If you support an orphanage in a developing country, your generosity may be an encouragement for crimes. Your donations, and the fees you pay to volunteer, turn orphanages into profit-making businesses. To make more money, they need more orphans, and so children are trafficked. Likely, these children are not orphans at all. Instead, traffickers dupe poverty-stricken families into believing that if they send their children with them to an orphanage, their child will receive a better education.
As Christians, we need to be especially vigilant. Suppose an orphanage labels itself as ‘Christian’. In that case, it will likely receive even more donations from well-meaning and wealthy churches abroad. ‘Christian’ is a brand that brings in numerous material benefits.
Globally, the UN and other children’s organisations estimate that 80% of children in orphanages are not orphans at all and have one or more living parents. While living in an institution, even if it is well run, children are emotionally damaged because they cannot form proper attachments with care-givers. It is far better for them to remain with their families, even if that family is poor.
So, what can you do to stop the trafficking of children to orphanages?
If you already support an orphanage, don’t stop immediately, as this may endanger the children and leave them entirely without support. Instead, if you have genuine concerns, then report these to child welfare bodies in the country. Some patterns to look out for are: any form of abuse, perhaps items you donated have been sold for profit rather than used by the children as intended. Or, you may observe a general fear of the orphanage manager among the children.
Even if you have no real concerns, you may still have been deceived, and the children may not be orphans. Speak to organisations working in that country to end institutionalisation. Are there programmes to return children to their families? UNICEF and Save the Children are among many NGOs committed to working with national governments to end orphanages and institutionalisation.
There are also actions you can take to prevent the trafficking of children to orphanages. Consider supporting schools, community projects and family strengthening programmes in rural areas where children are preyed upon by traffickers.
Pray for children to be protected and for organisations working on family reunification to be successful.
This article from Oblios contains more information.
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