10 Facts About Orphanages
UNICEF defines an orphan as “a child under 18 years of age who has lost one or both parents to any cause of death.” The United States and various other Western states have largely phased out orphanages — institutions aimed at caring for and housing children who have lost or been separated from their families. Parts of the developing world continue to use them, however. Keep reading to discover 10 facts about orphanages.

10 Facts About Orphanages

  1. The physical shelter of orphanages is a benefit for children who have become separated from or lost family, however, they need much more than that. Orphan children require affection, figures they can look up to and a sense of emotional security to ensure they reach their fullest developmental potential. While many orphanages have not provided this care in the past, the United Nations’ implementation of the “Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children” in 2009 calls for the strengthening of social services programs. Additionally, this document calls for the prioritization of family-oriented alternatives.
  2. For tourists looking to do some kind of service work abroad, volunteering in orphanages may not be the best way to do it. Throughout South Asia, human trafficking continues to plague many countries and can lead to the separation of children from their families. To continue attracting high paying tourists, many “orphanages” actually contain children whose parents or families are capable of taking care of them.
  3. Globally, the main reason for children winding up in orphanages is not due to parent loss. Rather, children often become separated from their parents due to poverty, which restricts parents from giving their children the care they need. In Sri Lanka, 92 percent of children in private institutions had at least one surviving parent, but these parents were unable to provide adequate care for their children.
  4. Many children who live in orphanages end up staying for extended periods of time, which can cause developmental delays in their social, emotional and intellectual developments.
  5. The number of orphanages is increasing, particularly in Asia, even though the number of orphans is decreasing. People’s living conditions are steadily improving around the world, and because of this, families are forcing fewer children from their family homes. Orphanage volunteerism, however, is a profitable market, which unfortunately means that the children’s wellbeing is often placed on the back burner.
  6. Oftentimes, the volunteers at orphanages are short-term, meaning that the kids living in the orphanages are not able to form healthy, long-term caretaker relationships. The best option would be to have qualified locals work in the orphanages, which would ensure that relationships last the duration of the children’s stay.
  7. A study conducted by the Bucharest Early Intervention Project found that if children under the age of two years old moved from institutional care to a foster care situation, they had a significantly higher chance of making developmental gains than those who stayed in institutional care.
  8. Donors and governments are usually well-intentioned while setting up orphanages but fail to see the long-term negative consequences that arise when children are in these institutions for prolonged periods of time. Creating a space in which disenfranchised children can exist together seems easier than helping an entire society of impoverished families create sustainable households.
  9. Children who end up in orphanages due to family separation do so because of natural disasters, displacement, economic hardships and other forms of conflict. Allowing them the chance to reunite with their families if possible is an effective way to ensure they do not suffer the negative effects of staying in an orphanage long-term.
  10. NGOs and governments often overlook children in institutions such as orphanages. SOS Children’s Villages, however, is an organization that focuses almost exclusively on orphaned children. Hermann Gmeiner founded the organization in Austria in 1949, because he saw the devastating effects of World War II on children firsthand. Today, SOS Children’s Villages works in 135 countries and villages. Instead of simply institutionalizing orphaned children, SOS Children’s Villages works with various communities in order to provide education and as close to family bonds as possible for the children.

These 10 facts about orphanages shed important light on what people largely think is a positive industry. While there are positive intentions behind the construction of orphanages, many do not provide children with the tools or developmental skills necessary to maintain long-lasting, healthy relationships. However, with help from organizations like SOS Children’s Villages, hopefully orphaned children will have a better future.

– Emi Cormier
Photo: Flickr

Help People in Belarus

The meltdown of Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant shook the world and showed the grim reality of the potential dangers associated with radiation. It has been over 30 years since the morning of April 26th, 1986, but even so, the effects of the nuclear meltdown can still be seen today. To help people in Belarus it is necessary to understand the impact of the radiation.

