Warriors of hope - Our Volunteers
A look at the people who make the magic happen!
Our team of volunteers give up time from their already busy lives to help push OrphFund forward, with the common goal of reaching out to more vulnerable children. Together we've raised close to $2m since OrphFund's inception, with 100% being spent directly overseas on our projects. OrphFund is driven by selfless people who are out to change the world. Everyone here gives up so much in order to keep the amazing work going.
Steve Argent - Founder and Director
In 2005 I sold my house and decided to follow my passion and dream to help some of the world's most vulnerable children. In 2000 when working for Save the Children I was exposed to the civil war taking place in Sierra Leone involving child soldiers and simply felt an overwhelming urge to do more. Having worked for the big NGO's for many years I felt the need to establish a charity with no frills, one which people could have faith in their money reaching those who need it most. I've seen a lot of waste in the charitable sector and can honestly say OrphFund is not like any other. I set about finding like minded people and by using my savings, OrphFund was born.
OrphFund has taken me to some unlikely, off the beaten track places, which i now call home. It's brought unforgettable experiences with truly amazing people from around the globe. Without doubt the overwhelming motivation is the children. We find them with absolutely nothing, but leave them with hope and happiness. Its an addictive process which will never grow old! The complete joy and freedom I feel when i am at one of our projects is another irreplaceable plus from doing what we do.
My life is OrphFund. It's sometimes overwhelming, often frustrating and always challenging. But the efforts we make now are transforming lives and will echo on forever!
Leah bailey-Argent - Life support & Product developer
In 2007 at a music festival I was working next door to the OrphFund stall, where Steve was selling his photographs. It was then we fell in love and he introduced me to his world. Daunted and excited, I jumped on board, ready to take on the world.
Over the years I have watched with awe the happiness and pain, the charity has caused. Sleepless nights and wonderful adventures. Taking on Steve for life is taking on OrphFund for life, and all of those gorgeous smiling children.
Since I am not really a people person, I help in ways that I can behind the scenes, I machine and cut all of those photo blocks for the market, help with market stock, and most importantly take it on and listen to all of Steve's rants and raves and support his dreams.
Danielle Knight - Project Development Manager Uganda
Backpacking around the world gave me a complete understanding and appreciation for how lucky we are in first world countries. I have early memories of visiting family in Africa and even as a child I was uncomfortable and confused about the obvious divide, inequality and poverty. After volunteering with a small company in South Africa, I was disheartened and had given up hope of finding a genuine, authentic, grass roots charity and then I stumbled upon OrphFund.
A few block purchases in Melbourne and some questions later - I signed up for the next volunteer trip. I didn't know anyone or much about what was involved but gut instinct counts for alot. I was excited about what OrphFund was doing and wanted to be part of it, and after following those instincts to Sierra Leone in 2013, my life has changed for the better. Seeing it operate on the ground, meeting the kids, getting to know Steve and what he stands for, I knew this was my kind of organisation and so I rustled up a team and headed to Uganda a few months later.
There is no way to describe the energy of Africa or the feeling of helping the gorgeous, loving, amazing kids who deserve just as much of a chance as anyone. Our work starts with them, but the ripple effects are endless and entire communities are benefiting from these projects. I am grateful that Steve saw potential in me and has faith in my ability to help create more change as a member of the OrphFund family. Life is all about experience and this is one of the best. As much as I try to give, I know I am gaining so much more and it is an honour to know and work with such inspiring people to truly make a difference.
Ryan Clark - Project development leader Sierra LEone
For me it's all about the children.
Africa gave me a wonderful childhood and OrphFund is my way of being able to give back!
I've volunteered with OrphFund for the past six years. In that time I've been fortunate enough to be apart of four projects abroad, including a visit to all of our African projects.
My first project was to Kenya in July of 2009, this solidified my connection to this work. Since then I have returned over the years to help expand that centre, create sustainability, take in many more children and witness the development of the children. I now feel apart of that community and can share the knowledge and experiences gained from our other projects and villages.
There is a lot to be said about helping design a village, building it with your own hands and then see the future of little ones take shape within it. Giving to others also creates a freedom and opens doors to many wonderful experiences and friendships.
At the end of the day, I feel I can be for more grateful for what OrphFund has given me, over what I have contributed.
brad pritchard - project development leader sierra leone
I find volunteering with OrphFund provides an opportunity to work alongside like minded individuals who truly believe that all people are equal and deserve equal opportunities in life. I like the fact that it is entirely grass roots and volunteer based, with no corporate wastage and lack of transparency that is the scourge of many of the larger NGO's. Its challenging, fun and rewarding and something I will be involved with for the rest of my life.
