Counting the Cost of Serving the Poor Well

Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matt. 20:26-28 NLT

We at Change Volunteers are excited to have volunteers join us to serve God by the poor especially orphans. Because many different kinds of people join us to serve, we wanted to put down the following assumptions and clarifications in an effort to better set expectations.

Many of our partner organizations are struggling and need competent staff. Because of that, many things wouldn’t work as smoothly as they should.

By choosing to volunteer with these partner organizations, you agree to accept and be happy with the following weaknesses that they often have.

Poor management. Many orphanages and poverty alleviation organizations don’t run as smoothly as businesses because they don’t have the money to recruit, develop and maintain top quality staff. It’s extremely difficult for people from the west who are used to good customer service from their companies to transition to dealing with the poor management of poor non-profits in the U.S. and abroad. As a volunteer, you would be expected to make a quick transition into a new culture and learn to work with organizations that aren’t managed as effectively as you would like. But these are opportunities to pray and gently seek to bring improvements.

Poor customer service. Because of poor management, there will often be poor customer service. To enjoy the trip, volunteers working with our local partners need to expect delays and sometimes poor customer service. Besides poor management, perceptions of poor customer service may happen because other cultures manage time differently than many Westerners do. Things may happen slowly.

Responsibility for their stay. While our local partners and local staff would do everything possible to help volunteers, volunteers accept responsibility for directly their lives from planning the trip to working on the ground and returning back to their home country.  Our staff is here to help 24/7


Be happy for any help you get. Even if it’s only 1% of what you expected. You will be amazed how the world around you will change and you will enjoy your orphan care trip. You will be able to enjoy the peace in the eye of the storm while every body around you is perishing.

Trust God only. Depend on God, trust him alone to provide for the orphans and you.

Be proactive. Don’t wait to be told something, ask questions and get answers. Don’t blame anyone for not telling you something. Blame yourself for not thinking about it to ask and make sure.

Don’t blame or grumble. Be a solution. Realize that many orphanage workers are volunteers whose time is not paid adequately if they even receive any thing at all. They do this full-time for years. Many volunteers do it for a few weeks or months or years and return to their normal lives and so the volunteers may not feel the burnout and burden that full-time orphanage workers feel. They have many things to do by themselves alone and so don’t take it out on them for being poorly organized or not functioning as you expected. Have zero expectation of them and everything you receive will be a privilege and a joy. You would leave them strengthened, encouraged, and helped when your volunteer service is complete. Grumbling and complaining only frustrates their already tough job. Instead of pointing out a fault, simply bring a solution and help out. This is true even if you paid a fee to volunteer. That fee usually isn’t enough to support good staff at the orphanage. With Shaping Destiny, Glory Bible College offers training alone. The college doesn’t prepare people for travel except the instruction given in the classroom where students can ask as many questions as they have.

Everything is a privilege. Everything orphans receive is a privilege, not a promise. That applies to you too when you serve with our orphanage.

Anything can happen. A sinkhole swallowed a Florida man and his bed and he was never recovered. Hurricanes strike unannounced and kill many, planes crash  into buildings and kill unsuspecting home residents who are resting in the safety of their own home, planes fall from the sky and kill people, wars breakout in some places, a stray bullet kills, car accidents kill thousands in the U.S each day, thieves rob homes in most secure neighborhoods and in the ghettos, women are raped, children molested. Evil happens anywhere including in developing countries where we go to serve orphans. Even though we make every effort at safety, God is the one who provides protection. It is vain to trust in the arm of flesh or in our military might.

Our local partners exist solely to serve orphans and the poor. As great and awesome as we are, we the staff and volunteers are not the priority. God and the children are. God and the orphans are the center of the world at the orphanage. Everyone else (staff and volunteers) are the slaves or servants of these two people– God and the orphan. Staff and volunteers relinquish all their rights and only care about what glorifies God and is in the best interest of the orphans. Every decision we make must be made first with the children in mind, then and only then do we consider the welfare of the staff and volunteers to the end that they are necessary for the welfare of the orphans for the glory of God. Staff and volunteers are important because of the children whom they have dedicated themselves to serve. You will find that having laid their lives down to serve orphans fully, our staff and volunteers enjoy the joy of the Lord and the deeper and abundant Christian life through surrender.

** The promises of an organization ( a profit or non-profit corporation)  are usually based on certain assumptions and could be subject to change.

That’s also true for us. When we make promises to volunteers and staff, our promises are based on certain assumptions.

It’s not about us. The staff or volunteer has decided to lay down ALL of their own desires, comforts, and preferences for the children’s welfare. The orphanage doesn’t exist to meet the volunteers’ needs but to meet the kids’ needs. Having said that, we do our best to make the orphanage a great place for staff and volunteers to live and work.
Any right or promise can be rescinded, revoked, or cancelled if it  is no longer in the best interest of the orphans. The interest of orphans change all the time and are somewhat unpredictable. The staff or volunteer understands that Shaping Destiny as an organization always reserves the right to amend or change any promises or conditions set forth earlier at anytime and without prior notice if that is in the best interest of the orphans. The practical outworking of this is that:

