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Can a Rapper Save Congo?
Goma
By Monique Jaques
22 Jul 2015

Rapper singer Akon returns to his hometown of Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His trip led him to the orphanage where he spent his childhood and was greeted with excitement by the local children.

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New Institution Set to Receive Orphan...
Aleppo
By Abdu al-Fadel
26 May 2015

Video shot during press tour shows Dar al-Mumayyazun, a new orphanage in a rebel-held neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria.

Interviewees:

Asmar al-Halabi, Manager of Dar al-Mumayyazun

Um Ayman, Psychological Counselor

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Syria's Orphans Stuck in Limbo
Reyhanli
By Isabel Hunter
03 Feb 2015

Reyhanli, Turkey

February 3, 2015

As Turkey’s urban refugee population skyrockets, keeping track of the most vulnerable children is becoming impossible and the risk of sexual and work exploitation is increasing. Turkey's traditionally effective orphan care system is overwhelmed and cannot cope with the burden. In such cases, adoption is often a part of the solution. However, adoption remains extremely rare for both cultural reasons and a lack of infrastructure to manage safe and secure adoptions.

Syrian NGO Maram started an orphanage to help protect some of these children. Ruba Shalish, 11, arrived to the orphanage two weeks ago. She had lived with her grandfather, 75-year-old Nadir, in his small garage-house for one year after losing both of her parents in Syria. She is happy at the orphanage and interacting very well with her friends, as shown by her confident performance in a show organized by the orphanage management. While the orphanage can take 75 children, founder Yakzan Shishakly refuses to allow them to be adopted, despite frequent inquiries, fearing that the unregulated adoption system could easily lead to human trafficking. For many, the most logical solution to the crisis is to expand the existing orphanage infrastructure. However, alleviating the growing problem remains a distant reality.

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Abandoned Children in Bulgaria
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
29 Sep 2014

Bulgaria is one of the countries in the world most affected by the abandonment of children. Every year, 2,000 babies are placed in state institutions, while over 7,000 infants and teenagers live without parents. This practice of abandoning children is a by-product of the family policy in the countries that were part of the Soviet Union. In these countries, the state or "homeland" acted as the surrogate mother for abandoned children and took care of families. As a result, thousands of children in Bulgaria have grown up without proper care and affection. The shocking images of the Rumanian orphanages in the eighties opened the eyes of the authorities and public opinion about these child prisons. In 2009, a BBC report showing wild children in Bulgaria fighting for food and living in terrible conditions greatly upset the population. Over the last few years, NGOs, the European Union, and Unicef have mobilized in an effort to close these orphanages. The state of Bulgaria also decided on a national plan to close the institutions. The authorities made a commitment to provide alternative housing and care for these children, which involves developing a network of host families, facilitating adoption processes, helping the biological families financially to encourage them to keep their children, and creating small institutions to help handicapped children (42 % of the abandoned children suffer from a disability). But what really needs addressing is the causes behind the high level of abandonment. Poverty, lack of access to healthcare (among the Roma minority in particular), poor sexual education, and the high price and inaccessibility of contraceptives are all issues that contribute to the problem. This is a colossal challenge for the poorest country in the European Union, compounded by corruption. Another angle to the story: ‘Mothers in Chains’ After being abandoned, the child has to grow up without a mother. Placed in an institution, they are surrounded by women who will give them care and affection. Nurses, nannies, volunteers and, in the best cases, a family assistant if there is placement in host family or foster mother if they are lucky enough to be adopted. To make up for the absence of the biological mother, surrogate mothers' chain is going to be set up. Who are these women who devote themselves to taking care of these abandoned children? How do they work? What are the aftereffects on the children after having so many different maternal relationships?

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Abandoned Children 32
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
04 Jul 2014

A girl at the Saint Ivan Rilski Sofia Institution's playground. Like this little girl, many children, disabled or not, wait for adoption.

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Abandoned Children 33
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
04 Jul 2014

A little boy stands in the playground of Saint Ivan Rilski Sofia Institution.

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Abandoned Children 35
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
04 Jul 2014

Feeding bottles for babies in the Saint Ivan Rilski Sofia Institution that houses around a dozen babies.

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Shumen
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A nurse plays with two children in the garden of Shumen Institution, the oldest institution in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 01
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A nurse watching over disabled children as they nap at Shumen Institution, the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 05
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A little girl plays in the garden of Shumen Institution. Shumen institution is the oldest in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A little girl rests in her sister's arms. Roma children have the highest rates of abandoned children in Bulgaria.

