One notable trend affecting the world wide church is the plight of Orphaned and Vulnerable Children, populating much of the developing world, with large concentrations on the Asian and African continents. This research paper attempts to provide some detail regarding how vast this problem is and what some experts in the field have to say concerning this issue, and finally taking a look at one secular organization’s model which offers and excellent pattern for addressing this issue. Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC), deserve the attention, love and support of the worldwide church, and their plight offers a strategic means by which the church can carry out its mandate to make disciples.
The state of today’s children
In a 2006 radio broadcast on “Family Life Today,” the speaker estimated that nearly 143 million children across the globe are orphaned.” The speaker went on to say that “these aren’t just faceless numbers, these are children in need, children who long to be held…loved…and desperately want a place to call home.” Additionally, many children who are not orphaned are subject to life altering risk and dangers; in a presentation by Anne Kielland of the world bank; she estimates that nearly 60 million children are subjected to one or more of the below listed categories: -Being affected by HIV/AIDS;
-Living in and of the street
-Affected by armed conflict
-Living with disabilities or chronic illnesses
-Exposed to a hazardous form of child labor
Several Nongovernmental Organizations (NGO) have been researching the crisis surrounding HIV/AIDS for some time now, their findings associated with the children left in the aftermath of this horrendous disease is staggering. According to a UNICEF report, “The HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa has already orphaned a generation of children—and now seems set to orphan generations more. Today, over 11 million children under the age of 15 living in sub-Saharan Africa have been robbed of one or the both parents by HIV/AIDS. Seven years from now, the number is expected to have grown to 20 million. At that point, anywhere from 15 to over 25 per cent of the children in a dozen sub-Saharan African countries will be orphans—the vast majority of them will have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS.” In the mist of this research, one startling discovery concerning the well being of children regardless of race or culture is beginning to surface; the importance and a healthy, loving and responsible family unit. According to researchers with UNICEF, “orphaned adolescents often lose one of the key protective factors associated with positive outcomes related to sexual behaviors, alcohol and tobacco use, and violence: being connected to parents or other family members.” UNICEF is acknowledging the importance of wholesome families in providing the key deterrents needed to curb sexual activity and violence in adolescences. According to congressional researchers, “children who have been orphaned by AIDS may be forced to leave school, engage in labor or prostitution, suffer from depression and anger, or engage in risky behavior like survival sex, making them vulnerable to contracting HIV.” This researcher continues by estimating that “over 40 million are currently living with HIV/AIDS, including nearly 3 million children under the age of 15. Ninety-five percent of those living with the virus reside in developing countries. In Africa, more than 7,000 young people are infected every day, 2,000 of whom are under the age of 15. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) have estimated that at the end of 2001, 13.4 million children under the age of 15 had lost one or both parents to AIDS, with the majority (82%) in sub-Saharan Africa.” To help make this painfully clear, one Washington researcher made the following point “two million children lost their...