Refuge and Hope began as a small non-profit supporting seven former child soldiers and two young street boys from southern Sudan.
Jade and Shelah Acker, an American missionary couple who founded the organization, started working with the boys while serving in a camp for former child soldiers in Sudan in 2001. Eventually, the camp was closed and the boys were sent home.
In 2003, as the Ackers were preparing to return to the U.S., they learned that the rebel army that initially conscripted the boys into their ranks had intentions of recruiting them yet again. With the help of various friends and aid agencies, the Ackers devised a plan to get all nine boys to Kenya, where they would be safe from war and the possibility of being reconscripted into the military. The plan was a success, and that success was nothing short of a miracle.
Once the boys made it to Kenya, the Ackers enrolled them in boarding school and then headed back to the U.S. to raise money to cover the boys' tuition and living expenses. While in the States, the Ackers spoke to friends, family members and several church organizations about their situation. People responded by opening their hearts and their wallets. In 2004, the Ackers registered Refuge and Hope International as a 501c3 (non-profit) organization to enable donors to make tax-free contributions and to ensure organizational accountability.
As more funds came in, Jade and Shelah saw an opportunity to serve refugees on a broader scale in Africa. Uganda—acting as a relatively stable home to more than 440,000 refugees from Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and other countries—seemed the logical place for relocation. Upon arriving in its capital city of Kampala in 2008, the Ackers worked to bring the boys from Kenya to Uganda while simultaneously launching an English as a Second Language (ESL) and Christian discipleship program for a growing number of urban refugees.
Refuge and Hope's school, the Center of Hope, began with 12 students meeting in a small room in a heavily refugee-populated region in Kampala. Today, the organization serves more than 1000 refugees a year and has expanded its programs to include educational, professional, personal and spiritual development programs.
As for the the nine boys the Ackers brought out of southern Sudan in 2003, they are now grown men building lives and families of their own. Jade and Shelah have two biological daughters and officially adopted the youngest two boys of the original group of nine -- Angelo and Lino -- into their family in 2013. In 2016, they officially adopted Meron, a refugee minor from Eritrea, into their family as well.
Both Angelo and Lino completed high school in Uganda. Lino and Angelo are currently in the US, living and working. Meron is currently in University. The girls are currently attending Acacia International School in Kampala.
...where are Jade and Shelah's seven other children now?
Saudi will soon graduate from Uganda's top
university, Makerere University, with a
degree in political science. He is married and
the proud father of a beautiful baby girl.
Barakat completed high school and
returned to South Sudan in 2014 to assist
his family and community. He is happily married.
Aljeli completed his certificate in
counseling in early 2015 and has completed
a diploma in social work. He graduated from university in March 2017.
In the summer, he plans to return to his home village
to help the people and community there.
Abraham returned to
South Sudan in 2014 to assist families and
communities in his home town.
Abdul is currently working in Juba, South
Sudan, where he has been since 2011.
Jacob returned to his biological family and community in South
Sudan in 2010.
Mubarak earned his teaching
certificate and returned to his home village in South Sudan
to serve the children in his community as
a teacher. He is happily married.