I left you all with the despair of orphanages and children not in families. But I want to tell you about some children who did not have to go to an orphanage. Nathalia was born in Ghana. At an early age she was orphanaged and cared for by a kind neighbor who moved to Cote d’Ivoire and she was raised there. When her caregiver became ill, she advised Nathalia to go back to Ghana as the government would help her. Depsite not knowing English or the local languages, she considered this, but had met a man and became married. She had three children and when she was pregnant with the 3rd, her husband died. Her in-laws would not take her in and disowned her. At this point Nathalia decided to moved to Accra to hopefully get help from Social Welfare. But she could not prove she was born in Ghana and now she was in a city she did not know, a language she did not speak and three children.
Social Wefare decided her children would need to be in an orphanage and they referred the case to Bethany. But Bethany wanted to know more. In talking to Nathalia, they learned she had a great skill in braiding hair. They saw the strong attachment between her and her children. They noticed her despair and depression.
The staff at Bethany decided to help Nathialia become “resettled”. They subsidized a small apartment for her in a nearby village. They connected her in the community with people who could benifit from her hair styling. With in 2 weeks, Nathalia’s spirits were visibly different. She had hope, she smiled, she laughted.
We arrived to visit late afternoon on Monday and as we walked down the street her children noticed us and ran to Ida, the social worker, to hug her. They were so excited to tell Ida what they had been doing. Nathalia was braiding her neighbors hair on their porch. (She lives in a small brick building with 4 apartments). Nathalia was excited to tell Ida what she had accomplished that day. She had enrolled the two older children in school and they could start the next day. They were so excited. The other children in the apartment were all outside doing their homework and the girls were watching them and interacting with them.
We sat on the porch and talked for a while. It was a very pleasant visit. In 2 weeks, Nathalia has made great strides. Bethany’s hope is that she will continue to gain independence and establish herself in the community. Bethany can help subsidise her rent so she does not need to have the extra stress while she is getting settled and getting her children settled. She is already earning some money and is able to buy food and basic supplies.
This story could have turned out so differently. Nathalia could have been told to leave her children and where would she be? Begging on the street? Her children in a strange place with a strange language and customs? Did you know that a majority of the children who are orphans (around the world) have a living parent? A parent who brought their children to orphanages due to poverty? Not all parents are able to parent their children, but many, with the right services, with the right support and edcuation, can do this.
We can help! We can support these services, we can keep children in families and out of institutions. Adoption is a last resort, and not all of us are ready to or are called to adopt, for many many reasons. But that does not mean we can not help. We can. The Nathalias of this world deserve a chance.