How to Help Orphans Without Hurting Them (Part 3)

Posted by Natul Middlebrook on

Five Practical Ways to Help Orphans: 

Okay, so now that you know the problems we face in cross-cultural orphan care and are better informed about the different approaches--let’s see how you can jump into this journey in a practical way.

1. Support Fair Trade

Think about it. When you buy Fair Trade coffee, you empower a coffee farmer to put food on the table. Why? Because he gets paid a fair wage for his harvest.

The basket-weaving mama can afford to send her littles to school when you buy her hand-weaved artisan baskets.

The young man who made your necklace stops the cycle of poverty by choosing honest work rather than life on the streets.

Job creation IS orphan prevention and the HUGG Mission Market provides a space for your purchasing dollars to have this kind of impact.

It is a well-established fact that 80% of children in orphanages have at least one living parent. Imagine how many children will never have to step foot into an orphanage IF more of us choose to buy ethically-sourced products like coffee, clothes, jewelry and home accessories.

While I recognize that this isn’t the only solution to the current orphan crisis--Fair Trade is critical in places where talented people lack access to the marketplace.

2.Say “No” to Orphan Tourism

Let me ask you a blunt question: Is there anything, besides money, that you can offer a child in an orphanage that a local person could not provide?

If your answer is “no”, then you probably shouldn’t be visiting an orphanage. Wouldn’t it make sense to provide funding & training to trusted local churches so that they can send their people to provide mentoring, care, and special activities for children in their community? They won’t be there for a week and then leave--they can provide long-term support rooted in a shared culture.

If your answer is “yes”, then I hope you are a physician, nurse, physical therapist, special education expert, a teacher… other words--you have specific training that provides a valuable service to the children you are serving.

Coming to orphanages to “love on children” unnecessarily exposes little people with past traumas to temporary relationships that could hurt them. I know this because I have inadvertently contributed to this unhealthy behavior.

And NEWS FLASH--not every visitor that travels to developing countries comes with goodwill. Human trafficking and sexual exploitation run rampant among aging out orphans in every country and continually exposing this vulnerable group to strangers in the form of voluntourism sets them up for failure.

ANY organization that is painting a picture of you holding orphans and loving on them is probably guilty of hurting more than they are helping. If you are still not convinced--let me ask you this:

If your young child were in an orphanage, (remember 80% have parents) how would you feel knowing that a different group of people was holding her almost every week? Would you want her exposed to that? Or would you want her connected to a few caregivers who genuinely know her for who she is--not just for being “an orphan”? Hopefully, this reframes your approach.

3.Say “Yes” to Organizations that Fight to Protect Children Without Exploiting Them 

While this may seem like a no-brainer--let me tell you, it’s not. Every non-profit leader that works with children has to decide early on how much he is going to expose their clients for marketing purposes and securing donation dollars. Sometimes it’s difficult to set healthy boundaries for them when the needs are great and the donors are few.

But there are ways to promote good work without sacrificing the safety and dignity of the people we serve. It requires sacrifice, steadfastness, prayer, and lots and lots of love.

As someone who has served on mission boards, founded an orphan care ministry, fostered and adopted and presently serves in orphan prevention work --I’ve come to identify and recognize the people who are doing the best they can to serve vulnerable young persons in the most dignified way.

These are just a few that work cross-culturally and I’ve included links so you can check them out: 

1. Grangou 

We partnered with Grangou because of one’s couple commitment to care for children, mostly boys, who were living on the streets of Haiti. Mike and Carrie Gibson are a normal, working couple in the States who happen to care for 70 vulnerable children in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. It was Carrie that explained to me why they only brought in the same teams a couple of times of year and why it’s important to limit the children’s exposure to visitors.

Ironically, it is their staunch commitment to protecting these children that makes raising awareness of their work so challenging. Mike and Carrie both have busy careers, five children and yet for the past 9 years they have sacrificially given of their time, resources and hearts to give these abandoned kids a fighting chance. If there is a chance for these kids to be reunited with their families--you better believe Mike and Carrie want to be part of that. Carrie will be sharing a guest blog on how YOU can support Travay Bondye and their efforts to raise strong children.

2. Beauty Out of Ashes

Gary and Mavis Unger, Founders of BOA Haiti, moved to Haiti for one girl. A girl they were determined to adopt but through obstacles and forks in the road--God led them to becoming the parents of 12 more girls rescued from a life of slavery. To learn more about this child-slavery practice in Haiti--check out their story.

3. Rescue Hope

Micah Tomlinson left his successful medical practice to bring medical care to those that lacked access to healthcare. He and his wife, Diana, now serve in 3 countries, which includes a children’s home in Kenya. Their humility and positive attitude is inspiring and I personally have seen the sacrifices they have made to pursue this work.  


KOFAEL is run by friends and colleagues, Osier and Julienne Frantz. Their desire is to create more options; not more orphans and they do this by walking alongside vulnerable women through micro-loans. Programs like theirs are KEY if we are going to work together to keep those families that CAN stay together, together. Without Julienne and Frantz, HandUp would have never gotten off the ground in Haiti and I know, firsthand, their steadfast commitment to their people.

4. Empower & Equip the Men

“One day the forgotten generation of orphaned young men shall be equipped to lead their communities for the glory of God.” THIS is the vision and the reason we specifically target young men. But as I mentioned in the FIRST of this blog series--we need to continue to equip local leaders to provide mentoring and skills when the boys are younger and more receptive to change. Be sure to sign up for our emails to learn about upcoming changes in an effort to do just that.

5. Share this Series with Your Church Leaders

As you’ve read, we are under-utilizing the power of the local church to bring help to children and families in their communities. I believe we can better answer the call to missions by working with sister churches in under-resourced communities to meet the needs of orphans and widows. So how do we find those churches? Well, friend--this blog is too long already so saving this and more info. for future posts. 

Sharing this information is the first step to starting an HONEST dialogue based on faith and research rather than just on feelings. Email me for questions and concerns and I’ll do my best to answer or point you to someone that can.

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  • So good, Natul! Thank you for sharing your heart. This has really given me a better understanding. Love you

    Stacey on

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