Rebecca Grows Up
David’s First Blog from Myanmar
Greetings from Myanmar (still better known as Burma), where Heaven’s Family has been working since 2003. It was here that we launched Orphan’s Tear, what ultimately became a monthly child sponsorship program that served almost 1,000 children living in orphanages in seven nations, but predominantly in Myanmar.
If you’ve been following our story, however, you know we eventually discovered that most of the “orphans” weren’t orphans at all, but rather were the child victims of layers of social problems that include extreme poverty, rampant divorce and parental irresponsibility. “Boarding Schools” is a better way to describe Myanmar’s orphanages.
Most of the children who live in them are from the nation’s poorest and least-developed region, Chin State, a remote and mountainous area that was off-limits to all foreigners until 2012. Chin parents send their children to orphanages hundreds of miles from home so that they will be educated and cared for without cost, and orphanage directors showcase their children to foreign people and organizations as a means to make a living. In Myanmar, it has become an industry, all fueled by well-meaning folks who, like us at one time, really don’t know that they are facilitating something that helps break up families.
We decided to try to attack the problem at its root through economic development in Chin State (through micro-credit) and the re-integration of orphanage children into families, preferably their biological families whenever possible. Sadly, most of our orphanage directors were not interested in cooperating with us due to various justifications. Thankfully some were, and it was a joy to visit two of them today, knowing that they truly do have the children’s interests at heart.
Reintegrating children is not a quick and easy task if done properly. It requires detailed assessments of both children and families by trained social workers as well as follow-up visits once children are reintegrated to make sure everything is going well. We now have six social workers who work under the direction of Philip Barker, former director of Heaven’s Family U.K., who moved here two years ago with his wife, Sandie, to oversee our efforts. They are two of my heroes. So far, 15 children have been reintegrated with families and 60 more are in the program. To view a very well-done video that tells our story in more detail, click here.
Older residents of “orphanages,” like 22-year-old Rebecca pictured above, are generally not good candidates for reintegration into families. Both of Rebecca’s parents died when she was very young, and she has been living hundreds of miles away from her 6 siblings for 10 years. However, she is about to complete her university degree, and she loves being a Sunday-school teacher. I was glad that Orphan’s Tear is still involved in helping her to thrive through our continued support of Agape Childcare Center, and that her future is bright. I’m also thankful today for truly caring orphanage directors and for all of those who support Orphan’s Tear!