How to Engage Your Community in an Overseas Partnership

Engaging your community and inviting others to join the work of Children’s HopeChest can be hard to navigate, and it does not happen overnight; it takes time. That’s why today, we want to introduce you to Will Friend. He is a real estate agent, husband, father, and community member. Will has been a supporter of the Uganda Leadership Development Program for quite some time, and he is now an HPL (HopeChest Partnership Leader) with Nabukalu CarePoint. Recently, Will went on a trip to Uganda to see the Leadership Development Program in action. This trip changed his life, and he knew he had to involve his community when he went home.

Watch his story below, then join us for a conversation about why he felt compelled to come home and share his experience with over a hundred of his closest friends and invite them to join the mission of Children’s HopeChest.

Be inspired by Will's story.

Join us for a conversation with Will Friend.

How did you get involved with HopeChest?

I had recently been going through my devotions and trying to discern how I could practically care for the poor, love others, and lift others up. I began to pray and ask the Lord where I could step in. I was already supporting the Uganda Leadership Development Program, but my heart was stirring for more. Before I knew it, I was on a plane on the way to Uganda. I quickly learned that there’s a big difference between supporting something from a distance and actually hopping on a plane and seeing the transformation play out in person.

When I was able to see the hearts and the faces behind the dollars that I had sent, and see the hard work that was going into these students who were learning to be leaders…everything changed. Dollars became smiles, and time became something that didn’t matter anymore.

How did you engage your community when you got home?

When I got back from Uganda, I knew I had to get the word out to my West Michigan community about what I had seen and experienced first-hand and the incredible work that’s being done through HopeChest Uganda. So, returning with 500 pictures and a heart full of love,  I began brainstorming ways to make an impact. My first thought was “I need to get a group of my friends together”, so I immediately started putting a powerpoint together of the whole trip, documenting each day with pictures of the faces and stories we encountered so that people could really grab hold of the impact. Then I started inviting everyone I knew, because I wanted as many people as possible to be a part of this.

With some delicious Ethiopian food, lots of smiling faces, and a few Ugandans, I was able to share with 111 of my closest friends the need in Uganda. Through the event, 19 different students were sponsored at Nabukalu CarePoint. 

What is your advice for someone who wants to throw a similar event?

  • Start right away. Don’t overthink it!

I knew if I didn’t start planning the event right away it would be easy to let my passion for what I experienced slip away as life got busy. Within a month and a half of getting back, I had this event planned with food, stories, the whole powerpoint, and a 111 of my closest friends who were willing and ready to see what we did and to step into caring for the students there.

  • Don’t measure success by how many people show up. You never know what God has up his sleeve.

Three days before the event, only 45 people were signed up and I had to continually trust in the Lord and say, ‘okay, if there’s only 45 people who come, I might be bummed, but it’s going to be the right 45 people.’ That’s when I remembered the focus of this event was to make as many people as we possibly could know about this event. The people who couldn’t attend were not a setback, because the goal was to just get these kids sponsored. I was measuring things wrong. I can’t measure success by how many people came to the event.

I just continued to pray and the Lord continued to provide. Just last week, I was meeting with a gentleman and I was telling him about this event, sharing the video, and he signed up right then and there to sponsor a student from the Uganda Leadership Development Program and another child at Nabukalu CarePoint. You never know God’s timeline or how he will use your event.

  • Remember your “why”. 

Keeping my “why” front of mind was important while planning and executing this event. When my “why” is so clear, it’s bigger than anything. Everything else becomes minor details. To be carried by that mission is key. 

If you’re inspired by Will’s story, learn how you can involve your community today.

Will Friend is a Real Estate agent, husband, father, friend, and a Children’s HopeChest Partnership Leader from Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was born and raised in the Grand Rapids area and currently resides in Hudsonville, Michigan. He has a beautiful wife of 12 years, a 18-year-old daughter, 8-year-old son, 6-year-old daughter, and a 8-year-old daughter as well. His family enjoys being active in their church, fishing, cooking, swimming, biking, playing games, and traveling!

Picture's from Will's Event