November 13 is Orphan Sunday. This is a day we are called to give a voice to the fatherless, to remind the world that there is a global crisis. It’s also a day to remind the church that God commands us to to look after orphans and widows in their distress. ~James 1:27
Here are a few facts:
- There are an estimated 150 million orphans worldwide.
- That doesn’t include 150 million street children, 1.2 million trafficked children and tens of thousands of child-soldiers.
- If all orphans formed their own country, it would be among the 10 largest nations in the world.
- HIV/AIDS alone has orphaned 15 million children in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Every 2.2 seconds a child loses a parent somewhere in the world.
- Every day 5,760 more children become orphans.
- 250,000 children are adopted annually, that’s less than 1%.
- 14,050,000 children still grow up as orphans and AGE OUT of the system—that’s one every 2 seconds. They often walk out the doors and are expected to find something to eat, find a place to live and find a job.
Those numbers can seem overwhelming. You might be asking yourself, “What can I do? I’m just one person.”
There are a number of practical things you can do, but one of the most positive things you can do is pray. Orphans are more vulnerable to suicide, slave labor, violence, homelessness, lack of education, health problems, alcohol and drug abuse, and sex slavery.
PROSTITUTION: In Russia, 60% of the girls are lured into prostitution. Brazil estimates there are 80,00 child prostitutes. During the ebola crisis, as health authorities concentrated on saving lives, children were lost in the shuffle. A charity director in West Africa warned that girl orphans were resorting to selling sex so that they could feed themselves.Those who run prostitution rings target orphaned girls, who are especially vulnerable due to their lack of options and lack of people who care what happens to them.
CRIME: Early crimes include the theft of food and clothing, or other items which can be sold or traded for food, clothing or other necessities. Older orphans in their early teenage years might resort to mugging and robbery to make ends meet. The National AIDS Coalition in South Africa argues that “Children orphaned by AIDS will have no role models in the future and they will resort to crime to survive.”
SLAVE LABOR: Many of these children accept job offers that ultimately result in their being sold as slaves. If they are abducted, there is no one to report them missing. In Ghana, most of the 500,000 child slaves harvesting cocoa are often orphaned or homeless. The children are forced to cut grass with a machete and frequently injure themselves in the process.
I’ll share more next week about the other risks to orphans. One practical thing you can do is to virtually adopt a “waiting child.” Visit sites that list “waiting children” and pick out a child as your own. Print off pictures. Tell everyone. Pray for this child daily, not just that he or she gets adopted, but for all these other challenges orphans face.
They are substantial, maybe even life-threatening.