Wings of Refuge – Changing the lives of Tanzanian Orphans

After a trip to Africa and seeing the harsh living conditions for many ophanized children in Tanzanian, Ashley Gray, decided that something must be done.

She founded Wings of Refuge, which aims to help care for the physical, spiritual and mental health of orphans in Tanzania by building orphanages with schools attached to help focus on education as a primary driver of the cause.

She gives testament to the idea that seeing a problem and doing something about it is possible, in a big way.

We think what Ashley has done is simply amazing and Wings of Refuge is this weeks Cause of the Week. One of the primary goals of Socialize Your Cause highlighting a cause of the week is to help spread these incredible stories and grow their reach in their respective social networks.

One of the ways we do that is through our donate your friends project. If you would like to donate your facebook friends to Wings of Refuge, please head to our  donate your friends signup page.

Please watch the video about Wings of Refuge. There are some pretty astounding facts and moving images within the film and we hope it will move you to help spread their cause.

  • 88% of the Tanzanian population live below the poverty line
  • With a population of over 40million people, there are just over 800 qualified physicians in the country
  • 1.4 million people are living with AIDS
  • 2.6 children were ophanized in 2007 alone
  • 186,000 children under the age of 5 die every year from preventable diseases and malnutrition

Keep an eye out for their tweets from our Twitter Accounts this week and make sure to follow them @WingsOfRefugeTZ

Interview with Ashley Gray

How did the whole idea come about?

Wings of Refuge came about after my first trip to Africa a few years ago.  It’s definitely hard to see anyone living in the conditions that they do in most areas of Africa, but the hardest thing is to see the orphans.  These children have no one, and really, no hope. And it’s not their fault. So my co-founder and I decided that we had to do something more for them by getting adequate care, nutrition, and most of all, an education.

Why is this cause close to your heart? Why should others support it?

This cause is so close to my heart because I have two small children of my own.  And, when I look into the eyes of these forgotten children, I can see that they are just the same as my kids.  They laugh at the same things, and just long to be loved on and played with.  Only my children have loving parents, and do not ever have to worry about their next meal, contracting malaria or getting an education. We just felt very convicted to be the ones who won’t forget them.

Do you have any other events or fundraisers that you would like others to know about?

For those in the Minneapolis area, we have a huge art/music festival, Band Together…For a Cause coming up June 12th and 13th.  It will be featuring local artists and musicians, and all of the proceeds are going to our Orphanage Projects.  More information can be found at: http://www.wingsofrefugefoundation.org/band-together.php.

What are some great stories of some of the African families you have helped?

I think the story that sticks out the most was from when I was in Tanzania last month.  We had traveled deep into the “bush” (very remote, rural areas), and had been told about an elderly couple who had taken some orphans into their care.  We came upon their home, and I could see the husband “Babu”, at the age of 86, out plowing in the field.  Plowing in Africa is still all done by hand.  Then his wife “Bibi”, who was 82, came out from cleaning the chicken coop.  They told me how they had taken in three orphans when they were infants, because they had no where else to go, and this couple’s children were grown and gone.  They had taken care of them as if they were their own. One of the children was already away at secondary school, which they paying for.  The two younger children were still in primary school.  The girl, Grace, was HIV positive, and Bibi and Babu had been paying for her monthly doctor visits and her antiretroviral medications.  The unselfish love of this couple, and the sacrifices they made, still doing hard labor at their age to provide for these orphans, was overwhelming.  I decided that we would leave them with some money to help, the equivalent of about $100 USD, and they fell to their knees, crying, and thanking us.  Bibi then went and got 10 eggs from their chicken coop, the only thing she had to give, to thank us.  I will never forget the selflessness of this family who were only doing what they felt was the right thing to do with no thought of getting anything in return.

What advice would you give to others that might like to take on such an amazing endeavor?

I would say that if you have a passion to do something to help the world, whether it be in rural Africa or your local neighborhood, then go for it and don’t wait.  Regardless of how old (or young) you are, you only need passion and drive!  I was only 23 when I founded Wings of Refuge, and it has been the most amazing ride, I can’t wait to see where it takes us in the future!

What do you have planned for the future of Wings of Refuge?

We plan to continue expanding, and building as many orphanages and sustainable programs in East Africa as possible.  Ultimately, we want to equip a generation with the knowledge, skills and tools to turn their own circumstances around, and pull East Africa out of poverty.  We aren’t handing out fish, we are creating fisherman.

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