My name is Florence Koenderink, founder and Project Director of Orphanage Projects. My background in childcare stretches out over more than 20 years. In more recent years, it has become more and more focused on care for children with special needs and institutional childcare. With my knowledge of general childcare, institutional childcare and medical care involving children, I can help you improve your childcare institution, where ever it is in the world.
Experience has taught me that relatively simple measures, which do not need a great investment of funds, can greatly improve infants’ chances of living and raise their quality of life tremendously. That even in a well-run organisation, there is always room for improvement. That observations made by an outsider can lead to structural changes which improve the lives of both children and carers. I have visited some orphanages where I encountered the very lowest levels of ‘care’, and the desperate need for improvement.
Through intensive experience I have learned a lot about the challenges infants and toddlers face in institutional situations, such as:
- The weaker health conditions of children
- The unavailability of breast milk
- The ease with which epidemics develop
- The greater tendency for developmental delay
These issues need awareness, knowledge and skills to be overcome.
- Start by helping out with the day to day care of the children alongside the carers, getting to know both children and carers better in the process
- Getting to know the care system in place, both through taking part in it and through getting background information from the management. More information about this in the article ‘To-Do List’
- Providing management with a list of recommendations and advice and discuss this to determine what changes to make and how to go about it.
- Implement the changes agreed on through either formal or informal training, followed by three steps: Step 1: having staff assist me in doing things, so they can see how it is done and ask further questions. Step 2: assisting the staff while they do it themselves, advising them along the way. Step 3: letting the staff do it themselves, while only supervising and commenting in case of real problems, until they are confident doing it themselves.
I have found that engaging caring staff in their native language personally is much more effective than working through an interpreter. Given a couple of months to do so, I will learn the basics of any language which a new project may require. Right now I am proficient in:
And I have some knowledge of Kiswahili, Kannada, Marathi and Russian.
In the articles on this website, you can find some more information about how I work. As well as my view on the attitude of UNICEF and many other large international organisations towards institutional childcare.