For Women’s History Month, we’re sharing the stories of remarkable women who are part of the global movement to end the use of orphanages for good 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 escaped a harrowing childhood in an orphanage in Kenya thanks to an inspirational foster father who helped her fulfil her dream to study and travel. Here, in the final part of her story, Rukhiya explains why she is now such a passionate advocate for an end to the use of orphanages worldwide:
I came to London when I was 17 and, after lots of struggles and 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 a 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 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.
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 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. 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 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 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.