We have seen and responded to orphans as children calling out for our support. However, we have been blind to their problems as they reach maturity.
As vulnerable young adults, they are often flung into society without guidance or support. They remain faceless and voiceless, unseen and unheard.
We invite you to contribute and collaborate with our novel approach to empowering orphans as they reach adulthood.
It’s not just about giving them a chance at life. It’s about giving them a choice in their future.
Orphans face two abandonments; First in childhood, and then at the brink of maturity
Imagine that you’re 17, just shy of 18. You’re classified as an orphan. You’ve spent the majority of your young life living in Child Care Institutions across Sri Lanka. The home – at times, overcrowded, understaffed, and neglected – does not provide a comfortable life, but it is the only protection you’ve known, and you’ve survived.
You’ve tried to persist with your education, but because of the scarcity of resources in institutional care, it has been frequently interrupted.
But now that you are turning 18, you can no longer live at the CCI. You pack your bag – which can hold everything you own – and step out into the world alone. You have no one to turn to, no one to mentor you, to give counsel, lend a helping hand, or offer a shoulder to cry on when things get difficult.
You’ve never had a job and you don’t know how to write a cover letter, fill out an application, or respond at a job interview. You don’t have regular accommodation – you’re not sure where you’ll be from one night to the next; if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll find a job that will give you a place to sleep. You don’t know how to manage expenses, or how to budget. You don’t even have a bank account; but if you did, you would hardly have any money to deposit in it.
But you’ve been told that you’re an adult now, and responsible for making your way on your own.
This is precisely the situation in which many orphans find themselves as they transition out, or ‘age-out’, of CCIs. While their day to day needs were somewhat looked after by the CCIs, the fate of orphans once they turn 18 and are compelled to leave their care institutions is seldom considered.
Recent research has only just begun to paint a picture of the immense, sometimes insurmountable, obstacles encountered by these orphans. Given that few CCIs can provide networking opportunities, or extensive life-skills training to facilitate orphans’ transition to independence, they are flung into society, ill-prepared for the trials of modern adult life.
Would you stop caring for your children once they turn 18? As parents, could we ever imagine abandoning our children at 18 – cutting off all sources of assistance and comfort, all love and nurturing? Orphans deserve the same consideration and concern.
As we all know, in Sri Lanka, family support structures and economic assistance continue long into adulthood, and are the biggest predictors of success. Care-leaving orphans are deprived of these networks and assets, and often face barriers to higher education, limited employment prospects, – and even difficulties finding stable housing. Flung into society, insecure and ill-prepared for the trials of modern adult life, they can therefore easily slip into poverty and despair.
We believe that as a society, we have a responsibility to empower orphans as they enter young adulthood and not abandoned a second time.
By providing the necessary skills, opportunities, and support however, we can put them on the path to a successful and productive life. Orphans who have reached young adulthood aspire to fully participate in our society. It is our collective responsibility to recognise their agency and resilience and provide them a future with choices.
Research shows that for young adults, having access to capital at a pivotal juncture in their lives is crucial and transformative. This is especially the case when they come from disadvantaged backgrounds. For orphans faced with the prospect of leaving their care institutions and entering the world as adults, this could make all the difference.