How it started?
Aid for Orphans Relief Foundation (AORF) was established by Dr. Margaret Chustecki, an internal medicine physician, who observed that orphans in her native Poland were not getting adequate care. They lacked specific medications and the supervision of medical specialists. The children suffered from a variety of chronic illnesses, and the orphanages could not afford the care the children needed. Dr. Chustecki decided to establish a foundation that would be able to help the orphans, not only in Poland, but also in other parts of the world. AORF was founded in 2010; it is 501(c)3 non-profit organization that helps children and the facilities that look after them, by supplying the children with proper nutrition, medical and wellness services and treatments that would otherwise not be available.
The foundation cooperates with pharmaceutical companies to supply children with the medicines they need. It has also provided malnourished children with therapeutic food supplements. In addition, AORF not only provides orphans with basic preventive care, but it has also been involved in the long-term treatment and management of serious chronic illnesses.
In 2014 AORF became involved in helping to solve the problem of food insecurity in Connecticut schoolchildren. The foundation studied the problem, reached out to other organizations that were involved in trying to address the problem, and began fundraising to open school-based weekend food programs in Connecticut. In 2015 we formally partnered with the John J. Driscoll United Labor Agency in Rocky Hill Connecticut ctula.org to work with us in developing and delivering a model of family and school-based weekend food assistance to food insecure children and their families. We started by offering two programs in 2015, increasing to three programs in 2016, and to four programs in 2016. Last academic year (2016/2017) we delivered a total of 955 meals each weekend to a total of 191 individuals. A total of 27,530 meals were distributed during the course of the school year.
There are many disadvantaged regions in the world. AORF aims to improve the living conditions of children in these regions by providing them with food and basic medical care. In Ghana, one out of every five children dies before their fifth birthday. In Kenya, over ten million people suffer from basic lack of food and water.
Every day we are exposed to heart breaking information about starving children, natural disasters and illnesses that cannot be treated because of the lack of money. AORF hopes to reach at least some of the children who so desperately need help. We believe that, with the cooperation of our donors and collaborators, we will be able to do great things for at risk children.
AORF has developed various methods that aim to improve the lives of orphans and children at risk. These methods are showcased in the following six programs: Food and Safe Water, Lifesaving Vaccinations, Acute and Chronic Illness Management, Hygiene and Wellness Supplies, Preventive Care, and Emergency Relief.
International Product Distribution Program
Food and Safe Water was created to prevent and treat childhood malnutrition. The foundation helps to provide children with the proper nutrition that is essential for good health.
As a means of disease prevention we developed the Lifesaving Vaccinations program that helps immunize children against dangerous diseases including polio, measles, mumps, rubella, influenza, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and many more.
The Acute and Chronic Illness Management program is dedicated to all children who require in-depth medical treatment. AORF is able to help children with serious health and developmental problems.
Many children don’t have basic access to hygiene supplies.
Our Hygiene and Wellness Supplies program provides children with products such as toiletries, diapers, over-the-counter children’s medications and oral-health items.
We all know that prevention is easier than curing disease, thus our Preventive Care program is dedicated to diagnosing and assessing chronic and acute medical conditions by means of screenings. Under this program, AORF provides sick children with medications and healthcare products that are necessary for their treatment.
Last but not least, there is the Emergency Relief program that is dedicated to children who have experienced natural disasters. The foundation provides them with nutrition, safe water and essential medical supplies.
Weekend Food Distribution Programs
Introduction. AORF became interested in the problem of food insecure schoolchildren in Connecticut in 2014 and began thinking about how we could help. We were aware that the Connecticut Food Bank, the largest supplier of weekend food to food insecure schoolchildren, was at capacity and maintained a wait list. In 2014 we entered into a formal agreement with the John J. Driscoll United Labor Agency (ULA) to work with them in set up school-based weekend food assistance programs for food insecure Connecticut schoolchildren. ULA had an existing program at Martin Luther King School in Hartford, and we built on their model to create our joint program. ULA took on the mechanisms to help schools identify families needing this assistance, and to buy, pack, and deliver food to the schools. AORF took primary responsibility for writing grants to fund the programs, program oversight, and evaluation of the programs.
History. We began with our first two programs in the 2015-16 academic year. The next academic year (2016-17) we added a third program. This last academic year (2017-18) we ran four programs; one program was in Hartford, one in Hamden, one in New Haven, and one in Milford. This academic year (2018-19) our weekend food programs will be running at three schools (in Hartford, Hamden and Milford).
