An Evans-based nonprofit provides housing, food and a future for orphans in India who would otherwise be forgotten.
Andy Lepper started No Longer Orphans with his wife, Susan, after he visited the country 22 years ago and saw so many children were in need. Lepper also was drawn to the people and the country’s rich history, he said.
In 2012, they took over an orphanage from a pastor who died from tuberculosis.
“God told me that what I was going to do with the rest of life,” he said. “It’s what he has been leading me to my whole life.”
The organization supports 100 children ages 7 and up in four orphanages throughout the country. Lepper lives at the main location, which houses 25 children on about 19 acres with housing, a soccer field and farmland. Lepper lives on the main site with Susan, who is from India, and their three-year-old son, Micah. He said the other staff members including his wife grew up in a children’s home, so they share a special bond with the boys.
The No Longer Orphans team serves as legal guardians for the boys, who mostly are from poor families or were separated from their caregivers due to extenuating circumstances.
The nonprofit seeks to give the children stability while teaching them how to be self-sufficient through on-site programs and facilities including a woodworking shop where the boys learn to make pens, bowls and guitars.
“They have learned time management and work ethic and how to work well with others,” Lepper said.
Most importantly, the boy learn life lessons through every day experiences, he said. Recently, the boys were upset after wild dogs killed most of the chickens they were raising.
“The boys who take care of the chickens were brokenhearted because they felt responsible but that’s part of life,” Lepper said. “I sat them down and told them these are some of the things you have to endure as an adult. Nothing is ever perfect but life isn’t about stuff that happens to you; it’s about how you react.”
Many of the boys speak English in addition to their native language, and they all attend a city school. No Longer Orphans works with them based on their individual academic levels and not their ages, Lepper said. The nonprofit also helps some of the boys as they become young adults.
“We don’t like the idea of aging out; they are allowed to be with us by our standards until they mature,” he said. “They are very smart but when they come to us they have to start all over from the beginning.”
Each year, Lepper writes a book about his experiences with the boys, who enjoy playing soccer, eating bread and instant noodles, and having dance parties.
The staff also hosts special events including a joint birthday party for boys who do not know their actual date of birth.
In the future, No Longer Orphans plans to care for girls in a separate facility and build a school on their property.
The organization is solely supported by donations and collaborates with different organizations including Kiokee Baptist Church in Appling. For more information, visit nolongerorphans.org.