Redefining our Labels

December 2, 2010 4:19 am Published by

I want to take a minute to describe something very important to me and I think something central to the JBFC model and what makes it so successful. I am going to start by talking about some of our issues with the word “orphanage” and “orphan”, primarily its usage to describe our girls. I think before I dive into this, however, I want to describe a conversation I had a while back with one of our girls, so as to paint a clearer picture. It started by me asking what her definition of the word orphan was, and what her feelings were associated with that word. Her definition were pretty much the same answer any one of us would give, but the “feeling behind the word” was incredibly touching, and helped me to see that we are doing a good job raising our girls. She expressed that the word orphan represents hopelessness and a life of poverty, something she herself does not associate with. Yes, they could have been thrown into that category if it wasn’t for JBFC, but because of this family (albeit non-traditional) had given them a second shot at life, they were filled with hope and had a life full of potential ahead of them. Therefore, even though they had unfortunate, and sometimes traumatic backgrounds, they are not orphans. They are simply children.

This brings me to the second point on the word “orphanage”, and how it is so often used to describe JBFC. Because of my background, and how JBFC started, it was often associated with traditional orphanages. Despite telling even close family members countless times about my views on the words and the inaccuracy of usage in describing JBFC with that word, it is relatable, and people understand and sympathize with the word. A traditional orphanage, in my opinion, is simply a place to care for and raise children. There are many wonderful organizations that do an incredible job raising and loving children as if they were their own (much like we do), but I have a firm belief that we cannot stop there, especially when you are working in developing countries. By simply stopping at raising, and possibly educating a child, you are missing huge potential, and will ultimately set a child up for failure once they leave the “orphanage” because there is no infrastructure, market, or support within their communities. You are taking a child out of a certain environment, raising them in a wonderful home for many years, then returning them to the same environment they came with. Hopefully, they will have the skills needed to survive in that environment, but surviving is not the same as thriving. That is where we differ at JBFC. We are working to change communities in order to truly and effectively change lives. Ultimately, we hope that our girls will become empowered, educated women who are change-makers in their own society.

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This post was written by Mainsprings