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Help Orphans and Abandoned Children

by Jamie Littlefield
The Challenge

Orphans and abandoned children are in desperate need of care. It's estimated there are 153 million children in the world who have lost one or both of their parents. Some parents are unable to care for their children or are pressured by government regulations to abandon their offspring.

With no one to provide shelter or care, orphaned children are often left to wander the streets and scavenge for food. The lucky ones will be admitted to local orphanages — modest buildings often suffering from understaffing and disrepair. Many of these orphaned and abandoned children become undernourished and will not receive an education. They will grow up without ever feeling loved.

Babies sent to orphanages at a young age are in danger of acquiring developmental problems. In order to develop normally, young children need regular interaction with other people. Most children learn how to talk and walk by playing with their parents. However, orphanages often lack the resources to give children a normal childhood. Orphaned babies may lie alone in a crib without being spoken to or played with for days. Toddlers may be strapped in to chairs and left alone for hours. Without interaction during this critical period, many orphans never learn to talk, walk, or interact with other people. Most of these neglected orphans will never be adopted — instead, they are destined to live their adult lives alone in mental asylums.

Older abandoned children that are not admitted to orphanages live desperate lives on the streets. Abandoned children beg or steal food and find shelter wherever they can. Police often view street orphans as a menace to the community rather than minors that need their protection.

Orphans and abandoned children in developing nations often have no one to advocate for them. They are regularly abused physically and sexually, with little hope of recourse. Many street orphans will grow-up to lives of prostitution or imprisonment.

You can make a difference by spending your next vacation helping orphaned and abandoned children. Play with children in orphanages, teach street children, and have an experience you'll never forget.

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Several volunteer vacation programs arrange trips to help abandoned and orphaned children. Consider one of these organizations:

  • Global Volunteers provides on-site support and training at orphanages in Ecuador, Peru, and Romania. Volunteers play games with orphans, teach English, and help children practice music, dance, and art. Many of these programs give volunteers the opportunity to work specifically with disabled children in orphanages.
  • African Impact volunteers help abandoned street children in South Africa, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. Volunteers play with the children, distribute food and clothing, develop caring relationships, and help prepare students to begin attending school.
  • Volunteer for the Visayans organizes volunteer vacations to orphanages in the Philippines. Volunteers tutor children, organize activities, and do basic chores. They may also teach street children. The minimum stay is two weeks.
  • The Institute for Field Research Expeditions sends volunteers to help orphaned children in Costa Rica. Volunteers live with a local family and work at the community orphanage. They teach English, play games, and help children with their homework.
  • i-to-i volunteers in Mombasa, Kenya, help the more than 30,000 street children. During your minimum two-week stay you can help teach English, play with the children, teach them life skills, and take them on outings. Dormitory or homestay plus two meals a day are included.
  • Cultural Embrace has opportunities in Thailand and Cambodia for those who want to work in an orphanage. A two-week stay is required with the first week being orientation. Accommodations are shared with either a local family or a hostel.  
  • United Planet has opportunities for volunteers in orphanages in Romania, Costa Rica, Peru, and Ghana. 

Whatever program you choose, know that you can make a lasting difference in the lives of orphans and abandoned children. By showing them that someone cares, you'll renew their hope and help them smile again.

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