Many of Fort Wayne’s nonprofit organizations serve the needs of its community’s residents on a daily basis. However, a handful of these organizations have been locally grown with an outreach extending across international waters.
The organization, Ray of Hope Medical Missions, is one such nonprofit. It identifies children in need of medical surgery for severe deformities in eight African countries. Then it works with their families to obtain documentation and bring the children to the United States to receive treatment, typically in the region of northeast Indiana where it was founded.
A before and after picture of the children Ray of Hope serves.
Treatment is provided as a donation by a local hospital or medical professional. Host families then care for the children through their surgeries and recovery—a duration that can last up to 18 months.
Since Ray of Hope's inception in 2012, 55 children have been treated and returned to their families. Rebecca Ghent
Rebecca Ghent, the founder and Executive Director, says the inspiration to start her organization came from her own experience as a host family with a similar organization where she noticed a gap in the service.
In 2012, Ghent's family hosted Francesca, a medically fragile child in their home. The child returned to her village in Africa after 11 months of care and recovery in the U.S. But after she returned, she immediately fell ill, and the organization said they would no longer provide care for her now that she was back home.
This response was not enough for Ghent, so she took it upon herself to be the change she wished to see in the system by launching Ray of Hope.
“It was a feeling of hopelessness when Francesca needed critical care in the United States, and the original organization said they weren’t wasting any more resources on her," she reflects. “Papers were filed, charity statutes were granted, and 10 days later, Ray of Hope’s first child, Francesca, arrived back to the USA and was immediately transferred to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan.” Francesca, center, and other children Ray of Hope serves.
Today, seven years later, Ray of Hope is a local mission group with an international focus. While the children it serves are from all over the world, the bulk of its time and effort is spent while the child is in Fort Wayne with a host family, doctors, and churches. And the changes it inspires among local families are powerful.
"The most visible change is the physical transformation of the Ray of Hope child, but it is small compared to the invisible changes in all those lives,” Ghent says.
Molly Snyder, a board member and host mother, is one of the many who can attest to the life-altering experience that hosting a Ray of Hope child has been for her family and community.
“Within our community, hosting two boys through Ray of Hope caused a ripple effect of spreading love for others," Snyder says. "Our family and the boys went from being questioned to accepted and loved.” Molly Snyder, left, and her family hosted a Ray of Hope child.
Ray of Hope’s local support network has been strengthened through community churches, missionaries, and hospitals. Parkview and Dupont Hospital, along with private medical providers, have donated their services to Ray of Hope children, as well. Ghent says the organization is rooted in the Christian faith, but it works with children and host families of any faith background.
“Ray of Hope is about revealing more of God in his creation," Ghent says. "Everyone from the children who receive the life-changing medical treatments, to the host families, to the medical professionals, and to the churches, their lives are forever changed."
Full disclosure: The author, Jennifer Bermejo, is a board member for Ray of Hope Medical Missions.