Adopt villages, not pet children

From On Line Opinion
By Bashir Goth

The current celebrity craze for child adoption took me down memory lane. I happened to be in hospital in Hargeisa, today’s Somaliland, at a very young age for injuries I sustained after an air raid on our border village.

Being very young, about seven-years-old, and due to the lack of a vacant bed in the male wards, I was admitted to the female ward. One day, an American woman, a Peace Corps teacher, visited me. She was walking outside and she saw me from the window. She stopped and looked at me for a while. Then she entered the ward and asked permission from the staff nurse to talk to me. She sat next to me on the bed, held my right hand in both her hands and looked at me with eyes full of kindness, motherhood and inquisitiveness.

As I couldn’t speak English at the time, we communicated through natural ways: touches, looks and feelings. I somehow felt that this strange white woman sitting next to me and holding my hand was not a stranger at all. I felt as if I knew her forever. I felt completely comfortable in her presence and I was gripped by a strange sense of not only familiarity but love of motherhood.

After more than 40 years, I can still envision her face. I can see a woman in her late 20s, a little plump, with an angelic face, a shy look and a held back smile. She said few words to me and when I couldn’t respond, she called the staff nurse, Sakin Jirde, to translate for us. Sakin told me that the American lady whose name I never learned wanted to visit me everyday and teach me English. I accepted it immediately. Then she left me but not without a motherly stroke to my head.

As soon as she left me I felt loneliness. I looked at her as she departed and she glanced at me several times. For the next six months she came to see me almost every evening and taught me English. She brought me a book called Fifty Famous Fairy Tales, which is still in my possession. When the time of her departure became closer, she showed her interest to adopt me. She loved me so much she said and wanted to make me her son. I had also developed such great affection for her. A word was sent to my father and his answer came back with a simple “No”.

The American woman did not want to give up and she asked the hospital staff to convince my father that I would be given good medical treatment and a good education in America and that she would bring me to visit my family once every couple of years. But still my father’s answer was in the negative.

I loved my father, my mother, my siblings and my village Dilla, but if I had been given the choice that day I might have accepted to go with the American woman because we had a genuine feeling of mother-son relationship for each other and I had such a burning desire to learn English and speak as she did. We departed each other with broken hearts. When I was discharged from hospital and returned to our home, I couldn’t stop crying for a whole week.

Retrospectively looking at the event, I cannot but admire my father’s wisdom in following his parental inclination of no other love or material comfort ever equalling that of a father looking at his own child growing before his eyes and passing down to him his people’s culture and history. I wonder if my culture and my village would have a home in my heart if I were raised abroad.

I have related this story to show that there was a time when child adoption was a case of a strong and genuine feeling of motherhood that a stranger child had evoked in a woman’s heart. A feeling that grew bigger with time until it became impossible to deny.

This is contrary to what we see today with American celebrities who go on a spree of child shopping to Africa and other poor countries. It just hits them like that - to get a toy brother or a toy sister for their pampered children - and all it takes is to make a media-hyped trip to the open African market to view poor, naked children and select the best toy money can buy to satisfy their fantasy: just like they would hit the nearest boutique to satisfy their craving for the latest fashion accessory.

Just as the Europeans justified the scramble for Africa in the19th century and the slave trade before it as being the white man’s burden to civilise the “half-devil and half-child”, the celebrities of today justify their child poaching as being in the name of philanthropy and altruism: saving poor children from the heart of darkness and bringing them to the world of light.

Anyone who thinks my argument is unfair or hostile would have to convince me otherwise. How could a person go to an orphanage in a poor, foreign country, ask the children to be paraded for them, pick up a “lucky” one, pay cash and get away with their prey.

Adoption by itself is a genuine human need and a noble action that gives a child to a childless person and a good home, comfort and a future to an orphan or poverty-stricken child. Needy children however are everywhere: they are in America as they are in Africa and Asia. But why do the celebrities not adopt American children instead of going overseas to adopt African or Asian children.

The answer is there are no children for sale in America. Anyone who wants to adopt goes through years of gruelling procedure to qualify for child adoption. Over there, children are human beings and cannot be bought as toys, playmates or pets for celebrities’ children. But in Africa, people are still sold in exchange for beads, tobacco and petty cash. And as a Malawian journalist said, “We are showing to the world that our poverty has extended to the brain”.

One may ask, however, what if these celebrities are really honest about their feelings to help poor African and Asian children? No doubt sometimes the most honest feelings could be misrepresented by the means with which they are fulfilled. Changing child adoption into child shopping is a grotesque representation of a noble gesture. But with such big hearts and philanthropic feeling to save the children of the world, the celebrities can do a better job and save more children from poverty if they adopt whole villages in Africa and Asia instead of only one or two children.

