The first people to officially care for orphaned children were the Romans, who opened the first orphanage in history in around 400 AD. Long before them, however, both Jewish and Athenian law required that orphans be supported until age 18. The great philosopher Plato once said, “Orphans should be placed under the care of public guardians. Men should have a fear of the loneliness of orphans and of the souls of their departed parents. A man should love the unfortunate orphan of whom he is a guardian as if he were his own child. He should be as careful and as diligent in the management of the orphan’s property as of his own or even more careful still.”
Later, in Medieval Europe, orphans were cared for by churches. By the early 1900s, a number of orphans in England had reached truly alarming proportions, not to mention the conditions in which the orphaned children lived, which were often appalling and abusive. Charles Dickens’ most famous novel, “Oliver Twist”, depicts perfectly the hardships orphaned children had to endure in orphanages.
In modern times, researchers are almost unanimous in their claim that orphanages are the worst possible care option for children, as they do not receive the right amount of attention or physical contact to develop properly. This has caused many people, usually, Westerners, to decide to adopt children from impoverished countries to give them a chance at a better life. Sadly, this trend has also led to a large number of scams being perpetrated on unsuspecting parents-to-be, many of whom have paid enormous amounts of money to adopt children who had been bought from their parents for very little.
World Orphans Day was created by The Stars Foundation to raise awareness about the number of children in this world who lack something most of us take for granted: parents. The Stars Foundation’s wish was for this day to motivate people to do anything they can to help.
How to Celebrate World Orphans Day
As mentioned before, anything you can do to help could make a world of a difference to an impoverished orphan, so take some time to figure out what you can do and get to it! You could, for example, organize an event to raise money. There is also the possibility to sponsor an individual child in an orphanage of your choice in a particularly poor part of the world or to invest in education programs that aim to give orphans a new start in life. There are many who should consider adopting an orphan or abandoned child. There are many ways and this annual day seeks to bring awareness to those ideas to as wide an audience as possible.
Seventh-day Adventists and Their Compassion for Orphans and Vulnerable or Abandoned Children
The Church’s ministry for these children ranges widely from providing orphanages to foster homes to adoption to strengthening the local community so it can care for the children. Our responsibility for the fatherless is echoed throughout the Bible (Ps. 10: 13,14; 68:5: 82:3; John 14:8; James 1:27) and through specific counsel to church members such as, “As far as lies in your power, make a home for the homeless. Let everyone stand ready to act a part in helping forward this work. The Lord said to Peter: “Feed My lambs.” This command is to us, and by opening our homes for the orphans we aid in its fulfillment. Let not Jesus be disappointed in you.” (Ellen G White in Adventist Home, p.170). Compassion for orphans is listed among other special needs that should be cared for by the Church: “I saw that it is in the providence of God that widows and orphans, the blind, the deaf, the lame, and persons afflicted in a variety of ways, have been placed in close Christian relationship to His church; it is to prove His people and develop their true character. Angels of God are watching to see how we treat these persons who need our sympathy, love, and disinterested benevolence. This is God’s test of our character.” (Testimonies to the Church, vol.3, p.511).
World Orphans–Vulnerable Children’s Sabbath (November 17, 2018) is called to bring awareness to the great need and through compassion bring hope and healing to those who are far too easily neglected by society at large. Internationally, World Orphans Day is recognized on the second Monday of November.