LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - What Project Zero primarily does is connect waiting children with families. But last year, they were tasked by Arkansas Department of Human Services to take over the Arkansas Heart Gallery.
That means a photograph for every waiting child. And the nonprofit has a huge goal of creating a short film for each child or sibling group as well. That's a tall order and one that's not cheap.
But seeing and hearing a child share his or her story is so powerful and it often creates forever families.
"And I began to see these kids and to see their value and see how critical it was for people to fight on their behalf," said Christie Erwin.
Christie Erwin is Project Zero. In fact, there is no home office for this nonprofit, no overhead. It is just her, volunteers, a couple of part-time employees. And a storage facility where she keeps photos and canvases, the three traveling Arkansas heart galleries with photos of waiting children and bins full of games and goodies for connection events like the one this weekend.
"They just come together, it's a time for waiting families to come, not open to the public, but waiting families and waiting kids and they come together in just a non-threatening environment the coolest thing about that is that families are born in the middle of that," said Erwin.
And that is Project Zero's primary purpose is to create families, with one goal in mind. "The mean for kids in foster care waiting to be adopted should be zero. There should be no children waiting to be adopted," she added. "Everything we do is about that goal and that's zero waiting kids."
Project Zero through a partnership with DHS is charged with photographing every waiting child. The traveling heart gallery highlights some of those children. "We feel like they are so valuable and so precious and what we do for them and with them shows them that," said Erwin.
And recently Erwin began to see the power of video, launching a series of short films, in which the children share their stories in their own words. Last year, Project Zero helped place 125 children, one of them was Raymond.
"Every one of those numbers has a story. And last year we had two individual boys who'd both been waiting since 2009, waiting and wanting a family, one was 16, one was 18, and both of them found families in 2017. The last one was a direct result of his short film that his family saw in another part of the state and knew immediately that was their son," said Erwin.
It was the short film that family saw and now Raymond is home. "It's so important for our kids to be represented in a beautiful way. As you well know and for them to be seen and heard and known and it's making a difference," said Erwin. "We're helping people to see the kids and to understand their inherent value, they're just beautiful kids who need a chance."
There are 375 waiting children in the state right now.
If you would like to look at the Arkansas Heart Gallery, click here.
If you would like to look at the Project Zero short films, click here.
There is also a tab to donate.
But remember, not all children have photographs and short films.
To sponsor a child or sibling group it's $50 canvases in three heart galleries.
Then, $500-$1,000 produces a short film.