can make money off of through adopting are taken in. So no kids would be put out by this. Once again you are trying to justify unethical activity for a child. It can be done right.It must be done right.

Others seem to think that the government there is not noticing what AOH or other agencies are doing. I can assure you they have taken notice.It is just a matter of time. No wonder UNICEF gets involved. Adoption agencies have not been following procedures and over look the laws. They might as well be serving the proof to UNICEF on a silver plater. It isnt responsible parent that are going to affect adoptions in Liberia; it is the adoption agencies who think they are above even Liberian laws.

And by the way- many many of us have moved forward. We choose to be responsible by informing families of the truth. If others dont agree than dont read it. We are also moving forward with plans for Liberia. Many of us are very involved with other organizations who have integrity and can prove themselves above reproach.

Melodie said...

Just really quick to Donna and anyone else that misunderstood my comment: When I said "even IF AoH is somehow unethical, it really isn't to any extreme level that will somehow do more harm than good" this was not well stated. So sorry to those who misunderstood me. My point us supposing AoH does not use money like people think it should be used, or do things like they think, they are still doing a lot of good in Liberia. I shouldn't have used the word unethical since I made a point in another post to say I do not believe the end justifies the means.
Melodie

Andrew said...

Brandi,

I know this must have been a difficult post to write, but an even harder ordeal to discover and walk out.
As an aid worker/missionary in other Liberian orphanages, I'd like to discuss some of your concerns and plans and hopes further. Can you email me please?

Looking forward to hearing from you.

annNEE said...

Melodie ended her first comment with the statement, "I have legitimate rebuttals for many of your points.", and I was expecting them to be forthcoming, but I do not see any actual informative rebuttels to the concerns you wrote about in any of her comment postings. I would especially expect her to shed light on the feeding program, since this was such a major focus of your posting.

It is clear to me: You asked your friends and family and even strangers who found your blog online to consider contributing to AOH because of the feeding family. You must feel obligated for "misleading" them youself, and it is honorable to clarify to those whom you first requested donation help from.

As one who is interested in helping feeding programs for children, I appreciate your posts.

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