Feb 072015

And this, my friends, is how it should be, if it can be…….

She said, “YES.”

We took in a new little love at HOPE House yesterday.  Her name is Nayika.  You can tell by the look in her eyes that she doesn’t feel good.  And likely never has.  Since she was two months old her mother has called us needing money to take her to the hospital, money for food, and for a place to live.  She is now seventeen months old and her situation wasn’t getting any better. Earlier this week her mother called to say she couldn’t keep caring Nayika any longer, and she was going to place her in an orphanage.

We asked her to come to Port-au-Prince so we could help her find a better solution.  Yesterday evening she arrived at HOPE House and we asked her, “If you had a job and a place to live, do you want to raise this baby?  Do you WANT to keep her?”  With tears swelling in her eyes and a smile across her face, she held Nayika, a bit tighter and said, “YES.”

Read the rest here……..

Nov 132014

I’ve had a number of people ask me,  “What is this Vulnerable Project” thing you’re working on?  

So I thought I’d take a few minutes and restate what our goals are with The Vulnerable Project and how we hope to accomplish them.

The 30,000 ft. goals (in other words, the really big, broad stroke goals):

  • The reduction in the number of poverty orphans in the world.    Poverty orphans are children who are given up for adoption strictly because their parents who want to care for them aren’t able to due to extreme poverty.
  • Helping vulnerable families make it through a crisis intact.   That crisis could take a variety of forms but the common thread is that it is something that, with some help, they could make it through with the family intact.    Examples – a serious medical condition, death of a spouse and loss of income, a natural disaster that wipes out housing, just to name a few…….

Moving down to ground level, what do these God sized goals look like?

  • What we are not going to do: We are not going to attempt to put projects in place on the ground that will actually do the work that is going to happen to achieve those two goals.    We don’t know the dynamics, we don’t know the language (probably), we don’t know the culture.
  • What we are going to do:   We are going to find existing organizations that are already doing the work and support them.   Organizations that are working on the main goals of The Vulnerable Project already exist in almost every country that has vulnerable children and families.   We’re going to find them and support them to help them do what they do better.

What does that mean on a day to day basis?

  • Project based support – All of the work we do will be project based.   That means it will have a measureable, trackable, finite goal to it.    Examples – a new inverter, a new piece of medical equipment, Ultrasound machine from electro-medical.comnew textbooks, airfare to bring professionals in for staff training. 
  • Education and awareness – through a variety of writing and speaking opportunities, we’ll work to raise the awareness of the issues that vulnerable children and families face.   If you’d like to have someone speak to your group or do a guest post on a blog or something else to help spread awareness of these answers to the orphan crisis, e-mail me at tom@thevulnerableproject.org.
  • Consulting services – if an organization that is working on behalf of vulnerable children and their families would like assistance in some way with their marketing, social media, fundraising and/or donor communications, they can apply for a grant to get that assistance. 

How do we propose to fund The Vulnerable Project?

  • We are not going to seek 501©3 status.   We don’t want to be a charity.    Our goal is to be a business that is devoted to doing social good by means of caring for the vulnerable.  We want to work towards being financially self sustaining so we are generating opportunities and not taking donations.
  • So how are you going to fund The Vulnerable Project?   There’s three main ways we are planning on funding The Vulnerable Project:
    • Online store sales – whether it’s goods that are created in the third world and create jobs there or whether they are other products that we can sell to generate funds, our goal is to make a substantial amount of the income needed to fund The Vulnerable Project through online store sales.   Stay tuned to http://thevulnerableproject.org/store/ for more on that.cup of coffee
    • Speaking, consulting and writing opportunities.   If you know an organization that would like to have someone talk about the issues of the vulnerable children and families (or anything else related to the orphan crisis let me know.
    • Book sales –  I’m currently working on Book #1 of a series of books – the series is called “Ten Things About Adoption.”    The goal is to increase knowledge and support of adopted children and their families and make the process and the realities of adoption smoother, more understood and less stressful.

Want to help?   A couple of ways you can help:

  • Keep an eye on the store and as we get more goods on there, buy some stuff and spread the word about it.
  • If you know anyone who would be interested in us selling their goods online, let me know by e-mailing me at tom@thevulnerableproject.org
  • Know anyone who wants someone to come talk to their group or write a guest post for their blog or website?  Let me know.
  • As the books get completed and put up for sale, buy one and tell your friends and family.  Trust me, I’ll make it obvious when they are ready.

Thank you for reading this far.   Thank you for caring about the children of the world.   I’m looking forward to seeing what God does with this!


Sep 152014

Psalm 60: 11-12 Give us help for the hard task;

human help is worthless.

In God we’ll do our very best;

he’ll flatten the opposition for good. (The Message)

Vulnerable Children – Children  in Need.

It’s a huge problem – there are so many of them – millions and millions.    In the country of Haiti alone there are hundreds of thousands if not a million or more.  

So how do we do something that matters?

We can’t.   Not by ourselves.    But by being part of God’s plan, we can. 

It’s the only way we can make an impact.


Sep 102014

My dream has changed over the years.

