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Rising Stars: Meet Joe Brandi

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joe Brandi.

Hi Joe, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start, maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
One afternoon, I went to a movie theater to escape the heat and ended up seeing Slumdog Millionaire and had a visceral experience watching the story unfold of children living in poverty. As I walked out of the theater, I felt God calling me to help but felt overwhelmed and unsure of how to begin. Not long after, I went through a personal health scare and was diagnosed with cancer at age 32. During this crisis, I considered my priorities and realized that I felt unfulfilled in my work and I wanted to be doing something for others that actually made a difference. Having made several humanitarian trips to Kenya and Haiti, I knew that my passion was to help underprivileged children not just with food security and basic education but also with a more holistic approach for their psychology, spirituality, and hope for brighter futures through ESL classes.

As San Diegans, we have such a great opportunity to help kids who live just across the border, and more importantly there is the possibility of ongoing connection through relational trips to Tijuana without the costs of travel to Africa or Haiti, as well as the possibility of visiting the kids on a monthly basis. I wanted to offer them consistency in relationships as well as give them an investment of time. We’ve been making monthly trips to orphanages in Mexico since 2010 and operating an ESL program in Nicaragua since 2017.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Unity 4 Orphans has definitely experienced challenges, and in the beginning, the main thing was garnering volunteer support. We considered how best to help the orphaned and underprivileged children and knew our biggest resource would be people. It was slow at first, but supporters began to come alongside us and our mission, becoming partners in service and/or finances. As we remained consistent in visiting the kids, God brought many volunteers with various strengths to contribute, and although we’re a small nonprofit, this offers us the ability to be flexible and welcome more people to join our day-long service trips.

COVID had a deep, immediate impact because after visiting the kids in February of 2020, the remainder of our trips had to be canceled for the year, and our partner orphanages in Mexico had to persevere without visitors and with limited supplies and food deliveries. Knowing that there was even greater need during this time, it was difficult to be unable to fully meet those needs.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
We are fully back in business and we’d love for you to join us on a service trip! The concept of orphaned children is one thing, but it’s a powerful experience to encounter them in person. Many trip participants are surprised by how joyful and playful the orphanage kids are, and how thrilled they are to see us every time. We give them attention and affection and often hear from volunteers that they’re affected just as much—or even more so—than the kids. We always need more people to go on day trips; they’re safe, fun, and require little effort. It only takes one day to have a lifetime impact on a child.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
I once read Good to Great by Jim Collins, who asks the question, “What’s the one thing you can do better than others?” For Unity 4 Orphans, the answer is definitely, “Excellent day trips!” Our goal is to enter, experience, act, and transform and our model provides the perfect opportunity for individuals, families, and teams to engage with these precious kids and strengthen bonds with each other. Our service trips provide an entry point for the community to have an impact and explore becoming more involved with Unity 4 Orphans as volunteers, supporters, and champions for children!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Main photo of Joe: Bettina Hanna All other photos: Noah Wardrip

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