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This week we had 180 orphans along with our 200 regular students at our camp.  I was warned weeks in advance of the terribly behaved, “dreaded orphans” all the teachers talked about.  “How bad could they be?” I thought. They’re just children longing for love and affection they’ve never been given. I’ve worked with troubled youth at a detention center before, this can’t be much different…


After my first class with these children, I understood why the teachers joked of wanting to call in sick. Very few orphans know any English, which makes teaching impossible, along with the fact none of them care to listen to a word your saying.  My “Storytelling” class turned into a referee match of me breaking up fights, telling the kids to stop writing on the walls, quit climbing on the shelves, and stop picking apart the furniture stuffing. Know matter how strict and in-control I started the class, I felt the orphans won the battle by the time we finished. I was counting down the minutes till the end of class to be free from my worst teaching experience!! I felt like a complete failure as a child defiantly swore at me…


My classroom after my first class…Yes, it looks like a tornado did it’s worst.

For sure these students were one of the most challenging children I have ever taught. Yet towards the end of the week, I respected and dearly loved them. Once you break down their guarded, independent spirits, you see them for who they really are. Broken hearts starved of love and affection. Years of neglect have forced them to react in the only way to receive attention: punishment from being bad.


I talked with a social worker from my mom’s adoption agency about the orphans in Korea. Most of the “orphaned” children are really not orphans, but abandoned children. The single mothers who can’t afford to take care of their children, give them over to the government. A select few visit their children while finishing their school to move into their career. The abandoned children are mostly forgotten as it’s looked down upon in this society to have a child out of wedlock. These children are than lost in the system never able to become adopted because they aren’t truly orphans.


How do we expect these children to act when they know they have been given up by their own mothers realizing they’ll never become adopted?? Of course they’re going to become extremely territorial, looking out for the only person they can trust-themselves. How can we as teachers scold their behavior when we as a society are the ones that have raised them to react this way??  Oh how my heart melted when the children would wrap their arms around me in-between classes (I guess I wasn’t a complete failure:))


This picture was taken with my little point and shoot camera. It turned out blurry, yet I still couldn’t throw it away. I was captured by this little orphan’s expression…everyone else so immersed in the commotion of the graduation. Their lives are moving on, yet her life is standing still. 1 out of the 400 other children in the auditorium. As if she’s asking, am I worth anything? Does anyone notice me?

My friend recently asked me if I thought I taught them anything. I sure hope I taught them more than just some drama skills; gave them some love and hope they were aching for. I know these children taught me more about myself than I could have ever taught them…the strength, determination, and independence they emulate is something I’ve never seen before.


And when it feels like I’m a complete failure and have made zero difference, the Lord blesses me with a little note from one of my dear students…

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March 15, 2010 - 4:30 am

Bethany - Amen sister!

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