Our vision is to see a world where all orphans and vulnerable children become secure, healthy, connected, and able to care for themselves and their siblings.
We are motivated by the Biblical call for Christians to help one another. ZOE reaches out in love to all vulnerable children and those wishing to partner with them, regardless of their beliefs, so they may experience the love of God with physical, social, psychological, and spiritual healing.
The children we serve and our partners who make it happen. Read the stories that matter and stay connected to the latest news with ZOE.Read Our Blog
In 2004, ZOE launched as a mission of the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. The process which led the Conference to start this ministry was inspired by a 15 year old young woman who felt called by God to care for AIDS orphans in Africa and then shared her experiences. She inspired this Christian response to the humanitarian crisis of tens of millions of orphans in Africa.
At first ZOE was a relief mission including feeding programs, medical mission teams and funding for orphans to attend and receive food at local schools. This ministry started in Zimbabwe, and originally the name ZOE was an acronym for Zimbabwe Orphan Endeavor. ZOE is also the Greek word for life, which is what the name now stands for. ZOE later expanded its relief work to include Zambia. Tens of thousands of children were served over the next several years with churches and individuals generously supporting ZOE’s work. In late 2006, an abundance of funding caused ZOE to begin searching for effective missional models in which to invest with children in Africa.
ZOE was introduced to a team of Rwanda social workers through Epiphani Mujawimana. Frustrated by what she saw as a cycle of relief and dependency, she and her team designed a very different way to care for orphans in their community, by assisting them to care for themselves.
With a small budget, the team in Rwanda created an orphan empowerment program with no orphanages, roughly one social worker per 1,000 children, using locally available resources and indigenous staff, and focusing on helping vulnerable children to help themselves. Children were grouped into mutually-supportive peer working groups and given access to the basic training and resources needed to grow their own food, start businesses, enroll siblings in school, attend vocational training, learn about God’s love for them, understand how to stay healthy and prevent disease, learn about child rights, and be connected to a supportive community. The program is three years in length to avoid groups forming long-term dependencies. ZOE initially began funding this empowerment work through the YWCA in Rwanda.
Each year, the ZOE board evaluated the effectiveness of the programs ZOE funded. The relief work in Zimbabwe, and later in Zambia, was, in some cases, helping children survive in situations of extreme poverty, but also created dependencies. The empowerment program in Rwanda was permanently transforming the lives of children in extreme poverty so that they could care for themselves and their siblings in sustainable ways; and this transformation was occurring in just a few short years. It was clear that the empowerment work was more effective and sustainable (in non-emergency situations) than ZOE’s previous relief work. The ZOE board took the decision to gradually cease relief ministries and move all ZOE’s resources behind the empowerment work.
In 2007, Mujawimana was engaged as a consultant through ZOE to bring the model of empowerment to Kenya. Reegan Kaberia was hired as social workers to develop a model for empowerment in Kenya. Over the next several years, Reegan and his team implemented an empowerment program and introduced innovations and additions to the work of empowerment being employed in Rwanda. Mujawimana came to work full-time for ZOE and continued the work of empowerment with orphans and vulnerable children in Rwanda.
From this beginning, ZOE has grown to a current enrollment of over 40,000 orphans and vulnerable children in the three-year empowerment program across seven countries and three continents. When graduates are added to this group the number swells to over 70,000. Each new country program brings further innovations and lessons which are folded into the ZOE empowerment model. It is a living model which God continues to shape and grow.
ZOE is driven by our love for children, and our passion to see them live lives of depth, health, and security. Here are some of our Guiding Principles:
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