Janna van Welsem

Janna van Welsem |18 years old | Udenhout, Netherlands

Janna van Welsem spent part of her gap year following high school volunteering at the Ilula Orphan Program for four months in 2015 through Volunteer Worldwide. While there, she aided in a variety of tasks including: teaching at the preschool, working as an office assistant for the Foster Family Program, writing newsletters, making cards and working at village markets selling items from the seamstress shop.

Comments on Her Experience:

Van Welsem detailed: “The Foster Family visit was very impressive because I visited a woman with nine children. She would take a baby on her back to work the land. You realize how poor people really are. You don’t realize that at IOP because of the care they take with their staff and children.”

 About IOP:

Van Welsem stated: “The IOP has influenced me in many ways, I’m not sure I entirely know how. They have showed me how serious they are and have influenced me to become more serious too. They really care about things. When I was working in the Netherlands, I didn’t really care about what I was doing but here, you have to care about your work.”


Emilie Wilhelmsen

Emilie Wilhelmsen | 21 years old | Oslo, Norway

Emilie Wilhelmsen has visited the Ilula Orphan Program on three separate occasions in the past several years. With two of the girls from the Ilula Orphan Center, she participated in a program called Communication for Change, funded by Norwegian Church Aid. While at IOP, she aided in a variety of tasks including: visiting foster families, working at village markets selling items from the seamstress shop, aiding the Ilula YWCA, helping the Girl Guides and activities with the girls at the Center. Wilhelmsen is currently a life sponsor for one of the young girls living at the Center. She plans to join IOP Norway to strengthen the connection between sponsors and sponsored students.

Comments on Her Experience:

Emilie Wilhelmsen stated: “I have learned so much from the IOP. I have grown, especially the first time I was here. When I went home, I wasn’t sure what had changed but many things had changed in a positive way. I have never really found ‘my thing’ but IOP is something that is very close to my heart, something that I burn for. It is something that I want to work for and follow. I will come back again and again.”

 About IOP:

Wilhelmsen described her first connection to the IOP: “The first time I was here, my travel partner and I started eating with the girls. In the beginning, they looked very weirdly at us. They wondered why we weren’t eating in the other hall. We came to be accepted because we wanted to eat with them. I knew it, especially, when one of the girls, Anna, said to us in Swahili, ‘Come and let’s eat!’ Every day they would put food out for us to eat with them.”

About Her Sponsorship:

Wilhelmsen elaborated on her desire to sponsor: “I really wanted to become a sponsor after I was at the IOP. I was thinking a lot about sponsoring someone outside the Center because I have a very close relationship with all of the girls. I didn’t want to have one that outweighed the rest. Last summer, I received an email about the arrival of three girls. I saw the picture of Witness and my heart melted. Two of my best friends are sponsors for the other two girls, Angel and Martha. I am very lucky to be her sponsor. I met her the first time in November 2014. Yes, I am her sponsor but I still have the same connection with other girls.”

Advice for Future Volunteers:

Wilhelmsen explained: “Be yourself. To make your stay the best, it is all about the way you see things and the way you do things. Don’t be shy, tell people what you want but do it in a polite way. They are very cooperative. No one is going to make your stay the best; you have to do it yourself.”


Tjamke Beunke

Tjamke Beunke |19 years old |Netherlands

Tjamke Beunke spent part of her gap year following high school volunteering at the Ilula Orphan Program for three months in 2014. While there, she did a variety of tasks including: teaching English lessons at the preschool and primary school, helping the Sponsor Program administration, writing newsletters and visiting villages to check on the living conditions of foster children

Comments on Her Experience:

Tjamke Beunke writes: “This whole experience was really an eye-opener for me! It was special to see how thankful these people are. It made me realize that we, people living in developed countries, should be happy with the opportunities we have and that those opportunities aren’t natural for everyone.”

About IOP:

Beunke stated: “The IOP staff are so hospitable and welcoming. That makes it easier to get an immediate connection with IOP. Everyone is so kind and thankful. It was an amazing to spend my time in Tanzania with such great people!”

Shannon McQueen

Shannon McQueen | 21 years old | New Hampshire, United States

Shannon McQueen, a student volunteer from Saint Michael’s College, volunteered at Ilula Orphan Program for three weeks during the summer of 2014. While there, she taught at the preschool, worked in the garden, cleaned and cooked, but as she puts it, “mostly our group learned.” She visited a Masai tribe and a foster family, which allowed her to “appreciate the diverse cultures and people we were meeting.”

Comments on Her Experience:

Shannon McQueen wrote: “In the morning and before each meal, we would gather as a community to sing, pray and reflect. This moment, where we all held hands together, really resonated with me. You felt like part of the community.”

