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Missions 101

Stop Building Orphanages in Haiti

Oct. 2, 2013By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Tara, a missionary in Haiti writes:

Hang around in Haiti or any other materially poor country for a while to observe the way a new orphanage works and you'll likely see some (or many) of these things happen:

  • A beautiful new building starts out with fresh paint, full staff, many supplies, and a leader from the western church/group to oversee and administrate
  • When birth families are interviewed and choose to place their kids, they make that decision assuming that their kids will have more food, more education, more opportunity
  • Children lose the familiarity of their home, family routine
  • Lack of cultural and language understanding means some children are taken from families that could have easily kept their children in their own care - the orphanage fills to capacity quickly
  • Money is raised to help feed and clothe and shelter poor "orphans" - Start-up costs are incredibly high
  • Employees of orphanage struggle to see all that is being provided to kids that reside in orphanage and they find it unfair - they begin to steal supplies in order to provide the same for their own children a quarter of a mile away
  • A plan to keep things small is in place but pressure is great and requests to take more children come in every day

  • Exceptions are made and more children are taken in

  • Communication between the two cultures is difficult and frustrating for all parties involved

  • Sexual abuse is a rampant problem in institutions where staff to child ratio is rarely adequate

  • Cultural norms are very different, the expat usually isn't aware of what goes on when he/she is not there - let alone when he/she is there

  • Pride "covers" the real issues from the donors, nobody tells the truth during the semi-annual report from the pulpit - the donor hears orphans are being helped and everything is great

  • Expat in charge gets overwhelmed with so many cultural challenges and miscommunication and quits in the first couple of years

  • A new leader arrives, the same pattern repeats itself

  • The orphanage is turned over to a native "Pastor" - He starts out with the best of intentions

  • No accountability system in place the Pastor receives money monthly to run the orphanage - culturally he is under tremendous pressure to share the money that he has coming in with his family and community - culturally he cannot NOT share it

  • Pastor begins to mismanage funds
  • Conditions decline, children aren't fed well, staff doesn't always get paid and don't always show up, sexual abuse worsens, conditions are appalling
  • Church of North America with the best of intentions end up unintentionally funding the abuse and neglect of children.
Read the entire article here.

Darren Carlson is the Founder and President of Training Leaders International.  As President, Darren oversees the general direction of the ministry and serves as an advocate for pastors with little access to formal training and thoughtful cross-cultural theological engagement. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter

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