Dr. Natalie Conner: BTO in the USA

November 14, 2016
Beyond the Orphanage

Between them, Dr. Natalie Conner and Dr. Ray Kirk have amassed 55 years of senior level experience in the field of child welfare, across several continents. So it’s with great pride here at Beyond the Orphanage, that we announce that Dr. Natalie Conner has taken on the role of representing us in the United States, with Dr. Ray Kirk taking on the role of Vice-Chair.

Dr Natalie Conner and Dr Ray Kirk for Beyond The Orphanage

Below is an account from Dr. Natalie Conner on why she chose to take on this role.

“When someone like Geoff Hucker calls and asks you if you’d like to represent his highly successful nonprofit, Beyond the Orphanage (BTO), in the United States, the decision to answer resoundingly in the affirmative is instantaneous.

Geoff Hucker is a man of serious, quiet, humble determination and extraordinary intellect and compassion. Even as he balances his stewardship of BTO with a full time career as a pilot, Geoff Hucker is a man who’s never once lost sight of his purpose: to help orphaned children.

BTO has lifted more than 1000 children not only out of homelessness, but most remarkably, into education and WELL-BEING.

I know this because eight years ago I was invited to evaluate the effectiveness of the program in Addis Ababa. I invited my mentor, Dr. Ray Kirk, to come along to have a look at what I believed to be a unique model. We’ve been volunteering at BTO ever since. Without a doubt, what we saw then, and what I saw last month in Nepal is a highly effective funding and programming model with almost zero waste. I have not seen this model before, and I’ve never seen such successful change for children at risk of so many poor outcomes.

Where do your donations go?

I ask you to think of BTO like this: when you write a check to a typical NGO, at least half of that hard earned and loving given sum goes towards salaries. Not the case here. For every US dollar you give, only six cents ($0.06) goes into our overhead. $0.94 goes directly to help the children in one of our centers in Ethiopia, Nepal, and/or Kenya.

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When you choose to sponsor a child, there is an actual child whom you are feeding, as directly as if you dropped off groceries at her house yourself. Your funds are going to make sure that child has a school uniform. That they can pay school fees (no such thing as free education in most developing countries). That they have access to tutoring to catch up from the years she spent unable to attend school. And, so importantly, that her psychological needs are met as she heals from the trauma of parental death, trafficking, and abuse.

Our commitment to you

We live in a time of sensationalistic manipulation of information and advertising. Not once has BTO sent a “fly in the eye” photo of a child to incite your guilt or pity, nor shall we ever. We come to you directly, openly–and hope that you simply trust that we are telling you the truth, and proudly post all our finances on our website for you to review. Geoff, Kate, and I use our personal finances to ensure that we have inspected the homes where the children live.

We have interviewed the guardians, the children, and the boards, looked through every line item of the budgets, and reviewed case files, medication compliance, and school grades. If we can offer technical assistance, and are asked, we donate our time and expertise. But we are never going to compromise the integrity of the children we serve and the adults who tirelessly care for them.

When you choose to sponsor a child, you do so from a place of affirmation of her inherent dignity, and you trust that we are doing the hard work to make sure your money is used wisely and without waste. We honor your commitment and are keenly aware that your support may be the one chance the child you support has to live a life free from pain, hunger, and poverty.

Children are the same, the world over

When Ray and I were in Haiti, we watched a child patiently unravel woven plastic threads from a USAID rice bag to tie together to make a kite.

In Ethiopia, we spent time talking to children about their need for a stable home environment with a guardian, oftentimes a grandparent, and how they loved having a snack after school at the BTO drop in center.

In Nepal, I observed a group of about 20 boys with shaved heads, clad in dark red Buddhist robes at a temple throw themselves into a game of dodgeball. Lacking a ball, they improvised with a cloth sack filled with sand (ouch!)–the rules were exactly the same as the dodgeball my children play in PE. Later that day, at a group home for children with HIV/AIDS, I watched an intense soccer game, and then listed to various renditions of One Direction songs sung by impassioned adolescents.

Each and every time, I thought: these are children the same the world over.

Dr Natalie Connor | Beyond The Orphanage USA

And as I was making my own children’s lunches this morning in Charlotte, NC, I felt very powerfully: every child deserves a healthy lunch, a caring adult, a roof over their heads, an education, and play. It really is true across all nations, across all religions, all ethnicities. it’s up to us, today. Let’s contribute what we can, to help make things a little more balanced.

Join me, at #TeamBTO

I’ve been a practicing social worker since the tender age of 21. I have never wavered from my commitment to a profession that allows me to live out my values. I realize that not everyone has the luxury of making that choice professionally.

I’m extremely grateful for the trust Geoff and the Australian BTO board has placed in me, and I take my responsibility very seriously. I ask you to join me in what makes sense as an investment–these are programs that are run efficiently, effectively, and lovingly, serving some of the world’s most vulnerable children.

I believe in the universality not only of childhood, but also of parenthood. Whether or not you are a parent, I hope you will listen to you inner sense of nurturing, and that you will be moved to walk alongside us.”

Less than $50 per month provides an orphaned child with a safe home, food and a place in our program. Please consider making a donation, or finding out more about the Beyond the Orphanage child sponsorship program
To see the end-to-end effectiveness of Beyond the Orphanage’s child sponsorship program, check out our blog post, 3 Photos That Prove Child Sponsorship Works.

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