By Scott Vair | President 2016-World-Orphans-T-Shirt-In February of 2010, following the tragic earthquake that left countless children orphaned, I led a research team to Haiti to hear firsthand what happened to children who lost their parents. We wanted to find out where the children were and what the local church was doing (or hoping to do) to help. We met with more than 100 pastors and church leaders. We expected to hear the children had been sent to orphanages. Instead, we learned that they were living with surviving relatives. Some were being cared for by a widowed parent, some by aunts and uncles, some by grannies, and some by neighbors. Churches were providing a variety of care. Some were providing clothes, some food, and some hoped to give scholarships for education when school resumed.

As a result, World Orphans made the philosophical and programmatic shift from group care to family-based care. Our goal is to strengthen families that have taken in orphaned children, keep them together, and prevent children from being abandoned at orphanages. We want to see children cared for wholistically (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) through the local church. We also agree with the overwhelming statistical information available today that affirms what we know to be true: children are best raised in families.

Last month the Christian Alliance for Orphans posted an article titled 7 Major Trends in the Christian Orphan Care Movement.

The first two trends listed were:

  • Increasing recognition that children need families
  • De-institutionalization

We find those trends both encouraging and affirming.

As we charge into 2016, we first pause to reflect, prioritize, strategize, plan, and set our course ahead.

We have much to celebrate relative to our Home Based Care (HBC) model. Families have stayed together, while children now have food, attend school, have access to medical care and trauma counseling, and most importantly are loved and discipled by local churches. We have expanded the program to Cambodia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Kenya.

Yet, there is still much to do.

We desire to see the vulnerable children and families in our program not only survive, but begin to thrive. We want to see single mothers/fathers, aunties, and grannies grow in their ability to love and care for their children, many of whom were previously orphaned.

Leadership development guru, Patrick Lencioni, writes in his book, The Advantage, that every organization needs a thematic goal - a single top priority within a given period of time (usually 4-12 months). It is a rallying point, a single area of focus around which there is no confusion or disagreement.

This year, our thematic goal is to Lay the Foundation for Economic Empowerment of Vulnerable Families.

For us, economic empowerment means building the capacity of women and men in our programs to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from economic opportunities in ways that:

  • Recognize the value of their contributions
  • Respect their dignity
  • Build stronger families
  • Improve the quality of life

In the year ahead, we will teach on the Biblical principles of financial stewardship. We will focus on creating discipleship groups and savings programs. We pray this will lead to opportunities for business training, microloans, vocational training, internships, and job placement.

Extreme poverty is a major contributor to the orphan crisis and destruction of families around the world. Economic empowerment of these families will take time, will not be easy, and will be a bumpy road. But, this is a critical piece to family-based care, and stronger families will lead to stronger churches, which will lead to stronger communities.

Economic Empowerment of Vulnerable Families

Stronger Families = Stronger Churches = Stronger Communities

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