Tuesday, July 27, 2010

147 Million+

This post is reprinted with permission from my blogging friend Sharla.

There are at least 147 MILLION ORPHANS worldwide.  That number is on the low end of the estimates that I have read so for argument's sake, let's go with that one.  The natural human tendency when faced with such an overwhelming number is to turn away, to assume that the numbers are too big for us to make a dent in them, to hope that someone else will do something about this tragedy.  We all have those moments of hoping or presuming that someone in a higher political position, or someone with more money, or someone with influence will tackle this problem and have success but the truth is that there is more strength in numbers than in any of those three things.  If each individual person in North America were to care, heck, if only 7% of us in the developed world would care, this wouldn't be a problem anymore.  It is too much for one person to take on but together, we really can make changes.  So what can you do?

"I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do". - Edward Everett Hale

-Educate yourself.  Without understanding the roots of this crisis and becoming passionate about changing it, little can be done.  There is a lot of information available but it is difficult to want to learn about it, to want to know how bad things really are.  I think some of the reason that I personally find it difficult is that it brings with it some guilt about being born into a country where even as a female, I have opportunity and freedom and hope.  Burying our heads in the sand and pretending that atrocities are not happening elsewhere in the world doesn't make it less true.  It just enables us to pretend.  But there is a reason that all that pretending doesn't feel good and that is because all of us on some level already know that there are starving children, persecuted people, slavery, human trafficking, war, preventable disease, lack of education, unclean water, and over 147 million orphans.  And that knowledge makes most of us uncomfortable, so we might as well take our heads out of the sand and start doing something about it!  a great book to start with because it is very concise and contains a lot of information is "One...A Face Behind the Numbers" by Vaden Earle. Buy it, stick it in your bathroom and read a couple of pages at a time.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing". - Edmund Burke

-Educate others.  This does not mean that you have to get in people's faces, get preachy, or lay on the guilt but once we have more information, it is easier to get into discussions that create more awareness in others.  One easy way is to lend out books or point others to organizations that you believe in.  Another is to make small changes that will educate others just in the doing.  An example of this is to give gifts that give back.  When there are people in your life who need nothing and it comes time to give them a gift, give them a gift that helps others.  You can donate to a charity in their name or there are many places that allow you to buy a mosquito net or a sheep or cow for a family in a developing country.  I usually buy mine either at Ten Thousand Villages or on-line with Samaritan's Purse.  Samaritan's Purse has some great gifts to give children or teens such as school supplies, sports equipment, or medical supplies for children in other countries.  I get my kids involved by having them choose what gift we are going to buy for their friend's birthday.  Some families throw birthday parties for their kids where instead of gifts for the birthday child, they accept donations to a charity or food for the food bank or even where the party is hosted at a shelter and the activity is feeding the homeless.  True, these ideas fall a bit more into the action category, but they educate others at the same time.  Another way to educate others is to wear it.

"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this social transition was not the strident clamour of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people". - Martin Luther King, Jr.

-Adopt.  Obviously, one way to chip away at that seemingly insurmountable number of orphans in the world is to make them orphans no more.  I know that not everyone is called to adopt, but if you have ever thought about adoption, but have not followed through because you have thought that you were too poor, too old, too single, too whatever, I want to encourage you to rethink those excuses.  It's true that international adoption is expensive but there are thousands of children in foster care who can be adopted for free.  There are also grants, loans, and fundraising opportunities for those who choose to pursue international adoption.  In the USA, there are many grant options, but as far as I know in Canada, there is only one: orphan's hope.  As for the too old argument, I know several families who have started diapers all over again and are raising their adoptive children as their grown children raise their own families and are loving it!  As for single, I know that ideally, it would be wonderful if every child could have two loving parents but one loving parent is all it takes to give an orphan a home and hope and a future.  I'm sure there are other reasons that people hesitate and I would be more than happy to speak with anyone who has questions about adoption or who would like help knowing how to get started as it can be overwhelming at first.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." - James 1:27  

The Bible mentions caring for orphans many times and implores us to protect them.  Adoption is one way to care for and protect orphans.  Choosing adoption is not an easy road.  When I think about the turns our lives have taken since we chose this road ten years ago, I think about Robert Frost's poem about the road less traveled.  It has been more challenging and there are a lot less people on this road with us, but it has also been the most rewarding.  The hardships have made the triumphs that much sweeter.

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase". - Martin Luther King, Jr.

-Support Someone Else.  Not all of us are called to open up our homes and adopt children who need a family, but those families that do need support.  There are many ways that you can help these families.  First and most importantly, encourage them.  It is a tough road and one that is often thankless.  Support, kind words, listening without judgement, and encouraging go a long way to ease their burdens.  Support them financially by attending fundraisers they host to cover the high costs of an international adoption or give their family a gift certificate for groceries or pizza once they are home with their children.  When we were adopting our last two children, friends of ours organized fundraisers to help cover our travel costs and it was such an incredible blessing.  It helped to ease the stress at a time when our stress was already very high.  One of our neighbours dropped off a gift card for pizza shortly after we came home with the kids and it was such a nice break to be able to order pizza and not worry about the cost.  The financial cost of adoption continues until kids are grown so if you know an adoptive family, you could offer hand-me-down clothing for their kids if yours are in a larger size or drop off an occasional meal.  Meals are also a great help when the family is first home with their new child(ren) and are busy with appointments and adjustments and attachment.  Help with their laundry or their cleaning or child care.  Click here for ideas. The point is, help.  It is needed.  It is appreciated.  And it enables that family to do a better job of raising their children and possibly even enables them the boost of energy and help they need to adopt another child.  Some people are gifted when it comes to hospitality or evangelism or missions or music.  Others are called to care for orphans in a hands-on way.  The number one thing others can do is offer encouragement and not judge them. (I know I said that already but it needs to be said again.)

