A chance to see what "normal" is.
If you have lived your life in an institution then you very likely have not ever lived in a stable and functioning family. If you haven't lived with a stable and functioning family then how will you know how to form and live in one when you are the adult? Even just a few weeks give children the opportunity to see a healthy marriage, parents acting like parents, and how a household runs. Will they 'catch' all of that and be able to model it successfully when they move out on their own? Probably not, but at least there is now an idea that it is possible.
A break from the bullying and intense orphan hierarchy system.
Each orphan has to find his or her place a system that most often has very little adult interaction. In place of adults, older orphans rule in an often corrupt system. This may sound a little crazy but it is sort of like a mini-organized crime organization. The older children offer protection to younger or weaker orphans in exchange for material items such as any gifts or stolen goods. Children with any physical or cognitive defects who are placed in 'regular' orphanages will often not be accepted. For example, this past summer an orphanage director personally called New Horizons and asked to send some a child because he was getting bullied so badly in his camp. (A last minute family stepped up and the child was able to have a true break from the constant bullying.)
Medical, Eye, and Dental Care
New Horizons requires host parents to take children to have both an eye and dental exam. In addition, I read a few children who were able to see specialists for various ongoing medical needs. (A child needing specialized care is not the norm and you would be aware of this when you are picking a host child.) For some children this will be the first time for either (and yes, they may be a teenager!). Many children find life much improved after proper dental care - they have been in pain for so long that they are just used to it! Several children get the glasses they need. Imagine how improved all areas of life seem when you can see and no longer have a constant headache!
I don't really think that this needs much explanation. It is often what you expect, there isn't a variety of healthy food and there isn't enough. It would not be uncommon for a child to be unfamiliar with many common fresh fruits and vegetable. For example, bananas are very popular with host children! Although, occasionally food issues exist children most often have robust appetites and enjoy meal times. The proper diet goes a long way in a short time. We were shocked when Di*na gained almost 10 pounds and grew an inch the few weeks she was here.
Adequate clothingNew Horizon children arrive with only the clothes on their backs. They leave with a suitcase full of clothing that fits and is seasonally appropriate. Although, some children will not be able to keep all of their new clothing, the clothes are usually being shared among the orphanage. That means that although the coat or sneakers may not be worn by your host child, they are still protecting an orphan from the bitter winter cold in Eastern Europe. For us, clothing was not only something that Di*na enjoyed, it was an opportunity to teach her how to dress appropriately for certain situations and how to shop.
Appropriate physical touch
This is one of those things that makes people uncomfortable - physical affection to a child. We are used to watching for red flags for children who have been touched but inappropriately. What we don't come across as often here in the US is children who have never been touched appropriately. Children need pats on the back, hugs, kisses, hand holding, and cuddling to develop properly.
Positive Adult Interaction
As I shared above, orphans have very little adult interaction. Adults may supervise a large amount of children or prepare food but there isn't a person who greets them at the door after school and asks about their day. Di*na's most common form of interaction with adults was with her classroom teachers. Orphans are not used to adults providing rules and boundaries and lovingly enforcing them. They are not used to sharing about their feelings or thoughts - no one cares. Living in an orphanage (or foster care as is becoming more common), the old saying, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease" holds very true. Children are essentially trained to interact with adults by either acting up to get what they need or blending in to avoid punishment. Learning to hold a conversation with an adult is a skill often acquired on the trip.
Time just to be a child
Orphans are forced to grow up fast. Yes, they miss out on all those little things that our kids take for granted such as owning toys and being read to. But they also take on a lot of responsibility early. For example, washing their own clothes...in the sink...by hand. Their brains are preoccupied with protecting themselves and the few material items they may possess. They aren't playing dress up and Barbies. They aren't watching Disney channel while scarfing down an afternoon snack. They aren't free from responsibility and worry so they aren't free to just act like children.
A Great Vacation
Tell me about your very favorite all-time vacation. Where did you go? What did you do? What are some things you ate? Now tell me, how long did it last? Vacation doesn't last forever. Would you go back and never go on that trip just because you can't always eat out in restaurants, have a maid make your bed in the hotel every day, and it only lasted a few days? NO, you know that vacation is just a break for a short period of time. The same is true with Orphan hosting. The children are on vacation. Their schools are closed and they would usually be sent to a camp. Instead of going to camp they get to come to America (or Holland, Israel, or Italy - some other countries that host children). They get to take a break. It isn't cruel - it is exactly what a vacation is!
A Chance for a Forever Family
Most of the orphans that are available for adoption and are hosted find forever families. It isn't necessarily the host family doing the adopting either! Family and Friends of host families often become the forever family. This usually happens because they either meet the child (or children) or read about the orphan through social media such as blogs and facebook. Isn't that just a beautiful thing?!?
Lasting Relationships are formed
Di*na received her first letter ever while she stayed with us this past summer. Most orphans do not have people calling, emailing, or sending them packages. After being hosted, each child now has people in his or her life who miss them and let them know that! Each year, a team from New Horizons visits orphanages and foster homes. Children proudly share with them the letters from their host families. Children who are adopted leave the orphanage with almost nothing but a stack of precious letters from their new parents. Knowing someone loves and thinks about you is priceless!
Do you think that you may be interested in hosting an orphan? New Horizons is currently looking for host families for the December Hosting. You can find out more by visiting their website: www.newhorizonsforchildren.org.