One of the cooperating organizations in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches is Asia’s Hope, an organization that provides family-based residential care for children at high risk of sexual and economic exploitation in Cambodia, Thailand, and India. From its beginnings in 2001, it now operates 23 homes, providing comprehensive care for about 600 kids and work with about 150 indigenous staff – moms and dads, teachers, nurses, cooks and administrators. A number of the homes are sponsored by Grace Brethren congregations.
Recently, Marla Taviano, a blogger from Columbus, Ohio, interviewed Asia’s Hope executive director John McCollum (and co-founder of the organization) about the ministry and how it came to be. She’s also leading a discussion about orphan care — the pros and the cons. It’s a multi-day post, so feel free to follow along. We’ve only included a portion of the interview here.Read the rest of the post here.
This provides some of the background to the conversation between blogger Marla Taviano and John McCollum, executive director of Asia’s Hope.
…I talked to John McCollum, Executive Director of Asia’s Hope, and asked him if he’d be willing to answer some questions and address some concerns about orphanages and if they’re really in the best interest of kiddos in Cambodia. He said absolutely. He also pointed me to another site that warns people of the dangers of Orphanage Tourism…
This begins the conversation between blogger Marla Taviano and John McCollum, executive director of Asia’s Hope, about orphan care around the world.
Question: “Three out of four children living in orphanages are not orphans – they still have at least one parent alive.” (I got this quote from the article I linked to in the first post.) Is this true of Asia’s Hope orphanages?
First of all, I think that we have to clarify what we mean when we say “orphan.” Colloquially, most people think of an orphan as a child whose mother and father have both died. For our purposes at Asia’s Hope, however, we define an orphan as any child who has no parents who can or will care for them. So, while we do prioritize for admission kids whose parents have both died, we also provide care for kids who may have, for instance, a mother who has died and a father who is in prison or who has abandoned them.
Just yesterday we admitted a sibling group – two boys and a little girl – whose father had committed suicide, and whose mother had abandoned them. The kids had no food, no access to healthcare, no shelter and no education. Neither the villagers nor their extended family could or would take them in. Do these kids fit the popular definition of orphans? Maybe not. But they fit ours. So, offhand, I can’t quote you stats on how many of the 600 kids in our care have one parent living, but I can say that we only admit children for whom no other credible options exist.
We wholeheartedly support the organizations out there that provide different kinds of care – village-level education, preventative and emergency health services for poor families, well-baby care, advocacy for safe and humane working conditions for destitute laborers – these are all essential! But for a small percentage of poor children – those who have no one else to care for them, especially those who are at high risk for sexual and economic exploitation – we provide essential, lifesaving help.
Learn more about the beginning days of Asia’s Hope, see Asia’s Hope Makes a Difference, published in the January/February 2008 FGBC World.