So far in this series, I’ve written about what it was like to live next to a typical Cambodian orphanage for two years. I’ve also outlined some reasons why children might be sent to an orphanage, even if they are not orphans. The current system, as I’ve described it, is incredibly broken.
This project has required a lot of mental and emotional energy, certainly more than I had initially expected to give. The deeper I delved into the orphan and orphanage issue, the more poverty I discovered, and the more complicated the problem became. The social problems stemming from poverty can be very disheartening at times. That’s why the work of Children in Families is so very hopeful and encouraging to me.
So today, instead of just discussing the problems, as I’ve done in the first two posts of this series, I’m going to offer some solutions. How does the organization Children in Families help at-risk children and their families? That’s the question I’m hoping this blog post will answer, along with some of the common concerns people have about family-based care, because they are valid concerns, and because Children in Families has answers to those concerns.
If you haven’t read Part 1, in which I describe the conditions of an average Cambodian orphanage, please do so now. The rest of this series might not make much sense without that background.
This post, Part 2, will explain more about the orphanage crisis in Cambodia, for those of you who want facts and stats.
If you aren’t interested in the data, or don’t have the time to read all of it, stay tuned for Part 3, which will detail the encouraging work of Children in Families.
As I’ve mentioned before, deciding to talk about the orphanage problem in Cambodia has been very difficult for me, and felt like a huge risk on my part. I have friends all over the world running orphanages, and I don’t want to alienate people – especially friends.
But the truth is that I’m not talking about orphanages all over the world; I’m talking about an orphanage problem specific to my location in Cambodia. I’m only speaking from my own observations in this country, and I don’t know what orphan care looks like in other countries. But I do know one thing: the longer I’ve lived here, in this corrupt system, the more it has burned on my heart to tell this story. So now I am telling it.
Another thing to remember here is that I am painting with broad brushstrokes. Not every single orphanage matches these descriptions, but far too many do. I am not criticizing specific orphanages; I am drawing attention to the disturbing trends among most Cambodian orphanages. It is easy to find exceptions to these trends and then dismiss the issue altogether. But my point is that the issue exists — there are many bad orphanages in Cambodia, and something must be done about it.
Our family of six first arrived in Phnom Penh at midnight, and some friends drove us to the house we had rented on our survey trip. It’s a row house — ten multi-story dwellings that are connected, side by side.
At daybreak, an orphanage moved in to the house next to us. We shared a wall with them — four stories of walls to be exact — plus a communal covered roof. I didn’t know anything about orphans or orphanages in Cambodia, so I had no preconceived ideas about what it would be like to live next to an orphanage. I would soon learn.