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August 20, 2019
What in the actual world? Growing up in the Bible Belt, I had heard the word “orphan” all my life. I had been instructed that we were to care for them with our Christmas offerings, to stuff shoeboxes with toys, and to bring our loose change to VBS to support missionaries that were helping orphans around the world. It felt like we had a plan to bring change for orphans. Right?
But then Haiti.
I traveled there for the first time in 2012 and my heart was broken. For so many reasons. But especially because I heard story after story of children who had family – many of them, their actual parents – living nearby but because their parents had been unable provide basic necessities for them, these children had been surrendered to orphanages (or other vulnerable situations!). These parents felt so much hopelessness for their future than an orphanage seemed the only option. It felt unimaginable. Unthinkable. And most of all, overwhelming.
Like many others traveling to resource-limited areas of the world for the first time, I returned home resolved to save the world, but completely uninformed about how to go about it. I knew adoption felt like a logical step for our family after what I had experienced in Haiti, and it wasn’t long before we submitted the first of MANY pieces of paper to initiate that process. And while this would certainly change the world for one, it didn’t feel like “enough” in the face of what I was learning about the global orphan crisis.
I quickly learned that adoption, child sponsorship, and even financially supporting orphanages and missionaries were all important to helping impact a child’s immediate situation, but the most sustainable solution for family preservation is JOB CREATION. For parents, they need opportunities to earn a consistent income. Not the opportunities that result in sweat shops or forced labor situations, but ethical, fair trade employment opportunities. This is a must for family preservation.
This realization changed A LOT about the way I purchased, and specifically, how I purchased foreign-made goods. I began to learn more about fair trade and artisan co-ops and ethically sourced materials. I traveled to other countries where I saw the impact of ethical job creation: empowered men and women with HOPES and DREAMS for their families – just like the ones I have for my family. Dreams that involve providing not just the basic necessities, but dreams of real opportunities to flourish and grow and for those kids to have dreams, too!
Although our adoption journey started in Haiti and has now taken us completely around the world to India, our family continues to learn how we can make choices to help preserve families around the world. We’re looking more closely at food labels. We try to choose apparel, accessories, and home goods that provide fair trade certified wages and ensure ethical working environments for the people who made the items. We’re not 100% fair trade in our home (yet!), but we’re making better decisions. We want to do our part to make sure that there are fewer and fewer economic orphans around the globe!
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