Cambodia: Orphans, more than a business
The Cambodian government has been seeking to regulate the system of orphanages in the country. A UNICEF study on orphanages found that 77% of children in orphanages were not orphans. In most cases, their parents agreed to send them to an orphanage because they were too poor to provide for their basic needs, mostly education and healthcare.
Criticism is beginning to be felt by Christians running many of the orphanages through the country. Many openly describe their work as ‘building the kingdom of God’. This is seen as exploitation of vulnerable children and families, and is catching the attention of the government and international agencies.
The need today is described as helping to reintegrate children into their families, and providing support to the families. However, with the number of orphanages continuing to increase, it seems some operators are disturbing the aims of reintegration.
There are still orphans who need care, and there are children who are victims of poverty. Providing the right sort of care in a new era in Cambodia is the challenge of the moment. Community based care and family support calls for a different response than that provided by orphanages.
Pray for the church in Cambodia to have a fresh vision of providing care and support in the community, for foreign donors to accept the changes and support new initiatives in the community, and for those who still need care and support to receive it appropriately.