Thoughts on the “Orphan” Label

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I love the kids at the orphanage, and I love that it’s my job as a teacher to love 17 of them specifically. I love that we get to spend time and play and go on adventures and learn together, and more than anything else, I love the little pocket moments that I get with each of them individually.

I often think about why I have the class I do. I have this class because for one reason or another, each child was in a situation where their safety or care was not guaranteed. Maybe their biological parents couldn’t promise them a future full of provision and opportunity, one without violence or hunger. Or maybe their parents died, and they were in the care of another family member who couldn’t support their own children much less the children of a passed sibling. Or maybe they were abandoned, or found alone after the earthquake, or they were runaways. Something happened in their lives that brought them to where they are now: an orphan in an orphanage.

Over the last eight months, I’ve realized that I struggle with referring to the children in our orphanage as “orphans.” This isn’t because it’s a misnomer—they are orphans—but I feel like calling them that sticks a label on them that minimizes their individuality and sticks them in a box. I want visitors to the orphanage to know each of them like I know them, to find unique things about them and to love them for those things.

My kids are individuals. They are not simply orphans or children or Haitians. They have strengths and weaknesses. They excel in some school subjects and not in others. They change their minds about their favorite colors every single day, which is totally OK because they’re like 6 years old and they’re trying out new things and figuring out who they are and what they’re capable of and what’s available to them. I love to watch them play and imagine things and tell stories. When we’re not in school, I love to tell others about them and what they’re learning and how they’re progressing because I’m proud of them and I can’t imagine not knowing them.

They are SO MUCH MORE than orphans. They are children of God, as am I, as are you.

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