The video I’ve been working on for the past year is online. The title is “Why Not A Family?” and the purpose is to raise awareness of better alternatives for the care of orphaned and vulnerable children. You can watch it here. The video challenges the idea that orphanages are really the best long term option for the most vulnerable children, and it suggests a better way.
What would motivate someone to make a video questioning orphanages? Please watch it and see for yourself.
More and more you the conversation about orphanages is turning around the point that 80 percent of children in residential care worldwide have one or more living parents, and the vast majority have other living relatives who could potentially care for them. The main reason that parents and relatives give for putting their children in orphanages is poverty. The problem is that putting a child in an orphanage is often easier than getting practical support from either the government or any other source to keep the family together. It’s time to make a concerted effort to change that.
Would you like to learn more? Go to www.unitingforchildren.org and spend some time reading the articles by experienced …
The week before he joined an “art party” at the children’s center where he lives. A teacher has been working with kids at the center since mid-2007, and some of the older students are very good. They helped the younger kids during the art party, taking up brushes occasionally to teach by example. The results were amazing, and moving if you know the stories behind them.
I made a short video documenting the event (coming soon).
I like the image of creating a painting, and this one has a subscript for me. It’s a boy at an orphanage painting his home – not an imaginary home, but the home where his mother lives. I don’t know his particular story, because he’s new to the center, but it’s a fact that the vast majority of children and youth in orphanages have homes and relatives: grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers and sisters. Most still have one living parent, and quite a few have two. The number one reason they are in orphanages is poverty. There are many orphanages but few family support services to restore families and keep them together.
It’s not surprising that a child in an orphanage would paint his …
I took a group of Japanese to a school in a very poor community. They visited each grade level, sang songs, then asked and answered questions. Each time they asked the kids, “What is your dream for the future?”
A first grader said he dreams of having a job, that’s it, followed by another who said he wants to be a motodop (a motorcycle taxi driver). Several others said they dream of having a factory job. What dreams? I thought. Working in a factory is a hard life: 12 hour days, six days a week, about 60 dollars a month (25 cents an hour). That wage is just enough to survive on, barely.
Some second graders also mentioned factory jobs, with a couple exceptions, one who wants to be a teacher and another who wants to be an engineer. The third and fourth graders gradually abandoned the factory theme in favor of more stereotypical dream jobs: doctor, lawyer, engineer…
I think the youngest children were repeating what they overhear their parents and older siblings hoping for–steady if brutal work they can get. The older kids have learned the list of obvious jobs that are supposed to make you rich and …
I was walking through a slum to visit the family of a young Cambodian man for a story I’m working on. Then I saw this girl and her friend playing with dolls. I’ve seen my daughter’s play in the same way. I know the gleam in her eyes that says she can still dream and believe. I long for a day when she has more opportunities starting right there in the slum. And I regret that she might base her dreams on these little white dolls, because she is strong and full of beauty just as she is.
I’m spending Christmas this year with my family at an orphanage in Cambodia. It’s a decent place run with genuine love on a very low budget (much lower than the linked article). They care for kids living with HIV, who are rejected by most orphanages. And they could use some money, if you’re looking to give, because they run on a shoestring.
That being said; I hope for a future without orphanages. I’d like to see orphaned kids being raised by their extended families, because the majority of “orphans” in the world have relatives who could take them in. Heck, a lot of them have at least one parent alive (the definition of “orphan” in Cambodia is that at least one parent has died). Often the relatives are very poor, so they think an orphanage would be better for the child, but a small subsidy would help them accept the responsibility.
Here’s an excellent article from the New York Times that makes a case for supporting families rather than starting more and more orphanages.
Did you know more than 300,000 children will likely die of AIDS this year, and more than 2 million will be infected? Most of the deaths will be in Africa. The most important task ahead is to stop new infections, which is much more cheaply done than treating existing ones. Now some would argue that treatment is simply too expensive, relative to prevention which is still lacking (implying that we should let tens of millions of infected poor people die and spend the money on prevention instead). Although I get this in economic terms, I know too many specific children and adults who would probably die if that were the case. I also think the money spent on overhead (doctors, clinics, developing and delivering medicine, etc.) will have many lasting benefits that need to be taken into account.