The daily rituals of life like sleeping, eating and bathing may come easy to most people, but in the world’s second most-populous country, India, many children are struggling to live above poverty.

One Key Peninsula mom’s latest adventure fills her heart with joy: Her mission helps change the way children, on the opposite side of the globe, live each day.

Wendy Halvorsen (far left) and her children, (left to right) Michael, Michele, Nicole and (front) Kristen, meet grandma Ginny Meier to give her the donated items she received from her bulletin on Craigslist.com. Photo by September Hyde

Wendy Halvorsen offers more than just a helping hand. She, her husband, Mike, and their four children have started raising money for a Washington-based organization called Oil of Joy Ministries, based in Graham. Halvorsen’s mother, Ginny Meier, a former Gig Harbor resident, is the founder of the organization.

“I didn’t know anything,” Halvorsen said about the way children are abandoned in the streets of India. “To hear how bad the conditions were there, it shocked me — especially hearing it first-hand from my mom.”

Halvorsen said she was compelled to do something when her mother told her about her experience working with an established Washington ministry in conjunction with India’s government. The team of ministers decided to find a way to house 50-plus children who were homeless and struggling to survive.

“Wendy was so surprised. She told me how wonderful the plan was and she wanted to get involved in any way she could,” Meier said. “She wanted to be the first to sponsor some of the kids. Her heart has been to do anything she could to help these destitute children.”

Two years ago, Halvorsen and her family became sponsors to two 6-year-old girls, Shanti and Arati, in the first orphanage established by the ministry. She said she has enjoyed gathering up necessities for these children because they are so appreciative.

“The kids feel like they’re special. They just love having something new,” she said.

The first orphanage in Orissa originally was home to an Indian minister whom Meier befriended while visiting India. The minister, Pastor Tandi, donated his home and the Oil of Joy Ministries assisted financially in building a second story on the home and converting it into a functional orphanage. Halvorsen was in awe of the project and the efforts it took to get the things finished, but she wanted to do more.

“I had to do something,” she said. “So much money is needed to run an orphanage.”

So, Halvorsen started fundraising locally. She posted a bulletin on the online board Craigslist.com in search of items for the current orphanage and future ones. Donations have been coming in and Halvorsen feels grateful.

“Thank you to all of you that have helped… I am so overwhelmed by how many people have helped and offered to help, so far,” she posted on Craigslist.com. “We are a relatively small nonprofit organization in comparison to most. So, this has been a huge blessing for our ministry and for the many kids and pastors we are taking care of.”

The orphanages

Oil of Joy Ministries is in the early stages of erecting a second orphanage in Orissa and two orphanages in Karnataka. All three orphanages have reserved spots for children in need but are still searching for resources and financial backing.

“The need is very great,” Meier said. “These children have been taken off the streets of India, where nobody wants them. Through no fault of their own, they have been abandoned and left to die on the streets of India. I’ve seen many children abandoned, crying along the sides of the street with no one to help. These little children have done nothing to deserve this harsh treatment and we at Oil of Joy have come to show compassion to them and rescue them from a life of misery and despair.”

Halvorsen and her family look forward to the correspondence and updates they get from her mom about the girls and the other children.

“It makes me feel happy. I’m glad that all these kids have a place to stay now and not living on the streets with nothing to do,” Michael Halvorsen, 10, said.

Wendy said it’s exciting to know her sponsored daughters are truly happy by being involved in this family outreach. Her four children have started to donate their personal items to the growing pile of contributions that Meier will be delivering in mid-September.

“My kids have been so sentimental and have opened up their hearts. They’ve given away about 75 percent of their stuffed animals,” she said.

“It makes me feel really glad inside that I’m giving (toys) away to people who don’t have anything,” said 8-year-old Kristen Halvorsen.

It costs $25 a month to sponsor a child in an Indian orphanage. School uniforms, books and supplies for one child also cost $25 for the year. Currently, the orphanage in Orissa is at capacity with 55 children and all children have sponsors. But the ministry is always looking for ways to supplement additional needs of the established orphanage and future ones. Two new orphanages are the dream for the state of Karnataka in 2008. Oil of Joy Ministries is looking to buy land and buildings to set up the latest homes for displaced children. Children have already been gathered and now the ministry is trying to shelter and feed them on a regular basis. Halvorsen said it costs approximately $10,000 to get one orphanage up and running.

Halvorsen hasn’t met her two daughters, Arati and Shanti, but has hopes of seeing them in the future. Her mother has met and delivered packages to the girls.

“Having my daughter have the same heart that I have is a great blessing to me,” Meier said. “I’ve always wanted to be a blessing to everyone I meet but to see that same heart of love, compassion and mercy in Wendy has so thrilled my heart that it has brought a joy unspeakable to me.”

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