Ngun Tha Len lost her smile. She didn’t speak much or play with the other children. Instead, she spent a lot of time just gazing out the window. She had met her initial arrival at Zion Children’s Home three weeks earlier with some excitement, but now the emotional strain of being separated from her mother—for the first time in her 15-year-old life—was taking its toll on her heart. “My mother forced me to go to the orphanage for education purposes…I miss my mother all the time,” she told us.
Ngun had failed the 10th grade in her village school, so her mother, a poor widow in remote Chin State, Myanmar, sent her to an orphanage over 600 miles away so she could receive the education she needed to pass. It was a critical step if she was to advance to 11th grade and then to university—and hope to break the bonds of poverty.
Our social work staff noticed that Ngun was new at Zion and under emotional distress, so they researched her case. Due to her recent arrival and to prevent her from becoming emotionally scarred—a condition that would likely have prevented any educational benefit her mother had hoped for—our social work team advised that she return home as soon as possible.
Thousands of children from impoverished families just like Ngun are sent to orphanages to receive an education, medical attention, and the promise of a better life. The Orphan’s Tear Ministry believes, however, that God has ordained for children to be raised in families, and decades of studies and research confirm that institutional care can harm the development of children and actually make their adult lives harder.
So, in 2015 we began working to prevent children from being sent to orphanages and to reintegrate institutionalized children back into families. We have hundreds of children from over a dozen orphanages in the program, and Zion Children’s Home is one of them.
Ngun’s story has a happy ending. Our team assessed her home environment (to make sure she would be returning to a safe place) and talked with her mother about bringing her daughter home. Three days later Ngun was reunited with her mother! The social work team visited Ngun a week later to follow up and joyfully reported, “You couldn’t take the smile off her face!”