How do you define an orphan?

What do you think of when you hear the word “orphan”?  Do you picture a grown man or woman?  More likely you picture a skinny little girl with torn clothes, shoeless, a tear streaked face and left to fend for herself.  Or maybe a severely malnourished little boy peaking out from behind the bars of a crib – blank stare on his face.

or·phan [awr-fuhn] noun


  1. a child who has lost both parents through death, or, less commonly, one parent.
  2. a person or thing that is without protective affiliation, sponsorship
  3. not authorized, supported, or funded; not part of a system; isolated; abandoned (adjective)

The first dictionary definition of orphan is a child who has lost both parents through death.   But did you know that many orphans who are being cared for here in the US and across the globe have living relatives?  Among the children who we advocate for in Kenya more than half have living relatives, many even have a living mother or father.  But simply being alive does not automatically mean a mother or father is able to lovingly care for a child.  Illness, drug use, alcoholism, poverty, mental illness, neglect, abuse, age, lack of resources or lack of self esteem may all be contributing factors to a birth parent’s inability to care for a child in Kenya (and in the United States).  Many birth parents make the choice to relinquish their child into the care of another person – or into the care of a group home or orphanage.

Just as being physically alive doesn’t automatically equate to caring for a child – group homes and orphanages don’t automatically equate to loving care of a child.  And guess what….children eventually grow into adults and then what?  Are they any less orphaned?  Does entering adulthood automatically provide an orphan with “protective affiliation, sponsorship, authorization, support”, community, knowledge or acceptance?

Perhaps it would be better to define orphan in this way:

or·phan [awr-fuhn] noun

  1. a child or adult that is without protective affiliation, sponsorship
  2. a child or adult lacking a place in community, lacking role models, lacking an encourager
  3. a child or adult lacking access to consistent food, healthcare, education
  4. a child or adult missing out on acceptance; without access to stable and consistent love providers

Now this definition is perhaps more accurate, but it isn’t any less tragic and when looking at the needs of the human spirit there is a giant gaping hole that can suck a child or adult orphan into despair, depression and hopelessness.

It is our prayer that with God’s blessing and continued support from our donors we will be able to use this definition for the children we support:

Light Up Hope Orphan [lahyt uhp hohp awr-fuhn] noun

  1. a child who is found, appreciated, acknowledged, loved, educated, healthy, and provided for and whose individuality was encouraged, nurtured and supported
  2. an adult who has been provided with opportunities to realize their dreams
  3. a valuable member of society

We have partnered with our Kenyan friends because they have a dream to shrink the hole by filling it up with love.  The passion, love and attention with which our Kenyan partners, Fred and Alice, pour into the children in their care is truly unique.  They are thinking beyond meeting their basic needs and helping map out a plan for their future.

Remi has aged out of care at Hope Childrens Home but Fred and Alice have seen he is great with people and have offered him a job as the orphanage manager.  He hopes to go to trade school to learn catering.
Remi has aged out of care at Hope Children’s Home but Fred and Alice have seen he is great with people and have offered him a job as the orphanage manager. He hopes to go to trade school to learn catering.

They are seeking community connections for the children outside the confines of Hope Childrens Home.  They are enrolling them in neighborhood schools and building the children up as cornerstone members of the Christian fellowship they are developing in the local neighborhood.  They are teaching them how to care for each other like brother and sister and yet also providing the security that they can depend on Fred and Alice to be watchful and invested in their school progress and their behaviors.

And Light Up Hope is striving to develop programs that build bridges across the hole.  We have seven young adults in our care who are quickly approaching adulthood and twenty children who are growing up everyday!  We are working hard with our Kenyan partners to develop transition plans that will provide mentor relationships with community members, transitional housing, job training and scholarships for post secondary school education.  Programs that pour into these young adults to help them recognize their passions and teach them life skills to build the pathways out of poverty.

Because turning 18 and having a gate shut on you does not provide a young adult with the support they need to find success in their adult lives.

Everline will be graduating from high school this fall.  She hopes to become a police woman and is a skilled writer.
Everlyne will be graduating from high school this fall. She hopes to become a police woman and is a skilled writer.

DONATEIf you feel inspired by the light up hope definition of orphan please DONATE today.  We have big dreams and we need your generosity to make our dreams for these children into reality.

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