By Tacy Layne | Writer/Editor Orphaned children haven't always been orphans.
Some of them have stories that look like this.
When she leaves them outside the front of the church, she doesn't cry. The two hour walk back to her own town will allow time for that, but for now, the children cannot see the tears. Perhaps she tells them this is temporary. Perhaps she tells them nothing at all. What is certain is that she leaves.
Rediet was 12 when she began her menstrual cycle and dropped out of school. She was confused and embarrassed about what was happening to her body. At 15 years old, Rediet had her first child, Yared. Two years later, she married her boyfriend, Dawit, and they quickly got pregnant with their daughter, Beza. Soon after Rediet learned she was pregnant, Dawit secured a new job, and they moved from their rural community to a bustling city that held promise . . . the promise of food on the table, and clothing and education for the children.
At 21, with two babies and a wife, Dawit snapped. He left. The pressure was too much.
Rediet was jobless with minimal education and little ones that needed food, clothing and schooling. She wanted to get a job, but didn't have work experience. Some places would still hire her, but she could not afford childcare. And they were hungry. And they were upset. And she needed to answer those cries, so she began walking one morning. One child was on her hip. The other was holding her hand.
Thus, as the sun rises on a beautiful November morning in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, two children - suddenly orphaned - sit on the front steps of a church.
This story is not unlike the stories of many other women. If we could go back in time, what could we change about this story?
What if it looked like this instead:
Rediet's mother took classes through a local church in the community, where she learned to save money, to read and write, and to properly care for her daughter. She taught Rediet how to take care of herself; therefore, when Rediet turned 12 and began her menstrual cycle, she understood what was happening to her body, and did not drop out of school. Instead, Rediet focused on her studies and graduated from senior secondary school. She began teaching after secondary school, and saving a little bit of money like her mother. At 20 years old, with a secure job and steady income, Rediet met the man she would one day marry.
They'll have children together, and be able to provide for the children with their two incomes in the house. The children will go to school when they're of the appropriate age. Rediet, a natural teacher and learner, will also take more classes at the local church. Money may not be abundant in their tiny home, but food will be on the table, the children will receive an education, and they will have clean clothes. Some money will be set aside for emergencies the family could encounter in the future.
This is what the story could look like. This is what the story is beginning to look like for mothers in Ethiopia.
The goal of orphan care should never be to only place children in homes after they've been orphaned. Wholistic orphan care should take measures that help prevent children from ever receiving the "orphan" label in the first place. It's not enough to ask where we should place orphaned children.
Through God's grace, we can. We can empower mothers through continuing education and training on proper care for themselves and their children. We can teach women how to save for their families' future. We can help them learn a trade.
Stronger Families = Stronger Churches = Stronger Communities.
Our work has already begun in Ethiopia. Won't you join us? Won't you help us change a child's life through empowering his mother? Won't you help us prevent that child from receiving the label "orphan"?
Until They All Have Homes