story by Julie Bagley
A local couple has launched Global Orphan Initiative to recruit companies to help orphans in countries where they do business.
Matt Fifer and his wife Tanya saw underserved children first-hand when they adopted their daughter from China six years ago.
Matt Fifer also saw what he called “real human suffering” while working for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., for 13 years. “It afforded me to see a lot of the world. (Human suffering) is a tremendous problem that’s not being solved and that’s what sparked me and my wife to do what we could.”
The couple thought about adopting more children and helping other families in the adoption process. They have several personal relationships in Northwest Arkansas based on this problem. One set of friends have fostered more than 20 children. He’s a Bentonville police officer and she was a teacher. They have sold everything they own and are soon moving to Ecuador to serve as orphanage workers. The Fifers were inspired by this type of sacrifice in what Matt called, “putting your money where your mouth is.”
Matt and Tanya have been thinking about giving back for several years and he explained his time at Wal-Mart was perfect for this project. He said his relationships in business are the basis for their initiative. They are targeting charitable giving programs of Fortune 500 companies.
Fifer said in 2011, U.S. companies benefited from the export of some $1.5 trillion in goods and services to other countries. Though the economies of these countries benefit on the whole from reciprocal import activity with the U.S., many are still unable to provide for the basic needs of their growing orphan population. One example is Mexico, which has an orphan population of 10 million.
“A lot of these big companies have charitable giving programs. There is benefit to goodwill. Wal-Mart for example is consistent but strategic in giving and they do it because it is the right thing to do,” he said.
Fifer said he’s not worried about the struggling economy. He said it’s recovering and the companies he’s targeting are consistent in their business performance and gain from backing specific causes.
Not only is this a personal mission for the Fifer’s, it is a family one. All four of their children, ranging from ages 16 to 6 are involved in the creation of this initiative.
“My wife and I compliment each other. I’m the big idea guy and my wife is detailed oriented,” he said. “My kids are great. My daughter is a gifted writer and is helping with copy on the website and my boys help research companies and fundraising.”
The Fifers will take-on the administrative costs for this organization with every dollar raised going to the orphanages they will sponsor. They’ve committed to one in Ecuador with two others in mind.
There is no shortage of need as UNICEF estimates there were 150 million orphans outside the U.S. under the age of 17 as of 2011.
First, they need to wait on their non-profit paperwork. They’ve filed to have 501(c) 3 status and aren’t actively engaging the corporate community.
Their first goal is to reach 10,000 likes on Facebook by the end of the year and then starting Jan. 2, pitch to companies.
“We hope to see immediate results and want corporations to know that they have the power to change the lives of orphans for the better, both those living today and those in generations to come.”