Can an orphanage transform into something better? The story of Asian Hope will inform and inspire you. Discover what it took for the director of a children’s home to ask hard questions and risk changing direction.
I am an international adoptive parent. I understand deeply the passion, drive, reward, and challenges of bringing a child out of an institution and into a loving life family.
I am also the leader of the humanitarian aid organization, Asian Hope, which was founded to open orphanages in order to give abandoned children a chance at stability, education and a new life.
I came into my position with the impression that orphanages (or children’s homes if we prefer a more gentle expression for the same thing) are a superior tool for rescuing, protecting, and launching vulnerable children into the future. I rationalized that in a best case scenario the orphanage would be a conduit to permanent placement with international families through adoption. Yet, the last six years have challenged and inspired my way of thinking like never before.
Asian Hope began with the premise that we could provide the best possible environment for orphaned and abandoned children to grow up. We even fantasized that our model might be the ideal one: a young, Christian missionary family taking in a group of vulnerable children to raise as their own within the Cambodian culture and remaining committed to them for the long term.… Keep Reading
One day an experienced Christian worker picked up the phone to call a young woman who was planning to open an orphanage in Haiti. This is what she said.
Over the past two years, I have had the privilege of leading multiple teams overseas with World Orphans. Part of my job that I love is getting to educate and teach team members what the Bible says about orphan care, about our role and responsibility in tackling orphan-causing issues, and about the various models of orphan care that other organizations employ.
I have noticed in the past decade or so that God is doing an amazing work in the hearts of His people in regards to orphan care. The Church is finally starting to rise up and carry out the mandate in Scripture to rescue and care for the fatherless, widows, and the poor around the world. Social media, the Internet, photography and video, and the ease of travel in this day and age have only increased our awareness of the orphan crisis and extreme levels of poverty in the majority world.
I am excited that we are finally starting to respond; however, I feel a huge burden to speak into a particular issue that I have come across time and again while working with individuals along the way.… Keep Reading
Read about one man’s journey on behalf of orphans and vulnerable children, including stories you won’t forget. Will you join in the change that’s coming?
I heard a story from a man I was training in Myanmar. A number of years before, when his parents were visiting a rural village, his mother happened to use a pit toilet shared by the community. Inside she heard a tiny muffled noise that reminded her of a baby’s cry. The only place it could have come from was down the hole, so she put her arm inside and brought out a newly born baby. The baby must have been in there for some minutes; no one really knew how long. The unknown mother had tried to kill the child, presumably due to shame. Everyone agreed the baby should go to an orphanage.
We’ll come back to this story, but first let me tell you how I came to be delivering training in Myanmar in the first place.
First, an observation: Orphanages are still the default solution for orphans and abandoned children in poor communities throughout the developing world.
Having worked as a social worker in the United Kingdom for many years, in Child Protection and Adoption/Fostering, I had often wondered if the services we developed for children and families would be valid and effective in developing countries.… Keep Reading
A sometimes mind-blowing firsthand account of an ambitious attempt to improve the care of orphaned and vulnerable children in Uganda.
It started in a cramped government office in Kampala
There are at least 50,000 children in residential care in the Uganda, a huge number by any standard. Uganda has been called the NGO capital of the world, and while some of these organizations are doing tremendous work, in 2011 it was just a handful of us gathered in a cramped government office in Kampala to talk about alternative care for children outside of parental care. Alternative care refers to practices designed to keep children, as much as possible, in families and communities rather than putting them in residential care. That first day we had no handle on who was doing what, why, and where.
Three years later and we have made significant progress, and I give the government immense credit for being passionate and pushing for change! The result was “The Alternative Care Framework,” guidelines for working with children outside of parental care with a strong emphasis on family preservation and reintegration of children back into families. These guidelines have potential to improve the lives of children and families throughout Uganda.… Keep Reading
This inspiring story of working with childcare institutions in Uganda to resettle children and prevent family separation will encourage you and surprise you. We really can see changes that improve the lives of children and families even in the most vulnerable situations.
Teddy and David are the newest residents in Emergency Housing at Abide Family Center. They were referred by a local orphanage whose director has decided to partner with us. Our shared goal is to keep children out of the orphanage and with their own families as often as possible.
I help run Abide Family Center, a NGO working on family preservation located in Bugembe in Jinja, Uganda. Someone told me recently that Jinja has the highest number of orphanages per capita in the world, which didn’t surprise me. My own impression is that I hear about a new orphanage being started almost every week.
Jinja is a nice place to live. We’re two hours from Kampala, Uganda’s capital. We live between lush, rolling green hills and the source of the Nile River on the shores of Lake Victoria (and it’s seriously beautiful). You can go to the pool, sip a latte in a café, and “rescue” poor children from poor families by placing them in a state-of-the-art orphanage in the afternoon—all in a day’s “work!”
