ORPHANetwork gives all gifts and/or donations to our partners to distribute. While we understand the desire to directly give a child with whom you have connected a gift, it can inadvertently undermine our partners. The Nicaraguan staff are rarely able to do something nice for the kids, and we believe setting them up to the heroes (not just the disciplinarians) serves them well. 17
Our Board of Directors 18
Who Is ORPHANetwork?
Who We Are and What We Do
ORPHANetwork’s vision is that every orphaned and at-risk child would fully reach their God-given potential. Our Mission:
Rescue abandoned, abused, and orphaned children.
Prevent at-risk children from becoming orphans.
Create opportunities for a new life.
Share Christ with everyone.
FAITH - This is our Spiritual True North. Our primary commitment is to God and His Word over and above strategy and human wisdom, as stated in Proverbs 3:5-6. We are followers of Christ and seek to live out His vision for a broken world, leading people to Know Him and make Him known.
LEADERSHIP - This is our Commitment to Serve. We see local leaders being ultimately responsible to maintain ministry and create systems for ministry. Where there is need for consultation, resources and church teams to plug into ministry, we bring servant hearts to what local leadership decides are ministry priorities.
CONNECTION - This is our Ministry Architecture. We believe in building long term relationships with orphans and ministry partners. We believe relationships grounded on biblical principles are the foundation of quality ministry/missions. Trust, Respect and Responsibility create a network of relational integrity that honors God and inspires people. Connecting US churches to orphanages is a high priority, because the local church is the hope of the world.
TRUST - This is our Commitment to Organizational and Fiduciary Excellence. God’s work done in God’s way will not lack God’s supply. We are humbled to receive monetary and other tangible gifts that are intended to weave a tapestry of compassion for orphans and others who are poor, forgotten and marginalized. We take great care to apply all gifts, for maximum ministry impact and touching the hearts of children with God’s love and grace.
ORPHANetwork began as a mission project of Spring Branch Community Church (www.springbranch.org) in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The student ministry began making trips to Vera Cruz, Nicaragua in 1995. Soon parents were noticing a change in their students who were now making repeated trips to the region to care for orphans at Casa Bernabe orphanage. Spring Branch senior pastor Michael Simone traveled to Vera Cruz and returned home to share the story of what was happening in Nicaragua with his congregation.
The Spring Branch congregation responded by giving. The church developed a “Christmas Wish” program to provide orphans with a rare opportunity to shop at their local marketplace for clothes and toys. Hundreds of people participated, enabling Spring Branch to partner with other churches and businesses to make Christmas special for many children.
As the mission grew, Simone realized that there was an enormous opportunity to have a greater impact on Nicaragua, and to share this ministry with other churches.
Spring Branch spun off its mission program to establish ORPHANetwork as an independent nonprofit organization in 2000. Today we are a network of individuals, organizations and churches helping care “for the least of these.”
Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability
National Points of Light Foundation
Christian Alliance for Orphans
Having a Life Changing Trip
A mission’s trip can be one of the most amazing weeks of your life, but it does take some work on your part to prepare emotionally and spiritually, and to discern if going to Nicaragua is God’s plan for you. Here are some quick pointers:
Pray about your decision and vision for going:
Seek God’s guidance in whether or not a service trip to Nicaragua is right for you. He may be calling you to some different type of service, and in seeking him, this will be clearer to you.
Consider your desire to stay engaged post trip. Our ability to support our Nicaraguan partners, and their children, depends on this! ORPHANetwork has a mantra “YOU Are ORPHANetwork.” This is true, we are able to accomplish our mission, and support our partners, because of the individuals who are called to God’s work in Nicaragua. Our trip-goers are ORPHANetwork’s best advocates, and often their most meaningful impact comes post-trip as they take up the cause to continue to support the children they met while they were in Nicaragua.
Pray - Spend the time to bring your trip before the Lord before you go. He will begin to prepare your heart for the things he will show you, and better equip you to serve the children both in country and after your return.
Learn about Nicaragua, ORPHANetwork, and our partners
It’s always best to spend a little time in books or on the internet learning about the place you will be serving. ORPHANetwork has basic materials available, but there are plenty of other resources to learn about the city you will be serving and Nicaragua as a whole.
