The Dark Side of Orphanages in Haiti and Around the World
Many orphanages in Haiti do not exist primarily to take care of children. In fact, many exist because morally corrupt men or women want to take advantage of the suffering of children and make money off of people who truly want to help.
Unfortunately, the information above is more of an understatement than a mere statement of truth. I would venture to say that the vast majority of orphanages in Haiti are at the very least a means of exploitation for money and at the worst something much more evil than that and this applies to Haitian and American run orphanages alike. To take advantage of and to exploit children, no matter the purpose, is one of the worst things I can think of, and it is important to call out this practice when it exists.
If you live in Jacksonville, then you may have seen an article recently in the Florida Times Union about an American-run orphanage in Haiti that caught on fire and at least 16 people (mostly children) have died as a result. If you missed that article, here is the link to it.
It is a tragic article written about a tragic event that could have been prevented and should have never occurred. The orphanage is run by a church in PA and had reported income in the millions of dollars annually. In the end, they used candles to light the homes of 154 children in 2 locations. One of these candles was tipped over and the whole orphanage went up in flames. The kids could not get out and were consumed by the fire.
In the aftermath, it was found that the facilities were no where near "livable" and it is difficult to see where all of the money went. Imagine having millions of dollars coming in and only spending pennies of that on the ministry that the donations were meant to fund. On top of that, in an attempt to make restitution for the event, the church is offering a mere $150/family to take care of funeral costs.
I am not, however, writing this article to call the "Church of Bible Understanding" to account. Other people who have more information on the topic are doing that. I do, however, want to start a conversation about orphanages in Haiti in general and I do want to call attention to the fact that we stand in stark contrast to the majority of these institutions.
In fact, over the past few years, orphanages in Haiti (and probably other 3rd world countries as well) have taken a lot of heat. Here are the 2 things that are most often said in an attempt to show that orphanages should not exist:
- Families are better than institutions, and either keeping children with their family or creating environments (ie. foster care) that are similar to a family should be how orphan care is accomplished.
- Too many orphanages in Haiti and around the world are corrupt and are nothing more than a business that does little to care for children and much to line the pockets of corrupt men and women.
Neither statement is incorrect. In fact, both statements are absolutely correct. Families are better than institutions, and any time a child can be brought up in a loving family is preferable to an institution. As I mentioned earlier, the majority of orphanages in Haiti are corrupt and do not exist to do what is best for the children who live there.
With that said, you may be wondering why we run an orphanage if we do not believe that orphanages are the best way to raise children. That is a valid question. The short answer is that when the "best" option is not available, something else must be done.
There is also a much longer answer to this question, and my hope is to shed some light on some of the issues involved in orphan care in general, institutional living specifically, and why we continue to move forward ministering like we are. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks as I bring some of those issues to light.