Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why Compassion Must Be Insightful, Responsible

Gina Dalfonzo over at BreakPoint links to a heartbreaking story of how gullible Christians in the U.S. are supporting crooks when they think they are supporting orphans in Haiti. Having seen many similar frauds in my travels to Belarus, India, Nigeria and other places (including, yes, right here in the USA), I appreciate the principles that motivate Megan Boudreaux's impassioned call for responsible compassion.

In Haiti, orphanages = business, children = money.

The template here for businesses -- I mean orphanages -- are the same.  ”Pastor” makes a quick round in a poor neighborhood in Haiti, advertises for a place for some children to live, grabs some children.  BOOM,  you’ve got yourself a business.

Then the second step is to reach out…to churches, organizations etc…you explain how many starving children you have at your orphanage, how they have been abandoned, orphaned, and you explain how you need help.  Then an [American] church comes to the sweeping rescue…hurries up, raises some money, collects donations…next thing you know they are on a plane to said orphanage ready to “SAVE” them.  They show up, look at all the poor, sick, orphaned children…hand out their clothes and food…and 5 days later they are back to their home country thinking about how much they have helped.

PLEASE see my heart in this and keep reading, I am not BASHING groups that support orphanages, I am not BASHING people who take their time and money to invest in children’s lives.  What I AM BASHING is people who think the solution is throwing some money quickly at an orphanage along with a few new pairs of underwear and shoes…and then leaving not knowing what the outcome will be for these children.

Here’s what happens…your group leaves.  Someone like me (who lives in Haiti) heads to said orphanage…discovers…clothes gone, shoes gone, 15 days of Food is already out after only 2 days.  Children have changed back into ragged clothes and are lethargic again because they’re starving.

Round 2: next church group comes in, not knowing about first church group…again, comes into the orphanage…does the same thing (handing out food, clothes, medicine- “saving” these children)…and the same thing happens (it’s all gone within a week of church/team leaving)...

Son of God orphanage was the ABSOLUTE worst, having at least 14 groups, organizations, churches supporting them over the 11 months that I was fighting for them to be closed.  I PRAY I never find a place that bad again…but sadly since that time that Son of God has closed, I have received TONS of emails, messages and phone calls regarding terrible orphanages in Haiti.  (If you work in Haiti and know of any PLEASE message me).  There is a list here in Haiti with more than 50 orphanages that have this “Business” so terribly perfected that these children are sold, hurting, missing and dying.  There are HUNDREDS of other orphanages that are hanging on, still covering their tracks, confusing people…and just WAITING for someone to yell about them...

I know that for some, this blog might be too much information, too many details, too uninteresting…but the truth of it is, in Haiti, and in MANY countries…children=money.  And this equation is not only resulting in Restaveks and child trafficking but it is messing with children’s health, minds and childhoods, And it is KILLING children.

Every time I think about people using children to milk organizations, churches or individuals for everything they can…I am infuriated.  It lights a fire in me that turns me into a mix between a bulldozer, a blow horn and an uninhibited boxer.

I have SEEN children die because of this type of “support”…I have seen children lose their childhood, their will to live, their belief in good or hope or Christ because of the way these orphanages are run.

Does this mean that NO ONE should support orphanages? No, not by any means…but what it means is TAKE the time, the understanding, the TRANSLATING (use people who you trust and REALLY know Haitian Creole) , to know for SURE where your money is going and if it is REALLY getting to these children.

Be part of the SOLUTION, NOT the Problem.  If you, your church, or an organization you know supports an orphanage in Haiti that you think is troubled, please email … as Respire Haiti partners with a few other organizations here in Haiti to begin BREAKING the cycle of organizations double, triple or even quadruple funding the same orphanage.  We are not saying these places should each have ONE organization and only one, we are saying that when we work as the BODY OF CHRIST, we are better able to holistically meet each child’s and orphanages need.  By identifying who is working in each orphanage we can encourage teamwork, accountability and not duplicate efforts!