International (MNN) — War, disease, and the mass migration of people are some of today’s most prominent issues.
There’s another problem that’s less noticed, but just as serious: the orphan crisis.
According to UNICEF, there are an estimated 153 million orphans–children who have lost at least one parent–in the world. Approximately 13 million of them have lost both parents.
And there’s no sign of this situation improving.
“Due to war and poverty, and sometimes it’s weather or lack of rain or too much rain, the number of orphans and vulnerable children is increasing every day,” says Bill Blacquiere, president and CEO of Bethany Christian Services, a Christian foster care, adoption, and pregnancy resource agency.
What’s worse is that many governments aren’t doing much to help. Many countries have barely enough resources to care for influxes of refugees, so there’s not much they’re doing for orphans.
“Many times,governments are not prioritizing the needs of children, and they do not have the infrastructure in place, or they haven’t committed the funds in place to make sure orphan children have adequate care,” Blacquiere says. “They cannot monitor all the children in orphanages.
“I talked to a government official once who said, ‘In my region of the country’ (which was probably 25% of the country), ‘I have 40 orphanages I’m responsible for. And I don’t even have the staff to visit those orphanages.”
Stories like that make the situation seem hopeless. But, just because the government isn’t making a difference doesn’t mean no one is. It isn’t easy, but Bethany is working to place as many needy children as possible in loving families.
“In Ethiopia, we have a foster-to-adoption program, and we have now placed over 109 children with loving, Christian Ethiopian families,” Blacquiere says. “For the most part, the government is aware of that, because we always want to make them aware and encourage them to set the right policies; but [the program is] pretty much is done by donations by families in the U.S. along with foundation support.”
You can help by giving financially to Bethany, or you can raise awareness yourself. November 8 is Orphan Sunday, which means tens of thousands of churches around the world will dedicate a day to praying and raising awareness for millions of suffering children. And even if you aren’t in a position to adopt, there are still ways you can make a difference.
“We’re working with over 3,000 children in Ethiopia, where we’re helping to keep them with their families; and some of that is done by sponsorship,” Blacquiere says. “So a family here in the United States or some other country is providing a sponsorship to a family in Ethiopia or another country, and that empowers that family to send their child to school, to help provide food and clothing.”
When you work with Bethany to either adopt, foster, or sponsor a child or family, you’re doing more than just meeting their physical needs. You’re opening doors for the Gospel.
“In Ethiopia, as an example, we are working with over 50 churches; and from those churches, we are recruiting foster and adoptive families,” Blacquiere says. “The church then also sees the needs of the community around them, and they are starting other programs.”
Does this sound like something you want to get involved in? You can hold an Orphan Sunday at your own church. And, it doesn’t have to be this Sunday.