In Myanmar, status amongst local Christian pastors is strongly linked to achieving the trifecta of running a church, Bible school and orphanage. Many pastors recruit children from families in impoverished ethnic minority communities into their orphanages for the purpose of soliciting overseas donations which are then used to fund their other ministries. Others believe that placing children in their orphanages guarantees the best outcomes for their education, future livelihood, spirituality and character, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
In either case, families that could be supported to care for their own children are instead pressured to send their children to live in orphanages many miles away. Separated from their families, communities, language and culture, many children fail to thrive in the orphanage environment where their needs cannot be met, and where they are often subject to neglect, abuse and exploitation.
In response, ACCIR established Kinnected Myanmar in 2015 to identify and work alongside orphanage directors and their key donors who might be open to transitioning out of the orphanage model into family and community-based care. The project has four main components:
1. A working group for orphanage directors aiming to help them understand the harmful effects of orphanage care, and to see that God designed for children to be raised in families;
2. A working group for donors designed to create a peer environment for orphanage supporters as they navigate the complex transition process away from orphanage care;
3. A technical unit of qualified and experienced social that facilitate the safe reintegration of children into their families through robust procedures; and
4. A community of practice for orphanage directors that have successfully moved away from orphanage care and are now working on community development and advocacy initiatives to prevent more children from entering into orphanage care.
Now registered as a local non-governmental organization and in partnership with the governmental Department of Social Welfare, Kinnected Myanmar works with multiple orphanages to reconnect children with their families, reintegrating them through comprehensive social work processes that focus on ensuring they are safe and sustainably supported.
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