A child in this world becomes an orphan every 18 seconds, according to organizers with The Red Bus Project, an initiative to help orphans that set up on the campus of East Tennessee State University on Wednesday.
The Red Bus Project parked its double-decker European-style taxi bus near the school amphitheater and opened for business from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
The bus is actually a mobile thrift store and the headquarters for the Red Bus Project. On Wednesday, visitors shopped the store’s selection of clothes, shoes and accessories. Donations of gently used clothing are also accepted. Funds raised are donated to the nonprofit organization Show Hope, which assists orphans around the world.
Lance Wooldridge, who works for the Red Bus Project, said the bus makes stops at campuses across the Southeast.
“Basically, what we’re doing is we’ll take in $500 to $1,000 worth of clothes per day when they are out,” Wooldridge said.
That clothing is then sold for $2,000 to $3,000 on average, he said.
“A lot of this money goes toward cleft palate surgeries (and) placing the kids in homes, permanent homes,” Wooldridge said.
Adoption can be expensive and many people cannot afford it, he said.
A lot of the money goes to a Chinese orphanage called Maria’s Big House of Hope.
“It’s changing lives,” Wooldridge said, adding that college students really seem moved by the orphans’ plight. “And it seems like a lot of times, you know, adults, we get out in our world and get consumed with what we’re doing and now we forget that there are so many people in need, and so that’s what we’re trying to do.
“I think these college kids, they want to give; they just don’t know where and how. And so we’ve kind of just placed it in front of them.”
The use of a British double-decker bus as a mobile thrift store helps create awareness and visibility, Wooldridge said.
“The draw is the bus, but really it’s just to get them in the door and start to educate them about orphans, and the need there is huge, huge.”
Matt Pencarinha, a Roan Scholar at ETSU studying logistics, headed up bringing the Red Bus Project to ETSU. In fact, the Scholars arranged for the visit.
Pencarinha said people are not as aware of orphans as they should be.
“This has brought something for ETSU students to unite behind also, because we have so many different organizations trying to do their own thing but this is one cause where many people would agree that it needs to be spoken for and supported,” he said. “And it’s a good way to get college students involved in an international cause outside of our own boundaries.”
According to ETSU, clothes can still be placed in donation bins that were set up on campus Wednesday and will be available for approximately five weeks.
The Red Bus Project was launched in March 2012 to empower college students to help orphans. During the past year, the double-decker bus has traveled to university and college campuses across the country. More than $35,000 has already been raised to help provide families for orphans through the Show Hope adoption grants program. Show Hope was founded by musician Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth.