03 March 2021

Rukhiya’s story, part III: I’m not interested in making orphanages nicer places for children

To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re sharing the stories of remarkable women who are part of the global campaign to end the use of orphanages by strengthening and supporting families. Today, Rukhiya Budden leads what she describes as a very blessed and lucky life, with a loving family and a beautiful home. But her life certainly didn’t start out this way Rukhiya survived a harrowing childhood in an orphanage in Kenya to become a passionate advocate for an end to the institutionalisation of children worldwide.

In this final part of her story, Rukhiya explains why she is now so determined to help end the use of orphanages worldwide:

Rhukiya Budden

I came to London when I was 17 and, after lots of struggles and lots of setbacks, I made a life for myself in the UK. I met my husband through work and today we have a beautiful home and a beautiful family, but  I thank God every day because I know that I am one of the lucky ones. Most children who grow up in orphanages really struggle to build any kind of life for themselves when they grow up. I know this for a fact because of what’s happened to the other children from the orphanage where I spent my childhood, including some of my friends and siblings, who I’m still in touch with back in Kenya.

Becoming a mother myself, really brought home to me the reality of what I had missed out on and that I didn’t really know how to look after a child because no one had shown me love and care when I was growing up.

 

“The orphanage is still there and children are still spending their childhoods confined behind those high metal gates”

 

In 2011, I went back to Kenya to visit my foster father shortly before he died. I wanted him to meet my two oldest children and I wanted them to see the place where I’d grown up. And I went back again in May 2018 to make a film about my experiences for Hope and Homes for Children.

 

The gates of the orphanage in Kenya where Rukhiya spent her childhood

The gates of the orphanage in Kenya where Rukhiya spent her childhood

 

The orphanage is still there and children are still spending their childhoods confined behind those high metal gates, suffering in just the same way that I did. It was very, very hard to walk through those gates again. But now I know what needs to be done. I’m not interested in making orphanages nicer places for children or giving them better clothes or school equipment. We need to get to the core of the problem. We need to eliminate orphanages.

 

“All children, whatever their needs, should be in loving families.”

 

All children, whatever their needs, should be in loving families. I know, because that’s what my foster father did for me and it changed my life.

And Hope and Homes for Children have proved that this is not only right but it’s also achievable. By helping countries to reform their child protection systems, by setting up services that support vulnerable families so that they can care for their own children, they are succeeding in closing orphanages, either by reuniting children with their families or by finding a safe and loving foster or adoptive family for every children.

 

“I’ve met children from institutions who have been placed with loving foster families and will now grow up with all the care and attention that I was denied as a child.”

 

I’ve seen the work of Hope and Homes for Children for myself in Rwanda where the government is committed to closing all the orphanages in favour of family-based care and I’ve met children from institutions who have been placed with loving foster families and will now grow up with all the care and attention that I was denied as a child.

And that’s why I can stand here today and say children need families not orphanages and by supporting the work of Hope and Homes for Children you, like me, can be part of the growing global movement that is going to make orphanages unacceptable, that is going to make orphanages history within our lifetime.

 

Read part II of Rhukiya’s story: Finding family transformed my future

 


Too often, the voices and stories of women, especially those involved in the care of children, is marginalised and hidden. Throughout March, we’ll be sharing stories that demonstrate how the empowerment of women also helps to ensure children grow up with the love of a family and the safety of home.

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