BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Catholic
Relief Services has released an emotion-filled video as a way of starting a
conversation about the world's orphanages.
Children no longer end up in
orphanages in the United States, and officials at CRS want a world where there
is no longer a need for such institutions.
They are not advocating shutting
down orphanages in poor countries and turning the children out onto the
streets. CRS officials said their vision is to transform orphanages in
countries like Haiti and South Sudan into family resource centers, offering
families the support they need to keep their children at home.
To help people rethink the
concept of orphanages, the international Catholic aid organization wrote a
script, scouted locations, employed a film crew, hired actors and traveled to
Puerto Rico to tell the story of a poverty-stricken mother making the
heartbreaking decision to send her daughter to an orphanage, said Sean L.
Callahan, president and CEO of CRS.
Though these institutions are
called orphanages, Callahan said few of the children raised in them are
actually orphans. Most people are unaware that 80-90 percent of children in
orphanages have at least one living parent and, in most cases, poverty or
disability is the reason why they are there, he told Catholic News Service in
an August interview.
CRS hopes the video, released
Aug. 10, will help drive home this point, particularly to well-meaning donors
who think they are helping children by supporting orphanages.
"We are battling a false
perception that is deeply ingrained in the public psyche," Callahan said. "If
we are to break the orphan myth and return children to their families, we need
to tell the all-too-common story of how children, sadly and unwillingly, come
to live in an orphanage. That's why we made this important video."
The video is a departure from
CRS's tradition visual storytelling style. Typically, the organization films
subjects in areas where it works and produces videos in short documentary form
to show how people are affected.
"For this topic, we wanted
to show the emotional response of a parent and child separating at an orphanage,
and we didn't see a way of authentically capturing that with a real family,"
said Mark Metzger, branded content producer for CRS. "We needed to
recreate that ourselves."
Though actors portray the
characters in the video, the scenes were written from first-hand accounts of
CRS colleagues who have witnessed such gut-wrenching events, Metzger told CNS.
Callahan said although donors in
countries like the U.S. often support orphanages for the right reasons, too
many of the institutions they support do little more than raise money, leaving
actual child care as an afterthought.
Children in orphanages are at
greater risk of sexual abuse and violence than those in family care, he said.
CRS, and its partners Lumos -- founded
by author J.K. Rowling -- and Maestral International are committed to breaking what
they call the orphan myth and working, country by country, to replace
orphanages with family care centers for more than 8 million children now in
institutions throughout the world.
The CRS video, "Changing
the Way We Care," can be viewed at https://youtu.be/umSJ3b1kcDk, and
Metzger said he is encouraging people to share it on social media.
"We want to get the word
out," he said. "We want to educate our audience as best we can so
they can understand the struggles and difficulties that families are living
through, day in and day out."