I used to think that finding a new adoptive family for every child in an orphanage was the answer to all of the problems in the orphan crisis.    I was wrong.   That is part of the problem and part of the answer.   But not the complete answer to the complete problem.

Instead of that, I’d like to share with you the dreams that I have for the Vulnerable Project:

  1. The Elimination of the Poverty Orphan  Syndrome –  There are too many children all over the world who are not living with their biological family, not because their family didn’t want them but because their family couldn’t afford to feed them.    That must stop.    There must be systems in place so that families who want to and are able to care for their children, rather than having to give them up for adoption, are able to get the assistance they need to be able to make it through the tough times and keep their family together.
  2. Improved understanding and knowledge of all areas of adoption – so many of the problems in the adoption world stem from a deep rooted misunderstanding of many of the realities of adoption.    We aim to address and improve that.
  3. The proper way to help – there are many ways to “help” in the 3rd world.    Many of them do a lot of good.   Some of them do a little bit of good.   Some of them actually hurt more than they help.   Most people don’t realize it and would do things differently if they knew better.    We aim to pull back the curtain and talk about those issues and help people do “it” better.
  4. Jobs – “What the Whole World wants is a good job.”   Jim Clifton – CEO of the Gallup Organization.    Many of the problems in places like Ethiopia, Uganda and Haiti could be drastically reduced if there was a significant increase in the availability of jobs so that people could support their families.     See Elimination of the Poverty Orphan Syndrome above.
  5. Churches – The church in the first world could and must do so much more to battle the forces of evil.   We aim to expose those weaknesses, encourage those who want to pray and be involved to do it well and battle the forces of evil through the efforts of the brothers and sisters in Christ who live here in the comfort of the first world.

Through book sales (see #2), online sales (see #4) and speaking opportunities (#1, 2, 3 and 5), we also aim to very quickly eliminate the need for traditional fundraising.

I’ll be going into these in greater detail in the coming days and weeks but I wanted to share with you what The Vulnerable Project is and how we can work together to help the vulnerable children and families of the world.

Thanks for reading and thanks for caring.

Tom Vanderwell

Sep 052014

As we’re working on getting The Vulnerable Project up and rolling, I’ve had a number of people who have asked me,  “What can I do to help the Vulnerable Project?”

Let me give you four concrete ways that you can help (in random order):

  • If you are traveling to another country, (ideally a 3rd or 4th world country but really anywhere), buy “some” goods from street vendors.   That will help and support them so they can feed their families.   Then, when you get back home, send them to the Vulnerable Project (address is listed below).   We will then sell the donated goods online and use the proceeds to further the work of The Vulnerable Project in helping more families.   Past experience has shown that retail value of goods brought in like that is 150-200% of what you pay for them on the street (i.e. a $10 necklace can sell for $17?).   This is a double benefit – you help the person you bought it from and you helped The Vulnerable Project do more.    Disclaimer – The VP is not currently a registered 501©3 so donations of goods to us would not be tax deductible.   P.S. We are accepting donations of literally anything that has value and can be sold online – if you have large quantities or a large item, please talk to me before sending it.
  • Buy something from us – buy coffee, buy jewelry, we’ll be adding more goods literally almost every day.
  • Connect us – if you know an organization that is helping keep families together by creating jobs literally anywhere in the world, connect us with them.   Tell them that we want to help and we want to market their products for them.  Our goal is to get the Vulnerable Project online store to have upwards of 8 to 10 different departments – all based on the country the goods are coming from:
    • Haiti
    • Honduras
    • The U.S.  (the first of these should arrive next week)
    • ?
  • Tell the story – Like The Vulnerable Project on Facebook.   Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or anywhere else.   E-mail others about it.   Consider asking your mission committee to invite us to come talk to your church about how you can partner with The Vulnerable Project as a church to help keep families together.


There you have it.    Four ways that you can be part of The Vulnerable Project.   Four ways that you can do something to help keep families together.

There are families who are struggling.   They are struggling today.   There are organizations who are trying to help them – but they need our help.

Will you?

(616) 292-7559


Mailing Address –  The Vulnerable Project 2260 Rosewood St. Jenison, MI 49428


Aug 222014

Many people I’ve talked with have not fully understood the concept of the Poverty Orphan Syndrome.    It’s a concept and a reality that hurts – hurts for the mothers, hurts for the children, hurts for those on the front lines.  

I’ve taken the liberty of quoting (below) something a friend of mine posted on a private group on FB for mission workers.   Because I have not asked for permission, I’m only posting part of it and I have removed all geographically identifying terms.    I think it gives a harrowing vision of what a Poverty Orphan really is.

And why we need to do more about it.

‘I can’t be the only person who has women show up at my gate wanting to give me their children. It happens on a regular basis, at least once or twice a month. These are women who are seeking to give their children up strictly because of poverty of one sort or another……….I do not run an orphanage nor to do work in microloans or job creation so I personally don’t have much to offer these women as far as a solution. Most often I just tell them no, I don’t do that and they leave but sometimes it feels so much more complicated than that when ………they get very emotional.  …………..Thoughts?”

Read that again.   They are giving up their children because of poverty.

That just isn’t right.