Should you sponsor a child? Right now I’m sitting high up in my hotel in a room in Burma that overlooks a good part of the former capital city of Yangon. And this is a place where, at one time, Heaven’s Family was very involved with a child sponsorship program.
We had come here some 15 years ago and began visiting the many Christian orphanages that were showcased for us. We set up a child sponsorship program, and I guess we had almost 1,000 children sponsored at one time, and about 50 Christian orphanages, here in Yangon, and other parts of Myanmar.
But after a few years, we began to realize that most of these kids had a living parent, or parents.
A Rude Awakening
The reason that these kids were in orphanages was because their own parents had placed them there. Their parents were living in very far away, remote places. Little tiny villages where people were eking out a living, and where there were no educational opportunities for the kids. So, there was a whole system, kind of an industry, set up here by churches and pastors and evangelists who would roam around and collect children and gather them into “orphanages.”
And then western Christians and agencies would come and their hearts would be touched by these beautiful little children and their stories of their alleged orphanhood. Because these places called themselves orphanages.
And so this began to cause us to question what we were doing. Eventually, we stopped doing that.
A Better Alternative to Orphan Care
We worked the program to kind of ween ourselves from it, and ween those orphanages from our dependency, and began a program of endeavoring to place children who are in orphanages back with their families (or back with their relatives, in some cases) which we believe is where God intended them to be.
While I’ve been here in Myanmar over the last few days, I’ve been visiting some of those kids who’ve been reintegrated with families and relatives who, at one time, were stuffed into orphanage dormitories where there were 80 kids. It was kind of like the opening pages of Lord of the Flies, if you know what I mean.
Studies have shown, of course, that kids raised in institutional care are not prepared to lead functional families, when they, themselves, are older. And they often carry deep psychological and emotional scars with them, because they just don’t get the attention that kids need, and deserve, from a mom, and a dad, and a family that is one unit.
Reintegrating Kids Back Into Families… Where They Belong
We’re seeing some success. And we’re so thankful for those child sponsors who have stayed with us, even though their money is not going to an orphanage any longer. That money is being used by us to employ social workers—case workers—who do very careful assessments of the children and family background searches. In some cases, these kids don’t even know where they’re from, and they’ve totally lost touch with their families. And so we’ve been successful in reuniting some, and the trend is looking very good.
Our greatest challenge, however, are the Christians, and the many Christian organizations, that are literally pouring millions of dollars into the orphanage industry here in Myanmar, also known as Burma. And they’re working against us. Because, inadvertently, they’re creating a demand for more orphanages, and more children to populate those “orphanages”.
So it’s a vicious cycle, and the only way to put an end to it is to stop the source of the money. And then that stops the flow of children, because again, orphanage directors are motivated, unfortunately, sometimes, by the profits that they can make.
There are family orphanage franchises, here in this city. If I told you about all the details, it would make your blood boil, or make you weep. And it’s all being fueled by well-meaning Christians and organizations who come and see these collections of children that are showcased in orphanages.
Should You Sponsor a Child?
Answering the question that we posed at the beginning of this little lesson, “Should you sponsor a child?” Well, you need to ask, what’s the money going towards? And a number of organizations do employ child sponsorship as a method—a great method—to raise funding from caring people who want to help children. The money is indeed tied into, ultimately, touching the lives of kids who are suffering from poverty and neglect and so forth, but are in families, or at least somewhere where there is some semblance of a family.
So I would encourage you, don’t sponsor any children who are living in orphanages if the vision of the ministry that you’re supporting is to perpetuate those orphanages. That’s not God’s will. God wants kids to be in families.
I’ve asked many orphanage directors, as we’ve tried to persuade them over the years, what they would want for their kids, if both they and their spouse died. “Would you want your kids in an orphanage? Or would you rather have them in a family? A Christian family?”
And they all say, without hesitation, “I’d much rather have my kids in a family, rather than an orphanage.” And so I say, “Well, why have you got an orphanage going here? Why aren’t you helping us to get kids back in families?” And very few are ever able to admit that this is how they make their living. It really amounts to child exploitation, when you look at it from that standpoint.
Don’t Support Child Exploitation
When the motivation of the orphanage director is to keep it going so that they can continue to line their pockets, that’s not treating others as they want to be treated.
There are some good people here in Myanmar. There’s good people everywhere, of course, and we have discovered some of them. We’re working with some of them, and by the time you read this transcript, we could’ve been successful in getting hundreds of kids back with their families. We’re also offering some opportunities for poor families to prosper, through micro-credit, and that combination is kind of a one-two punch to fight this problem at its source.
And it’s a growing movement around the world. Orphanages slowly are becoming a thing of the past. They’ve become a thing of the past, pretty much so, in the developed world. In the developing world, they’re still a factor, but there is a trend. And so I encourage everybody, get with the program! All right?
And it all starts with money and child sponsorship. So I encourage you to sponsor as many kids as you can, if the programs that you’re sponsoring are really helping those kids to thrive in families, okay?
All right, that’s all for today’s little lesson from Burma. Thanks for joining! God bless you.