Beyond Fargo

Beyond Fargo

Downtown Fargo Organization Reaches Out To The World

BY HAILEY WILMER

Unseen is a nonprofit group located in downtown Fargo helping to partner, train and equip 43 partners in 15 countries to give a better life to children and families living there.

Than Baardson, co-founder and executive director, started Unseen six years ago to help already established organizations in fundraising and becoming sustainable.

Than Baardson co-founder and executive director of Unseen Fargo. (Photo courtesy Unseen.)

“Globally we have 153 million orphans that are abandoned and alone,” Baardson said.

Many of these children are subject to human trafficking and Unseen partners with organizations that are actively rescuing and preventing trafficking in other countries, Baardson said.

Human trafficking has become an epidemic in the world today. The United States is lucky to have the resources to fight human trafficking, Baardson said.

Eli Odegaard showing his camera to children he is taking photos of. (Photo courtesy of Unseen.)

“We have an incredible police force, FBI, social services and groups like the YWCA and Youth Works that are doing tremendous work right here in Fargo.”

Fargo is the epicenter for trafficking in North Dakota and not a lot of people know this, Baardson said.

“This is why we love the work that the YWCA and Youth Works is doing because we are able to put our focus on the places that don’t have any help,” Baardson said.

Kelsey Hanson has a huge heart for nonprofit organizations and after volunteering for Unseen she was offered an internship.

Photo of Kelsey Hanson. (Photo courtesy of Kelsey Hanson.)

Not many people think of Fargo as a place that can impact the world in such a big way, Hanson said.

“I think being in this community sometimes makes me feel like I just want to go somewhere else and that I want to do something big but I think God uses what seems to be the weakest people and smaller communities to do big things,” Hanson said.

Fargo is smaller but growing and has the ability to impact other places in the world more than most people realize, Hanson said.

Kelsey Hanson working at a event for Unseen. (Photo courtesy of Kelsey Hanson.)

Unseen isn’t creating new work to combat these issues rather, they are coming alongside to help its partners grow.

“These groups are often one or two people doing everything they can to rescue as many kids as possible and they don’t have the staff or the network to be able to complete donor calls or they don’t have a fundraising plan in place,” Baardson said, “Without money there is no mission so if we can increase their funding and get them to a place of sustainability they are able to help more kids.”

A student works on school work in Africa. (Photo courtesy Unseen.)

One of the organizations that Unseen is starting to work with is in northern Pakistan. It is helping to provide education for girls and is the only group in the history of the country that is allowing girls to go to school, Baardson said.

“This is helping to keep girls from early marriages, trafficking situations and cyclical abuse while helping to stop poverty,” Baardson said.

Little girl smiling in India. (Photo courtesy of Unseen.)

Unseen is now able to help this group get its story out and assist it with expanding and connecting with other donors so it can sustain the work it’s doing, Baardson said.

“We aren’t giving people money we are teaching them how to go out and get money from donors and other organizations,” Baardson said,  “So our investments here are translated into products and training that we are giving to groups and the ongoing long term partnership.”

A girl enjoys water in Africa. (Photo courtesy of Unseen.)

Unseen is working with creative professionals across the U.S. to connect them with hundreds of thousands of people, Baardson said.

“Last year we served 106 thousand kids and families and that’s all being done from Fargo,” Baardson said.

From downtown Fargo to places like Portland Oregon, Seattle Washington, Louisville Kentucky and Los Angeles California, Unseen headquarters in Fargo is serving as a connection point for these creative professionals to serve a global population of people waiting for help.

“We wouldn’t be here without Fargo and the support and encouragement that we have gotten from the Fargo-Moorhead community,” Baardson said.

The organization has had more than 25 thousand volunteer hours in the past two years, Baardson said.

“Part of the only reason we are able to be here is directly from the work of people and the support that has come from Fargo-Moorhead,” Baardson said.

A group of children and adults gathering in Thailand. (Photo courtesy of Unseen.)

“I feel like I’m using my talents for a good cause and that’s one of the best parts,” Hanson said.

Unseen has helped to develop personal strengths and relationship building qualities, Hanson said. The organization’s main impact is done globally and that is something that is very important, Hanson said.

Kelsey Hanson works on a project for Unseen. (Photo courtesy of Kelsey Hanson.)

Getting to hear stories from those working overseas directly with the organizations and people who are affected by poverty and trafficking has been eye opening, Hanson said.

“It’s a really great experience but it’s also sad sometimes because you don’t know what kinds of things other people are suffering from until you actually see it,” Hanson said.

Sometimes small cities like Fargo are places people don’t look to when it comes to making an impact on the world, but it’s obvious that the Fargo-Moorhead community has made a huge impact not just locally or in its own country, but globally.

(Hailey Wilmer is a multimedia journalism major at MSUM who will graduate this spring. She is a florist at Family Fare floral shop in Moorhead and dance instructor at Red River Dance and Performing Co. She hopes to make her love for writing a career after graduation. Contact her at gerlachha@mnstate.edu.)

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