I had the pleasure of spending this past Saturday with a bunch of fantastic kids …

What did they all have in common? They and their parents and their friends were all out for a fundraising effort for Mandala Adoption Services. Specifically, to support their humanitarian efforts with under-funded orphanages around the world.

Not long ago, there was an article in the News & Observer that outlined some of the challenges facing the international adoption community right now. There are many sad outcomes due to these challenges – first and foremost, there are still 150 million orphans around the world, and that number is now simply increasing because of additional delays. Secondly, there are now related drops in funding of humanitarian aid that has been largely paid for by a percentage of agency fees. Why? With a slowdown in adoption comes a slowdown in client fees, of course – money that has enabled Mandala (and so many other agencies like Mandala) to support humanitarian programs throughout the world. Just a snapshot of some of the current efforts that Mandala is funding: –Providing direct support to children living in orphanages who (for a variety of reasons) are “not adoptable” and, thus, in legal limbo –Providing women’s services in third world countries: job training, legal aid, grants for medical bills, donations for women’s shelters –Offering scholarships for preschool and child care –Donating toys, food, formula, clothing, and medical necessities to children in foster care or in orphanages –Offering micro-loans to small businesses –Enabling clean water initiatives: i.e., digging a well. purifying water systems, etc. With humanitarian projects like these taking a big hit, Mandala is now fundraising for the first time in its history. The gathering on Saturday was obviously for a great cause, but it was also great fun…

There were games and prizes and raffles…

I missed the whipped cream dipping, but this smart one didn’t…

It was also HOT! Water fun was out in full force…

Volunteers, sing-a-longs, toys, candy & smiles..

Clearwind is a horse farm, and they have some seriously sweet horses there and offer therapeutic riding…

Of course you can always practice your riding off the horse, too…

Little sister was so proud that her big sister braved the big, tall horse and gave her a sweet hug upon dismount :)

A big thank you to gorgeous Clearwind Farm for hosting this sweet, hopeful event…

If you are interested in learning more about about Mandala’s fundraising efforts, you can check out more detailed information here. If, even better, you are interested in donating to their humanitarian aid efforts, you can make your tax-deductable donation here! In addition … I will also be doing mini-sessions in the next couple of weeks (we are coordinating an exact date right now) with all proceeds going directly to this effort. We had initially thought we’d do some sessions at the farm but since we were all melting, we created a signup sheet there to do the shoots in the studio. As my calendar is booked out for 2008 (how crazy is that?), we are squeezing a few things around to make this work – if you would like to take part in our mini-session date, please contact the studio. After a quick tally of sign ups, it looks like we will have 2 spots for 20-minute mini sessions available!