It’s not uncommon to hear someone complain of not sleeping well—though they most likely spent the night on a comfortable mattress, which could be anything from an expensive, down pillow-top model to a cheap box set from a warehouse store. In any case, though, these beds do offer a degree of comfort and safety. For some children, however, sleeping in a bed isn’t part of their daily life. Many children around the world are orphaned and abandoned, cold and without a bed. They are all too familiar with the misery of not sleeping well.
An organization working to help these children is Sweet Sleep, whose motto is, “A bed for every head.” They provide beds for orphans in countries around the world. They build sturdy bunk beds that will last many years and outfit them with blankets and mosquito nets. These beds not only provide a good night’s sleep and the ability to have pleasant dreams—for some kids, having a bed and mosquito net is life-saving.
Orphans in many countries have no choice but to sleep in beds that are broken, bug-infested or soiled, if they have beds at all. This can mean being susceptible to disease, bone and joint trauma, and even learning problems. Sleeping without mosquito nets also increases exposure to malaria.
Founder and president of Sweet Sleep, Jen Gash, describes a missions trip to Moldova during which she discovered a room in an orphanage there full of old, soiled mattresses stacked against a wall—“everywhere we looked, things just needed to have some sort of love given to it.” She says finding those mattresses and hearing a prayer for the children in that orphanage to “sleep sweetly” that night broke her heart. When she opened up her Bible on the flight home, Proverbs 3:24 stuck out: “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” She started Sweet Sleep so that orphans in Moldova, and around the world, would have the opportunity to sleep sweetly.
In the seven years since its foundation, Sweet Sleep has been able to provide more than 3,000 beds for children in Moldova, Uganda and Haiti. This year, they want to build 3,000 more, many in Haiti. They are also currently working with World Vision, the American Refugee Committee, and the Ugandan Government to help resettle children from IDP camps near Gulu, Uganda back home to their now-safe villages. Their government was unable to provide the beds and nets they promised, so Sweet Sleep is helping them. For $88, they are able to give those children a straw mat, a mattress, sheets, a blanket and a mosquito net.
Bed costs vary from location to location because Sweet Sleep strives to purchase everything they need in the countries where they are building the beds. This way, they can also support the struggling economies there. A bed in Kampala, Uganda costs $125, $155 in Haiti and $200 in Moldova.
Having a bed to sleep on is something most of us take for granted every night. Most people think of orphans around the world needing food, shelter, and education, but not that they need a place to sleep. By providing beds for these children, Sweet Sleep is meeting a very real, but often forgotten need. Emily Borders, a Mission Journey Leader with Sweet Sleep, admits, “There are so many needs of the kids, but what I love about Sweet Sleep is Sweet Sleep focuses on one individual need and does it really, really well—and that’s beds.” Sweet Sleep is helping children to have sweet dreams.
To learn more, visit SweetSleep.org.
Elizabeth is an administrative assistant for a church in Nashville. She is also a freelance writer.