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It is a wonderful thing to see one’s children growing up to become independent adults. I have four children and it has given me great pleasure to be able to declare them ‘fully processed’ making their own way into wider society.
Like the African proverb that says “it takes a village to raise a child”, the links with our wider family, church family, neighbours, friends and more have all contributed to developing the skills they need to navigate adult life.
Unfortunately, we know this process does not happen for all children and young people. There are at least 5.4 million children who still grow up in residential care institutions around the world, separated from their families, the community and wider society. Eight out of every ten have at least one living parent able to care for them with the right supports, and even more have close relatives who might be able to care for them.
Tearfund partner M’Lup Russey is transforming the way vulnerable children and young people are cared for in Cambodia. They are passionate about promoting alternatives to institutional care M’Lup Russey trains and works with foster carers, supports foster placements in families and reintegrate children from residential care institutions back into family and community.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
The challenges of getting ready to face the world for children in orphanage care
The M’Lup Russey team recognise that many young adults still living in Cambodian orphanages will soon ‘age out’. These young people express fears about leaving the orphanage, fears of joblessness, stigma, homeless and hunger. They fear they no longer have the skills to be part of the wider community.
There is good reason for these fears. Without careful preparation, young adults leaving orphanages in Cambodia struggle to fit back into community and family life. They are extremely vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and trafficking.
“Orphanages do not remove their vulnerability, but only delay it and in many cases, their vulnerability is increased because of their stay in the orphanage. “ Dr Sarah Chinn
To assist young people to ‘get ready to face the world’ M’Lup Russey run a network of youth clubs for prepare those leaving orphanages with life skills training, counselling, coaching and mentoring. The team also facilitate work experience placements to help young people begin an independent life in the wider community. The youth clubs are a place where young people with similar lived experiences can form supportive relationships that will hopefully endure into adult life.
Caption: Hong working on his computer. Credit: M'Lup Russey
This is Hony Bunly (21). Hony grew up in an orphanage. For Hony, interpersonal relationships and communication were challenging. He recently completed work experience and a course of training and mentoring with the M’Lup Russey youth support team. Hony is now in full time employment, living independently in the community.
Set aside time to pray for young people leaving care. Pray that they will have the supports they need as they ‘get ready to face the world’.