Taking the time to learn about Nicaragua as well as ORPHANetwork allows you to have the necessary cultural sensitivity to serve well.
Get to know your team
It always helps to know the people with whom you will be serving. God will teach you a lot through your serving as a body, and will often use these trips to form deep friendships.
Consider serving with your team on something local before you leave. It will bind you together as a group and teach you about what God has called you to do in Nicaragua.
Understand you are there to be servant’s, not saviors - We follow Christ’s model in entering a broken world, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
Before you leave prepare a plan to communicate with all the people that supported you - Spend time before you leave considering how you will communicate you experience to the people that supported you both financially and prayerfully. Consider taking pictures or keeping a journal that can bless them, and bring them into the experience.
Preparing to Go
One of the keys to a successful short-term mission trip is being properly prepared. Age
We customize each trip based on the group and how they are best equipped to serve. We will not accommodate children under the age of 16 unless accompanied by parent or guardian. We recommend a minimum age of 14 for all trip goers.
A 5-7-day trip to serve one of our Nicaraguan partners ranges in price between $1,400 to $2,000 depending on airfare and the goals of the trip. Trip costs include: transportation (both roundtrip airfare and travel within country), food and boarding, activities, supplies for onsite projects, and staff-related supervision costs.
All payment deadlines will be set with your church leader. Checks will be handled within your church allowing for more immediate accounting support. All deposits and payments are non-refundable, though refunds will be considered on a case by case basis.
State Department Travel Information
Nicaragua is a young democracy with a developing economy. ORPHANetwork maintains an ongoing presence in Nicaragua through our Nicaraguan Field Office. We are in constant contact with our onsite staff and national partners about travel conditions and we receive ongoing updates from the U.S. State Department on travel conditions in Nicaragua. We register all trip participants with the State Department, so in the case of an emergency, they know who is in country and their contact information. To learn more about State Department travel advisories visit their website at www.state.gov.
Within our trip package ORPHANetwork works with each group to find the most affordable and comfortable flight arrangements. Trips to Managua generally fly through Miami, Atlanta, Houston, or San Salvador depending on the season for groups and location of the church.
ORPHANetwork purchases insurance coverage on a case to case basis as discussed with the trip leaders from each church.
Other Health Information
In the interest of your best health, you are urged to drink only bottled water while in-country and to take precautions with 30+ SPF sunscreen and possible (although rare) malaria on the East Coast by applying insect repellent frequently.
The U.S. State Department strongly recommends that individuals traveling to Nicaragua ensure that all their routine vaccinations are up to date. Vaccination against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B are recommended by the CDC, although not required. Travelers taking prescription medications should bring an adequate supply with them when coming to Nicaragua. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at www.cdc.gov/travel.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends being vaccinated for the following:
And that you have already received booster doses for:
You should bring any prescribed medications as well as any over the counter drugs you may need. Always consult with a physician before taking any medication.
In order to go on an ORPHANetwork trip you must have:
Valid picture ID
If you do not have a passport, you can pick up an application at any Post Office. Be aware that it can take up to 8 weeks to process and receive your passport. You will also need to complete and sign the following document:
Trip Application & Consent Form (all in one document)
Going on a short-term mission trip can be a life-changing experience. Engaging in cross-cultural missions can also be complex, and if not conducted wisely, it can be more harmful than helpful. Before you board the plane, you should make sure that you are spiritually and and culturally prepared. ORPHANetwork provides Bible study material as well as a structure for processing your time in country. However, we highly recommend you invest the time in reading a few of the books below before you take your trip to help you prepare:
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor or Yourself (Brian Fikkert, Steve Corbett, and John Perkins)
Toxic Charity (Robert D. Lupton)
Good News About Injustice (Gary Haugen)
Compassion, A Reflection on the Christian Life (Henri Nouwen, Donald Mcneill, Douglas Morrison)
Short sleeve or T-shirts (no spaghetti straps or low-cut tank tops)
Lightweight shorts (no short shorts – no shorts above the fingertips of your hand when laid by your side)
Swimsuit (one-piece, no bikinis)
Flip flops or sandals
Casual dress or skirt (for church or meetings with ministry directors in Nicaragua)
Hat (for sun and rain protection)
Pair of pants or jeans
Shell/rain jacket for rainy days
Note: Some of the clothing recommendations are made to be sensitive to the culture you will be visiting (i.e. no tank tops or bikinis). Please consider it a small sacrifice to better serve and respect our partners.