About IOP:

McQueen stated: “IOP is truly the heart of Ilula. The programs are run by the community, for the community, in an uplifting and empowering way. It was remarkable to see the faith, family values and friendship the community emulates. I will be forever changed by the kindness shown to me. I feel incredibly in debt to this organization, which works for the good of so many people.”

Advice for Future Volunteers:

McQueen commented: “Please take your trip back home with you! Never forget to continue to support the IOP from abroad, by sponsoring a child, sending donations or helping in whatever way you can.”

Give a Christmas Donation

Are you starting to think about Christmas gifts? Consider giving a donation to IOP in the name of a friend or family member. Your gift to IOP will continue to give throughout the year for education, food etc. You can designate how your donation will be used or it could go towards the greatest need at the time it is received.

Thank you for all your support of IOP. The needs keep expanding. Many students are on the waiting list and many are going on to college, technical training or the University. Those expenses are raising and we are looking for co-sponsors or groups who could sponsor advanced studies, or just extra money for the Education fund that helps out students whose sponsors cannot fund the total amount of their education.

Send checks to IOP-CUMC at 104 N. Meridian, Washington, IN 47501.

For more information contact Pat Porter, IOP financial secretary, [email protected].

Student Sponsor Fees for 2015

Sponsorship fees for 2015 are due asap.  Please view the Fees & Schedules page for more information if you have not yet sent in your sponsorship fees!

Accepting donations for the Multipurpose Hall

IOP is currently accepting donations for the construction of the Multipurpose Hall at Lord’s Hill High School.

Stephanie Graber

My Visit to Ilula 2011

I was one of fifteen individuals that had the opportunity to spend two weeks at IOP in February. Three of the fifteen had been to Ilula before. In November of 2010, our community filled a 40’x8’ container and shipped it to Tanzania. We filled it with many supplies that would be useful to us during our stay. Well, God had other plans for the container. While waiting for its arrival, we did several other jobs around the Center. We painted all the rooms at the Internet café, did repairs on doors and windows of different buildings, poured new concrete at the front of the preschool, made concrete blocks, planted trees, and taught the women how to can tomatoes. The container did not arrive to IOP until 2 days before we left. The eight men in our group built the pole barn in one day! Everyone at IOP was so impressed with the men’s hard work; they decided to name the building “The Mennonite Barn.” Several members of our group sponsor students through IOP. We were able to meet them. I had the privilege of going to my student’s house for a meal. It was a wonderful experience meeting my student and her family. I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to go on this trip. The memories will last me a lifetime.

Stephanie is now a member of IOP-USA committee and is helping with Student coordinator duties. We appreciate Stephanie serving on the committee. Sponsors may be getting emails from Stephanie so we wanted to introduce her to the IOP community.

Janina Kraft

Janina Kraft | 20 years old | Switzerland

My time at IOP was wonderful and very impressive. I was there for a month and then 2 weeks more in the country with my family. I am still talking about all the little stories here at home in Switzerland and I definitely won’t forget this volunteer trip, which was the first I’ve ever done (but I think not the last one).

The village Ilula, all the citizens I met and especially the girls, the other volunteers, the staff and Bibi Berit grew close to my heart. I am very thankful for all the talks I had on the street, during work or in the evenings with all the people. They made the cultural exchange real! It was very interesting to support the staff and to see how the organization works. The staff involved us volunteers in all their duties and always had time for our questions. Especially the foster family visits were very impressive. To see the hard living conditions was sometimes quite shocking and made me think.

We also had free time to explore the villages. We tried to negotiate on the markets, traveled with the Daladalas, did trips gave also the feeling to go deep into the culture and to see the real Africa.

Unfortunately, 2 weeks of my stay with the girls went to the villages to visit their relatives (some walking up to 24 miles). The center is definitely a different place without the girls. Therefore, I enjoyed the last week with them even more. We played outdoor games, did handicrafts in the evenings or sang and danced together. I really miss their voices singing all the African songs and prayers!

I just want to say thank you to all the IOP people – I think you do a great job and it is so important that there are people like you in such regions. For me personally, I learned a lot about the Tanzanian culture (I loved to learn a bit of Swahili and He’he!), my own culture and also about myself. In my opinion, such volunteer work would be good for every young adult in our society. Just to see how a life could also be and what the people made out of it. I really try to take something of their happiness and serenity with me.

I try to keep in touch – especially now with my sponsor child, Faith!

— Janina

Janina had a fundraiser in her church and raised $600.16 toward the windmill project in Ilula that will provide some electricity at the IOP Center.

And if YOU think Janina’s story sounds great, why don’t you come to visit us? We have so many things for you to become involved in! If you are young or not so young, you can invest a piece of your lifetime to improve the world! It is never too late! Our oldest volunteer was 79! Spend your vacation time at IOP! As an individual or even as a family! Do as two teachers in Norway did: Take off some months and do something very different! You will never forget it! — Bibi Berit