Anthony’s* feet swung from the chair, hardly touching the floor. He was eager to talk and happily answered the government-appointed psychiatrist’s questions, unmindful that he was being evaluated. She asked him to draw a picture of where he lived and who lived with him. He drew a picture of his house with a mom and a dad and himself along with six children. The fact that the government considered him an “orphan” wasn’t apparent to him. In his mind, he had a family that loved him and his picture expressed that. This young boy was describing his home at La Providencia in Honduras.
In 2010, UNICEF estimated the orphan population in Honduras to be over 200,000 out of 8 million people. Many of these children are caught in a broken system because either there is no known family for them to go home to or they do not have a family who can properly care for them. To often, they cannot be adopted without a long legal process in which the Honduran government determines their legal status for adoption. La Providencia, a project of Providence World, is helping to provide an immediate and long-term solution for children in these situations by placing children in families with a Honduran mother and father who have made a lifelong commitment to care for them.
Anthony was describing something that the psychiatrist interviewing him had never seen. She said, “It was very strange to me. All of the other orphans I have asked that question to drew one child in front of a house or other structure. But the boy explained his picture saying, ‘I live there with my family. My mom and dad and brothers and sisters of course.’” The psychiatrist expressed how it made no sense to her that anyone would describe this child as an “orphan” and was amazed that a family-based model of care for orphans and at-risk children could actually look like this.
When Providence World’s President, Phil Darke, started working with orphaned and vulnerable children, he asked himself this question: “What does it look like to love these children with excellence?” In his book In Pursuit of Orphan Excellence: My Kids, Your Kids, Our Kids, Darke explains how to “love them with excellence” rooted within a family framework. It includes providing children with a high-level education, nutrition, medical and dental care, and psychosocial care, and cultivating national leadership, self-sustainability, and spiritual formation. This has become the framework for how they and families are caring for children at La Providencia.
Community integration is also an essential part of “loving children with excellence” by immersing them in their local community through education, local churches, and onsite and offsite activities. La Providencia provides education for the children living onsite along with those from the local community. They regularly attend local church services and activities like Vacation Bible School. Moreover, La Providencia engages the children with the community through soccer tournaments, clinics, and community projects, while hosting special events such as musicals, receptions, and weddings at their community center. This integration creates a sense of ownership in the local community and helps to ease the transition for kids when they graduate and leave their families.
The global needs of orphans and vulnerable children are immense, but Providence World is looking at how to provide an immediate solution for children who have no families to care for them, and counsel to the organizations seeking to care for these children. No solution is perfect, but when the aim of care is “excellence,” the impact will be children who, when drawing a picture of their “home,” will draw themselves in the middle of a loving family they call their own.