Orphanage Musings


Back to that orphanage trip we took a couple weeks ago, where we barely survived.  It sounds like a GPS will be purchased, to avoid future mishaps or worse…

This was my first visit to an orphanage since arriving for our long term stay here, and we had 3 US visitors along as well as medical staff and local team members.  The orphanage is in a smaller city in the province, and about 30 children live on site. 

The facts:  We were asked to examine a few children with specific medical problems, including a child with a fever, one with Down’s sydrome and a heart defect, and another with developmental delays.  The group spent time visiting and playing with children of different ages in different rooms, and some of us spent time conversing with the director of the orphanage.

One take home message:  I could have kicked myself for not taking along a few simple toys, books, a ball.

The rooms were spotlessly clean, and we had to take our shoes off in each of them.   We were told the children were “too young” for books. 

One room had a few large plastic toys, but otherwise it was quite sterile.  I say this as I glance around my own living room that entertains only 3 youngsters, and see children’s books on the coffee table, crayons and coloring books littering the floor, and a toy truck against the wall. 

I did not see any specific area for the children to play in the supersized courtyard, and we found the older children all watching television for their English session in an otherwise empty room.  Overall, there was very little noise, very little crying, very little smiling, and very little actions initated by the children compared to say, a handful of kids in your typical living room, church nursery, or playground. 

A few things to think about as you look at these pictures:  A child raised in an institution is learning a whole different way of life, relationships and interactions than a child raised in a family. 

Consider the family setting:  love and affection, structure, 1 on 1 attention, focus on the individual, belonging to an extended system of relations, and stimulation through relationships.

Contrast this to the institutional setting:  acceptance and tolerance, emotional distance, rigid routine, 1:8-35 attention, group focus, belonging to and identifying with the group, and stimulation through programs.

Think about how this will affect the developing child all throughout their growing years. 

I certainly welcome comments and feedback on this topic, as it is one close to my heart.  More in future posts! 


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