The Dark Side of Haitian Orphanages Part 6
Please continue to pray for Haiti as the coronavirus continues to grow at a quick rate. Exactly one week ago today, there were 219 confirmed cases of the virus. Today, that number has tripled to 663. There are a lot of reasons for this, and the numbers are definitely unreliable, but there is one clear way to read the numbers...We need to pray for Haiti!
I know some of you have been keeping up with this series of blogs about the "Dark Side" of Haitian orphanages. If you have missed any, click here to read the previous blog and you can go backwards from there to find the rest. Today I want to talk a little more about the 2 main issues that I have noticed from many orphanages in Haiti. These 2 issues are almost polar opposites and seem to affect the "Haves" orphanages much differently than the "Have-Nots." I define "Haves" orphanages as those with foreign backing and money to spare. I define "Have-nots" as those orphanages that do not have consistent money flowing in (particularly from outside of Haiti) but struggle to find enough money to survive. Here is what I mean:
- Some orphanages go overboard in providing for their kids (this is most oftentimes the "Haves").
- Other orphanages do not even come close to a standard of care that a child should receive (this is most oftentimes the "Have-Nots").
I have already written about those orphanages that, rather than providing care for children, provide a means for corrupt men and women to take money from people who believe they are helping kids. This is the most corrupt and reprehensible behavior that exists in orphan care.
Today I am going to write about the idea that some orphanages go overboard in providing for their kids. Please hear me out before you stop reading and get a little irritated that I would make such a statement, I have reasons for believing this. I want to tell you a story first:
Before we moved to Haiti, a friend of mine set me up to meet with a guy who ran an organization that operated some orphanages in South Africa. I neither remember his name nor the person who set me up with that meeting, but I want to tell you what happened. We met at the Loop (a restaurant in Jacksonville) and we just started talking. I asked him some questions and he asked me some. About 15 minutes into the meeting, I asked him a question that would change my opinion of him and later my opinion on orphan care: "What is one lesson that you have learned that you could teach me?"
It took him no time at all to tell me that the biggest lesson he has learned is to be careful in what we "give" to our kids. He told me that my instinct would be to build a huge orphanage with all of the modern conveniences that a home in the US would experience. That I would want to give the kids rooms with 2-3 other people, have 24/7 electricity, running water, new clothes/toys all of the time, and any other convenience that you can think of. His advice:
Do not treat your kids like they are growing up in America because they are not.
I don't remember anything else he said. It sounded so arrogant. It sounded like he was placing himself and other Americans on a pedestal that orphans in a 3rd world country could not attain. I was so irritated that he would have the nerve to tell me not to provide these things to my kids. The problem is...He was right.
Very few people in Haiti have access to 24/7 electricity and running water, and the idea that any of our kids (much less all of them) will experience these types of conveniences after they leave the orphanage is far-fetched. Having our kids live life like an American for 10, 15, or even 20 years just to send them out into a reality that is much different is not right. It's not teaching them to live in their world but bringing my world to them.
While it might make me feel better and it might make you (our supporters) think we are doing something great for our kids, it does not help our kids. In fact, it does such a disservice to our kids that it is difficult to explain. We have some electricity in the orphanage so the kids can do homework at night, we have the ability to have running water in the home (though we do not use our water pump), and our kids even watch movies and play Xbox from time to time. But we do our best to make sure they know what it means to live and grow up in Haiti. We rent a house in a neighborhood, they go to a local school, they are cared for by Haitians, they have limited electricity, no running water, and they are involved in a church in their community.
The dark side of really well-run orphanages that are backed by a lot of supporters and money is that many of these places do not prepare their kids for real life in Haiti (you can substitute any developing country for Haiti). The truth is, we have made a lot of "American" mistakes. But this is also the reason that we have Haitians in charge of every aspect of our ministry. People that we trust and listen to, and people that make sure our kids are raised in the country where they live rather than an American oasis that is nothing more than physically located in Haiti.
We have had supporters come down and ask us why our kids live "this way," and it is important to understand this...We take care of our kids. They eat 3 meals every day, they are loved and cared for, they go to school, and we make sure they have every opportunity to succeed. We do not give them an "Americanized" life, and I truly believe that this is the right thing to do.