As you may know, I’ve been in Ethiopia for the past week and a half working on renovating a bathroom inside an orphanage for our Beautiful Together non-profit. It has been an amazing experience so far, with our days filled with hard work of all kinds. I’ve been trying to update on my Facebook page, Twitter, and my Instagram feed, but Internet has been spotty at best! I wanted to give a small update on the blog and share another BIG project that I just got approval on and are working on in with every spare moment here.
I’m so excited to announce that I’ve gotten approval to photograph the children here separately and together for the purpose of creating a sturdy, moveable gallery of sorts throughout the orphanage.
I can’t tell you how much this means to me. As much as I would love, and as much as I hope for, each of these children to have a family, the reality is that most will spend their lives in this orphanage until they age out and have to leave. So the people they spend their childhood years with (and the truly caring volunteers who come through repeatedly) is, for all intents and purposes, their family.
It made me think of how one of the things I love most about portrait work is that when children see their family photographs on the wall in their home every day, there’s this constant reminder that they are loved and cared for by “their people”. So although my first hope, that they have their own family and live in their own family home, may not come to fruition for many of these children, my *other* hope is that this gallery here at the orphanage will serve to show them each and every day what they mean to each other and how they care for each other.
I am often asked what the barrier is between the children who wait for families and the families who would want and love and care for them. Why adoption can be more difficult than these children and families deserve. The truth is that it’s a frustrating combination of factors.
There are an estimated 150 million orphans worldwide, children who have no family due to disease, poverty, violence, grave misfortune, and more – and a large portion of them are “stuck” in orphanages. These children could join families – families who would deeply love and care for them – but they stay in institutions – some far, far worse than others – due to paperwork issues, politics, lack of documentation, investigations into regions or processes or programs or procedures, on and on and on. Factors that may have, at one time, been instituted to help protect children have, in actuality, left millions of them to spend their entire childhood in institutions. And “aging out” of orphanages just leaves them with less of a support structure than ever before.
But beyond the complicated specifics behind these worsening statistics is a crazy simple truth: Each and every child deserves a family.
And I truly feel that although they may not have a traditional family, they still have “their people”. That each child is talented and smart and crazy beautiful and care much and are cared for AND ARE WORTH SO MUCH VALUE, and that my hope is that they can see that in these images on the walls of the orphanage they live in each and every day.
We can do so much more for these children. While a heartening MANY work to change the current climate of adoption, we are trying to improve the quality of life for those children who wait. If you are interested in helping to make a difference here, please consider donating and/or joining our newsletter at BeautifulTogether.org to help fund or learn more about several new, very tangible projects we will be detailing out quite soon.