Wednesday, September 07, 2011

What I hope to learn in Cambodia

Last night in a desperate attempt to stay up a few more hours and fight off the jet lag I did a "vlog" (video blog post) and typed up an entire post with pictures, saved it to my SD card, and was quite proud of myself to bring it to the internet cafe this morning.
Guess what?
They take flash drives but not SD cards. I'll have to try that one again later today. Oh well.

At my sister's request, I thought I'd answer a few questions about what I am doing here and what I am hoping to accomplish. In short, I am here with an organization called Projects Abroad. They are an international organization that sets volunteers and interns up with non-profits or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the world. PA has arranged my lodging, travel, provided me with a cook and housekeeper, and found me the right internship. My experiences with them so far have been entirely positive and professional.
As for me and my internship. I told PA what it is I was looking for. While I love babies and children, I am not interested in a "play with the babies" program. And hopefully this afternoon when I finally get to meet my orphanage, that is not what I will be doing. What I really want is to understand the other side of orphanages- the administrative, legal, and political side of international adoptions. Many countries, Cambodia included, are not "Hague Treaty"approved. (I wrote about this back in July- Cambodia Orphans). Not being Hague approved essentially means that it is questionable as to how the children became to be orphaned, or if they are even orphans at all. I expect to find that at Riverkids where I will be working that many of the children are not orphans in the American sense, but will likely be more abandoned, sold, or possibly kidnapped. The Hague Treaty requires that in order to be internationally adopted parental heritage must be proven. In other words, it must be shown how the child came to be orphaned. A mother's signature at the very least. However, when so many children end up in these orphanages because they are victims of child trafficking (sold by their own parents, or kidnapped and sold by strangers, or just homeless street children), this information cannot be shown.
There are many questions from this point forward regarding international adoptions. Should these hopeless children living in orphanages be adopted to other countries? What if they child was kidnapped, sold, and found and placed in an institution, and still has parents somewhere? How do you determine which children have innocent parents and which do not?
I'm here to learn more about how Cambodia is working to correct their child welfare system. Long term (after I work in the Peace Corps) I am very interested in working in this field- international plight of the child.  I believe the majority of Americans have the completely wrong idea about how we need to be "saving" the orphans. Let me make this one thing clear- I do not believe Americans should be saving all orphans everywhere. I am a huge advocate of international adoption, and have every intention of adopting internationally  in a few years. However, I'm much more interested in seeing countries such as Cambodia be able to provide for their own children and families. And that is the number one thing I hope to accomplish here. In many ways I am more here to learn than accomplish anything. This is just step one to my new future and life. Somewhere down the road I plan to make a difference. For now, I want to learn locally, before I make the classic American blunder of thinking I know everything and how to do it right.

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