How Can the Church Respond to the Needs of Vulnerable Children in Every Nation of the World?
Greg Hawell and Menchit Wong anchored the plenary sessions of the 2024 WWO cofnerence. / Photo: Vlady Raichinov

World Without Orphans (WWO), held its Global Forum in Chiang Mai (Thailand) from February 29 to March 3, 2024. “Together from Crisis to Hope” wass the topic of the conference and a text from Hebrews 6 the motto: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain”.

But what is WWO? A global movement committed to mobilising the Christian church to respond to the needs of vulnerable children in every nation. This affiliate member of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) calls and equips national leaders to collaborate in solving their country’s problem with people in underprivileged situation, specifically with a focus on orphans. The vision of all WWO groups in the world is to see children thriving, families strong, and churches engaged.

The forum in Chiang Mai was the third of its kind. In 2016, the first WWO Global Forum brought together 450 people from sixty countries, and the second one in 2019 had 500 participants from seventy countries. The convention is designed for national and local leaders, NGO and ministry professionals, millennial influencers, experts involved in family strengthening, government officials, journalists, and orphan care practitioners.

Key leaders from groups such as Transform World, 4/14 Window, the WEA, the Lausanne Movement, the Pentecostal World Fellowship, Global Children’s Forum, Viva Network and others, partnered to help organise this gathering.

The WWO movement has grown in the past eight years from active initiatives in less than ten countries to 49 active national movements, and an additional 53 countries with active partner organisations.

An European-born movement

As a movement, World Without Orphans was first launched in Ukraine in 2010, as local committed Christians shared a dream to seek solutions to the orphan crisis in their nation. Following the first gathering in 2016, a group of likeminded Christian leaders from across Europe began to meet to explore how to nurture the same vision across the continent.

By that time, various types of Christian ministries were already addressing problems with orphaned children – and the situation with institutional care was improving significantly in many countries. However, many of the foster care and adoption systems were experiencing a period of wearing out, marked by lack of motivation among institutional caregivers; insufficient funding; almost no coordination and exchange of resources; deficiency of quality training as well as personal emotional and spiritual support for the workers involved in the process; disorientation and fatigue among adoptive families and foster parents.

These processes coincided with other crises like the huge waves of refugees entering Europe – which led to a large number of unaccompanied minors. As a result, a much deeper problem was lurking under the governmental measures.

The vision for WWO Europe was driven forward by Ukraine, Romania and UK, where strong and pioneering movements already existed. The necessity for a Europe-wide initiative was recognised and verbalised. As a result, a facilitation team was formed in July 2017. A year later, Richard Procter joined as leading coordinator, and he was instrumental for fast-tracking the initiative. A lot more cooperation and coordination was injected in the process. A number of emerging national movements were supported, and much more effective work was encouraged in many countries.

In 2019, WWO Europe was officially registered as a non-profit organisation. The team organised a number of seminars between 2021 and 2023 on issues such as “Seeing the Unseen Children”, “Hidden Homes, Hidden Harms”, “Hidden in Plain Sight”, “Helping Children Heal through Play”, “Working Together to Keep Our Children Safe”, and “Caring for Children with Disabilities”.

In March 2023, WWO Europe organized a significant consultation in Sofia, Bulgaria. Its main theme was, “Journeying Together: A Family for Every Child”. The event was supported by partners like European Freedom Network, Orphan’s Promise, Refugee Highway Partnership, Christian Alliance for Orphans, Thirty One Eight, and others. Through presentations and discussion, 224 people from 29 nations shared experience and practical tools. They were united by the vision of “a world where every child is cared for in a safe and loving family, knows their heavenly Father, and reaches their God-given potential”.

Crises piling up

Since the previous forum held in October 2019, the world has seen unprecedented and massive crises: a global epidemics, an escalation of wars, a surge of heavy earthquakes, substantial floods and other ecological changes.

But there are other imposing crises that also engulf our world: social stratification, political delamination, migrant movements, opioid dependencies, broken families. All of this is impacting economy, employment, migration processes – but most of all it leaves millions of children exposed to various kinds of stress and hurt.

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