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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

May 24th 2008: Suggestion on orphanages

One of our fellow groups shared the information with us:

I hope you don't mind me responding again, from my child protection experience. In Myanmar it is so difficult to avoid putting children in institutions because infrastructure is so weak. I used to work with street children (in Myanmar) and we struggled with this issue all the time.

However, again, please encourage people - whoever is going to the affected areas or delivering aid.

They should encourage families to keep their children with them, even though it is hard to feed them and they (the families) think that orphanages (or other people who offer to take care of their babies) may be able to help. Families are the best people to take care of children. Orphanages all round the world, and including in Myanmar, often have children who are not true or 'double orphans' but have a family member living. Due to the pressure to educate and feed their children parents and families put their children in institutions.
I believe that the monastic system, and also the many other religious groups - like the Christian groups, do an amazing job to take care of the poor, and especially children. There are a number of agencies, international and local, who work on this issues and for any long term support any institution should contact them. If people are providing funding, remind them that it is difficult to sustain support over the long term (you have to take care of those children for the next 18 years!)

So some messages (given in encouragement):
Encourage families to keep their children with them. Encourage people who are giving aid to prioritise and take into account those families who are taking care of extra children (including orphans).
Encourage people to be careful of allowing children in their community to go with individuals they don't know (I know from colleagues in Myanmar that traffickers are operating).
Encourage those wishing to start up institutions to try and reunite children with their families, in the short or long term. I know that the International Red Cross, Save the Children and World Vision are all working to support tracing activities to help children find their families.

I hope that these messages are understood. I've worked in other countries after emergencies and many people want to help, but sometimes that help can be less helpful than they realise. I honestly believe that orphanages and institutions should be the places of last resort. I know that Myanmar families and communities do an amazing job of keeping their children in their communities, and I also know (from personal experience) what a fantastic and unique support the religious institutions provide. I had many positive experiences of working with the monasteries...

Warm regards,

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