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Abandoned Children 08
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A nurse plays with a little girl playing in the garden of Shumen Institution, the oldest institution in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 09
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 13
Shumen, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 14
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A doctor and a nurse in front of a sleeping disabled child. Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 16
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A little girl playing in the garden of Shumen Institution, the oldest institution in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 17
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A doctor and a nurse in front of a sleeping disabled child. Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 21
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A doctor walking in the courtyard of Shumen's oldest institution. Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 23
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A little boy playing in the Shumen Institution garden. Shumen institution is the oldest in Bulgaria. It was built in 1935. In the past there were hundreds of children lived here. Because of de-institutionalization, they're now less than a dozen, all with disabilities. During the day, children with light disabilities come to spend the day and then go back to their home at night.

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Abandoned Children 24
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A little girl playing in the garden of Shumen Institution, the oldest institution in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 26
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

Children playing in the garden of Shumen Institution. Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 03
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova welcomes abandoned children in her home for one year before they get adopted. Here, she shows painted hand-prints of all the children she has hosted.

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Abandoned Children 12
Targovishte, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Zlatka Rizaeva, a nurse at the Turghovist Institution, takes care of a young disabled boy in the room where all the seven disabled children sleep at the institution.
As Rizaeva introduces us to the seven children, a girl holds on her two legs. Others spend their days sleeping, coiled in their colored sheets, sometimes unable to move. "It is very hard this work with them," admits Rizaeva. "They need a lot of care. And then, our job is often depreciated. People have difficulty understanding our everyday life here. They do not think of the many positive things this kind of institution offers."

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Abandoned Children 15
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova playing with little Anna. Dani Dukova's apartment smells like chocolate cake. When she opens the door, a small brunette with two braids enters. It is Anna, age four. Dani has been in Dukova's care for one year. "It is the fifth child I have at home since I decided to become a host family," explains Dukova. "When the girl first arrived from the institution, she used to bang her head against the walls. It was hard to watch. Now, she's much better. " Dukova knows that one day, Anna will leave when foster parents in Bulgaria or in the United States decide to take her on. "I cry when they leave, but I am very proud of how they have changed in my care," she adds.

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Abandoned Children 18
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova playing with little Anna. Dani Dukova's apartment smells like chocolate cake. When she opens the door, a small brunette with two braids enters. It is Anna, age four. Dani has been in Dukova's care for one year. "It is the fifth child I have at home since I decided to become a host family," explains Dukova. "When the girl first arrived from the institution, she used to bang her head against the walls. It was hard to watch. Now, she's much better. " Dukova knows that one day, Anna will leave when foster parents in Bulgaria or in the United States decide to take her on. "I cry when they leave, but I am very proud of how they have changed in my care," she adds.

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Abandoned Children 19
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova playing with little Anna. Dani Dukova's apartment smells like chocolate cake. When she opens the door, a small brunette with two braids enters. It is Anna, age four. Dani has been in Dukova's care for one year. "It is the fifth child I have at home since I decided to become a host family," explains Dukova. "When the girl first arrived from the institution, she used to bang her head against the walls. It was hard to watch. Now, she's much better. " Dukova knows that one day, Anna will leave when foster parents in Bulgaria or in the United States decide to take her on. "I cry when they leave, but I am very proud of how they have changed in my care," she adds.

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Abandoned Children 20
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova welcomes abandoned children in her home for one year before they get adopted.

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Abandoned Children 22
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova playing with little Anna. Dani Dukova's apartment smells like chocolate cake. When she opens the door, a small brunette with two braids enters. It is Anna, age four. Dani has been in Dukova's care for one year. "It is the fifth child I have at home since I decided to become a host family," explains Dukova. "When the girl first arrived from the institution, she used to bang her head against the walls. It was hard to watch. Now, she's much better. " Dukova knows that one day, Anna will leave when foster parents in Bulgaria or in the United States decide to take her on. "I cry when they leave, but I am very proud of how they have changed in my care," she adds.

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Abandoned Children 25
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova welcomes abandoned children in her home for one year before they get adopted. On her computer, she shows an older child who was adopted last year.

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Transgenders (13 of 20)
Yerevan, Armenia
By Nazik Armenakyan
14 Sep 2011

Lorena-Madonna, 25, grew up in an orphanage. She was sexually abused as a child. It’s been 6 years since she’s been working in the sex trade.

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Transgenders (14 of 20)
Yerevan, Armenia
By Nazik Armenakyan
07 May 2010

Lorena-Madonna, 25, grew up in an orphanage. She was sexually abused as a child. It’s been 6 years since she’s been working in the sex trade.