Caring for at-risk children in a pandemic: Beyond the Orphanage answers the call

We've got an update on one of our favourite charities, Beyond the Orphanage. They're working hard to make sure vulnerable children in Nepal and Kenya are getting the support they need to stay healthy and safe during this pandemic.

Doug Pohl·

A group of children standing in front of a wall

Since our founding, Cliniko has always been committed to the idea that our business should be about more than just profits. We want our work to have a tangible positive impact on the world.

That's why we donate at least 2% of every subscription to effective not-for-profits who share our view of a better world and work hard to make it happen. We believe in their efforts and their abilities to spread some goodness where it's needed most.

Our favourite charity and the one that receives the bulk of our donations is Beyond the Orphanage (BTO). Their operations team is small and lean, which means nearly 100% of donated funds are spent in direct support of at-risk and abandoned children in some of the poorest parts of the world.

And as a Cliniko subscriber, your subscription payments help these children, and we feel it's important to keep you updated on how the kids are doing and what the organisation is working to accomplish.

Back in April, we shared an update on how the BTO kids in Nepal and Kenya were affected by the initial lockdown precautions in the early days of the pandemic. And now it's time to see how BTO and the children have adapted to the shifting challenges.

Keeping children safe

BTO's operational structure is focused on holistic growth for local organisations. In-country partners receive training, support, and funding from BTO that is carefully targeted toward the needs of the children in their care.

According to one of BTO's recent blog posts, 'this best practice model empowers local not-for-profits and organisations to deliver culturally appropriate services and care to the children they support, while also creating opportunities for employment and skill development for our partners'.

As a condition of funding, partner programs are required to adhere to BTO's child protection policy which is firmly consistent with child welfare laws in Australia and the US. And BTO supports their efforts with child protection training to ensure the programs can effectively implement the policy.

The pandemic and the lockdown efforts to slow the virus have presented new and difficult circumstances for partner organisations, and BTO has risen to the challenge to make sure every child is cared for. Some of these new challenges include:

  • Some programs are understaffed due to lockdown requirements. How can children still get the protection they need?
  • With so many children having experienced horrific trauma early in their lives, how can partners support those who might be particularly prone to unusual reactive behaviours in a lockdown environment?
  • How can partners maintain safety as the highest priority when there's a lack of basic necessities like food, clean water, and increasing civil unrest?

BTO's Child Protection Committee (CPC) has played a critical role in providing the support the in-country partners need to address these new concerns. And with their insight into the local circumstances—as well as the generous donations made during the recent COVID-19 emergency appeal—the committee has been able to effectively distribute funds to make sure the children's most essential needs are met, like food, water, and medicine.

A boy and a woman sitting behind bags of rice, potatoes, and bottles of cooking oil.

Providing crucial support to children

Once BTO has committed to supporting a child, they continue to provide the necessary care no matter what. There's no turning back—not even during a pandemic.

Precautions against the virus have taken a heavy toll on developing countries, and with basic necessities in short supply, BTO has pivoted their efforts to make sure that no child slips through the cracks.

Nepal

In Nepal, many families earn their income through day labour. They get paid for their work at the end of each day and buy food on their way home. But during the lockdown, day labourers haven't been allowed to work, and many people have lost their only means of earning the money they need to feed their families.

The government has also stopped all nutritional supplement programs in an effort to help the economy recover from the impact of the lockdown, and now wide-spread malnutrition is a growing concern.

But, thanks to the contributions made to the COVID-19 Emergency Child Safety Appeal, BTO and their partners have been able to adapt their support by distributing food, water, cooking oil, and rent subsidies to the children in their care and their families. They've also been providing face masks, soap, and hand sanitiser along with hygiene education.

Kenya

With the number of cases trending upward, the Kenyan government decided to extend the lockdown and keep schools closed until January 2021. Boarding schools are the only home many children have. So if schools are shut down, these kids have nowhere else to go but the streets.

Thankfully, BTO and their partner organisation in Nairobi has found host families for all the children in their care, and they're even working to find safe homes for kids who aren't yet officially part of the program.

They've also begun helping the children to start their own businesses by teaching them to grow vegetables and raise livestock to sell. This gives them a way to earn money during a time when joblessness is rampant, and it keeps the kids occupied and out of trouble each day.

Loving homes for at-risk children

BTO is committed to finding safe, loving homes for kids who need it most. These at-risk children are often found living on the streets, in illegal orphanages, or in forced labour conditions.

Sano Paila, one of the partner organisations in Nepal, rescues these children and attempts to find their biological families. But that's a tough challenge, to say the least, and they're not always successful. So when their family can't be found, the children are placed in a home with other kids from similar backgrounds.

These homes are carefully designed and operated to provide the children with the genuine love and support of a family. The number of kids per home is intentionally kept small, and all the children receive psychological counselling, medical care, and educational support.

This all works to give them the foundation they need to blossom into capable thriving adults. And many children go on to build successful careers and raise families of their own.

A woman and girl hugging each other and smiling

Each of these homes is run by a dedicated, trained housemother who receives ongoing support to help care for the children and keep them safe.

As you may know (or can imagine), being responsible for a group of kids is a tough task even under ideal conditions. But during a pandemic? That's a different challenge entirely. Somehow, though, these housemothers have managed to keep it all together, and the kids are doing great.

One housemother, Anu, looks after twelve children (ages 7-12) and says, 'The hardest part is how to make them busy every day—especially the older children who have become bored staying indoors for such a long period'. But she manages to keep them all occupied with games, crafts, and household chores.

At another home, housemothers Sita and Lalita care for nine children (ages 3-12). It's a little different for them since some of the kids are quite a bit younger (which means there's no shortage of bickering), and that can be stressful at times. But Sita says, 'they make us happy by doing comedy and showing their love'.

How can you help?

BTO has been dedicated to helping some of the world's most vulnerable children for over 13 years. They have the experience and the infrastructure to make a life-changing impact on those who need it most, and it's all made possible through donations.

Of course, you're already contributing to their efforts through your Cliniko subscription. But if you'd like to make a direct donation, please take a moment to visit BTO's donation page.

Author information

Doug is our in-house writer. When he's not banging on the keyboard, you'll probably find him listening to old Willie Nelson records or chasing chipmunks on a mountain trail.

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