Seasons

By Nevin Nitschke

Seasons are a very real part of our lives and a change in season gives us cause to both look ahead with anticipation at the changes happening as well as to reflect back at the blessing the current season has given to us. For more than 15 years, Lutheran Women Australia (LWA) have supported Debora […]

Seasons are a very real part of our lives and a change in season gives us cause to both look ahead with anticipation at the changes happening as well as to reflect back at the blessing the current season has given to us.

For more than 15 years, Lutheran Women Australia (LWA) have supported Debora Orphanage.

Ephorus (Bishop) Togar Simaputung tells us that there are currently 31 children, who come from poor families or who are orphans, living at Debora. Three of the children are in Elementary school, eight in Junior High and twenty children attending Senior High School. He expresses his deepest gratitude for all of the support LWA have continued to give.

This support has changed the lives of the Indonesian children attending Debora who have experienced the love and care of the Australian Lutheran women.  The support has developed deep relationships through the many visits to the orphanage by Rosemary Winderlich. Rosemary has served as a volunteer at  Debora orphange on 12 occasions. Others to have visited Debora include; Tracey Smith, Belinda Peterson, Sonia and Bruce Hulme, Lois Bock, Vicki Sumner, Beth Heinrich and many others.

From my visit to Debora Orphanage or “Panti Asuhan Debora – home of helping”.  I know the esteem in which Opung (Grandma) Rosemary is held.

Rosemary writes, ‘There are a number of orphans who attend the home, some children have one parent, and some still have both parents, but all parents are unable to educate their children. There are a number of schools in the nearby town of Sipirok, which give the children access to most areas of study. This is why the children are at Debora. Their pastors or church elders have put forward their names as children needing help to complete their schooling. Many come here at 14, 15, or 16 years of age. A few come earlier because both parents have died, and there is no one to care for them.

Your generous donations pay for living and education expenses at Debora.’

However, the season for how support to orphanages is provided, is changing.

The Australian Government is launching a new campaign to prevent Australians from inadvertently contributing to child exploitation through the practice of orphanage tourism, including by participating in misleading volunteer programs. Several Australian volunteering organisations have closed as orphanage volunteering is being looked at more closely.

Of concern to the Government, and to us all, the facts that:

  • Constant strangers coming in and out of children’s lives can be harmful to a child’s development.
  • Some orphanages are created to get money from tourists, rather than providing care to children as a last resort.
  • This can encourage an over-reliance on orphanage care, separate families and may put vulnerable children at greater risk of harm.

The Australian government is strongly encouraging organisations to ensure that care for vulnerable children should aim to reintegrate children into their family or community settings where it is safe to do so.

These concerns are real and their implications important.

We have developed a wonderful relationship with Debora Orphanage over the years and have a responsibility to the children who stay at the orphanage. Many of these children are now in high school and given the directives from the Australian Government in this regard it is a good time to look at winding down or modifying our LWA support over the next 3 years for Debora.

It is time to celebrate the joys of the partnership, thank God for the lives touched and to look at other ways we can support the children and families of Debora.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs has recently said ….

“When it comes to volunteering, Australians are generous people. Australian volunteers selflessly give their time, money and lend their skills and experience to help others across a range of countries and sectors.

Australia has a long and proud history of volunteering, with the Australian Government supporting international volunteering for more than 60 years. 

We have learned over the years that when done well, volunteering will benefit both the volunteer and the communities they serve and build enduring friendships and people-to-people links.

Research has shown that orphanage tourism (holiday tours and short-term un-skilled volunteering at orphanages) can encourage harmful practices, and can in some cases, put vulnerable children at risk. The number of orphanages in certain popular tourist destinations has increased dramatically yet many of the children living in them have at least one living parent. The quality of care varies dramatically. The worst orphanages retain and exploit children with the aim of making money. Orphanages should be an option of last resort for children, who are generally better off living with their families and communities.

For these reasons, the Australian Government discourages short-term, unskilled volunteering in orphanages.”

We thank LWA for the amazing support of Debora over these many years. We look forward to hearing your ideas of how we can continue to bless Debora and the Gereja Kristen Protestan Angkola (GKPA) church and its leaders as they seek to serve the vulnerable children in their area of responsibility, and how they may continue to be a blessing to us.

The government’s Smart Volunteering Campaign through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade discourages any form of short-term, unskilled volunteering in orphanages because of the risk of harm to children. LCA International Mission is helping to develop policy in this area. We encourage congregations, schools and individuals who have been supporting overseas orphanages, or who wish to do so in future, to contact us for advice.


If you would like to consider the opportunity to serve as a volunteer in mission, serving in practical ways, teaching English, teaching in the seminaries and institutions of our partner churches, or in local churches, you are invited to phone Nevin on (08) 8267 7300 or email nevin.nitschke@lca.org.au. For more information, go to http://www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/volunteer/

Read more stories about volunteering at http://www.lcamission.org.au/category/join-gods-mission/volunteers/

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About the Author : Erin Kerber


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