A Reflection of My Life after living in Uganda as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ecuador Part IV: Orphans and Orphanages

While there is suffering in the world there will always be those who are marginalized and live a disadvantaged life. The need for orphanages has been around for a long time. They can be refuges for children who have been abused, neglected and abandoned. They can be the first home some children have ever understood and the first forms of love they have ever been extended. Many countries around the world have both government and private orphanages and they differ greatly in their services and comfort. I have visited a few orphanages in different countries and have mostly been impressed with the facilities, care provided and dedication displayed by the staffs. They have been well organized and efficiently run. I love orphanages. Every child deserves a place to call home and people who care about them.

Yet, I'm not sure how I feel about international adoption. For instance, is taking a child with special needs outside all they have every known (language, foods, culture) and expecting them to do well in another country the best thing for that child? Especially when many of these orphanages are already offering them one-on-one attention, physical and occupational therapy and peers who are just like them? Can they do that much better in a "developed" country with a foreign family? I wonder if the stress and trauma of change is necessary when they are being cared for and provided for in an orphanage. And what about older children who have already been through several formative development stages? Their ability to adapt and succeed is questionable. Why do we take them from their own concept of home? Why can't we entrust the orphanages and the country to provide training and resources so that when they are old enough to leave the orphanage they can be successful in their own culture?

My own sister was adopted internationally and I wouldn't trade her or our experience with her. But I have seen the struggle she's had with culture, attachment, and cognitive development among other things. I know she belongs with our family. But there are instances where I wonder if it is best for these children to be taken out of their country.

The orphanage Jen works at does half Ecuadorian adoptions and half international adoptions. The light skinned children without disabilities are usually adopted by Ecuadorian families while those with darker tones and/or disabilities are commonly adopted by families from the US, Canada, Sweden and Italy. I really like that Ecuadorians are adopting their own children. I think there needs to be a bigger push for this to happen with other countries and their orphaned children.

We went to one orphanage that has done a great job of being as self-sufficient as possible. Not only do they grown their own crops to be used as food for the orphanage but they also have several IGA (income generating activities) in operation. We got to see the guinea pig building. It was crawling with guinea pigs everywhere! Guinea pig is the national dish in Ecuador and it is eaten for special occasions. One guinea pig meal goes for around $20! This is a great IGA. I was very impressed.

And so, I continue to be shaped and challenged by the experiences I encounter. My world view is always expanding and my understandings and beliefs warp more and more. But really, the bottom line is that I must love all those I meet and hope I love them in the best ways possible.

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