(Photo above: David Purviance playing jacks with some of the street children | Photos courtesy of World’s Children)
World’s Children Organization
When you walk into the quiet offices of the Sisters-based nonprofit World’s Children (WC), there’s an instant feel of love and compassion. Photographs of sponsored children, art, books and an inviting staff let you know immediately that something wonderful is happening there.
World’s Children was founded in 1965 by Edwin and Mable Purviance. The couple had lost a son, Robert, shortly after his birth in 1958 and at first considered memorializing him with a stained-glass church window. Fueled by the inspiration to create a living memorial, they instead decided to create a charity to provide support, love, security and education to abandoned and unwanted children whose fate it was to grow up in an orphanage. The couple’s son, David Purviance, has been the executive director since 2009.
David’s parents tapped into their own savings and traveled to Central America and Asia. They sought out orphanages that could provide loving care for children who are vulnerable to abuse, unlawful child marriage, sex trafficking and begging on the streets and where those children would have a chance to escape poverty. The Purviances found such orphanages in India, Guatemala and Ethiopia. Fifty-three years later the nonprofit’s key focus remains in India, where World’s Children currently supports children at 28 orphanages and two schools. Through private donations, sponsoring and fundraising, the charity has helped approximately 48,000 children.
Seeing is Believing
David did not anticipate holding a leadership position in the nonprofit his parents began. In 2003, he had taken early retirement from the University of Montana, where he was director of University Communications. He and his wife, Jean, had visited India many times and they decided to live there for a few years. In India, David worked with street children. He helped them get into school and taught journalism at a school for former street beggars.
“Through that experience I saw how much these girls were starving for intellectual challenges and so desperately wanted to be positive and productive members of their community, which, unfortunately, saw little or no value in educating girls,” says Purviance. “But education was unlocking a new world for them; and once they got a taste of that, it became nearly impossible for them to consider a future without learning and some sort of career.”
When the catastrophic Indian Ocean tsunami struck in December of 2004, David went to the coast to help. He raised funds to construct playgrounds in devastated villages and funded a program to provide medical care, psychological intervention and nutrition for 600 pregnant women who had lost children or a spouse in the disaster.
“A funny thing happened,” Purviance says. “I fell in love with the children to a degree I didn’t think possible. Today, our sponsors often tell us how strongly they come to care about their sponsored kids, and I can relate. After my time in India, I decided helping these children was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he adds.
The Move to Central Oregon
Prior to opening the office in Sisters last summer, World’s Children was in Corvallis. The Purviances knew immediately that the close-knit community of Sisters was the perfect location for a base of operation, and they liked the community’s instinct to “look after your neighbor.”
“We were attracted to the natural beauty and recreational opportunities of Central Oregon. However, what we really fell in love with is the strong sense of community and how there are so many passionate ‘doers’ here. The region has an optimism, energy and a strong entrepreneurial bent. We felt like there is an understanding here that one person can make a big, positive difference,” says Purviance.
One of the highest priorities of WC is to focus on creating an authentic and rewarding relationship between the sponsors/donors and the children. So staff members prioritize communication. “We want sponsors to know and see how they each make big impacts,” says Purviance.
As part of the charity’s communication and outreach work, David offers
free talks to churches, schools and service organizations throughout the region. He speaks on topics including child trafficking, forced marriage and educating street children.
“With David’s background and our ongoing projects in developing countries, we have a treasure trove of valuable insight and information to share about significant issues affecting children and women across the globe,” says WC Development Director Amy Burgstahler.
The vision of World’s Children is: To live in a world in which every child has a safe, nurturing place to call home, and a chance to achieve their potential through education. They work toward that vision in three primary ways: sponsorships, scholarships and special projects.
“While we’re changing lives one at a time, we’re doing so in ways that have rippling effects across entire families and generations. We know that small efforts, little by little, lead to big changes,” says Purviance.
Currently about 800 children are sponsored. WC emphasizes keeping costs low, and for $30 per month a child gets nutritious food, clothing, medicine, education, books and other necessities. Equally important to that financial help is the emotional support a sponsored child feels when they know that someone cares about them and wants them to succeed,” notes Purviance.
“Sponsors enjoy seeing that growth and confidence build over time as they receive letters, photos and progress reports from their child,” he adds.
Other World’s Children Efforts:
• The World’s Children college scholarship program has grown from 20 students in 2009 to 260 students this year. Each student gets a $500 scholarship —
which, in India, pays for about half to most of a student’s annual fees (depending on their degree program). Ninety percent of the recipients are young women; most of whom grew up in one of the
orphanages WC supports.
• Among its many projects, WC is supporting a Prevention of Child Trafficking initiative to equip 150,000 Indian villagers with information and resources to fight trafficking in their area, where many girls have been abducted. The project already is credited with rescuing 51 young girls from traffickers.
• Sponsors also can give funds for special projects like building maintenance, books and special equipment.