Free To Shine believes very strongly that the best place for a child to grow up is with their families and the people who know them best. We also know that there will always be circumstances when a child is unable to live with their parents, either because their parents have died, or abandoned them, or gone away to work. Part of our role is to build strong support systems within the family and community so that when our girls are in these difficult situations, they’re able to remain living in their communities.
We address complex, ever-changing and often interlinked factors, such as poverty, illness, family violence and breakdown, addiction, unemployment, migration, and debt. Our team workshop every difficult situation to ensure we come up with the best plan for keeping girls with their families.
It seems obvious to ask, “Why not find an orphanage for these children?” Orphanages are often established with the best of intentions but quickly become businesses for the founders. Or they may – due to financial donations from generous and well-meaning individuals – be in a position to provide access to better education than the local village school, leading some families to place their children in an orphanage in the hope that their future opportunities will be improved. Many “graduate” the orphanage having lost their connections to their families and communities and having become institutionalised, which can lead to many other problems in adulthood such as increased rates of mental illness, an inability to form healthy adult relationships and parent their own children, and higher likelihood of becoming sex workers, engaging in criminal activity, and suicide. Except in extraordinary cases, family-based care is the model organisations and communities should be working toward, and Free To Shine is proud to be among those leading the way.