Written By Chika Ezeigbo
In places such as Nigeria, Uganda, and Nepal the access children have to resources such as education, health and food can be little to none. As a result of this, children of these countries and countless others are put into orphanages either by force or with parental consent, under the proposition that their child will obtain a better education. Unfortunately these children are used as commodities or a selling point to people both abroad and locally, some given new names like the rebranding of a product. They are then placed into an illegal orphanage with appalling living conditions, all so that these individuals can get their money.
A False Name
Voluntourism programs fuel these orphanages, and are supported by uninformed individuals who will sometimes pay to go abroad and volunteer. Many of which may not know that it is illegal to volunteer on a tourist visa, put themselves at risk while maintaining a corrupt system. The owners of these illegal orphanages will sometimes use the name of a different charity with the proper credentials in order to obtain money from abroad.
This happened with a charity called The Rock of Joy Trust, a licensed charity based in Northwest Uganda. They had an unknown alias named Rock of Joy Children's Care, a Facebook group where there were regular updates on these children. They gave the impression that donors were giving to a noble and credible cause, but in reality were perpetuating a corrupt system. Evidently, the Rock of Joy Children's Care was fallaciously advertising as the Rock of Joy Trust Charity which had proper credentials and fooling volunteers and donors for personal benefits.
In countries like Nigeria, there has been a rise in paper orphans--children removed or kidnapped from their guardians with the use of coercion, force, and deception. Some of these paper orphans are recruited from baby factories involving the use of teenage and adult women to produce children. These illegal orphanages are operated by individuals or groups that sell these children at a very high price. The children are then used for anything, ranging from house maids to rituals. Paper and genuine orphans alike can be used for Orphanage Tourism which involves groups of people like philanthropist and religious groups visiting and donating money. The owners of these orphanages' main purpose is not to provide the children they are trafficking and using with support, but to use them for their own personal gain and profit.
Source: ABC NEWS
In Nepal, 8/10 children in orphanages have at least one living parent. This was the case for a little girl named Devi, who was given away by her mother Kalawati, under the pretense that her daughter would be provided with a better education. However, instead of being presented with the opportunity for a better future, she and 8 other children fell victim to the institution. They were left to fend for themselves because their orphanage manager failed to secure sponsorship's. These children were often ill and hungry.
Devi had a long year away from her mother, but in time, she and the other children with her were eventually discovered by an aid organization called Forget Me Not. Their mission is to reunite paper orphans with their families, by first placing the children in a transit home. Forget Me Not worked with the Himalayan Innovative Society to deliver the children back to their homes safely. When Devi and Kalawati reunite, they are met with happiness, frustration, and regret. Their relationship is not the same, but they walk toward a familiar path, home.
Making an impact
A major way that you can prevent the continuation of these systems is just by researching more about the orphanages or organizations you may be giving to. By doing this you don't just help give to actual orphanages, but you also have the peace of mind that you are giving to a cause that is directly helping those in need.
I talked to Katie Yuan, who is the outreach director at Paper Bridges. The way that Paper Bridges connects with the orphanages they partner with is by going through databases or listings, and reaching out to nonprofits with existing orphanage and foster care networks. To make sure that the organization is active they will look into their websites, social media, and updates.They will also get in contact with the organizations they are looking into and explain what Paper Bridges does while also providing time for the organization to explain what they do. Paper Bridges' goal is to provide emotional support and care packages to orphanages across the world. If you would like to support their mission you can donate and/or write to an orphan at paper-bridges.org.