CORPORATE PHILANTHROPY AND CHILDREN'S HOMES
This might be a bit of a controversial post but I want to share my thoughts on why companies should think beyond children's homes when it comes to Corporate Philanthropy (commonly known as CSR).
As we approach the end of the year, we start to see the photos appearing. People with their company banners delivering donations of food and clothes to children's homes as their way of giving back to society in the festive season. But whose needs are they meeting more? Theirs or the children's?
For the first 16 months of my life in Kenya I lived in a rural children's home. From 2006 until 2014, I spent every Christmas there. I saw how generous companies were but I also saw the other side of it. Visitors took priority over the children. Whoever arrived wanted to share treats with the kids....even if they were the third group to visit with treats that day. Mealtimes and routines were thrown out the window so that the visitors could be treated “properly”.
With the best of intentions, people wanted to talk to the children and spend time with them. But what about those children who don't have the confidence to come forward and just sit watching others get attention? Their self-esteem takes another hit. For those who put themselves forward, they unwittingly become vulnerable as they seek attention from people they will probably never see again. And as people wander around taking cute pictures of the kids on their phones ... they don't think that these children will leave the home with no pictures of themselves growing up, losing a huge part of their identity.
There is a big push in Kenya to move away from institutional care and promote family based care as the alternative. For the many children placed in homes due to poverty, there is the possibility of them being reintegrated with their families with support. This is a more economical model than running homes.
As stated in the Guidelines for the Alternative Family Care of Children in Kenya:
“Years of research and experience have shown that institutional care has a negative impact on a child’s social, emotional, cognitive and intellectual development. Children are not given the nurturing love and individual attention they need for their brains to develop and for them to grow into healthy, strong adults. The experience is particularly damaging for children less than three years of age.
Inappropriate care and protection of children in some institutional care settings can lead to violations of children’s rights, such as: lack of child participation; discrimination; poor nutrition; inadequate sanitation and hygiene; systematic physical and sexual abuse; and lack of education, health and other basic services. Children are often not provided with the personal care, life skills and other services to prepare them for adulthood and life outside an institution.”
This festive season, let’s find ways to empower families to take care of their children at home rather than placing them in children’s homes. There are many organisations doing fantastic work in this area and we would be delighted to help make the connections so that companies can still support vulnerable children through their Corporate Philanthropy but in a way that doesn’t cause more harm than good in the long run.