Please take my daughter! My husband tried to kill her! Ten years ago, in the distant Rakhine mountains of Chin State, Myanmar, a little girl named Ngun Nei Kim was born. Her parents were very poor, as is virtually everyone else in this sparsely-populated region the modern world has only just begun to visit.
Not long afterward, Kim’s parents divorced, then remarried other partners. Kim first lived with her mother until, at 16 months, her stepfather tried to take her life. Living with her biological father was not an option because his new wife wouldn’t allow it. (It is very common in Myanmar, as it is in many other poor countries, for people to reject any stepchildren.)
So Kim’s mother contacted her daughter’s aunt and uncle in the hope of finding a safe refuge for her daughter. The couple, who were followers of Christ, agreed. They cared for Kim as best they could until, at the age of four, poverty and health problems forced them to seek alternate care for Kim.
They turned to New Hope Orphanage, a childcare institution not far from where they lived. Although they regretted having to send her away, they took comfort believing that, compared to what they could offer Kim with their meager means, New Hope could offer superior care and educational opportunities.
Kim’s aunt and uncle correctly assessed the orphanage’s ability to meet her physical needs. Her caregivers were kind and did all they could to help Kim, but something was missing—her emotional and social needs were not being adequately met. Kim could put on a smile–especially for visitors to New Hope–but she was slowly dying on the inside.
The fault did not lie with New Hope’s caregivers, because with more than 15 other children in their care, they couldn’t give Kim the individual love and affection all children need. It’s the same weakness shared by all orphanages. As a result of Kim’s emotional deprivation, her behavior deteriorated over the next six years of her life—a typical pattern for children living in even the best institutions.
New Hope Orphanage has been supported by our Orphan’s Tear Ministry for many years. But when we discovered that the vast majority of children living in orphanages in Myanmar are not true orphans (all institutionalized for reasons similar to those of Kim’s), we started our transition to providing family-based care. Although we’ve found that not all orphanage directors want to transition with us, we were thankful that New Hope’s staff were among those who quickly joined us in this mission.
In order to help Kim, our social work team began collecting information about her family situation so that we could provide the best option for her. That’s when we learned that neither of her parents could provide a safe, nurturing alternative to the orphanage. But thankfully we found that Kim’s aunt and uncle, who had cared for her before placing her in the orphanage, lived nearby.
The couple was still struggling with poverty and health concerns, we learned, but Kim’s emotional connection to them remained strong, in part due to the many times they came to visit her at New Hope. After interviewing Kim’s aunt and uncle and evaluating their home, our social workers concluded that living with them would be the best option for Kim. But the social workers had to convince the couple that they could be better caregivers for Kim than the orphanage. They succeeded. And to further convince them, we provided the couple with a milk cow and helped pay for Kim’s school tuition. Kim was delighted to leave the orphanage and return “home”!
We are also delighted, but our work isn’t finished. Kim, now 10 years old, has spent most of her life in an orphanage. Family life is unfamiliar to her, so our social workers have been counseling Kim’s aunt and uncle so they can help Kim adjust. We’ve also recruited Kim’s school teacher, her aunt’s pastor, and the village head in supporting this new family. Kim’s care is now rich in the life-giving love and healing that she needs.