Of all the many suffering people in the world, there are none more helpless than the children. Children often suffer the brunt of hardship. They can’t protect themselves. They can’t strike out on their own. They are dependent on the care of their parents and guardians—people who love them and look out for them—but these guardians are in peril too. So many people are dying preventable deaths around the world—in wars, from drought or famine, and from disease. They are dying young, when they still have young families to support. They are leaving homeless, helpless kids to fend for themselves in an impossibly difficult world. Some of these kids will die. Some of them will join gangs of other homeless, parentless children. Some will suffer abuse and torment at the hands of adults. And some, the lucky few, will find their way to a well-run orphanage with the best interests of the children at heart.
Friends of the Orphans is “dedicated to improving the lives of orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children through the support of the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH, Spanish for ‘Our Little Brothers and Sisters’) network of orphanages in Latin America and the Caribbean.” This is a unique organization. They do not put children up for adoption. Instead, they raise them in a large extended family, making them feel at home, loved, and wanted. The children live in a “home,” a self-sustaining complex of living spaces, kitchens and dining halls, chapels, clinics, schools, workshops, and farms. Permanent staff members work with volunteers to keep the homes running. There are currently Friends of the Orphans/NPH homes in nine countries.
I have never read about an orphanage system quite like this one. These kids are taught to live communally. They help out with cooking and cleaning. They learn about growing food and about caring for each other. They are also given educational opportunities. They can learn trades like carpentry and welding alongside their more traditional academic studies.
Friends of the Orphans is a non-profit organization supported by donations. Before coming to their homes, many of these children lived in dangerous and unsanitary conditions, suffered abuse, lacked access to medical care, dental care, and proper nutrition, and had to beg and scavenge to survive. No child should have to live like that. Friends of the Orphans is always looking for caring, committed volunteers. International volunteers must go through a screening process and must make a one year minimum commitment. If you are unable to volunteer, consider sponsoring a child through the Friends of the Orphans online program.