– A volunteer’s term of stay at the orphanage can be cut short without prior notice if that is in the best interest of the orphanage. A volunteer/missionary who intended to serve with Shaping Destiny for 1 year could be sent home after one or two months if that’s in the best interest of the orphans. How likely are we to do this? Rare, but possible. For example, we have fired staff in the past who tried to sexually assault the children.
– If the orphanage didn’t have money, it could close down in the middle of the volunteer’s term. Companies close down all the time and people who have invested in it lose their retirement money. Companies and governments restructure and lay off good employees all the time. The orphanage can do that if it is in the best interest of the orphans. What are the chances? Small but real. So if this happened to you, you will not be mad at the orphanage staff for misleading you or not setting clear expectations earlier.
– A volunteer who has been allowed to live in the orphanage can be moved to a residence off the campus with only a week’s notice if it is in the best interest of the orphans whose only home is the orphanage. The volunteer should understand that despite the fact that we do background checks and interview people, we will inevitably promise some people accommodation in the orphanage who don’t belong in the orphanage. They may not be bad people. It could be simply that the orphanage management sees that their personality and maturity doesn’t make it fair for the orphans to have them live in the orphanage. Such people will live away from the orphanage and work 5 days, 40 hours per week.
– A staff or volunteer who has been offered a salary job could be terminated at anytime without prior notice if the orphanage doesn’t have the funds to pay such a staff. To glorify God we will only do this under extraordinary circumstances to protect the orphans. Most businesses in the U.S. usually have only six weeks of pay in reserves. That means if they stop making money today, they can only pay people for the next six weeks before everyone would lose their job. This is a sobering statistic. They operate by faith that customers will come and money will come in to pay everybody. The orphanage runs exactly the same way. We have a tiny reserve (like most companies do) and depend on donations from generous individuals to pay staff. If they stop coming, no staff will be justified in blaming or grumbling against the orphanage. In God we trust for everything. The good news is that since 2005, God has not failed even once. But be prepared to be let go and take it happily if it came to that and was the best for the children so that they can continue to have food. We all must trust God to serve orphans.

Only one promise is written in stone. That is, We will serve orphans and glorify God. Every other can change if it doesn’t line up with this one promise. That means,

– Volunteers or staff who are promised food and lodging in the orphanage only receive these things if the orphans have enough. If their supply drops one month, then volunteers who live in the orphanage may not have food to eat. Even though, this has never happened, every volunteer should pray and prepare themselves to take any hardship without complaining and grumbling. Volunteers will not be able to blame orphanage staff for not properly informing them of a hardship that they may now be facing at the orphanage. We say this knowing that before God we will do everything in our power to help make the orphanage a great place for all to serve there. However,  we don’t want volunteers who come thinking that they are entitled to anything. Orphan care work  is tough. People often lose sleep and go hungry serving God. Look at the apostle Paul in the Bible. The right mindset at the orphanage is to receive everything as a privilege from God. If you directly pay for something, then every effort will be made to deliver the quality promised to you or your money be refunded to use it yourself to get what was promised locally. If you were promised a salary, it will only be paid if the orphanage has enough funds for the orphans and then extra for staff. If you gave your money directly to the orphanage, they often save it to use it to meet your needs. That can be refunded if necessary. Again, only the amount left unspent on the volunteer can be refunded.

It’s a privilege to live at the orphanage. It can be taken away at anytime. If a staff or volunteer is allowed to live at the orphanage, that is a privilege and not a right that can be taken away at anytime even if the volunteer or staff is paying for the stay. However, when that happens, the staff or volunteer will be refunded any amount that has not been spent.
The volunteer or staff covenants perpetual not to sue. The volunteer or staff will never under any circumstances seek to sue  Shaping Destiny or its affiliates. You must read the covenant not to sue and agree with it as part of this page before you can serve with Shaping Destiny.

Follow all rules & schedules at the orphanage without complaining or grumbling. When a staff and volunteer lives and works at the orphanage, they will be required to follow the house rules of the orphans without exception or preferences. They will go to bed at the times set for the entire house and wake up at the times set for everyone to wake up. These times are set with the welfare of the orphans in mind. So staff and volunteers who choose to live at the orphanage must abide by them cheerfully and happily and not grudgingly. Our local staff are not allowed to live in the orphanage. Volunteers are offered great opportunities to live outside the campus where they will remain free from the schedule of the kids and only show up to work and do 40 hours per week.
Disclaimer. We reserve the right to edit this article at anytime without prior notice if this is in the best interest of the orphans. It is the volunteer’s responsibility to check this page frequently and stay abreast with any changes. We will do our best to communicate changes to current volunteers when they happen. However, the responsibility for knowing changes lies with the volunteers and staff not with the organization.

Note for those living in the orphanage.

  1. Living in the orphanage is like living at home and at work at the same time. You are always at work. You will have time for yourself the same way you would have in your home if you were a mother of 30 children. The 40 hour per week work limit that applies to people who live outside the orphanage and work from 8 or 9:00 am to 5:00 pm technically applies to you but in reality it doesn’t since you live at work and your work is little irresistible children.. A good way to  have some time for yourself if you live in the orphanage is to go out on scheduled weekly or bimonthly getaways. That’s the price of living among many children. You cannot live in the orphanage and have times that when you are the only one that can provide help, you refuse because you are not on the clock.
  2. You promise to happily accept loss of sleep if necessary to care for the kids and expected by the orphanage management.
  3. You accept that your personal belongings could be stolen or destroyed by a child in the orphanage. You will not grumble or complain against the staff. This is not expected to happen but when you have 30 children or 85 like we had a year ago, bad behavior is expected. Realize that orphans have gone through severe psychological trauma and defiant behavior is more common among them than ordinary kids with two parents.