By providing whole villages with schools, clinics and water wells, we will have thousands of young Zaharas and David Bandas owing their welfare and future to celebrities’ charity. Africa would reap large revenues as curious visitors throng to see and learn from the Angelina Jolie and Madonna villages. It would make a drastic change to the way we do charity and foreign aid and would embody the epitome of western altruism and philanthropy. The Colombian singer Shakira is already leading the way in this trend and it is a trend that is worth emulating.

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"Helping others"

I was very moved by the following:

we communicated through natural ways: touches, looks and feelings. I somehow felt that this strange white woman sitting next to me and holding my hand was not a stranger at all. I felt as if I knew her forever. I felt completely comfortable in her presence and I was gripped by a strange sense of not only familiarity but love of motherhood.

After more than 40 years, I can still envision her face. I can see a woman in her late 20s, a little plump, with an angelic face, a shy look and a held back smile. She said few words to me and when I couldn’t respond, she called the staff nurse, Sakin Jirde, to translate for us. Sakin told me that the American lady whose name I never learned wanted to visit me everyday and teach me English. I accepted it immediately. Then she left me but not without a motherly stroke to my head.

I remember my sophomore year in highschool, and I happened to undergo several surgeries in one year.  The nurse who changed my life... her name was Barbara.  She washed my hair, and it was the most initmate gift of kindness I can ever remember receiving from anyone.

That act changed me in a way that still makes me cry.

I remember not wanting to leave the hospital, because of her.

Because of her, I knew I wanted to help others who felt pain and felt lonely...  because of her I learned "Angels of mercy" give... they don't take.

Keeping the opportunities within

I was reading a very interesting article about the human trafficking problem in  Africa.  [Bold type is my own edit]

Human Trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, trading or receipt of persons within and across borders by the use of force, threats and other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power, or exploitation of vulnerability. It is also against the law to give or receive payments and benefits to achieve consent. Exploitation of people include at the minimum, induced prostitution.

Generally, it is women and children who are victims of human trafficking and this cuts across national borders into the international arena. According to a survey in the USA, between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year. Many more are trafficked within their own country. About 1.2 million children are also victims.

The two major routes in West Africa along which children are trafficked are the Mali-Burkina Faso-Ivory Coast route, and the Togo-Benin-Nigeria-Cameroon route, with Ghana being a strategic transit point between the two routes.

The Most Rev. Paul Bemile, Bishop of Wa and Episcopal Chairman of the Migrants Commission of the Ghana Bishop's Conference, told the workshop in Accra that child trafficking was not motivated only by the need for labour on plantation farms and their use as child soldiers, but it also formed part of the global sex trade, which is considered as the worst form of child labour. He suggested that the Human Trafficking Bill should be vigorously enforced at both national and international levels to prosecute prospective traffickers and perpetrators of the inhuman trade.

Despite the many efforts by organisations and religious bodies in finding solutions, the reality is that it is a well networked business, operated by people who can be most vicious towards both the victims and the anti-traffickers if they are not careful in their efforts.

On the domestic scene, both adults and children are lured from the rural areas to urban environs with promises of greener pastures and better opportunities of education, only to have the victims visited with difficult, and dehumanizing working and living conditions.

A story is told in one of the dailies in Ghana about the harrowing experience of a bread baker, who stopped her bread-baking business in Ghana with the hope of making more money as a nanny in Russia, only to be lured into prostitution. There are genuine demands for house-helps, laundry persons and other forms of domestic work but one cannot always be sure such demands would escape abuse.

There have been reports from the Middle East and Europe of African women who were lured there on promises of jobs or even marriages only to find themselves forced into prostitution. Men have also ended up working virtually for free for traffickers to who they find themselves indebted in amounts they cannot easily work to pay off and be free again.

The Director of Ghana Immigration Service, Ms. Elizabeth Adjei, speaking at an Anti-Human Trafficking Training and Capacity Building workshop for law enforcement professionals in Accra, said only one prosecution had been done successfully so far, although the Immigration Service and the police had made a number of arrests.

She said in 2007 alone, the Service intercepted 26 persons who were being trafficked. According to her, the Human Trafficking Act, Act 694, can only be implemented to the letter, if arrests made by the Police, Immigration and the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) are successfully prosecuted."

The International Labour Organisation estimates in its global report that $32 billion was generated annually through the exploitation of men, women and children. People are recruited in a variety of ways through the promise of good jobs only to find that they are in debt to traffickers and thus obliged to work for little or no remuneration.

