I have tried to write this post for the last 6 months but it’s so hard to write down something that I feel so passionate about and (for those of you who’ve seen me talk) feel like I need to be jumping around, spastically waving my hands and explaining how I feel about this! Even though I still don’t think I have it right here goes…I pray that God uses this post to speak to you in whatever way necessary…
Ever since I’ve lived in Haiti every time I say I work with children, the next question I receive nonchalantly is, “Oh, you have an orphanage?” How heartbreaking is this question? For me it saddens me every time, because not only have the Haitians been convinced that “Orphanages” are the solution to all of the orphans in Haiti…but the “white people/blancs” who have come to “help” also think building more orphanages in Haiti is the solution.
There is an estimated one million orphans and child slaves (Restaveks) here in Haiti…many people see the immediate Stop the bleeding solution as building more orphanages…what they don’t realize is how much they are increasing the problem. Orphanages are just a band-aid to a HUGE problem that needs to be fixed from the ROOTS. You can’t start from the top down for the Orphan Crisis, especially in Haiti…you have to start from the bottom….the foundation…the deep cultural “norms” as well as the deep cultural problems.
With an unemployment rate of 80% how in the world could a mother keep many children…then you say why don’t they use birth control…what about rape? …What about the cultural barriers of men being superior here?…what about education?…the solution is NOT easy….but it’s NOT orphanages.
Let me give you an analogy:
Let’s say your air conditioner is broken. On the first day it breaks, you use your refrigerator to cool off a bit. You open the door for a few minutes and stand in front of it to feel some cool air.
The next day your air conditioner is still broken, so you decide to “solve” the problem of being hot…you buy another fridge and strategically place it in another room so you can go to the fridge when you’re hot in that room.
The next day it’s still broken so you once again decide to buy another fridge and place it somewhere else in your house to keep cool….this would be ridiculous right? This would be an absurd way of trying to fix your broken air conditioner right? In fact….you didn’t even touch the air conditioner….which is the real problem that needs to be fixed.
Such is the orphan crisis. The solution is not to keep building a place to house orphans. And even more frustrating is that I’ve been searching for weeks for a place to put some true orphans (both parents deceased) and because they are “older” 8-12 I cannot find an orphanage to put them in- most of the orphanages will just take 0-6 because they say “people only want to adopt young children”. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking to confront the orphan crisis!
In my opinion, the solution to all of the current orphans is two fold…one is KEEPING FAMILIES TOGETHER by encouraging and initiating economic development, self sustainability, education.
And when this can’t work for other reasons or when there are true orphans….I believe the answer is Adoption.
I love the quote, “Adoption is a beautiful story of redemption.” We have been redeemed by Jesus and adopted by him…Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father adopted him…I can’t begin to tell you how my heart fills with JOY and PASSION over adoption. (of all ages and when it’s done right!)
“…For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:15-17)
This scripture really rocks me, because it makes me think of beautiful Michaelle. Her mother died when she was young but her father is still living in Port au Prince…in fact in the last 2 weeks I’ve met him twice…it breaks me and challenges me every time I see him to not just YELL at him and tell him how much he is missing by not raising his beautiful little girl. Her smile. Her laughter. Her manners. I want to yell at him and tell him he’s making the biggest mistake of his life. When he smiles and its exactly the same as hers it makes me crumble in anger and sadness…
But then God quiets me and whispers gently how she is not alone, unwanted or forgotten. SHE IS LOVED! He tells me of the struggle Michaelle’s dad has had – the confusion and his hard life – God then reminds me of how he brought me to Michaelle, BEFORE she was placed in an orphanage by her caregivers. This subject hits SO close to home.
We CANNOT keep thinking that we can just solve the crisis of 163 million orphans by building more orphanages…more beds…more rooms…more money…. This will just perpetuate the crisis…and in Haiti, make the crisis EXPLODE. Why? Because we still have a million people living in tents. When the rains come, there are mothers literally holding their babies and sleeping standing up because the mud and the water come into the floor of their tents where they sleep. What do they want? Desperately to keep their children, to make their families work. But then a big orphanage pops up down the road and they are faced with a dilemma. This orphanage has BEDS, it has food, it may even have a school to offer them. So then these parents love their children so much that they put their child in an orphanage out of LOVE. NOT because they don’t want them. I understand this is not always the case, but many times it is. And it was for a close friend of mine.
Jacques, a good friend and translator for my groups here in Gressier, grew up in an orphanage and is still there now. He came with me to an orphanage in Carrefour and I asked him what he thought, he put it so perfectly when he said. “It’s worse than my orphanage is…but then again, what orphanage is good? Momma (what they call the head of the orphanage) can only try to meet our needs of food, clothing, and shelter, but you know that’s all she can do.” He then concluded by saying, no orphanage is a good place. Jacques still keeps in touch with his mom. He has 3 brothers in the orphanage as well. His dad died when he was young and his mom couldn’t afford them so she thought giving them to an orphanage would be better than anything. She was loving him the best way she knew how.
Unless people start realizing that the solution to the orphan crisis is different than what they thought, nothing will change. The solution is not building a simple orphanage to house more orphans. The solution is complex but extremely DOABLE…it’s not impossible and it is not unknown.
LOVE the way these nonprofits in Haiti are empowering women and families to keep their children by creating jobs, and educating mothers!