She is young, just 22 years old. She has just given birth to her second child. A new baby girl has brought so much joy.
The celebration of their new arrival was cut short when her husband, the father of her children, leaves her for another woman. He has left her and the children with nothing. No income, no place to sleep, no way to provide for even their most basic needs.
After desperately seeking a job, a way to provide for her and the children, she has run out of options.
She approaches the gate of a local orphanage. She knocks. Tears well up in her eyes as she asks, “Is this where you keep children? I have no way to keep my babies and I need someone to give them what they need.”
The Director of the orphanage can tell that this Mother loves her children. That coming to her gate was a last resort. Instead of taking the children from their Mother, she takes out a referral form and sends them to Abide Family Center, a center specifically designed to support parents in this situation to be able to care for their children.
The family in this story was provided an opportunity that far too many families around the world are not given when they are in crisis or experiencing extreme poverty.
As the church, we have wrestled with and discussed how to best care for orphans. But what is often left out of the conversation is how we can prevent orphans in the first place.
Discussed by organizations like Faith To Action and The Better Care Network is the idea that while we do need orphanages to care for children in transition and sometimes even long-term, the majority of the estimated 8 million children growing up in orphanages throughout the world actually have family.
It is estimated that 4 out of 5 children growing up in orphanages around the globe have families and that most of these families have not been offered the appropriate services to help them keep their children.
It was in response to this need that we opened the doors to Abide a year and a half ago. After working alongside of an orphanage to help them resettle children in their care back with their biological families, we quickly realized that there was a pressing need to provide support to families before they abandon or place their children in an orphanage.
In just the last year and a half we have been able to keep more than 80 families together and more than 200 children out of orphanages. With a focus on economic empowerment, we provide the necessary training and support that each family needs to reach independence and raise their children on their own. To learn more about our model you can go here.
To accomplish our goal, our biggest allies and strongest partners are orphanages.
We are seeing the tide turn and we are linking arms with orphanages who desire to only keep children who cannot or should not be kept in their families.
What better way to prevent orphans than to work with orphanages who really desire the best for each child and family who approaches them?
We are excited to see Abide grow within Uganda and even beyond, eventually.
We need the support of folks who agree that poverty should not be the reason children are being raised by orphanages instead of their families.
If you would like to help us keep families together, you can go here.
We need people to do their research, pray and really re-consider the opening of new orphanages. Instead, I would challenge folks to dig into resources from organizations like Faith To Action and The Better Care Network.
We need to shift our focus from disempowering families and instead empower them to care for their children.
We are passionately fighting for Abide to grow and for more people to start programs like ours because we believe that children belong in families and that God’s heart is for us to keep families intact before offering rip them apart.
Written by Kelsey Nielsen, co-founder of Abide Family Center