Article written by Jenni Ramsey, Orphan Outreach Director for All Blessings Intl.
Our son Aidan recently brought home a Scholastic News magazine with an adorable cover photo of an orphaned baby orangutan. As Aidan and I read the article on the orangutans together, I was amazed at the level of care that these orphaned orangutans receive at The Nyaru Menteng Center in Indonesia (home to more than 600 orangutans). The little cuties receive "life and survival skills," including how to swing from trees and how to flee poisonous snakes. The babies live in a nursery with "human baby-sitters" who provide 24 hour care. The following is a quote from the magazine:
"At night, the babies are tucked into laundry baskets filled with blankets and pillows. The baby-sitters sleep nearby or snuggle up next to them, just like the babies' orangutan moms used to do. When the apes get older, they go to Forest School. They are taught how to climb trees, build nests, and find food. Orangutans usually learn these things from their moms. But these orangutans have lost their mothers. Most of the orangutans graduate when they turn 6. Then they're released into a protected part of the jungle. They have a right to live in the wild and to live healthy and free, says orangutan expert Michelle Desilets."
Wow! I was shocked to discover that these orangutans have humans caregivers who actually cuddle and sleep next to them. Incredible. Upon further investigation (through the website), I discovered that the orangutans have been gifted with iPads to help increase their knowledge and creativity. Now don't get me wrong. I think these little guys are adorable. However, after serving in six orphanages in Guatemala and El Salvador, I must question why baby orangutans are receiving greater care than baby humans. I applaud The Nyaru Menteng Center for their stunning level of care and commitment to these creatures. But this article left me baffled. There are an estimated 147 million orphans in the world. To my knowledge, there are very few orphanages which provide this level of care for their children. And that should disturb each of us deeply.
Is it possible that we can learn some lessons from The Nyaru Menteng Center in Indonesia? There are many complicated issues which must be accounted for in this discussion. Most orphans around the world are orphaned due to poverty, abuse or AIDS/HIV. Most orphanages simply lack the financial resources to provide the level of care given to these outrageously lucky baby orangutans. But this simply should not be. The orphan crisis is an international crisis. Orphaned children demand our love, compassion and urgency. They deserve a GREATER level of care than these animals. And we can do something about it. Some of us can adopt or foster children. Some can not. But we can each do something.
How can you change the orphan crisis? You can give financially. You can support an orphanage. You can sponsor a child or visit orphans on an orphan outreach trip. You can use your educational or business skills to train foster children or prepare children in orphanages with life and job skills. You can contact your government leaders to express your concerns about the international orphan crisis and how UNICEF is causing many international adoption programs to close. Get involved. Do something. What would you do if your child was stuck in foster care or in an impoverished orphanage? Millions of children are stuck today and they need your help.
“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” ― William Wilberforce (British politician, philanthropist and leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade)
*Comment on the orphanage photo above... I found this photo on the internet and it reminded me of how some children in El Salvador sleep on the cold, concrete floors due to heat. Last summer our El Salvador team purchased and installed fans in the government orphanage nursery, which was extremely hot due to no ventilation. No child should sleep this way.