A couple of weeks ago, I joined the Board of Directors for IllumAlliance (please click the link to learn more about this wonderful humanitarian organization and to see the appointment announcement.)

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While I was in Iraq, IllumAlliance’s President, Robert Cipriano, asked me to respond to a question that he posed on his Facebook Profile.

As a follow-on to the question, "What does it take to get involved with crisis children?" Robert asked:

"With an ever shrinking world brought together by social networks like Facebook, Linkedin and MySpace, what can we as captains of this new voyage do to minimize poverty, homelessness and abuse and maximize our impact?"

The answer had to be limited to 255 characters. Well, as anybody who knows me, and anybody subscribed this blog (upper right-hand corner), can attest…I can’t keep anything under 1,000 characters, let alone 300.

I’ve therefore posted my – still brief by my standards – response here for the benefit of the IllumAlliance folks and my own abandoned-orphaned subscribers.

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Well, Rob, I’ll tie both questions together.

It’s a multifaceted issue, requiring both a top-down and bottom-up approach as well as macro and micro engagements. It’s too complex to really get into much detail here, but…

The major issues that affect the children (including the causes and symptoms you mention: poverty, homelessness and abuse) have to be tackled in part at the governmental and international community levels, yes. But ultimately everything ties back to fallen human nature and the multitudes of iniquities inherent therein. Reconciliation to our original design and nature is truly the only all-encompassing resolution. After all, everything that plagues the children can be traced back to the sinful character, intentions, actions and outcomes of mankind.

Having said that, to attack the greater societal issues from the top-down using secular approaches (but driven by the Love that guides us), we have to put pressure on nations and international oversight bodies. The issues have to be continually brought to the surface and our voices must be heard through the clutter.

The new medium of connectivity and voice is indeed the Internet. Blogs, social networking sites, and streaming/reporting technologies are truly a ‘viral’ way of raising awareness and mobilizing masses to action – to solicit political parties, nations and their broader associations to change.

From the bottom-up, ‘grassroots,’ angle, it’s simply the rescue of ‘one child at a time,’ knowing that each child rescued is not only a child taken out of the statistics, but also a child who becomes an advocate for change herself. It’s a geometric impact.

When you consider the interconnectivity and cause-effect cycle of the issues, it becomes clear that you just have to reach in and break the chain at the most opportune point.

For example, HIV/AIDS causes orphans who, in turn, are raped, trafficked to brothels, or engage in prostitution to survive. They become the next breeding ground of HIV/AIDS. One can help to tackle the behemoth problem of HIV/AIDS by therefore rescuing an orphan. It’s a practical, tangible, measureable approach to fighting the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

You can look at other related vicious circles also. Terrorism causes orphans who are then recruited or stolen into terrorist camps; Prostitution causes abandoned children who then become prostitutes; Child soldiers cause orphans who are then snatched up to be child soldiers; Poverty causes discarded children who grow up impoverished, etc. By attacking one link in the chain – in this case, orphans – you break the cycle. Given the huge composite issues involved, I would also argue that this is the easiest and most practical link to break.

This, of course, is what I’m involved in personally at World Orphans. According to the United Nations, there are 143 million orphans (semi and full) in the world. There are hundreds of thousands of churches (across all denominations and styles) set in their midst. A very practical, cost-effective strategy, therefore, is to partner with these churches to simply rescue and care for the orphans in their immediate community- even preventing orphaning and abandonment in the first place. This involves the resourcing and training of these churches.

If we can get each church to rescue each child, we will see each community transformed. We will see nations transformed.

This is doable. This has results. It’s not a highbrow, straw-man proposition built on just theory and conjecture.

For a deeper perspective on this, please review my blog posts, the Mega-Issue and Home Placement.

Now as far as awareness for all of this is concerned, the present tools are the same as for the top-down strategy – the electronic media options of our time. Direct mail doesn’t work. Advertising doesn’t work. Organizational booths at thinly-attended conferences don’t work.

Just as we rescue a child who then impacts communities as those communities see the transformation of the child, and just as that child acts as a direct advocate for change, so must we also approach the exposure/awareness/mobilization task in the same multiplicative way. We need champions who can infect the cyber world with the message. We need tools that immediately broadcast the issues to people who can be advocates, who can solicit and enlist others to get involved.

We all have our part, Rob. You are a workhorse that does so much for this effort in so many areas. But I’m especially excited by the more effective IT tools and broadcast options you are bringing online to enhance the roles that we each have to play.

Thank you for that!

From personal experience on the whole social networking, blogging thing…

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I’ve only been a member of Facebook for three months, but have almost 1,800 folks in my network that are enquiring everyday about general volunteer opportunities, participating in short-term trips to orphan homes, contributing to the work, advocating on behalf of the children to their social networks, engaging in intern roles, etc. In addition, over just a span of a few weeks, we have over 1,000 members in our sponsored, "A Heart for Missions" group. We have also just gotten started on the "Fight Campaign" group that specifically looks at breaking the chains mentioned above.

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Likewise, the abandoned-orphaned blog here has only been up for a year but has hundreds of subscribers and almost 1,000 people faithfully visiting it each day. Wherever I go to speak at or attend conferences and seminars, organizational leaders and attendees approach me and tell me how they use the blog as a significant source of info on orphans and abandoned children. This has resulted in new network partners, new donors, new people approaching us to join the team.

I don’t say all this to toot my own horn. To the contrary, this has happened with very little human effort on my part. It’s just indicative of the reality that people have a heart to connect, learn, and make an impact. And it’s evidence that God will use such vehicles to spread the message.

The tools are there…and you’re adding to that toolset, Rob.

We just have to utilize them in a concerted effort for change, coupled with sensible, realistic avenues of involvement.