The importance of making a good diagnosis in orphan care
Many of us don’t stop and think to see if we are offering the right care to orphans. If a doctor gives the wrong medicine, it hurts the patient in at least two ways. 1) The disease goes untreated and gets worse. 2) The side effects of the medicine can harm the patient.
Making the right diagnosis is key to caring for orphans. True suffering orphans are not ‘normal’ children. They are not normal in the sense that they have a lot of psychological baggage that if ignored could harm them in the future. We cannot simply treat orphans the same way we will treat other children. If we have two children; one sick and one well. It will not be fair to treat both of them the same. Many orphans have been abused physically or mentally before we get to them. Just the mere fact of losing your parents is serious psychological trauma. To simply give them the medicine of hugs, love, food and clothing is not enough. It’s like a doctor giving cough syrup to every child that goes to his office with a cough without doing any tests to diagnose. Many diseases can cause cough in a child. Some of those are so bad they would kill the child. Other times, it’s just the cold.
To be effective in caring for orphans, it goes beyond knowing that they are orphans and giving them hugs. Some questions that must be asked and answered for every single child are:
Why is this child an orphan? The answer may be, the parents died from HIV.
Why did the parents die from HIV? It’s obvious that one or both of them were unfaithful and brought the virus into the family.
Why was one or both of them unfaithful? This is now getting to the root of the issue. Maybe the root of the issue is that one or both partners did not fear God to stay away from evil. If that person was a God fearing man or woman, he or she wouldn’t have cheated. If you don’t care about Christian values, then the answer may be that this parent didn’t wear condoms. Knowing the right answer will help you train the child in a way that they wouldn’t repeat the same error.
What can I do to this orphan to make sure he doesn’t repeat his parent’s mistake? This is so important because if we don’t identify this root and try to help the child avoid it, we can spend our entire lives caring for orphans only for them to also die of HIV. So if you are a Christian, your goal would be to raise this child in the fear of God. This is a key step because the children may be living in a culture that has a different worldview. If you ignore raising them in the fear of God, they could follow the path of their parents and die from HIV. In some cultures, people don’t believe that the HIV virus exists. They think it’s a ploy by westerners to stop them from enjoying a sexual life or having many children. They see family planning the same way. If you are not a Christian, then teaching the use of condoms to teenage orphans maybe something you need to do.
Another question is,
Why is this child needing to be in an orphanage? The answer is clear, there are no resources to care for the child. The problem is not simply that the parents died from HIV. If the parents had worked hard, became wealthy, kept an inheritance for their children, the children wouldn’t have to be in an orphanage even though the parents are dead. There are many wealthy people all over the world. If they die, their children would not have to be in an orphanage. So another problem that the parents might have had was that they didn’t manage the natural resources that God gave them well. Perhaps, somewhere along the line, there might be some problem that has kept them poor. They may have been lazy or uneducated or didn’t know how to manage their money well. They may have had some money but didn’t know how to invest it. Remember that there are stories of poor people becoming wealthy all over the world, even in the poorest communities. Many hardworking, creative people in poor communities become wealthy at the level of their community even when they were slaves before. They may not become like Bill Gates, but that is not the point. Your goal will be to raise the orphan in a way that he becomes hardworking, educated, financially savvy so that he doesn’t end up in the hole that the parents where.
This list of questions is not exhaustive at all. There are many things that work together to cause poverty. Asking questions like these and seeking answers helps us provide great care to orphans. After we have made the right diagnosis, we must decide the right medicine.
There are three big categories of ‘medicine’ to consider. The medicine will depend on the problem. Relief work, Rehabilitation, and Development. Each one of these is different. If we give relief where rehabilitation or development is needed, we may cause harm rather than good. In a future post, I will address each of these types of problems and how to solve them.