Kenya (MNN) — Orphans are one of the world’s most vulnerable populations. According to UNICEF estimates, the world holds over 150 million children who have lost at least one parent, and close to 18 million who’ve lost both.
Without the protection of parents or family, orphans are either left to fend for themselves or they’re placed in an institution. These children are especially vulnerable in Africa, where children often become head of the household around age 8 or 9.
Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for approximately 70% of the world’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, and in some sub-Saharan nations, the number of AIDS orphans exceeds 1 million. In the Global Slavery Index published earlier this month, half of the top 10 nations where slavery is most prevalent are African: Mauritania, Benin, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Gabon.
More than 40,000 children are victims of human trafficking in Benin, and around 14,000 kids are enslaved in Gambia. Their bonds take the form of domestic servitude, forced begging and prostitution, including child sex tourism.
Surrounded by a family, children become much less appealing to predators like traffickers or pimps. Bethany Christian Services and Buckner International are teaming up to host a conference in Kenya later this month promoting domestic adoption.
“We are hoping that it will inspire the Christian community in Kenya and other countries…to step up to care for orphans and vulnerable children,” says Bill Blacquiere, Bethany’s President and CEO. “It will be educational; it will be informative.”
In a first-of-its-kind event, Bethany and Buckner will introduce Christian communities to the possibility of orphan adoption on November 21 and 22. However, East African mindsets and cultural norms could present a challenge.
“Adoption is kind of foreign to a lot of people in [these] countries,” Blacquiere explains. “They did not grow up with the idea of ‘you adopt non-relatives into your family’.”
It was a difficult hurdle for Bethany to overcome when they began working in Ethiopia. Through a partnership with over 20 local pastors, Bethany offers a multitude of services.
“They said to us, ‘It took us 6 months to get a handle on [the thought] that we were adopted by God, and we should also adopt children who are non-relatives’,” Blacquiere recalls.
While you might not be able to go, Blacquiere says there are three things you can do.
First of all, pray Christian communities attending the conference to open their homes and hearts to orphans. Secondly, ask the Lord to give them understanding of adoption and His love for orphans.
“And third, if they would pray for governments,” requests Blacquiere, “that governments would be open to Christian organizations working with them to provide care for children.”