Equipping orphans to thrive

Who We Are

We are a training, research, and advocacy organization which found its genesis on the campuses of Hope Unlimited for Children, a residential facility in Brazil. At Hope Institute, we transform the lives of high-risk orphans and vulnerable children by using evidence-driven methodologies to improve the quality of care at orphanages around the world. We advocate for the residential model as the setting that provides the best opportunity for high-risk orphans and vulnerable children to become well-adjusted, self-sufficient, and productive members of their larger communities.

At Hope Institute, we focus on high-risk OVC. Making their lives better is our heartbeat. We don’t build orphanages; we share tools with those already doing the hard work of orphan care. We teach orphan care practitioners the very best methods to make their work successful, equipping the children in their care to thrive!



DAVID Z. NOWELL – Executive Director

David is an experienced leader in the fields of nonprofit fundraising and management. He values research, and he understands how to get from the theoretical to the practical, taking the ideals of orphan care to practical implementation in the field. While serving as president of Hope Unlimited for Children, he observed first-hand the effectiveness of outcome-focused orphan care. David is the author of several books, including Dirty Faith:  Bringing the Love of Christ to the Least of These. A widely recognized speaker, David holds a Ph.D. in historical theology from Baylor University.


MEREDITH NORTON – Program Director

Meredith leads program development and implementation. She believes that raising a child is a sacred responsibility, and she is a constant advocate for the rights of orphans and vulnerable children. Meredith knows that the most effective approaches are holistic, and she enjoys gleaning best practices from all possible disciplines.


STAN PIERSON – Board Chair

Stan is a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLC and leader of Pillsbury’s Emerging Growth & Venture Capital Group. The son of missionaries, Stan spent much of his childhood in Brazil. He brings significant managerial expertise to the board of Hope Institute.




PAUL HUSBY – Board Vice Chair

Paul is retired CEO of 3M Brazil, with 20+ years of association with Hope Unlimited for Children, including a two-year volunteer assignment as Site Director of Hope Mountain in Brazil. Paul has great passion for the work of Hope Unlimited for Children because of its proven success, and is an ardent believer in the mission of Hope Institute to multiply that success by training orphan care programs worldwide. Paul is an advocate for establishing high standards of care and preparing children in residence for successful adult lives.


CASEY MILLER – Board Secretary

An investor in our history and in our future.  Casey brings management experience and an insightful perspective on donor relations to the board. She is a constant voice for thoughtful, comprehensive care for children society has ignored.  After spending ten years in the hospitality and event industry, she now works in the home full-time. A graduate of Stanford University, she lives in Menlo Park, California with her husband, Kevin, and their two children.


SEAN RUTTER – Treasurer

Sean is a senior partner at the firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers. His heart connection with orphans and vulnerable children began along a dirt road in Honduras in 2002. Since then, his passionate search for highly-effective residential care models for orphans has led him to places such as Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras and Tanzania. Sean seeks an intersection of his heart passion for orphans and his strong business and leadership experiences to bring excellence to the life transformation of orphans. Sean has undergraduate and masters degrees in Accounting and Taxation from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.


Our History

Founders of Hope Unlimited for Children (L-R) Philip Smith, David Swoap, Jack Smith

In 1991, Hope Unlimited for Children began rescuing children from the streets of Campinas, Brazil. They did orphan care a little differently: from the very beginning, their focus was on the next generation. They wanted the children of the children they raised to grow up in a stable, healthy family. And today, 27 years later, they are enjoying the fruits of this labor! Hope Unlimited for Children certainly lives up to its name – 90% of their graduates are meaningfully employed and in stable living conditions. The children of their graduates are growing up in stable, healthy families!

We know we can change the outcome for high-risk orphans and vulnerable children because we have seen it!

“Let’s hang a sign over the front gate that says ‘Please copy.'” – Jack Smith, co-founder of Hope Unlimited for Children

Hope Institute grew out of this success. Our expertise in vocational training and independence transition programs for OVC has its genesis in the visionary work of Philip Smith and his team at Hope Unlimited. It is our mission to share their hard-won lessons with programs around the world. Often we see programs that are focused on immediate necessities, but we must never lose sight of the big picture: helping children prepare to live successful, independent lives.

That is our heritage and our future.