by Hanisha Besant // Originally Published on March 1, 2011
The current project that I am working on for RCE is on researching orphanage models that provide tools to help orphans survive the “after life” of being in an orphanage as a child. The project was inspired by a partnering organization that facilitates orphanages over-seas. Several disheartening reports from devoted employees at the orphanages were enough to indicate that the orphans seldom fare well when faced with the freedom of adulthood. In this case, the lack of emotional attachment and family support into adulthood seemed to be the root cause of the problem. So, plans are being made to develop an orphanage model which will help overcome these issues.
My journey into cyberspace with the intent of researching this subject was an interesting one. I came across a document which revealed the different types of orphanages that have existed throughout history. To my amusement, I discovered that the original use of the word asylum was for “a place of refuge” founded by hospitals to rear infants who were orphans. By the 19th and 20th centuries, an asylum became known as a place for the mentally challenged.
My readings then led me to an article about the Magdalene Sisters. These “orphanages” were designed for young girls who were promiscuous or had perceived character flaws and were an object of shame to their family. It seemed that the people in authority were given a mandate to break the spirit of the girls because of their perceived innate wickedness. The horror stories of the residents of these orphanages, and their survivors, were disturbing and left me sad for the rest of the day (no exaggeration). This was not the first time I had come across stories of the shameful ways in which orphans were treated throughout history, but the fact that these orphanages were designed on distorted religious doctrines grieved me deeply.
On a more relevant note, as my research became more fine-tuned, I discovered that there were orphanages scattered across Africa which focused on helping orphans become self-sufficient. This was a breath of fresh air to my soul! These orphanages focused of providing skill sets and lifelong mentors/care givers to the orphans. I have not yet discovered the recorded success of these orphanages. My research thus continues…