Helping Children Integrate in Their Communities
You’ve probably heard the saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” This concept is very true when it comes to any sort of child rearing, especially when working with orphaned, abandoned, or displaced children. Integrating a child with their community is key for sustainable and excellent solutions to the orphan crisis. A person’s identity is rooted in where they were born, their family, friends, etc. When you work to integrate a child in their community, you help make them belong even when they feel like an outcast. As they grow up as an equal, they learn how to contribute, serve, and give back in their own ways.
Whether you have an orphanage, an orphan care community, or a family-based care program community integration should still be one of the focuses and values in your organization. By failing to do so, you could unintentionally reinforce the orphan mentality that they are second-class or isolated because of their situation which only sets them up for failure as adults.
So what does this practically look like? Here are some ideas:
- Create ways for the children to engage, serve, and be served by their communities. For example, the children at Shaping Destiny in Cameroon used to go once a week to the nearby hospital to pray for the patients, bring them meals, or simply read to them.
- Have a healthy organizational relationship with churches, other organizations, and individuals in the community. Have your children attend a nearby local church, school, etc.
- Allow the children in your program to participate in community events such as after school programs, parades or celebrations, Vacation Bible School, crusades, etc. Perhaps you could host some of these yourself as a way to connect with and serve others. Build up leaders in your children by giving them responsibilities as well.
- Invite leaders in the community to visit the families or children in your program. For example, have local pastors come and preach during a summer camp, invite nurses to teach about sanitation and hygiene, connect with local business men and women for short training sessions about baking, sewing, etc. You don’t have to do it all alone!
Wouldn’t it be great to help sew seeds of love between the children you serve, the people around them, and their village/city/country as a whole? This could be the first step toward family-based care programs, local adoptions, volunteers, sponsors, partnerships, and so much more. But ultimately, you want to avoid the orphans you care for from feeling isolated, neglected, or bitter toward their own people. Help them integrate and watch them bloom in the very land that God planted them.