I had known of several families who participated in orphan hosting programs. I figured they were all kind of foot in the door stealth adoption programs. I first really thought about orphan hosting when I met somebody who was doing it and really, truly, had no intention to do more. I didn’t mind that, but I did object to a couple of things I saw. I did not like how they did certain things. One of the areas I felt they were ‘doing it wrong’ is something of a specialty of mine, so I figured I could do it better.
But I was worried about whether it was something that ought to be done at all- was it reasonable, fair, and helpful to keep these kids a few weeks and then send them back to the same life? How could that be good for them? Mightn’t it be very harmful to just give them a taste of American life and then return them to life in an orphanage?
I read the paperwork from the programs, and they all said, naturally, that their programs actually do help the kids, that they return more confident, with improved English skills. Still, they would say that, wouldn’t they? I reached out to a friend I am fortunate to have who lives in Ukraine and who volunteers at orphanages and I asked her- she’s met us, almost all of us, so her judgement is pretty well informed. She said she was sure we could do it right.
Right, she said, was showing them family life, feeding them a lot, and then feeding them some more, and showing them more day to day family life, and throwing in some food would be good, too. Disneyland, not so good. Major amusement oriented trips – terrible idea.
But still, I kept that worry in the back of my head. Then I learned that most people end up keeping in touch with ‘their’ kids, even if they don’t adopt. Often, they are able to bring back the same kids for other hosting programs every year- and that continued contact, I suspect, is what really makes the difference.
School supplies, extra fees for special tutoring, care packages, cell phones and cell phone cards to keep in touch- and a relationship with somebody who isn’t paid to care, these are things most of us take for granted. They are not taken for granted where these lads come from. They are tangible evidences that somebody cares enough to make investments of time and attention in their lives. I gave a 14 year old boy a set of pens the day after Christmas- coloured ink, ball point pens. And it was as though I had given him the moon- and he is a kid who is charming, sweet, and cooperative, but also mostly too cool for school. He is polite, but never gushing. He gushed.
His little brother received a package of small notebooks- six of them in the packet. Nothing fancy- they are those pads of miniature legal paper. He went around the room showing everybody that there are *six* of them, counting for emphasis. I gave him stickers to put on them, and he refused to mar the paper, insisting on putting the stickers on the back of the pads- one per pad.
I was shown a picture of their ‘home.’ It’s basically a set of Victorian barracks. So I am hopeful that we have perhaps made a small difference in their lives- just to spend some time in a family home and see how some things might be done in a home with parents.
You could help by hosting yourself, by donating to help somebody else host, by offering to buy something for kids somebody else is hosting, by contacting an orphanage overseas or a children’s home here in this country and asking if there is a need you could meet. If you know somebody who has hosted, you could ask if they keep in touch, and can you send something along to the child as well.
I have heard this from more than one family- sometimes, the orphanages are short of funds. Strapped for cash, they make a triage decision that nobody can love, and they make ends meet by telling the teens, ‘We cannot feed you right now. Go away for __– days, and then come back.’ 8 days, two weeks, whatever- fend for yourselves. Some of them end up like this.
There are so many needs in the world. It’s hard. But pick something.
And if you are worried about whether your planned act of charity is helping or hurting-
And this is a compelling watch:
I’m not posing as an expert. I’m just sharing tidbits I’ve found related to our current interest. There are large needs all over the world, and probably in your own neighborhood. I’m not here to tell you which ones are the most important- I’m just urging you to pick one, thanking those who already have, and hoping that I am encouraging us all to do something, and to not grow weary in doing good.