"It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little - do what you can". - Sydney Smith

-Prevention.  I will try to list below some of the methods that come to me but the general idea is that currently, the number of orphans worldwide is rising at an alarming rate, due mainly to the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS and to wars but also famine, natural disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti, and oppression and lack of education among women in developing nations.  By addressing these concerns, we can prevent the number of orphans from continuing to rise.

"If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never laid in bed with a mosquito". - Betty Reese

-Give generously.  There are many wonderful organizations out there that are striving to make a difference and none of them can survive without funding.  By giving of our money, we can be a part of the changes that they are attempting to accomplish.  There are many charities, large and small, that are doing what they can to alleviate the burdens of poverty and disease throughout the world.  In the research I have done, I have come to believe that not much change can happen in any community before ensuring that there is access to clean water.  When I look for a good organization, I look for one that uses clean water as a foundation and then builds in things like education.  I also look for one that focuses energy on women in a community (not as a feminist platform!!!) because studies have shown that when you educate a man or teach him skills, it only teaches him but the women will educate their villages and spread what they have learned.  The other important factor to me in looking at charitable organizations is their use of local people.  In my opinion, things are more sustainable if locals are taught how to manage them and I believe in the adage of "helping people to help themselves" or "a hand up instead of a handout" as these provide lasting change and a feeling of pride for people.  I love programs that involve sustainability or things like microfinance.  One of our personal choices as far as organizations to support is Hope International.  I would encourage you though to do your own research and find an organization that you feel passionate about helping.  Giving is something we all have the means to do, no matter how small our financial resources are as there are sacrifices (like a daily coffee or monthly movie) that we can make.  Even small donations go a long way in developing countries.  Bag a lunch to the office even once a month and donate what you would have spent otherwise or set aside your weekly slurpee money!
"If you can't feed a hundred people, then just feed one". - Mother Teresa
 "Live simply so that others may simply live". - Mahadma Ghandi

-Make Small Changes.  Buy fair trade products.  Be aware that your habits as a consumer really do affect those less fortunate.  Sponsor a child.  There are many wonderful organizations to do this through. Fundraise.  The garage sale fundraiser I just held raised over $660 for Faya Orphanage in Ethiopia.  A bake sale I held a year and a half ago raised $700 for Faya.  Fundraisers can be as simple as helping your kids hold a lemonade stand to as complicated as getting other like-minded folks together and organizing a dinner and silent auction.  Host a Bead for Life party.  It's fun, saves lives, empowers women, and prevents further children from becoming statistics.

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give". - Winston Churchill

-Demand Change.  Though we live in North America, we still have elected leaders who have the power to effect change in the world.  By making our voices heard, we can make a difference.  Choose the issues that you feel passionate about (making it easier for Canadian families to bring home internationally adopted children, debt cancellation for African countries, fair trade laws, protecting the rights of women in developing nations, righting injustice) and get writing!  Our politicians will only bring forth issues that they feel their constituents care about.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". - Martin Luther King, Jr.

-Teach your children.  Raise your children in an awareness of what is really happening in the world.  Teach them to care.  Children learn what they see.  If you care about orphans in another country, you will raise the next generation to care and take action.  "Train up a child in the way he should go; when he is old he will not depart from it." - Proverbs 22:6  For those of us trying to raise our children with good character, if we teach them the Bible but do not teach them to put into practise loving our neighbour, what will we really have taught them?

It has been difficult to organize my thoughts on this and there is so much more that I wish I were doing but I hope to get the wheels turning for you.  I hope that after reading this, you will be asking yourself "what can I do?" and that one little question will propel you into action.  I hope if you get nothing else from this post, you walk away believing that it is the small things and the ordinary people that are going to change this world.

A warm thank you to Sharla for letting me reprint her post. She did all the work and research on this and did a beautiful job! Thanks again, Sharla!


  1. Yes we can make a difference! This is a great re-post:O)
    I want to adopt, just praying about when and what way.
    I was watching a News show about how it is legal to sell children as slaves in Haiti. This kind of injustice must stop. Even though it might not before He comes back, we can still do the right thing!

  2. What a great, thought out post. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. Deborah,
    Thank you for posting this information to educate your readers about adoption. There are many things we can do!
    praying for you!

  4. great post.
    I noticed you are adopting from the Philippines. That is wonderful. My husband went to the Philippines a few years ago on a mission trip. I can't wait to hear all about this journey. I'm your newest follower & I'm also praying for you family. blessings!
    PS- thanks for your sweet comments


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