Sue Sharp - Sponsorship Manager
In 2012 my husband Ralph and I read about a Rotarian's involvement in a rural project in
Kenya and the possibility of a similar project planned in Sierra Leone. This volunteer trip happened
to be organised by OrphFund.
I have been interested in being involved with an organisation where I would be able to support
people in a hands on capacity. Previous attempts to volunteer with some of the larger organisations
were unsuccessful due to my lack of tertiary qualifications.
In this case though, due to my rural background, business and administration experience, my dream
to give, could be realised.
Ralph and my first introduction to OrphFund was at Rose St Market in Melbourne where we met
Steve and some of the team. (I must admit we felt considerably too old to be there).
First impressions only!!!! We were so inspired by the energy, passion, enthusiasm and commitment shown by Steve and the OrphFund family, that we realised it was going to be an organisation we wanted to be involved in. Sealed by the fact that 100% of the money raised is used directly for the benefit of the children. And later by the fact that OrphFund has no paid admin. staff and no overseas accommodation bills,or new 4x4 vehicles for transporting volunteers while overseas. This I experienced first hand.
I was excited to take the opportunity to visit orphanages in Kenya and Sierra Leone in August 2013. Nothing could have prepared me for the love and affection these children held for OrphFund and its volunteers. The children's will to make something of their lives through such adversity is nothing short of inspiring.
Sponsorship for the children is what gives them the chance to positively move forward and achieve.
I am very pleased to be able to assist OrphFund by offering my admin skills for the Sponsorship
Program. Ralph and I also wish to visit Sierra Leone again in the near future to follow up on past
projects and be involved in future ones.
Bela Mitchell - Sponsorship Communication Manager
I have been connected to Africa from a very early age. When I was 5, I became aware of the famine crisis in Ethiopia and asked my parents to sponsor a child for my Christmas present. Continuing sponsorship drives in high school and volunteering at Community Aid Abroad as a teenager, my passion to assist grew.
As an adult I learned of OrphFund and knew instantly that their philosophies of grass root, secular, community based aid aligned with my ideals. Understanding that 100% of any donations gifted were going to those that are in need and not administration costs or wages, solidified my resolve to be involved.
In 2014, I was lucky enough to visit Uganda and assist with fundraising to build the Kasese school. From the first moment of entry into the OrphFund/Fair Earth Children's Village where we literally experienced an avalanche of love from our 55 children, I was even more committed to assisting those little ones journey in the world. Visiting our projects was a mixture of heartbreak and joy, poverty and dance parties, great need and glitter flights. Our children inspired me with their determination to learn, their joy in life, their dance moves and their love for each other and their Australian family.
Our wonderful children are so in need of love and support to achieve their goals. I am honoured to be involved in their lives and to share in that support as part of our universal village.
Richard wynn - Film maker
I am a British cinematographer based in Melbourne, Australia. Many years ago before leaving England to go traveling indefinitely I was volunteering for Oxfam in one of their record stores. Thinking my love of soul music could help someone other than myself was an appealing idea and so it turned out to be. I made some good friends and sold a heap of old vinyl but something was definitely missing, I didn’t feel like I was really helping, it still sort of felt like I was only helping myself. This is no slight on larger charities by the way, I simply didn’t feel connected.
And so, on my travels I made it my mission to find a way to combine my passions with a charity that allowed me to get my hands dirty. After a couple of years and some false starts I finally met Steve. Within a month I was buying my ticket to Sierra Leone and 5 years later I’m still here.
There are 3 things I love about OrphFund. Firstly, the connection I feel with the kids that we are helping, we really are! Secondly, being a part of something bigger than myself and thirdly, being able to put my skills to good use. We are all volunteers don’t forget.
Now I can make film clips with Steve and that’s all well and good but it doesn’t matter what your skill set is, we will need you. If you can make flyers, we need them, if you can teach music get to Africa, or if you can’t make the trip we’ll raffle lessons off at our auction. Accountants, yes please. Sales experience? Get on the market stall. Architects, there’s a world of opportunities for you, real estate agents…. er… I’ll think about that one.
A lot of the time all we need is just a pair of hands to shake a bucket or serve drinks at a fundraiser. It’s great to be part of a team and to help this wonderful charity to thrive. My hope is that the films Steve and I make can help encourage others to do the same.
elaine argent - secretary uk
I have been supporting OrphFund from the very start when Steve (my son) became inspired to set up OrphFund to help reach out to orphaned and abandoned children. As a trustee I help keep things running along in the UK, helping with admin and banking. We've also enjoyed sending over vehicles full of items for the children from local collections we've run here.
I feel very proud of what has been achieved so far. We've seen the amazing impact being made to so many children's lives and know that our efforts are making a lasting difference in the world.