In an effort to curb the situation, the Deputy Director of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Assistant Commission of Police Ken Yeboah, has stressed on the need for effective networking and joint investigative mechanism among the security agencies.

If care is not taken to totally eliminate this canker, sooner or later, countries will among other negative things, have large populations of cultureless and religiousless people who do not accept or even understand what love is all about and thus will live without morals.

Interventions by the government to find jobs for the youth and also encourage children to stay in schools will go a long way to curb poverty, so that parents would be able to keep their children by their side.   [From:  "The Human Traffickers Are On The Prowl", Ghana News, Fri 26 September, 2008, http://www.modernghana.com/news/183914/1/the-human-traffickers-are-on-the-prowl.mgl]

 

I cannot think of a more vulnerable piece of prey than a worried parent with sick child in a hospital... imagine being introduced to a person with a kind gentle voice and face "offering" the chance of a lifetime:  life where golden opportunity is readily available for the child who has nothing but the love and want of a parent.

I wonder just how many people see how coercive adoption recruiters can be... and I wonder why so many don't think this type of approach and circumstance in not a problem.

I would love to see more wealthy celebrities offer poor regions money to help build themselves  so all types of jobs, health care and education opportunities can be made and shared by many families.  [Shakira's "Global Campaign for Education Action" is definitely a good example how one person can help change many!]

Why so many want to focus on the so-called benefits of adoption is beyond me.  It makes me think:  does adoption solve the problem of poverty and so-called "unwanted orphaned children", or is it a breed of vanity that simply feeds into this false belief that taking and saving one child at a time is a form of "charity"?

Alternatives

it would be a good idea to talk more about alternatives to the adoption and to talk more about people bringing better solutions than adoption.  The name Shakira should be known more than the names of other celebrities collecting babies from other countires.

In total agreement!

I would love nothing better than to promote the voices of those who wish to do more than scoop babies/children away from their mother-land... but who and where are they????

SOS Children's Villages

I've been reading the sites of SOS children's village in India, Korea and many other countries  which talks about family strengthening programmes, building houses for children and their SOS mothers, educating children, etc.
These organizations should be known and promoted more than the adoption agencies. 

Promoting about alternatives to adoption, it can also be by writing an article like the journalist Shane Bauer  wrote "Adopting Ethiopian Oprhans may not be the best solution"  http://poundpuplegacy.org/node/21187

Saying to stop adoption only brings the usual arguments that children need homes.

Finding other options

I am not wholly against adoption, especially if a child has no other means to experience love, safety and a sense of everyday home-life.  But that's the issue, isn't it?  It seems we have become a culture that seriously believes the only way a child can feel loved and appreciated is if he is living in a house with two married parents and food to eat.  Adoption is not about saving the poor, but providing opportunities for those seeking ways in and out of 'the family way".  Adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, and thankfully there are indeed many who refuse to buy into this supply and demand scheme many moral-agenda workers have profited from. The problem I see is very basic -- thanks to the clever religious marketing behind adoption practices -- few are willing to consider other living options certain families can consider and use for themselves.

I was reading a page about the No Orphan Without An Education program, and it was very telling how government parties want to treat their own nation's people:

Orphans in South Asia and Africa, as a part of the society, suffer the most because of lack of governmental programs to address their needs and welfare. Often, orphans in these regions are supported by local communities at a bare minimum survival stage. A good number of them may be very intelligent but, because of lack of financial support, they cannot develop and utilize their skills through education and are unable to avail the opportunities around them.  [From:  Hidaya Foundation, http://www.hidaya.org/educational/no-orphan-without-education/]

The governmental interest is not there for those without two parents and a sizable (taxable)  income.  Many governments leave these messy social problems to religious organizations -- the ones that get more funding because guilt and shame carries a heavy price to those who can afford to "repent". I believe the moral bankruptcy seen in people is not limited to those who have sex outside of marriage.  I believe there are many within religious and law-making communities who do NOT treat others as they would want to be treated, and I see this type of moral compass very misleading.  [I believe this is exactly how man-kind got classified into Us v. Them categories.  Being different can be very threatening and dangerous for those who fear change.]

It disturbs me deeply we live in a culture where there are many who want to own and rule, and yet not help those who don't stand a fighting chance all alone in this world.  All one has to do is compare the number of services and agencies working towards adoption, versus the number of projects working for orphan children.  When I see the numbers of so many eager-to-grab takers, is it any wonder I think there are so few genuine givers willing to work for children?  [This is where I admit, one of the things I ahbor most about adoption is how in practice, services are more about the desires of the adults, than the needs of the children.]

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