I have, in the past, treated orphanages as the enemy.… Keep Reading
He saw a boy lying in the middle of the road. What he did next will surprise you and might even change the way you act next time you see a child in need.
Racing round the corner on my way to the meeting a little faster than usual, I thought of all the things I had to do that day. I was showing a visitor around town and I also had my own errands that needed completing. Not far to go, I thought to myself. We’re only a couple of minutes late and we’re nearly there. I’m sure they’ll wait. As we slowed to negotiate a pothole, I looked up ahead and saw that there in the middle of the road lay a little boy, about eleven years old. A car had slowed to edge past him and the boy seemed oblivious – either asleep or unconscious. It was your typical Good Samaritan situation, but I was certainly not in the mood for interruptions. After all, living in Cambodia I came across this type of situation reasonably often. He was probably just a glue-sniffer – wasted and sleeping it off. I sighed, pulled over and stopped. We shook the boy and quickly realised that he was intellectually disabled and didn’t seem able to speak.… Keep Reading
What happens when orphanages have beds to fill and and warped priorities?
I can still see the tears streaming down her face, the hopelessness in her eyes, and the burning sting of defeat that grew with each tear falling onto the toddler she clutched close.
The weary widow stood on the steps of our child development center, aptly named Brave Seedlings of the Andaman Sea by survivors of the 2004 tsunami that devastated the coastal regions of southern Thailand.
“It takes courage to make the right decision to give your child away,” the Christian missionary orphanage director said, confident and calm,assuring the weeping widow her precious son would never know hunger again.
Carrying a clipboard with paperwork and photos of a beautiful cement home, the director came prepared for this young mother to sign her child over. Every three months she could visit her son, and he would have the opportunity to complete high school and possibly attend university.
I arrived while the ink was still wet on the orphanage registration form. As I realized what was happening, my righteous anger turned ugly.
“How dare you show up here asking to meet with vulnerable parents?” I yelled at the orphanage director.… Keep Reading
What would be better than building orphanages in developing countries? You might be surprised at how many alternatives would be better, starting with grandma if we’d give her a chance.
Imagine a grandmother. She is raising three grandchildren and struggles to feed them. They need uniforms and books to attend school, so she scrapes together enough money to send one. Then her neighbor tells her about an orphanage where the children are never in want and says it will be in the children’s best interests to send them there.
What will she do? She feels unfit by comparison. She resists, but one day when there is not enough rice for dinner, she gives in and takes them. The children grow up in the children’s home well fed and attending school, but in time they become distant. They are uncomfortable in their grandmother’s home; they even feel awkward visiting their former friends and community. There is no mattress to sleep on, the food is different, and the neighbors treat them with a mixture of disdain and envy.
At the orphanage volunteers come and go in a steady stream, and there is hardly a dull moment. It’s like another world. And then one day it’s time to leave.… Keep Reading
Why do children in orphanages often run and hug visitors as soon as they arrive? Why did Western nations stop putting abandoned children in orphanages? For answers to both of these questions look at the work of a genius named John Bowlby.
John Bowlby (1907-1990) has been described as a genius and one of the three or four most important psychiatrists of the twentieth century. Every student of psychology or psychiatry, and many of a number of other disciplines would have heard of his watershed work on separation, loss and mourning. Perhaps more than any other figure in recent decades, Bowlby has had profound influence over the treatment of bereaved and separated children in the Western world.
Anyone who has visited an orphanage will have experienced the effects of what Bowlby described as “Indiscriminate Attachment”. As soon as you arrive, the children crowd around, hungry for attention, the attention of a complete stranger. Younger ones cling to your legs and look up endearingly, silently imploring you to give them the nurture and love they desperately needed.
Most of us think their indiscriminate friendliness, clinging and attention seeking conduct is cute. But anyone familiar with John Bowlby’s work realise the situation is much sadder.… Keep Reading
Most people don’t have a good image of the families of “dump kids” of Phnom Penh. Here is one organization that has set out to prove them wrong.
Say Son lives in the Stung Meanchey area of Phnom Penh and has a child studying at Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF). She said that living in Phnom Penh is really hard for her as she was used to living in the countryside. There she lived with her family. They grew what they ate and didn’t have so many expenses. Now she has to earn a salary to cover rent, food, education costs, and healthcare and to pay off some of the debt she has from moving to the city.
She spent two years working as a cleaner with a private company in Phnom Penh for $60 a month. She said that her work at this company was extremely hard as she was required to work full time 7 days a week. She was also put under great pressure, and the employer was not particularly nice to work for. When the stress started to affect her health, she left the job.
In November 2012 (after her child had joined ISF’s program) she learned that ISF was partnering with another local organization that provides training and links to dignified jobs for its trainees.… Keep Reading