Mark mariotti - the go-to man aka the chief
My very first visit to Africa in 2009 and I was besotted by not only it's landscape, but the people. What I saw was so much spirit and pride. Yet behind this was a plea for help, so I made a promise that when I returned it would be to do what I could to help those in need.
I returned the following year as a volunteer with OrphFund when we created our first Children's Village in Uganda and I'm still here helping out in whatever way I can.
Having been on three volunteer projects and helped packed four containers, I can see the impact that my efforts make on the kids. I'm sure there are plenty more exciting times to come on my OrphFund journey!
Peter fisher - shipping container extraordinaire
I came across OrphFund one day at a market and was asked to drop some coins in a bucket. Skeptical that my money wouldn't get to where it should I began quizzing the OrphFund volunteer and learnt how its values were different to the normal charity set up.
Convinced this was a good thing I became more involved by helping at fundraising events and markets. Not long after I found myself in Sierra Leone, where I witnessed the highs and lows of life in remote west Africa. Having witnessed the poverty and lack of useful items available to OprhFund's projects I began a discussion to begin sending containers over to Sierra Leone.
This opened a large can of worms and for the past 5 years I have been running around Victoria helping load up containers which have been sent to Uganda, Sierra Leone and Kenya.
My experience with OrphFund could not have been more hands on. I have seen the complexities of aid work first hand, the frustrations and set backs that are involved, and know the effort and determination that's needed to help succeed in this line of work.
We're a committed bunch here at OrphFund and have undoubtedly helped improve the lives of many, many children through our ongoing efforts.
Jaimee Barreiro - All round dynamo
I started volunteering with OrphFund at the Rose Street Artists Market as I was looking to become involved in a charity. I love the way OrphFund is volunteer based, secular and non-wasteful and feel I have found the charity for me.
I traveled to Uganda in April 2014 with OrphFund and found the project to be eye opening, rewarding and heaps of fun. It was an amazing experience to be able to help build our school and improve our children's village, as was meeting and forming friendships with all the children. I am super keen to head back to Uganda and eventually visit our other projects! For the time being my role helps me stay in touch with all of the wonderful children in Uganda we support.
Mel MCgraw - Markets/1 day and events
I was fortunate enough to meet Steve at the Rose Street Market where he told me all about OprhFund. What they had achieved and all the visions and hopes for the future. I was amazed and wanted to get on board immediately.
I am so honoured to be able to contribute to this incredible cause and work within an amazing team of inspirational people. I love helping with the markets and making a difference in any way that I can, knowing that 100% of what we raise is going directly to where it is needed. To know you can impact peoples lives with basic needs such as food, education, shelter, all of these things that we take so for granted, is wonderful!
Jamie Hare - Head of tweets
The whole spirit around OrphFund is great. I went to Kenya in 2009 and everyone on the project had put a lot of time and effort into raising the money required so their was a real sense that we were personally responsible for what was happening and, 6 years later I still feel responsibility for it's continuing success. I'm glad I'm still contributing to OrphFund through the twitter account, I'd love to be able to head along to the markets in Melbourne and help but being in Scotland means that's not an option! However the fact volunteers are spread around the world allows us to react to situations like the Ebola outbreak and I was able to organise supplies to be sent down to the office in Somerset and then on to communities where it was needed. I suppose that world wide co-operation is a microcosm for what's needed generally by the human race!
ami dewey - accounts
Having always thought about contributing my skills to the achievement of a worthwhile cause, OrphFund offered me the opportunity to lend a hand in the fight for something that I believe in. OrphFund works hard and is committed to improving the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable children. The OrphFund community has continuously inspired me with its immense generosity and enduring compassion. I am humbled to be a part of such a dedicated team.
Amy Volich - Campaign Manager
When I first discovered OrphFund through a friend, I was really drawn in by the fact that it was completely volunteer-run. I have worked and volunteered with a number of NGO’s and charities in the past and constantly wondered if money was really getting spent effectively and transparently.
My first meeting with Steve drew me in even more as I met other passionate young people wanting to support OrphFund for the same reasons as me. Steve’s passion and drive for the cause is something I constantly admire and his energy keeps me engaged and wanting to do more.
In 2013, I had the opportunity to help organise and attend an OrphFund project in Sierra Leone, and this (despite being an amazing experience!) solidified for me that OrphFund is THE organisation that I want to be devoting my time to. The children’s villages are places of happiness and hope, and to see just how far fundraising and sponsorship money can go was so affirming, not to mention inspiring.
The great thing about OrphFund is that you have the opportunity to identify what relevant skills you have and apply those to help out. Whether that be graphic design, video editing, web development, social media or writing project documents, all contributions whether big or small help OrphFund with its' goals.
Ultimately it just feels good to be a part of a team that wants to and CAN make a difference in the lives of children who really need it.