Since the accident, Belarus has seen increased levels of genetic disease and cancer in its population which can be traced back to the original incident. Over two-thirds of the radioactive fallout landed on Belarusian soil. The Belarusian Government acknowledges and tries to address these public health concerns, but due to lack of resources, they are limited in their efficacy. There is no ultimate solution to the question of how to help the people in Belarus. Nonetheless, the efforts of international organizations contribute to easing their problems.

Several charity organizations are working to improve the lives of disadvantaged Belarusians. One such charity is called Belarusian Victims of Chernobyl. Founded in the UK in 2001, this organization dedicates its efforts to providing financial and general aid to impoverished Belarusian families. Belarusian Victims of Chernobyl also focuses on improving access to medical care for sick Belarusian children, many of whom don’t have proper access to treatment.

Another charity that has improved the lives of thousands of children since the nuclear accident is the SOS Children’s Villages group, in partnership with the “Children of Chernobyl” organization. SOS Children’s Villages began working in Belarus immediately following the disaster and has since been providing treatment to children suffering from radiation-related illness.

The SOS Children’s village is a shining example of how to help people in Belarus. The level of radiation released during the accident was so high that large areas of radioactivity still exist today. According to the Chernobyl Children International fundraising group, over 1 million children still live in zones that are active with radiation.

Institutionalization of children with special needs is a huge problem in Belarus. Often, sick or disabled children are the most vulnerable to being put in a government-run care facility. Poverty is a huge issue as well, and the combination of impoverished families and disabled children has resulted in the institutionalization of many of these such children. The Belarusian Victims of Chernobyl charity offers families like this financial assistance to keep families together and ensure these children get the care they need.

One of the simplest ways to directly help people in Belarus is to donate funds or volunteer your time to charities like The Belarusian Victims of Chernobyl, SOS Children’s Village, and the Children of Chernobyl. Even the smallest contribution can have rippling, wide-spread effects.

Tyler Troped

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the Central African Republic
Following a 2012 armed insurgency that fought for national control, a coalition of rebel militia factions started the Séléka movement and installed a new ruling regime that led to an unprecedented level of poverty in the Central African Republic.

Currently, the Central African Republic (CAR) ranks among the poorest countries both on the continent and globally. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) 2013 Human Development Report which classifies countries’ performances using a gamut of developmental variables, the Central African Republic ranked 180 out of 187 countries.

Additionally, as a result of current conflict in the country, the Central African Republic’s economic prospects are dismal at best, which is exemplified by its average income per capita of $750.

Implications of Poverty in the Central African Republic

The civil war has disproportionately affected the children of the Central African Republic; more than 50% of the population is below the age of 14. Children that manage to avoid becoming internally displaced persons or child soldiers often never enter the educational system. Moreover, teenage girls are more likely to be illiterate; they attend primary school at rates 21% lower than their male counterparts.

Unfortunately, the people of the CAR also have to contend with terrible health conditions. Currently, more than 120,000 persons live with HIV. Approximately 11,000 individuals require a recurring dose of antiretroviral drugs in order to prevent spreading their disease to a fetus.

The plight of people in the CAR is largely caused by the absence of sustainable agricultural practices. Apart from the effects of conflict, insufficient agricultural infrastructure has produced an alarming food security crisis — more than 10% of children in CAR suffer from malnutrition.

Although the humanitarian situation presents daunting challenges, the international community continues to demonstrate its commitment through stalwart relief efforts. Notably, S.O.S Children’s Villages International has created two-day care facilities, medical centers and educational services that are available to the people of the CAR for free.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is another international actor that has made an impact on poverty in the Central African Republic. So far, the WFP has provided meals to families with children under the age of five and plans to distribute 1.1 metric tons of food across the country in 2017.

In addition to international organizations and global nonprofits, governments that provide foreign aid have helped combat poverty. The United States plays an essential role in reversing poverty; in the past four years, the U.S. has contributed $190 million to the CAR and plans to contribute more than $31 million in 2016.

The global community must continue to prioritize curbing poverty in the Central African Republic, with both assistance programs and greater media coverage of the day-to-day plight for those in the country. It is practical to provide aid, as it is essential for international stability.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr

SOS Children’s Villages
SOS Children’s Villages is a nonprofit group whose mission is to provide every child with the opportunity to grow up in a loving home to secure their futures as successful adults.

