Most of us remember the heartbreaking news reports of the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa in the Summer of 2014. More than 28,000 cases of the deadly disease were reported in three West African countries, and an estimated 11,000 people lost their lives. It was the most widespread outbreak of Ebola virus disease in history.
What many of us don’t know is that an organization called Restore Hope, based in the heart of downtown Arlington, is credited with making a huge impact during the rescue phase of this devastating health crisis.
“Restore Hope is a non-profit organization that assists the faith community and others in addressing the holistic needs of people and communities worldwide,” says the organization’s Executive Director Cindy Wiles. “It was formed in 2006 when a group of Texas church leaders were looking for means of engaging the broad spectrum of global challenges that deplete people and communities of hope. Whether poverty or hunger, conflict or disease, illiteracy or spiritual lostness, orphan or widow, Restore Hope provides avenues for intervention in some of the most challenging places in the world.”
Prior to the Ebola outbreak, Restore Hope had a presence in West Africa. Two interim care homes had been in place for about six years, providing refuge for vulnerable children between the ages of 4 and 12 who were victims of abuse, abandonment, labor trafficking, and sex trafficking. Once the epidemic hit, those homes as well as a large community center were eventually filled with Ebola orphans and survivors. San Antonio-based BCFS (Baptist Child & Family Services), assisted in developing protocols and systems to care for Ebola specific orphans.
The collaborative efforts were able to provide medical treatment, counseling, food, shelter and educational intervention for children who were orphaned by Ebola or who were affected with the disease.
Outside the walls of the interim care homes, Restore Hope reached more than 85,000 people with education on Ebola Virus Disease prevention through a 120-member Ebola Response Team. They also played a very important role in providing much needed medical supplies to local hospitals and clinics during the outbreak. Because of the efforts of Restore Hope, more than 30 U.S. partner organizations and 35 Sierra Leonean partners were able to provide much needed food and other forms of relief throughout the crisis.
While Restore Hope’s outreach has touched people all over the world since its inception over 10 years ago, Wiles says the organization’s response to the Ebola epidemic has been one of their most effective interventions. “We felt like God had placed us there for a reason,” she says. “We were very blessed that we had the facilities and people already in place to respond to the Ebola crisis.”
The Ebola epidemic officially ended in March. To date, 110 orphaned children have been the recipients of Restore Hope’s emergency relief program in Sierra Leone. Seventy-eight of those have been permanently placed in homes. By April 2017, the plan is to have 140 orphaned Ebola children placed.
The Ebola story is just one example of the work Restore Hope has done on an international level. Aside from disaster relief and recovery, Restore Hope works diligently with other church-based organizations around the world to make life better for poverty stricken countries by offering training in community development and economic empowerment, and creating ways to improve access to quality education and healthcare. The organization also offers an Orphan Sponsorship program, which provides education, necessary food, clothing, healthcare and other needed supplies to orphaned or abandoned children.
Cindy and her husband, Dr. Dennis Wiles, pastor of First Baptist Church of Arlington, have been an integral part of Restore Hope’s success over the years. Most recently, Cindy was recognized by the Christian Women’s Job Corp of Tarrant County for her extensive work in worldwide global mission service. She has served as Restore Hope’s executive director since 2006 and is also a member of the Board of Advocates for Baylor University’s Diana Garland School of Social Work; serves on the board of trustees for Baptist University of the Americas; and is involved in a host of other Christ-centered organizations.
Restore Hope’s board members are composed of several Arlington leaders, including Mayor Jeff Williams and City Council Member Kathryn Wilemon.
The organization is primarily funded through individual and private donors. More detailed information about Restore Hope can be found on its website, restorehopetoday.org, or by calling the main office at (817) 276-6494.