Sun block, lip balm
Others (toothbrush/paste, deodorant, etc.)
Bath towel and bed sheets (consider leaving at orphanage)
Journal/notebook and pen
Extra batteries for flashlight
Hand sanitizer (i.e. Purell)
Photo of family
Aspirin or pain reliever (i.e. Tylenol, Advil)
Antibacterial ointment (i.e. Neosporin)
Any medications you require
Baggage restrictions vary based on location. Most international flights allow at least one piece of checked luggage per person (please check on your airlines website). ORPHANetwork will work with each group to deliver donations and letters in the available checked bags. Here are some simple packing tips:
Pack all personal items in carry-on if at all possible
If traveling with checked bags, pack 2 days of clothing and toiletries in carry-on
Do not pack valuables in checked bags
If you are flying to the East Coast after arriving in Managua (Puerto Cabezas or Bluefields) - Each passenger is allowed a maximum of 50 lbs (ticket roundtrip) and 25 lbs (one way). Any excess baggage is subject to a charge of US$1.00 per lb. We will coordinate with ministry partners to ship donations by land if necessary; please have ensure all luggage and materials you need when you arrive fits within these restrictions.
ORPHANetwork is not responsible for lost or stolen items in the airports, though, if needed, we will help you replace them while in country.
If your group would like to bring gifts or supplies for the children and orphanage staff we recommend:
We also have an online registry, www.simpleregistry.org/orphanetwork, which includes other needs that our partners have shared with us. When teams arrive in Nicaragua, ORPHANetwork collects donations not collected for a specific location so we can distribute donated items to our partners based on who has the greatest need.
While You Are There
We will develop a schedule that fits your team’s gifts but also is strategic in supporting our Nicaraguan partners in their vision. Focuses will be in developing the children in our programs but also in investing in the staff and teams that care for these children each and every day. While ORPHANetwork does conduct work projects on some trips, our philosophy is that having the opportunity to either conduct a work project alongside our partners (as opposed to doing it for them) or to hire local labor who is often underemployed, is a healthier approach than having a missions team conduct the entire project.
Examples of onsite projects & activities
Developing and Hosting a Vacation Bible School alongside a Local Church Initiative
Participating in English lessons with the children at one of our partner orphanages
Taking children on field trips that expose them to future job opportunities in Nicaragua
Teaching basic life skills to the children at our partner orphanages (such as budgeting, or time management)
Putting on an arts and crafts time or story time for younger children with a spiritual emphasis
Helping or funding build or repair facilities as appropriate
Developing and teaching lessons health and hygiene to the children in a local church initiative feeding program
Pastoral and staff development of our Local Church Initiatives (for example – teaching on how to use a flannelgraph to share the gospel)
Staff development of orphanage caregivers (for example – from social workers, children development specialists and child psychologists)
Developing a service project to undertake alongside a group of children (from a partner orphanage or local church initiative) and including Biblical teaching and principles
Sample Daily Schedule
8:00 Prayer and devotional time
9:15 Morning activity while kids are at school, such as staff development activity
2:00 Afternoon activity with the children, such as teaching English
All meals are well balanced and specially prepared for our teams, or take place at restaurants that have been frequented before. The meals will be a taste of Latin culture, but more than comfortable for the group. Bottled water will also be available at all points during the trip.
While it is our goal to have no health concerns on our trips, we still prepare for the event of an accident at all our locations. In the event of a health issue, both the ORPHANetwork trip leader and the leader from your church have authority to take action based on the severity of the issue. For example, either leader can choose it is an appropriate time to send a team member to a clinic, hospital, home, etc.
Appropriate steps should be taken depending on the specific situation. ORPHANetwork deals with health concerns in the following order:
Patient visits team nurse (if available)
Patient is sent to trusted medical support in local community (clinic, doctor, nurse, etc.)
Patient is sent, with a team member if necessary, to the Vivian Pellas Hospital in Managua. This is the nicest hospital in Nicaragua and has exceptional care by physicians trained in the developed world.
