The world can be a place of beauty and solace, but it can be equally as unkind and troubling, too. Whilst a lot of people live their lives with minimal hardship and suffering, some people experience enough adversity to last two lifetimes, and unfortunately, suffering is all some souls know.
Few people experience difficulty and distress as much as orphans do. Whether it’s one or two parents that have died, orphaned children are forced to confront emotions most of us don’t have to worry about until we’re well into adulthood.
On top of the emotional strife associated with losing their parents, orphans must also deal with the reality of being alone in the world. To say this is hard is an understatement, but the onset of winter is a particularly hard time for children who don’t have parents.
The Life of an Orphan
Everyday is a struggle for orphans, even those in orphanages. Emotional stress is one factor, but inadequate living conditions and limited access to basic childhood necessities play a big role in the hardship faced by innocent children who have been left to fend for themselves. Orphanages in developing countries are often overrun and underfunded, meaning whilst they can provide children with four walls and a roof under which to live, many can’t offer nutritious meals, emotional support, healthcare, and education.
This means children still go hungry and are deprived of the chance to build a promising future for themselves once they leave the facility. In comparison to developed countries, the fate facing orphans in developing nations is worse due to lack of governmental support and funding. Orphans in developing countries are once again on their own when they reach maturity.
Not every orphan makes it to an orphanage. Thousands reside on the street, with nothing but the clothes on their backs and items they can scavenge to survive. This puts them at an extremely high risk of trafficking, violence, sexual abuse, and trafficking. Orphanages might not always be ideal, but they offer a degree of protection from those who seek to cause harm to innocent children who don’t have a protector.
Little hope and seemingly endless turmoil take their toll on orphans, so much so that the average life expectancy for an orphan is 30 years old. Without support and love, children born into a world of suffering are at risk of their lives being cut short just as they’ve begun.
Why is Winter Worse for Orphans?
The life of an orphan is often bleak and grey. You might be wondering how it could possibly get any worse, but winter brings with it its own struggles. As mentioned, orphanages are often overrun and underfunded, meaning basic supplies like food and clothes are in short supply. Many children do not have winter appropriate clothes to fend off the cold, leaving them exposed to the cold and the health issues it can bring.
Heating is another issue orphanages face, with many not having enough money to adequately heat the building, meaning many children go to bed cold. For those living on the streets, blankets are rare, meaning cardboard and scrappy clothes are the only protection they have from bitter temperatures, heavy rainfall, and torrential rain.
Another danger facing orphans during wintertime is the fact the days are shorter. This means nightfall comes around faster, curbing the slight protection the daylight brings. The anonymity afforded by darkness makes it easier for criminals to recruit children into gangs, abuse them, or traffic them. In winter, orphans lose the limited protection they have from longer daylight hours, resulting in a greater risk of harm to their wellbeing.
Winter Health Hazards
In addition to abuse and exploitation, the reality of life as an orphan in winter doesn’t just stop there. As a winter charity, we understand the specific health issues winter can bring, and few groups are as susceptible to them as orphans.
Without proper clothing or heating, winter orphans are at a greater risk of suffering from hypothermia which occurs when your body temperature dips below 35˚C. For those living on the streets or in unheated homes, and those without access to heat sources like blankets and thermal clothes, hypothermia is a very real risk, and a deadly one.
Frostbite may also occur which can cause life-changing tissue damage. This can limit the ability to work and escape the cycle of poverty, leading to a lifetime of suffering.
Another risk facing orphans is winter diseases such as the flu, colds, and Covid-19. Lack of hygiene and colder temperatures are ideal breeding grounds for things like the rhinovirus. Whilst many of us can fight these illnesses off, a malnourished and physically depleted orphan may not have the immune capacity to battle such diseases, meaning they can quickly turn deadly. With no caregiver or protector, healthcare is severely limited, only adding to the troubles orphans must face in winter.
How You Can Help
Life as an orphan is tough, especially in winter. When you sponsor an orphan through Orphans in Need, you can make a real difference to a child’s life. The benefits are immeasurable, making it a qualifying act of Sadaqah Jariyah. Alternatively, you can donate your Zakat to our Delhi orphan village where we provide vulnerable children with a safe and secure environment to flourish.
Please give what you can so we can alleviate the issues faced by orphans, especially during what is sure to be a difficult winter.