“There are over 140 million orphans in the world. Every 18 seconds another [minor] becomes an orphan,” said Chris Wheeler, Student Initiatives director. “We believe college students can end those numbers.”
Around the world, there are an estimated 163 million orphans, according to numbers provided by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. In 2011, about 115,000 of the 423,000 children in the American foster care system were eligible for adoption.
The Red Bus Project hopes to find homes for orphans worldwide. Money raised through the traveling thrift store provide funding for Show Hope Adoption grants.
“We strive to engage the college students on each campus by speaking with them and collecting names and email addresses. This allows us to work with them over the long haul,” Wheeler said.
Each visit the double-decker bus makes to a college campus has a specific purpose.
“We want to identify and develop the future leaders of orphan advocacy,” Wheeler said.
Lee University will be the Red Bus Project’s last stop on Nov. 15, according to the 2012 Fall tour schedule.
Wheeler invites the Cleveland community to be a part of the fun during their visit. Members of the community can participate by donating money and clothes geared toward college students. The community is also invited to shop on the bus.
“We love it when the local community comes out and shops on the bus. All the funds raised go toward adoptive families,” Wheeler said. “Community members can often donate more than college students, as well.”
Mike Hayes, Lee University’s vice president of Student Development, said Lee would love for the community to be involved.
“We want to continue to raise the awareness of orphan care on our campus,” Hayes said. “We want to give this to them as another option in the future.”
Hayes described the Red Bus Project’s last visit to Lee as a fantastic experience.
“We had several hundred of our students engaged in the bus’ visit,” Hayes said. “We received a lot of good feedback from our campus family. Many students shared how it had affected them and made an impact.”
A typical day on the Red Bus begins by pulling into the specified college around 8:30 a.m. Shop is set up and the crew are ready and open for business 30 minutes later. Sales continue until 4 in the afternoon.
Red Bus volunteers will be available to offer assistance and speak about the project. Music will reportedly be blasting throughout the day. A cornhole competition will take place with the winner receiving a T-shirt.
“I always remind the students to have great conversations about orphan care,” Wheeler said. “Shopping in the thrift store is a simple way for college students to become involved.”
Items on the bus cost anywhere from $1 to $20. College students are also invited to donate their clothes.
“Students really care about making a difference in the world and sometimes they just need someone to point them in the right direction,” Wheeler said in a recent press release. “The Red Bus Project is a way to lead students toward truly making a huge impact in the global orphan crisis through simple steps of action.”
Colleges are encouraged to begin their own Red Bus Project campus group. Wheeler said the project has visited Lee University before. There is currently a chapter at the school. He hopes the Nov. 15 visit will deepen the project’s mission.
“This is a unique opportunity to engage with college students about something that really matters,” Wheeler said.
Show Hope is a movement to care for orphans founded by Christian musician and social activist Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, in 2003. The ministry provides waiting orphans with “forever families.” More than 3,500 grants have been given to adoptive families.
In March 2012, the Red Bus Project was launched. The first spring tour garnered more than $21,000 from 25 colleges throughout the Southeast.
“We are currently located in Franklin, Tenn.,” Wheeler said. “We try to find as many schools in one area as we can to find a route that makes sense. We would love to broaden our horizons and engage students across the country.”
Colleges left on the fall tour include: Lindsey Wilson College (10/23), Georgetown College (10/30), University of Kentucky (10/31), Covenant College (11/08), Lipscomb University (11/12), and Lee University (11/15).