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Late last year, when Rusty and Ericka Jackson, founders of the charity The Sound of Hope, were visiting Asha House, an orphanage in New Delhi, India, they learned of an urgent need. The owner of the property had doubled the rent, and the Asha House staff and 30 children would be evicted at the end of the month. Victor and Simini, the couple that run the orphanage, quickly secured a new building, but it was in extreme disrepair. Rusty and Ericka spread the word, and in just 24-hours they raised nearly $6,000. In Delhi, that was enough to afford all the repairs and remodeling work, making it possible for the children to move in. This is what The Sound of Hope does. It raises awareness and money to help orphans around the world.
Asha House rescues children from the slums, leper colonies, and the Red light District of Delhi. “Victor and Simini are doing what we can’t do,” said Ericka. “They know what will work for their kids. But we can do what they can’t, which is to connect them with people who have the resources to fund their work.”
Founded in 2010, The Sound of Hope was inspired by a two-week mission trip Ericka took to Swaziland to work with orphans in 2007. She originally thought it would be a trip she would check off her list of things to do, but it left a far deeper impact than she anticipated.
“When orphans are no longer a statistic,” said Ericka, “but little boys and little girls with faces and finger prints and stories and dreams, then they’re a lot harder to forget and walk away from.”
For the next three years, Ericka worked as an orphan advocate for Adventures in Missions, a company based in Georgia that organizes mission trips for youth, college students and adults. It was during this time she met Rusty, who also worked for the same organization. After getting married in 2009, they decided to leave their jobs and start their own organization.
In addition to the Asha House in Delhi, Rusty and Ericka also support two other children’s homes in India, two children’s homes in Thailand, one of which is located in a major refugee camp along the Thailand-Burma border, and a children’s Care Point in Swaziland. To see all these projects, follow their blog.
Now, a year and a half into operation, and The Sound of Hope has raised over $100,000 for these various projects, which support 150 children in total. And when asked about the work they’ve accomplished, they quickly point to their donors. “We’re only as successful as our donors are generous,” said Rusty.
But there’s more to it than that. Rusty and Ericka take the relationship between donor and the causes they give to very seriously, and do their best to show people exactly where their money is going and how it’s being used. They achieve this with well-made videos that highlight the various projects they support.
Before starting The Sound of Hope, Rusty worked as a sportscaster for the ABC affiliate in Arkansas, and has the ability to write, shoot, and edit video on the fly. Ericka, a former beauty pageant competitor, is the on-screen talent and a natural storyteller.
“We really can’t take any credit other than getting the story out there as quickly as possible,” said Rusty, “and presenting it as clearly as we can without it being a nine minute video and boring you to tears.”
An example of this storytelling is that the morning after the staff of Asha House, Victor and Simini, received the news that they had enough to make repairs and move the children into a new house, Rusty and Ericka were there to speak with them and capture their excitement on film.
It’s the stories of these children, some of whom escaped from the Burmese military, others rescued from the Chauma slums in India, that challenge Rusty and Ericka to continue supporting these orphanages. Ericka says Sound of Hope isn’t a voice for the voiceless, because that makes it sound like the children don’t have voices at all, but that The Sound of Hope is their megaphone.
“From the beginning, it’s been about empowerment,” said Ericka, which refers not only to their partners abroad, but to their donors as well, making sure they feel as though they have the ability to make a difference. “I want people to feel empowered to use their talents and gifts and creativity to give back, and give hope to these kids around the world.”