The project includes 18 newly trained ambassadors for children’s rights who want to create dialogue about orphanages. They have lectures and seminars at youth collections, in church services, in pensioners’ groups and in Erikshjälpen’s secondhand shops. The goal is to achieve an awareness so that people, when they want to give of their money, they should make it something that benefits children in the best way.
“We have noticed that it is easy to mobilise donors for orphanages, because it sounds so genuine and good. But orphanages are not a beautiful place,” says Bitte Arréhn, project manager at Erikshjälpen for the Orphanage Dialogue.
Research shows that a life in an institution, unrelated to family and family, gives children but for life. And in many countries, orphanages are lucrative deals where poor parents are tricked into selling their children, hoping to give them a better future. It is estimated that around 80% of all children living in orphanages have parents or close relatives. In order to spread knowledge and change the view of orphanages, Erikshjälpen, Svenska Alliansmissionen, SAM, and Evangelical Free Church, EFK, started the project Barnhemdialog, which is part of SMR’s information and communication program. Many of the target groups are older people who have given to orphanages for many years, as it has been a common way to help children. But there are also younger people, who think that orphanages are okay – abroad.
“When we talk about what the children’s lives and circumstances might look like, some people are shocked, others are offended and some want to deal with it immediately.”
In 2019, the UN adopted a resolution to prevent unnecessary integration of children into institutions. Erikshjälpen adopted a policy in 2004 not to support orphanages, nor did SAM and EFK support orphanages. Through the Orphanage Dialogue they show better ways to work, where children receive long-term education and where the whole family can be involved and supported. If there is not a family, the goal should be for the children to come to a family home.
– All children have the right to belonging, unconditional love and adults to connect with.
The Corona pandemic has caused many collections in which the ambassadors would have participated have been cancelled or postponed, but they are trying to spread the word through local radio, podcasts,social media and bitte Arréhn himself has appeared in a television broadcast. The project also produced documents to support congregations in how they can think about orphanages. They work with ward boards, missionary councils and sometimes entire congregations.
“The Convention on the Rights of the Child provides a good basis for how we should look at each other and each other’s children. It has almost all countries signed on! says Bitte Arréhn.
Read more about the Orphanage Dialogue: http://barnhemskollen.se/barnhemsdialogen/
Young podcast episode 12: Do you have orphanage check? https://podcasts.apple.com/se/podcast/ungagerad-podcast-avsnitt-12-har-du-barnhemskoll/id1481855740?i=1000469348392
On the UN resolution: https://bettercarenetwork.org/library/social-welfare-systems/child-care-and-protection-policies/key-recommendations-for-the-2019-unga-resolution-on-the-rights-of-the-child-with-a-focus-on-children
Feature about the Children’s Home Dialogue in TBN Nordic: https://www.tbnplay.se/godmorgon-1/videos/23-april-godmorgon
Erikshjälpen also collaborates with Childhood on the project From the Ashes in the Fire,which is about developing alternatives to orphanages.