“It will take a village to raise a child. “

It has been a long and eventful journey from the day our first baby came to us 23 years ago. Since 1993, we cared for more than 300 children and 84 children still remain under our care.

Looking back, we have grown according to our needs.

Our first Home was suitable for babies up to three-years-old. Then, we needed a property to create a new Home for 3 to 14-years-olds.

A few years later, we realized we needed a Home that would keep our children together until they were 18-years-old. Today, we have 2 Homes – the Cradle and the Fountain of Hope.

None of this would have been possible without the support of Macau Social Welfare Bureau, who has worked with us helping us to provide for the needs of our children. They have granted the majority of our funding over the last 23 years. Furthermore, the support, both financial and in time, we received from individuals, companies of Macau and other institutions has been vital to our work. Without them, we would not have been able to do what we do.

We are about to commence our next phase. The understanding and, consequently, the care for children who are suffering from abandonment, neglect or abuse is also changing. Once, it was enough to provide a safe place, food, warmth and care. Research now tells us this is not enough. If we don’t address these children’s ordeals under a therapeutic framework, they will remain damaged adults and, in most cases, unable to participate in society in a meaningful manner. As humans, we’re all responsible for the children in the society we live in.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that all children have the right to health, happiness and a chance to become contributing adults. Our sense of responsibility aside, the financial burden of not providing correct and adequate care for these children as they become adults will be overwhelming in the future. It has been proven, time and time again, that children and young people at risk that don’t receive the correct care from staff with the adequate training to provide for them and understand them, will have higher chances of a compromised future. Often, they’ll end up unemployed, more prone to succumb to mental illness, and ultimately become a financial burden to our society. Our job in the years ahead is to meet this changing phase of care and rise to the challenge, by finishing the job we started with our children, and ensure that they reach adulthood equipped to live and contribute to society happily and productively.

The equally important challenge, which must be achieved in the next years, as our children are growing into adulthood, is to prepare them for independent living and make sure they start with the necessary skills. Whether that be with tertiary qualifications or ready for successful employment. Even as young adults, it’s vital we keep them within the COHA family. If not, the job we started 23 years ago will be left unfinished. Research and personal experience have proven too well the damage multiple moves inflict on a child or young person, that often times is already suffering from the trauma of abuse. We need to find the necessary support that can help us provide our children the final step for them to leave us well prepared for their adult life.

Our children come from families where family structure has been broken either by poverty, domestic abuse, drugs, or mental illness. And with a lack of understanding of the importance of good parenting. This can occur at all levels of society. In the future, for COHA to ensure that our children are sent back to functioning families, we need to address this issue by creating a Family Support Center.

The staff is our most important asset. We need the necessary resources to ensure we have staff at all levels in our Homes. People with the correct training and with a clearly understanding of the needs and difficulties these children face. The most critical time in a person’s life is from infancy to three-years-old. The resources we put into Cradle of Hope Home, which fosters our babies and young children, is vital in determining a successful outcome in adulthood.

Twenty-three years of service to Macau’s children has been a rewarding and wonderful time, even though at times frustrating, difficult and heartbreaking. However, we know we are making a difference. We wish to create systems that will help us understand if the work we do is successful. And that enable us to evaluate the outcome of our care work and assist us in improving our practices in the future.

The experience of working with the staff, Social Welfare Bureau, companies, and individuals that have supported us on this journey gives us the will and desire to continue our work into the future.

As Mother Tereza once said: “What I do, you cannot do. What you do, I cannot do. But together we can do great things.” We do because you care! Thank you all for helping us to make a difference!

by Marjory Vendramini