Norma Nashed, who grew up in poverty in Palestine, was honored this weekend as one of four Woman of the Year awardees by the Association of Adventist Women. She was recognized for her work with Restore a Child, a non-profit organization she founded in the 1990s that supports orphans, children, and families in vulnerable situations around the world.
Question: How did you feel when you heard that you had been selected as a Woman of the Year by the Association of Adventist Women?
Answer: I had mixed feelings. First, a feeling of gratitude for the recognition of my ministry. Second, I felt humility and unworthiness. Even though I single-handedly established Restore a Child, it was truly the great support and collaboration of so many friends that made it possible for me to fulfill my commitment to save children. I faced many obstacles in the early years, but I never gave up. I counted those obstacles as opportunities to do even more to help suffering children worldwide.
What excited you most about the AAW event?
I appreciated the potential exposure for the Restore a Child ministry and the opportunity to raise awareness among our church leaders and members about the biblical mandate to “defend the orphan” (Isaiah 1:17). It is our “sacred duty,” and orphans are “lent to us in a trust for God” (6T). As such, we are stewards of orphans. It is imperative we do not forget that “God created and formed the rights of orphans” (Deuteronomy 10:18).
Can you tell us briefly about some of Restore a Child’s recent projects?
As I reflect on how God has led and blessed Restore a Child, I truly feel humbled to acknowledge the many projects we have initiated and completed in 20 countries over the years.
In Longido, Tanzania, our in-country partners helped us build a clinic, girls’ dormitory, drinking well, solar energy system, and guest house. We were also able to build a school and two homes in Dar es Salaam. In Congo, we helped build a medical center for Tshava, an orphan boy, so that he could fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor.
We started a hydroponic agriculture system at one of our orphanages in Surabaya, Indonisia and opened two training centers in Manado and Kupang. A Restore a Child pediatric ward was built at Medan Adventist Hospital, Indonesia.
On the border of Chad and Sudan, where medical care is almost non-existent, we built another pediatric ward as a resource. In Béré, Chad, we built a school, dug a well, and started a mobile clinic as part of the Béré Adventist Nutrition Training Center. We were able to feed and care for 1,000 sick and starving children and currently continue to provide resources for refugees.
In Bois Pin, Haiti, we created a computer classroom for the Restore a Child Academie, which was founded in 2012. We built another school in Sierra Leone and provided a mobile clinic for the Adventist hospital there as well. In total, Restore a Child has built 21 Adventist schools in 10 countries.
At the start of the war in Ukraine, we helped shelter refugees in schools we had built in the country. We also provided medical support through the Kiev Medical Center.
Across several countries, we have planted 5,000 fruit trees as “food for the future” and paid tuition for 3,000 children at our Adventist schools. We continue to give Bible studies and distribute Bibles widely. So far, around 600 young people have been baptized.
How many children are you currently helping?
We are aiding 5,000 children at the moment. We want to double this number to 10,000 in 2024, hopefully with the help of Spectrum readers.
What is Restore a Child’s budget? From where do you receive funding?
Our budget is now $700,000. Our funding comes from very generous and faithful donors; some have been with us for 20 years. In addition, although we do not receive funding from the Adventist Church, we are supported by two Adventist foundations. We do not accept government funds, which prohibit charity organizations from praying or teaching about God as a condition of the funding.
Can you elaborate on what you have done to help children and families in Ukraine since the war started?
I visited Ukraine five years ago and realized that in order to impact those communities with the gospel—which is one of the goals of my ministry—parents needed to learn about our beliefs through their children. I decided then that we must build schools. We built three schools and purchased a big building adjacent to the Adventist school in Luviv. Excellent quality Adventist education is desired and sought after by parents in Ukraine.
Last year, when the war started there, we opened our schools to shelter Ukrainian refugees. We offered them accommodation and purchased all the mattresses, linen, and blankets needed. This was especially important since it was February, the coldest month of the year. We provided heat throughout the winter and two nutritious cooked meals every day. We supplied education for the children and hired psychologists to help them through the trauma of the war. We also extended Bible studies for adults, and dozens of people were baptized as a result. Additionally, through the mobile clinic of the Angelia Adventist Medical Center in Kiev, we provided food, medical supplies, hygiene kits, and blankets to anyone who needed them.
Your life story was written by William G. Johnsson, the late former editor of the Adventist Review. Has the exposure of this book helped Restore a Child?
I am so grateful to Dr. William Johnsson. His belief in helping our cause was clear in his writing of my biography. This helped us tremendously to gain trust and attract new donors. He passed away this year in March, which was a great loss to the entire Adventist Church.
My biography, Norma: Beyond Their Tears, was also translated into Spanish and Korean. Giselle Imperio, a young graduate from Southern Adventist University, wrote and illustrated my story for children. Her book From Orphan to Missionary has been very popular with a younger audience.
What goals do you have for Restore a Child in the next five years?
Our goal is to maintain and solidify support for the 18 projects we currently have around the world. We are not a relief agency—such organizations generally drop supplies in an area of need and leave. The distinction of Restore a Child is that we stay when the media and relief agencies leave.
For example, a big tsunami hit Indonesia on December 26, 2004, and Restore a Child provided aid. That was almost 20 years ago, and we are still supporting several orphanages, training centers, and pediatric wards in the country. More than 100 orphans have graduated from Indonesian Adventist University. Their impact as leaders in their local churches and their commitment to giving back to their communities is phenomenal. Five have graduated as pastors and are currently serving in Adventist churches.
How has the work of Restore a Child changed during the past two and a half decades?
The initial vision and mission which I consider a divine calling has stayed the same from the start. We give hope and a future to children. We continue to provide children with the tools they need to dream, fulfill their dreams, and affect positive change in their communities and churches. Poverty destroys confidence, dignity, and the ability to hope for a future. Fundamentally, hope motivates children to believe in themselves.
For more information about Norma Nashed and her life, read Alita Byrd’s interview with Nashed from 2013.