Over the summer, Restoration member Kevan Hayes spent 7 weeks traveling in Moldova, looking at ways to help the country’s many orphans. You can read Kevan’s report below. And come to church on Sunday, when we’ll hear more from Kevan about his trip and about how Restoration is making a difference in the lives of orphans in Moldova!
I have just returned from two months in Moldova, traveling the country and speaking with village church pastors, orphanage directors, and directors of non-profit organizations that are seeking to address the needs of orphaned children and children in at-risk families. I want to thank Restoration for its encouragement and support during this trip. It was certainly an educational experience that I will long remember.
First, let me tell you about how Restoration is serving to meet orphan issues in Modova.
As many of you know, Restoration directly partners with Jesus Savior church in the Moldovan village of Soldinesti (pronounced Sholdinyesht). This church runs a home for girls who graduate from the state-run orphanages after the ninth grade. Girls who have no family members to take care of them once they graduate are left to survive on their own and are at greater risk of human trafficking. The church’s pastor, Vasile, and his wife Lucia, take care of these girls in a boarding home behind their own house. Currently there are seven girls in the home, including Michalia, who is newly arrived. Vasile, Lucia, and their three daughters have taken these girls in as part of their family. These girls are getting attention, love, an education, and spiritual leadership that they would never get if forced to live in survival mode. The results are apparent in the quiet confidence they demonstrate and the hope and aspirations these girls have for their lives. Currently Restoration is helping to fund greenhouses that will provide fruits and vegetables for the home throughout the year and to sell in the local markets for additional financial support. Our church has also funded the construction of a tailoring shop, where the girls will learn a trade and earn wages, and the shop will also help support the transition home.
I also traveled throughout the country. My access to church pastors, heads of orphanages, and directors of non-profits gave me a comprehensive view of the varying opinions of the issues at-risk children face in Moldova and what should be done. Here is a summary of what I learned:
- Orphan numbers are decreasing while children-at-risk numbers are increasing. In response to European Union mandates, the Moldovan government has a goal of closing orphanages or reforming them into child placement centers by 2014. While the intentions are noble – a child better off in a family environment than in an orphanage environment – the government is often meeting this mandate by refusing to place new children an orphanage, thus reducing orphan numbers but not addressing the true needs of these children that are resigned to live in unloving and often neglectful or abusive conditions. As a result, the number of “orphans” is decreasing but the number of at-risk children is increasing.
- Many churches hold camps; few build enduring relationships. For the most part the Moldovan churches want to help meet the needs of orphans in their communities. But often their support is limited to summer camps and Bible studies. While this is important, relatively few were taking an active, relational role in the lives of orphans and at-risk kids. These children are desperately in need of life guidance to help them as they move from adolescence into adulthood, preparing to lead their own live, raise families, and pursue the skills, talents and desires that God has given them.
- There is a race to engage the local church. Orphanage directors spoke about the budget cuts they are experiencing and the concerns they have that children are left in or placed back into risky home situations. Orphan numbers in the orphanages I visited have dropped by one-third already in the past couple of years. With increased urgency, many NGOs are shifting their efforts away from investment into orphanage facilities and toward meeting the needs of at-risk children and child placement assistance. All of the NGOs (primarily Christian organizations) I spoke with see the local church as the appropriate implementer of their strategies — especially given their own resourcing constraints and the timelines they are working against.
- There’s a need for increased coordination and information. Although there is increasing awareness among NGOs that no single organization can meet the breadth of orphan needs, few are actively seeking partnerships with each other. Sadly, I heard often that this lack of partnership is due to constraints put on organizations by Western-based donors. Sharing information and coordinating resources will be increasingly critical as the number of at-risk children increases.