This international organization was founded in 1949 by Hermann Gmeiner to help orphaned children in Europe rebuild their lives after World War II. Now, SOS Children’s Villages sponsors vulnerable children and fragmented families in 125 countries, across 12 different continents, with headquarters in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

SOS Children’s Villages aims to help families stay together by offering community outreach programs that provide each family with a development plan designed specifically for their needs.

The nonprofit offers aid to children who have lost their parents, those living in an orphaned household and those whose parents suffer from a life-threatening disease. Funding for these villages comes from donations, volunteer workers, corporate partnerships, fundraising and sponsorships that offer donors the chance to support an orphaned child.

Each child that lives in an SOS village receives guaranteed education and health care. Nearly 100,000 children are enrolled in 187 SOS primary and secondary schools. Tens of thousands of people attend the 51 SOS vocational training centers created to enhance employment opportunities.

“If SOS Children was not here, our children would have become street children, with all the risks this may cause. Today, we are proud of ourselves, and many of us have found dignity. We can now stand on our own feet,” said a mother in Dakar, Senegal, now able to find financial independence thanks to an SOS outreach program.

With 150 SOS villages in 45 African countries, more educational projects are run in Africa than in any other continent. According to UNICEF, educating young people can support economic resilience and stability, as children learn to address family vulnerabilities and gain skills for future employment.

A total of 79 SOS medical centers have been built by the organization, primarily in Africa and the Middle East. In more remote areas that lack clinic access, SOS children train local people in the medical field, passing on first-aid skills and health advice garnered from SOS family health awareness campaigns.

Because vulnerable children often live in non-democratic societies, SOS prides itself on strong communication with central and local governments that hold legal responsibility for the welfare of these children. According to SOS, this has allowed them to bring aid to children in Zimbabwe, where other organizations have been asked to leave.

“As a result of the various economic opportunities that were created for many vulnerable families since the inception of the project [SOS Children’s Villages Ghana], more than 78 percent of caregivers have become more self-reliant and are capable of accessing social services like health, education, water and sanitation without external support,” said Alexander Mar Kekula, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Ghana.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: Ghana Web, SOS Children’s Villages 1, SOS Children’s Villages 2, SOS Children’s Villages 3, SOS Children’s Villages 4, SOS Children’s Villages 5, UNICEF
Photo: Flickr

“Give me sweets” is one of the phrases filling the air of Nairobi and the streets of Kenya as a whole.

Anyone who has ever been a tourist in Kenya is probably familiar with those words and the collection of palms pressing themselves onto the windows of the tourist vans. While it may have seemed like an annoyance or an adorable group of Kenyan children, what is really pressing itself against those cars is one of Kenya’s greatest problems.

According to Kenya Children of Hope, there are over 250,000 children living on the streets of Kenya. However, with the 1.1 million children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, the numbers are likely higher than what is reported.

Many of these children are sent by their parents to work or beg on the streets. Others are either orphaned or abandoned.

I remember walking through Nairobi with my parents as a young child and wondering why children and teenagers were lying down in the middle of squares in Nairobi. The answer I was given was that they were “sniffing glue.” I did not know what that meant at the time, but this drug problem is one of the many issues facing Kenyan street children.

The other issues facing these children include harassment (sexual and otherwise), a general danger of violence, sexual exploitation, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, abuse, neglect, hunger, lack of shelter, pregnancy and lack of sanitary conditions.

Yet another problem facing street children in Kenya is the information surrounding them. Kenya Children of Hope states that the number of street children that are counted and reported differ from study to study. There is little consistency and it is hard to target a problem that is not fully understood.

How can the United States, the Kenyan government or outside organizations know how much aid to put toward street children in Kenya if they do not know how many there are?

Another issue with the research on street children in Kenya is the under representation of street girls. Kenyan Children of Hope reports that 25 percent of street children in Nairobi District are girls. Part of the reason for lower coverage of street girls may be because of the occupations taken my each gender.

