Faith Under The Microscope: My Inspiring Interview with Kids Alive CEO Tim Hunt

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Tim Hunt, CEO of Kids Alive, to discuss how their trauma-informed care and strong faith has transformed the lives of children all over the world!

Let’s get the ball rolling with an easy one Tim – introduce yourself. Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m the CEO of Kids Alive International, a Christian mission serving some of the world’s most vulnerable children. For example, we serve impoverished Syrian refugee children in Lebanon; abandoned, orphaned or impoverished kids in Zambia and Kenya; young girls who have been the victims of terrible sexual assault in Guatemala and Peru; and many more. We provide all round care for them, including food, education, family support, Christian input – and trauma informed care, as so many have suffered trauma.

You’ve mentioned that Kids Alive provide free school dinners in their schools and care centres, which can help prevent child labour and even child marriages. What is that all about? 

Kids Alive runs a number of Christian schools in some of the world’s most difficult and impoverished areas. Some of the most vulnerable children in these communities rarely go to school as their families are unable to feed them (by ‘family’ this could be an impoverished grandma caring for orphaned children, or a destitute single mum), so they have to go to work instead, or go begging. By feeding them at school we prevent this from happening as it takes the pressure off the family to feed them.

Likewise, there is less pressure for a girl to be married off young, ie one less mouth to feed, because ethe school is feeding her. School dinners also help prevent malnutrition and therefore stunted growth and restricted brain development, both of which are permanent. Also, it is so much harder to concentrate when you’re hungry, so they also help improve academic performance. Free school dinners really are an important part of our work!

I’m going to take a stab in the dark that you’re a man of faith Tim; tell us about your journey. Were you raised in a Christian family, or did you find your faith later in life?

I certainly am a man of faith. I was not brought up in a Christian family (although most of my family have gone on to become Christians) and became a Christian shortly after leaving university  in the late 1980s. I studied Ancient History, with one of the subjects being ‘Rome and the rise of Christianity’. I was astounded when our lecturer told us to study the New Testament as it gave so many glimpses of the nature of Roman law and rule (especially when Paul challenged the authorities about his arrest claiming he was a Roman citizen). I had no idea that the Bible was ‘historical’!

At the same time, my sister had become a Christian and I visited her church. I absolutely loved hearing about Jesus and couldn’t stop reading the gospels (and Proverbs). It all seemed to fit into place and I just knew it was right, so I gave my life to Christ

The Kids Alive online shop includes goats, cows and chickens. For the vets who are reading: tell us a bit about that.

The best place for vulnerable children to be is in a safe family, preferably their own. But often their families are unable to cope – this is especially the case in Kenya and Zambia, where kids have lost one or both parents and are living with an impoverished grandmother or single mother with no livelihood.

They really have nothing.

So we provide support programmes for these families, which sometimes include the provision of livestock, especially cows, goats and chickens (a healthy chicken can lay as many as 500 eggs in a lifetime!). These are excellent low cost and sustainable ways of providing a living.

You can ‘buy’ them from our website as a gift to one of your friends or loved ones, whereby instead of giving them a tangible gift, you make a donation on their behalf, which is used to help us fund the livestock. Perfect if you’re not sure what to buy someone but you’d still like them to know you’ve thought about them. (We provide a special card explaining the gift which you can pass on to the recipient.)

Do you get to spend much time overseas? Have you been to many of the projects yourself?

Oh I wish! I started with Kids Alive in February 2020 and planned to visit Kenya and Zambia the following March. Then the pandemic and lockdown came, so I haven’t been able to go overseas at all. A key part of my role is to communicate what we do, so the closer I am to it, the better. Overseas trips are therefore crucial. Hopefully I’ll get to go in the not too distant future.

Your website frequently mentions the work you do around ‘trauma informed care’. What does this mean?

Just about all of the children we work with have suffered trauma of some sort, especially victims of sexual abuse and those who have been abandoned. Trauma can cause all sorts of behavioural difficulties if not dealt with – temper tantrums, social withdrawal, manipulative behavioural patterns, etc. It is especially hard for children to deal with trauma as their brains are not fully developed. We train all of our staff to look out for signs of trauma and work with our psychologists and social workers to minister to the child. It’s painstaking work, but in essence gets the child to trust again, as well as use the rational and logical part of the brain much more. This is obviously complemented by huge amounts of love and prayer!

Through your work it sounds like you’re constantly faced with quite a lot of suffering… and with very young people too. How do you reconcile that level of suffering as a Christian? Is it ever hard?

1.Yes, it can be extremely hard – the situation in Lebanon right now has been especially difficult emotionally; not to mention some of the harrowing stories we hear about child victims of sexual abuse coming out of Guatemala and Peru. BUT, when you see how God works through the suffering and the remarkable transformations we see – especially when the  children become Christians - it is incredibly inspiring. Time and time again we see children being fully restored. Not only that, but we also see how they in turn have a tremendous impact on their families and communities. Here’s a quote from a girl who we are ministering to in Guatemala who has been the victim of unspeakable sexual abuse:

“Before coming to Kids Alive, I didn’t believe in God. I drank, smoked, and didn’t live right. There were bad things happening in my house. Even though living in a girls’ home now has been difficult and my story is hard, I know that God brought me here for a purpose. I can see the change.”

ARE THERE ANY NEW AND EXCITING PLANS FOR THE FUTURE THAT YOU CAN SHARE WITH US?

We are  especially excited about some new projects that we have launched or are about to. In Zambia, for example, there is a real unspoken issue around child sex abuse. We have plans to replicate what we have learnt in Guatemala and Peru around caring for the victims as well as pursuing justice and introduce a new programme to radically change how Zambia handles such cases. Likewise, a new project to serve babies and toddlers of mothers who are in prison (they stay with their mothers in prison), and have no access to ‘normal’ things such as toys, medical and hygiene support, other children to play with, etc. And a third project to minister to the street children of Lusaka, Zambia, where thousands are living rough and open to all types of abuse.

How can people help? What’s the best way for me to make a difference today?

The best way is to pray for us and especially the children we minister to. We send emails out each month with our latest prayer requests (just go to our website and send us an email – we’ll then add you to our monthly prayer request list and send you updates about our work).

We’d also really welcome financial support, especially a regular monthly amount, no matter how large or small  (£5 month could fund a staggering 400 school dinners over a year, crucial to stopping kids having to work, or even be married off early as child brides). Also, like us on Facebook and share our posts, or even encourage your church to invite us to give a talk. 

Posted on July 16th 2021

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