Patient is sent back to the states for medical attention
Payment for medical services is typically done on a cash basis although the Vivian Pellas Hospital will accept major credit cards for payment. ORPHANetwork will assist the patient in working with the local medical support, but cannot assume the responsibility to pay major medical bills. Claims can be filed through our travel insurance representative upon return to the States. Insurance claims will be dealt with on a case by case basis, depending on who is being reimbursed and the severity of the claim.
All trip participants are required to present a valid US passport to enter Nicaragua. Each traveler must also purchase a $10 tourist card at customs in Nicaragua. The exit tax is covered in your ORPHANetwork fee.
The local currency in Nicaragua is the Cordoba. The approximate exchange rate is US $1 = C $24. All items needed items on your trip are covered by ORPHANetwork. We do recommend you bring cash for personal items and souvenirs while on the trip. All cash should be in the form of new bills no greater than $20 bills. Larger bills are more difficult to exchange in Nicaragua. Credit cards are not widely accepted. There is nowhere to cash traveler’s checks. It is not necessary to exchange money, U.S. Currency is accepted universally.
If you are serving the Casa Bernabe orphanage in Veracruz or nearby partners in Managua: The onsite team center has 8 separate rooms to accommodate up to 8 people. Each room has it’s own private full bathroom, air conditioning unit, and fan. Rooms are kept immaculate each day, and easily locked for safety. Internet is available at the Casa Bernabe orphanage office as requested. Laundry service is available upon request for a fee.
If you are serving the Casa Bernabe orphanage in Puerto Cabezas: The onsite team houses have several rooms, with each room holding up to 2-6 people. Others will stay in the guestrooms of the Verbo Pastor, Earl Bowie. The houses have electricity, running water, fans, some air conditioner window units, and full kitchen.
If you are serving the El Canyon orphanage in Managua: The Quinta Arien Team House in Managua, minutes away from the El Canyon orphanage and is close to other ORPHANetwork partner communities. There will be single beds with 4-12 people in a room. The Quinta Arien hotel is designed for missionaries and has hot water and fans (AC is not as necessary at the higher altitude, but is available for an extra cost). Internet is available at the guesthouse.
If you are serving in Bluefields: The Caribbean Dream hotel in downtown Bluefields, minutes away from ministry activities and Pastor Ed’s Church. There will be personal beds with two to three people in a room. All rooms have Air-conditioning, housekeeping, and hot water, and internet is available. Smaller teams can stay at Pastor Ed’s house which is designed to accommodate serving teams.
If you are serving in Jinotepe: The Arms of Love onsite team center has 3 separate rooms to accommodate up to 30 people. Each room has it’s own private full bathroom and fans, and is easily locked for safety/security. Towels and sheets are provided. Teams are expected to keep their trash cans emptied throughout the week. Wireless Internet is available to the team.
A member from your trip team will be able to call a stateside contact upon arrival in country to let families know of your safe arrival. In case of an emergency, you should contact ORPHANetwork Coordinator Katie Beasely at 757-472-4343 or the ORPHANetwork office at 757-333-7200. In country emergency number is Eddy Morales, 011-505-8988-1039. Your church leader will have other necessary contact information for the group while in Nicaragua.
Trip Safety Rules & Regulations
In order to ensure the safety of each trip participant, to be culturally sensitive to our hosts, and to maintain our reputation as a ministry partner in Nicaragua, we have a few policies that all trip participants must obey. First, no team members may consume drugs or alcohol on a trip. Second, team members must not be alone whenever they leave the serving sites or the team lodging facilities. Third, team members are not permitted to leave the group alone with a child. Depending on the nature and severity of the violation, trip participants will be required to notify a parent (if they are a minor) and/or be sent home at his/her expense.
ORPHANetwork will provide translators for your group. We encourage you to use the translators to learn more about the children, staff, pastors and individuals from the communities you are serving.
Just as a mission team is a unique part of the church body, each team member is a unique part of the team body. To have a great trip it is important that your team has a few clear roles. Every team member will want to serve based on their gifts and these are specific areas that it will help to have assigned roles. In addition to your team leader, here are other roles to consider:
Worship leader (if available)- someone to prepare for any team worship times in the evenings as part of the porch time activities.