While boys tend to collect garbage, beg and find odd jobs, street girls often end up in the sex trade.

There are many good people working to help and feed these children on a small scale, like a teacher described by BBC news. Other organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages are doing good work and raising money to sponsor one child at a time.

While this work is necessary, the organizations working to help Kenyan street children need more funding. Rather than helping one child at a time, focus should be put on aiding all of the poor children in Kenya.

– Clare Holtzman

Sources: BBC, Kenya Children of Hope, SOS Children’s Villages
Photo: Amka Kenya

children villages
SOS Children’s Villages prevent children from being abandoned. They provide individuals with the opportunity to play a crucial role in a child’s upbringing. Yet the villages themselves are susceptible to the spillover of outside violence. Children are the most vulnerable to this violence. The proper means for child development cannot be provided if their well-being is not treated with more respect and concern.

There are provisions necessary for the proper development of a child. Children need to have a loving family, respect and security. Yet with the increase of conflict, children are being placed in more and more unsecure conditions which are stripping away at their quality of development.

In the Children’s Village of Rafah, a southern city of the Gaza Strip, the sounds of bombs can be clearly heard on a daily basis. The children do not understand the cause of the violence and are terrified by the sounds. Some ask the SOS mothers, “Why are there so many people being killed? Why are there so many houses being destroyed?” But the mothers cannot even answer and simply try to keep the children happy.

The Children’s Village in Israel, home to Muslim, Jewish and Christian children, is in just as much turmoil, its occupants disturbed by the sounds of war around them. Here the Children’s Village is based in the conflict zone area, accompanied with fortified protection for families to take refuge.

Still, many children are too scared to leave the sides of their SOS mothers, some even too afraid to go to the bathroom alone. Older children say that this may be how their lives always are, always fearful of the raging war.

In Africa, the SOS Village of Malakal was forced to evacuate after threats of rebel violence. The village was later overrun by rebels and now lies in ruins. Plans of relocation to Juba, the capital city, were politically denied. Now the children of Malakal Village have no permanent home.

Countless stories exist about children who are barely surviving on the streets in their countries. From Ammar, the 10-year-old Syrian boy who spends his days collecting litter and who wakes up to insects crawling all over his body, to Tahir, an 18-year-old survivor of the SOS Village Malakal raid who ran for his life after witnessing murder, the situation of children without proper homes is worsening in these violent regions.

Ashley Riley

Sources: SOS Children’s Villages 1, SOS Children’s Villages 2, Bor Globe
Photo: SOS Children’s Villages

Artwork From SOS Children's Villages

Artwork From SOS Children’s Villages in the Philippines

Since its inception in 1949, SOS Children’s Villages have worked to ensure that every child has a family and a home. Founded by Hermann Gmeiner, the first SOS Children’s Village was built in Imst, Austria with the vision that every child belongs to a responsible and secure family. As of 2013, SOS Children’s Villages is present in 133 countries and territories improving the lives of 2.2 million children and adults around the world.

In August 2011, the children and staff of the SOS Children’s Village in Mogadishu, Somalia were forced to evacuate a fourth time as war disrupted the area. They were not able to return until December 2012. Ahmed Mohamed, director of the SOS Children’s Village in Somalia, acknowledges that experiencing 20 years of armed conflict and an unstable government is detrimental to a majority of the Somali population and that SOS brings hope to children and families. In a class exercise in the village, children were asked to write letters abroad to illustrate what life is like in Somalia. Ali, a student, wrote that the conditions became safer and less worrisome in Mogadishu after the effects of SOS Children’s Village.

SOS Children’s Villages, inspired by friends and sponsors, has set a target to double the capacity to provide assistance to children by 2016. Siddhartha Kaul, the organization’s newly elected president, calls for increased sponsorship to help reach this goal of providing permanent caring family environments for one million children. Kaul speaks of faith and hope in attaining their 2016 goal, reflecting that, “for 63 years, supporters have responded to our work with tremendous faith and we seek their continued help.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: SOS Children’s Villages
Photo: Pinterest