Friends and family of Jing of Hope founder Tabisa Jing gather for a prayer conference at New Life Christian Church in April before Jing left for Ethiopia. Jing plans to spend two months in Ethiopia, beginning the process of opening an orphanage for Sudanese refugee children displaced by conflict in the region. / Photo by Christine Pagan

Friends and family of Jing of Hope founder Tabisa Jing gather for a prayer conference at New Life Christian Church in April before Jing left for Ethiopia. Jing plans to spend two months in Ethiopia, beginning the process of opening an orphanage for Sudanese refugee children displaced by conflict in the region. / Photo by Christine Pagan

By Damien Croghan

Start small, dream big.

Tabisa Jing and Nyareck Peck live by this mantra in regard to starting their nonprofit organization, Jing of Hope. Their goal is a simple—but ambitious—one: Help South Sudanese orphans in Nebraska as well as throughout Africa.

“I felt like God has called me to do this,” Jing said. “It’s such a big calling, but why wouldn’t you do it?”

Jing of Hope board member Christine Pagan has been helping Jing and Peck get everything started from the ground up. “[Jing’s] clear vision, passion, and determination were what made me want to work with her,” Pagan said.  “She described her vision for a children’s home, and I was incredibly inspired.”

For Jing, founding this organization hit close to home. Her father, Peter Jing, was an orphaned Sudanese refugee. He was also a teacher and worked for the United Nations at one point. He passed away two years ago.

In Nuer, everyone’s name is a literal word. “Jing” means dove, a universal symbol of peace and unity, something which is desperately needed in Sudan right now. In a way, the organization is named after Jing’s father.

Jing was 9 when she arrived in the United States, and Peck was 12. While they both moved around the country a lot, they both ended up in Lincoln for the same reasons. An established Sudanese community, as well as abundant job opportunities, were the primary factors in them settling here.

Both Jing and Peck have been working to get Jing of Hope off the ground since August 2013. While juggling the tasks associated with started a nonprofit and their other daily responsibilities has been difficult, they’ve risen to the challenge. “We just eliminate sleep!” Peck said. “When you’re doing something bigger than yourself, you have more drive.”

On April 14, 2014, Jing left for Ethiopia to begin the process of opening an orphanage to house those displaced by the ongoing war between Sudan and South Sudan.

“South Sudan is such a new nation,” Jing said. “There’s a lot that we’re facing. We’ve been at war for 24 years. So many kids are displaced, and they are the future.”

“There is still hope that most of these children can be reunited with their families,” Pagan said. “The unfortunate truth is that some will not. In either case, Jing of Hope can fill the need of helping to care for and nurture these children.”

Sudan has been at war for 24 years. "So many kids are displaced, and they are the future,” said Tabisa Jing, one of the founders of Jing of Hope. / Photo by Christine Pagan

Sudan has been at war for 24 years. “So many kids are displaced, and they are the future,” said Tabisa Jing, one of the founders of Jing of Hope. / Photo by Christine Pagan

As part of a peacekeeping deal made in 2005, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011, making it the world’s newest country. It is also a nation where more than 45 percent of its 11 million people are 14 years old and under, according to the CIA World Factbook.

“According to UNICEF, it is estimated that out of the whole child population of South Sudan, 17 percent are separated from one or both parents,” Pagan said. “With the continued violence and an impending famine, this number will sadly increase.”

Those children will be the future of the newly-founded nation. “We’re going to raise the future,” Peck said. “We want to give those who feel like they don’t have a chance to feel empowered.”

In a way, it’s a homecoming trip; both Jing and Peck were born in Ethiopia, something which is fairly common among South Sudanese refugees displaced by the war even before birth. “This is a vision trip,” Jing explained. “To see where we can localize and establish [a presence].”

Until this point, Jing and Peck have been facilitating small events, such as a backpack drive. The goal was to get 100 backpacks full of school supplies and distribute them to needy Sudanese students in the Lincoln community. They’ve also been printing and selling Jing of Hope t-shirts to help them fundraise.

“We’ve been blessed with friends and family being supportive,” Peck explained. Since they are still awaiting government approval for official nonprofit status, they’re staying small in order to avoid any sorts of legal problems.

To avoid legal issues, they must complete a 501-C3 form and be approved. The 501-C3 form allows nonprofits to be tax-exempt, as long as they can prove they are “charitable, educational, religious, scientific, literary, fostering national or international sports competition, preventing cruelty to children or animals, and testing for public safety,” according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website***.

The process has been daunting. It can take up to nine months to be approved (assuming you are approved). Also, you must be registered in the other country you plan on sending funds or setting up establishments.

Jing is in Ethiopia for this reason. She’s meeting with the governor of a small town in order to establish a legal presence, which will pave the way for the building of an orphanage for those displaced by conflict between Sudan and South Sudan.

They are looking for volunteers who share the same vision as them. “This is something that is bigger than us,” Peck explained. Jing is paying out-of-pocket for her trip to Ethiopia, and other than the backpacks full of school supplies they gathered, everything else (such as the $500 application fee for the 501-C3) has been out-of-pocket as well.

“We are looking for dedicated people with a desire to work towards our mission. We have a lot of work ahead of us and there are many ways to help out,” Pagan said. Simply getting word out about the organization by utilizing social media or basic word of mouth could help.  “We can always use extra help for fundraising and other events that we hold here. In time, we could even have volunteer opportunities to travel to help out with the children’s program in Africa.”