Team nurse (if available) - someone with basic first aid training and has a first aid kit available.
Donation organizer- someone that is responsible for any donations brought by the team. It is important to be very clear on what has been donated and where it will be going. We choose to give all our donations to indigenous partners to allow them to distribute as needed.
Crafts and games leader- there will inevitably be some times where there is free time to spend with children. Someone that will help orchestrate activities during this time, and ensure the team has the necessary supplies, is invaluable.
Project and programs leaders - someone to lead other team members in the specific projects and programs that the team will be executing while in Nicaragua. This person is responsible for bringing in needed supplies for the project if they are not available in Nicaragua.
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:16)
NICARAGUA is the poorest Spanish-speaking country in the world. It is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Geography: Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, approximately the size of New York State. Geographically it is divided into three areas: the Pacific lowlands, the North-Central mountains and the Mosquito Coast. The country consists of regions of rain forests, mountains, and fertile plains. With the largest lake in Central America and more than twenty volcanic peaks, Nicaragua is often called “the land of lakes and volcanoes.”
Capital City: Managua. It is the country’s largest and most urban city.
Climate: Nicaragua’s climate is typically tropical and humid with dry and rainy seasons. Rainfall varies between 60 and 200 inches a year. The average temperature is 80, though it is coolest from Dec. to Feb. and hottest from Mar. to May.
Population: Over 5.5 million “mestizos” (people of mixed European and Native American descent), ethnic minorities including Native Americans, Africans, and Europeans.
Economy: Primarily agricultural. The country’s largest exports are coffee, sugar & bananas.
Language: The national language is Spanish, yet most residents of the Caribbean coastal areas speak Creole English, as well.
Religion: No official Religion. Unofficially Roman Catholic.
Time: Central Standard Time or Mountain Standard Time at different times of the
year. Daylight savings time does change on the same dates as the US.
Frequently Asked Questions
What ORPHANetwork staff supervision is at the site?
There will be at least 1-2 ORPHANetwork stateside staff or trained volunteers, as well as in-country staff and translators available on each trip. Our staff is responsible for working alongside your leader to execute the trip according to the goals of team and to help lead the team spiritually, as needed. They also lead cultural activities and devotional times at your request. All staff and volunteers are well trained, have spent time in country, and understand and can communicate ORPHANetwork’s vision and how the team is a part of it.
How do we get there?
ORPHANetwork will help all travel arrangements for your group both from the States to Nicaragua and while you’re in country. Most groups will fly from their hometown airport to either Atlanta or Miami International and then on to Managua, Nicaragua. If your team is serving at an orphanage on the East Coast you will then take a connecting flight out to either Puerto Cabezas or Bluefields. If you are serving in Managua or Veracruz you will then travel by private bus to your lodging.
What documentation and identification is necessary for international travel?
For international travel you will need a valid photo ID and U.S. passport. You will also need $10 as an entry fee for Nicaragua
Where do we stay?
Your team will stay onsite at the orphanage in team housing, where possible. If not then we will provide alternative lodging at a nearby hotel or residential housing we secure for the team.
What can I do to prepare for my trip?
Please see the list on page 5-6 of this manual.
How do I know it’s safe?
ORPHANetwork staff takes all precautions possible on our mission’s trip. All food is specially prepared for the teams. All transportation is privately contracted. All medical facilities are accepted by international insurance agencies. We are in constant communication with our partners regarding the political climate and overall safety of bringing teams to Nicaragua.
What if I want to adopt?
ORPHANetwork respectfully requests team members do not come down with an intention of adoption. Nicaragua has specific guidelines on the best process for adoption that we encourage be followed. ORPHANetwork’s vision is to equip the children we serve to be raised as Nicaraguans with a vision to change their country, and we also want to respect the home environment that our orphanage partners are working diligently to create.
What is the best way to give a gift or donations?
ORPHANetwork gives all gifts and/or donations to our partners to distribute. While we understand the desire to directly give a child with whom you have connected a gift, it can inadvertently undermine our partners. The Nicaraguan staff are rarely able to do something nice for the kids, and we believe setting them up to the heroes (not just the disciplinarians) serves them well.
Our Board of Directors
Retired Executive Vice President & COO, Amerigroup Corporation