Sunday, August 18, 2013

In the midst of it all.

We are in the process of moving overseas, visiting family, and packing our suitcases.  (You also might translate that as frantic packing of house, trying to raise fees for school aged kids in e. DRC, missing flights, and finding out about need for more surgery at the last minute.)  We have left our beautiful home in Ithaca and said goodbye to dear friends.  I've been too busy to post, but I have been sneaking in time to read a little here and there.  I thought I would share some with you.  Most of it has to do with orphan and vulnerable child care (OVC) in Africa or care for women and their health in eastern DRC. 

The first is from a new friend who has lived and worked in OVC in Liberia.  Her words are challenging and thought provoking.  Her first post in the series is found here.

I'll be honest and say I'm very nervous to start this series. I have a lot of wonderful friends who have adopted and I don't want people to feel I'm being critical of their adoptions. I wouldn't want anyone to think I'm anti-adoption, or against the movement of the evangelical church that was passionate about trying to help desperate children.

But life is a journey of learning. In the past I was involved in adoptions and I didn't see everything the way I see it now. Today, with my experiences I feel a responsibility to share my new perspective. My purpose is to encourage people towards ethical adoption as well as other ways to help needy children overseas, not to be critical of adoptions that have already taken place. I hope you will be patient with me as I try to explain my views, and give me the benefit of the doubt if I inadvertently sound overly negative.
 She continues the series with her story working in adoption in Liberia.  That post is here.

I once thought international adoption played a very important role in helping Liberia's needy children. But by the time I left Liberia in 2010 I realized Liberia had recovered enough from the war to take care of the majority of their orphans themselves. Additionally, if it were to reopen I think a lot of harm could be caused. Orphanages that have been shut down, or whose numbers have greatly diminished, would instantly be filled with children. What children? Not orphans - children with parents! Children who'd been living with parents or biological family up until that point. The simple act of having an orphanage can inadvertently create "orphans", and it would be so sad if this were to happen in Liberia. Like I saw in the Ivory Coast when I was a child, stable countries have ways of providing for their own orphans and children in need, without turning to orphanages and international adoption as their first resort.

More in her series:  God's Sovereignty in Unethical AdoptionsOpen Letter to Adoptive Parents.

The next post is from a woman working in Uganda at a family care center working with vulnerable families and children.  The stories we tell matter:  OVC Care.  

In the current evangelical orphan care movement there’s been a lot of focus on adoption. The story of adoption has dominated all forms of orphan care. We wrote books and preached sermons and made videos of gotcha days (that always make me cry). We told stories about individual children and families that opened their homes and God’s larger narrative of adoption.
And it was good. Those stories made more and more people adopt and the next thing we knew we had a movement.
There was only one problem.
While the stories we tell matter, the stories we don’t tell matter even more.

This next post is from a woman working in Ghana.  (First in a series of three.)  Orphan & Vulnerable Children Care past 1.  
Some parents bring their kids to the orphanage with the intention of possibly coming back in a few years when they are back on their feet and can properly provide for their child. Sadly, most never return because of stigma, fear, lack of support and resources. That doesn’t mean they still don’t love their child and long for the child to be growing up with them.
These children then grow up in institutionalized care that affects them negatively in major ways (will save this for another post). Many orphanages fail to meet the developmental needs of the children. Reintegration into society is difficult. One-on-one attention is lacking. Children can get lost in the shuffle of huge, overflowing orphanages. They can be exploited for labor and physically and sexually abused. The list could go on and on. Yes, children in orphanages are provided with food, clothing, shelter, medical attention, and schooling, but nothing replaces a family, no matter how well the orphanage is being run.
I strongly believe children belong in families, not institutions.
So what can be done? I would humbly suggest 3 things. 

 There is some amazing work being done by Channel Initiative with women in eastern DRC.  Check out their work here.   We will be sharing more about their work in the weeks ahead.  Here is a beautiful post by their founder:  Life Lessons from the Poor.

Impoverished communities are often the ones with the most innovative ideas, unique systems and ways of doing things, and of course, that sense of fellowship and community that we have all but lost – in the ‘developed’ world. Impoverished people, to me, can be some of the most interesting, hard-working, honorable and great people to actually get to know. When we cast the poor as the ones in need, we neglect the fact that there are so many strengths that go unrecognized and indeed under-appreciated in these communities. We neglect that fact, we neglect actually relating to the people, and in so doing, our work neglects that reality. Rather that drawing from existing needs, we cast ourselves in the, yes I’ll say it, the white industrialist savior role, and in so doing, we are forever the providers, the rescuers, the do-gooders, the awesome ones, and the poor, well, they are the ones who need us, in all of our brilliance, benevolence and awesomeness. And then we choose to not realize how our noble efforts of large-scale development, when done the typical way, are eerily a lot like the good old days of colonialism.
We paint a poor community with one brush stroke, and the teenaged philosopher who hikes to the internet cafĂ© to look up Sartre and post on his blog, gets forsaken. The promising political analyst with an astounding understanding of conflict dynamics is labeled as a ‘beneficiary’. The mom with a brilliant idea for getting her peers to the clinic during emergencies, is quieted down, and must line up for her ticket to get food rations. The young girl with dreams of becoming a *insert profession here, watches on as the white ATV leaves dust in her face as it speeds on by.
A beautiful video about work in Uganda finding homes for children.  Find it here.   This is from Child's i foundation--please check out their work!

And finally, a very interesting post that is well worth reading, named Missionary Reflections on Kathryn Joyce's: The Child Catchers.  

Communities of faith (I’ll even include mosques in the pragmatics) can develop networks of families who can immediately foster children when they fall into these situations.   No child should ever be without some type of family.   Then it is time to let government systems go to work.   Investigations need to be made.   As time discerns the situation re-unification with an extended family may be possible.   Yet, if it is not the very best answer is adoption.   Children belong in families.    The complexity of poverty and culture mean that some children will be adopted domestically in their passport nation.   Others will be adopted internationally.   The point is not an either or.   The hope is that under the trees our community will find enduing answers so that our children can flourish.                Thank you Ms. Joyce for giving us so much to think through.   You have made us wiser.  Karibu sana.   Please stop by our home if you are nearby for a cup of chai.

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