I saw my first glimpse of the Chadian orphan debacle was on the TV at the gym – it was when the story was first breaking, and all I saw were the allegations that these people were trafficking the children into sex slavery/ black market adoptions. Since then, the news has suggested that the French “traffickers” were trying to rescue orphans from Darfur and bring them to France. The idea (I think) was that the children would be hosted by French families, and could claim refugee status. I think they thought that the appearance of these helpless orphans on French soil would arouse a groundswell of support for their cause, and the cause of Darfur in general.
Contrary to the first report I saw, it seems that these people aren’t slave traders, but it seems they’re still not quite the saviours they want to be – the latest allegations have included the fact that most of the children were Chadian, rather than Sudanese, and actually had parents or close family members who could look after them. All in all, it seems like a very misguided mission – as a French official said in one of the articles I was reading – the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
And the road to hell can be seen in this whole confusing story . . . Republic of Congo has already cancelled all international adoptions, keeping bona fide orphans from finding a new home in a western country. Children ranging in age from 1 to 8 have been away from their families for over a month. NGOs that have tried to work with the local people are under suspicion.
As someone who can understand the urge to DO SOMETHING about the horrible things happening in the world, I have a certain amount of sympathy for these fools riding their chartered jet straight into the gates of hell. Furthermore, this whole thing has left me wondering when I have been responsible for misplaced good intentions. I think that it happens whenever we go galloping into a situation, determined to help, without stopping to get to know, or to actually listen to, the people we are aiming to help.
While I was at law school, the Christian Legal Fellowship did Operation Christmas Child every year. I would marvel at some of the items that would come in the boxes that people had assembled to send overseas – stuffed snowmen and other Christmas kitsch, candy and bath gel, despite the instructions to avoid things that could leak or melt . . . the people who send these gifts mean well for these children, but have not stopped to consider the context these kids are living in. Now, I wonder if the idea I’ve been batting around to send toys to Cree kids is any different. In my defence, the idea came from someone who has spent time in a Cree community, but still . . . do these kids really need teddy bears? And do they need teddy bears from me? Ecclesiax has worked with some people in the area, but this gift could still be perceived as a bunch of useless crap from whites in the south . . . should I send it unless I know that this will not be the message?