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Hope worldwide is a faith-based global charity founded in 1991 by the International Churches of Christ (ICOC), a denomination that grew out of the Boston Church of Christ established by charismatic preacher Kip McKean in the late 1970s. The relief agency’s Web site says that it was created “in response to the Scriptures that call us to have the heart of Jesus by serving the poor and needy throughout the world.”

In the early 1990’s, ICOC was one of the fastest growing churches in the United States. The church’s methods of spreading its religious message, treating its members and recruitment practices were the focus of significant news coverage. In a 1993 ABC News exposé and a 1994 New York Times article, former members of ICOC compared the ministry with a cult and characterized its operations as brainwashing. However, McKean’s own rule that church leaders should step down if one of their own children leaves the church forced him to resign as ICOC leader in 2002 after his daughter Olivia left the church.

Hope worldwide’s income grew from less than $800,000 in 1991 to $39.9 million by the end of 2004. When launched, 95 percent of Hope worldwide’s revenue consisted almost exclusively of ICOC donations. Nowadays, that percentage has dropped to 5 percent as reported in the agency’s 2004 annual report, the most recent one available.

The organization’s funding sources, besides from churches, are a variety of corporate, federal, state and local government grants, individuals and volunteer fundraisers. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis have been among the group’s supporters.

Despite the religious origin, Hope worldwide describes its programs as non-sectarian. The agency’s work includes education, health and children’s programs, senior services, employment and global outreach. Most of the organization’s income is dedicated to health programs. In 2004, they accounted for 86 percent of all program funds, including HIV and AIDS activities.

Hope worldwide’s affiliates manage different programs within the U.S. and around the world. In America, they have about 20 branches and 67 overseas.

Abroad, the organization’s affiliates operate mostly independently. In Africa, for example, Hope worldwide South Africa entirely administers two U.S. government grants totaling $16.2 million dollars from the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR). All Hope worldwide African programs are funded independently of ICOC, said Hope worldwide operations director, Fikile Dlali.

Announced in 2003, PEPFAR is a $15 billion five-year prevention, care and treatment strategy that focuses in the 15 “focus” countries with some of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world. Twelve of those countries are in Africa and the other three are Guyana, Haiti and Vietnam.

Hoping to beat AIDS

Hope worldwide South Africa AIDS prevention programs predate PEPFAR by at least 15 years having received U.S. government funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Through PEPFAR, Hope worldwide South Africa became in 2005 one of 28 faith-based organizations to sign a direct agreement with the U.S. government to fight HIV/AIDS.

With PEPFAR funding, Hope worldwide South Africa will develop specific materials and a curriculum to perform prevention and care programs through 2010. An $8 million award finances abstinence and fidelity-based prevention programs for youth in schools and faith-based organizations (FBOs) in Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

Federal grant application documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request outline Hope worldwide South Africa’s goals for the five-year grant. The organization expects to reach 1,080 schools and 540 churches. The group anticipates spreading its abstinence and fidelity message to about 300,000 youths ages 10 to 24, and to a similar number of adults — primarily parents, FBO leaders and teachers.

Condom programs are not mentioned in the Hope worldwide South Africa application for the PEPFAR grant, but the agency said they do make up a part of its work in certain areas.

“The majority of our work takes place in schools and FBOs, and in these settings our messages are primarily the promotion of abstinence and fidelity,” said Dlali. “The promotion of the correct and consistent use of condoms does form part of our work in high risk areas such as informal settlements and with adults who are already sexually active.”

A second grant for a five-year period adding up to $8.2 million funds Hope worldwide South Africa HIV/AIDS work to provide support to AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children in Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia.

The program for children was developed by the Africa Network for Children Orphaned and at Risk (ANCHOR), which consists of five organizations: lead agency Hope worldwide South Africa, the Rotarian Fellowship for Fighting AIDS, Coca-Cola Africa, Emory University and the International AIDS Trust.

According to UNICEF, as of 2003, AIDS had orphaned more than 11 million children age 15 or younger in sub-Saharan Africa — up from 1 million orphaned in 1990. The number is expected to reach 20 million by 2010. ANCHOR expects to assist 146,000 orphans and other vulnerable children in six countries. ANCHOR also estimates to help 35,000 caregivers, particularly elderly female caregivers.

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