Who Is An Orphan?

The word orphan is complicated. We’ve all heard the term, seen the sad images, gotten ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ stuck in our heads…but when we hear the word orphan, what do we really think?

There are so many stats, ideas, and definitions that seem to surround this term. We (especially me) use this word quite often even though we don’t fully understand it. So how do we make this term something we can grasp? How do we nail down a definition for this term once and for all?

Well…its complicated.

For the most part, we’ve always thought that an orphan was a child who has either lost both parents, been abandoned by their parents, or whose parents are unable to care for them. And if you live in an orphanage then you are definitely an orphan….


You see, just before we left for India, we had the privilege of meeting with the founder of Miracle Foundation, Caroline Boudreaux. Her organization does amazing and life transforming work in over 15 orphanages throughout India. She casually, yet passionately, said something along the lines of ‘an orphan is someone who does not know love’. We didn’t really understand what she meant but our minds held onto her powerful words.

You see, we had never thought about the word orphan that way, but it makes sense now after spending a month in India. The main thing that children without families are lacking…is love. But this makes the term orphan way bigger. And is the opposite also true? If you know love are you no longer an orphan?

If you’re like us, your mind is probably spinning right now.

We generally want to take the word orphan, wrap a neat little bow around it, and be able to clearly present it to anyone who asks. But the fact is…we can’t. We can’t because the more places we go, the more people we meet, the more orphanages we visit… the more our view and definition of an ‘orphan’ changes. A child should not be known by a label…a child should be known by their name, their heart, their personality. And if they are living in a loving environment, being cared for and protected and guided…should we be so quick as to label them orphan?

As much as we want to have one definition or one solution for this huge problem, the orphan crisis, we can’t, because a definition or one solution is not going to fix anything. But what we can do is look at each country, then each orphanage, then each child, and hopefully see what is best for them.

Our hope for the stories we’ll share about our time in India is this: that you will see the children…as children first. See their hearts, their personalities, how they are loved and cared for, before you see them as an ‘orphan’. Because we promise you, these children, the children of The Good Shepard Agricultural Mission, they are anything but the traditional view of the word orphan. May you walk away challenged by the things you learn this week because lets be honest…its complicated.


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