Why are these programs necessary? Almost 1 in 5 Connecticut children live in food insecure households, meaning that the family is unable to reliably access enough food to ensure healthy, active lives. Over 150,000 Connecticut children live in a food insecure household. About a quarter of Connecticut children are eligible for free or reduced cost meals at school, and this is extremely important in helping make sure low-income children are not hungry at school. However, some low-income children are vulnerable to not getting enough to eat on weekends and during summer vacations.
Why does inadequate food intake matter? Food insecure children are less likely to do well in school, to be sick more, and more likely to have social and behavioral issues than their more nourished peers. Food insecure children are more likely to have poorer general health.
What is our model for these food programs? Although the most prevalent model for feeding food insecure schoolchildren on the weekend is feeding only that schoolchild, we started from the beginning believing it is important to feed the entire family. We didn’t want to put a child in the position of having enough to eat over the weekend, while other family members may not have enough. We also wanted to supply the food through a school where staff could identify children who were not getting enough food. Since food insecurity is conflated with poverty, we also wanted to make sure families knew about the services/benefits for which they might be eligible. The most cost-effective way for us to do this was to put information on these services and benefits in families’ food bags. Fliers on these services and benefits are placed one at a time in the food bags throughout the year; these detail the nature of the service, who is eligible to receive it, and where to go to determine their eligibility. We alert people to services like SNAP, WIC, TANF, SSI, Pantries and Soup Kitchen, CEAP, Renter’s Rebate, Mental Health Services, Family Medical Insurance, Housing Assistance, Care4Kids, Employments Services and Phone Assistance. We begin by giving them information on using United Way 2-1-1, www.2111ct,org and www.connect.ctgov. Our last flier of the school year contains information on where they can access summer food. Another important part of our model is that our food programs are evaluated.
How do the programs work? School officials at participating schools identify students who are experiencing issues related to hunger in the classroom. Families are called by a school official at the school (community liaison worker, school nurse, principal, etc.) and are told about the program and invited to participate. If they are interested they are told about the program’s requirements (signing consent to participate, picking up or receiving food bags, returning food bags, and filling out paperwork). Families receive a food bag every weekend school is in session for a total of approximately 33 deliveries. The program also provides the fixings of holiday meals. Additionally, one non-food item is included in bags each week (e.g., toothbrushes, gloves, books, games, etc.). Holiday gifts for the families are also distributed.
Our Successes. The last two academic years (2016-17 and 2017-18) we delivered over 900 meals each weekend and over 20,000 meals each school year to families of food insecure schoolchildren in Connecticut. We serve poor, primarily minority families. The majority of participating families report that the food program made things easier for them financially, that they had enough food for the weekend, that their lives were less stressful as a result of the program, and that their children were happier.
Where is your help needed?
Cameroon in Western Africa is struggling with a dense population of people living in rural areas without access to clean water or consistent medical care. These poor conditions are the cause of poor prenatal health and early mortality for children. Diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, prematurity, and HIV/AIDS are taking the lives of many children who are 5 years old or younger.
Uganda, in Eastern Africa, still fights with the consequences of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that occurred in the early 1990s. Despite the great efforts to overcome it, many of the children are being born with the AIDS virus. The mortality rate of children under 5 years old is similar to that of Cameroon. The children need clean water, proper healthcare and specific medications.
Another disadvantaged region in Eastern Africa is Kenya. The main problem, there, is the severe food crisis caused by enormous droughts in the Horn of Africa. Hundreds of thousands of children are dying because of malnutrition. Moreover, they are at high risk of disease outbreaks including measles, acute watery diarrhea and pneumonia. Our foundation supports these children by sending basic medicines, medical supplies, nutritional supplements, and vitamins.
In Eastern Asia, the Philippines are struggling with the remnants of Typhoon Haiyan (November, 2013). Six thousand people have died and six hundred thousand have been displaced. Due to difficult access to healthcare facilities and poor sanitary conditions many people suffer from respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, cardiac disease and dermatologic problems.
In Ukraine, the main problem is lack of money in the state budget that has a direct influence on the condition of stability, accessibility and the quality of medical care, especially for children. State funding is not enough to maintain hospitals and obtain new equipment. Many children are being born without the attendance of skilled healthcare professionals. They lack vitamins and minerals; many of them are anemic and they often have low birth weight.