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Transformational Journey: The Story of Zay Hong

Zay Hong’s early life in a remote village in Myanmar was marked by profound challenges. Despite his family’s poverty, there was hope for a better future until his parents succumbed to drug addiction, leading to overwhelming psychological, physical, and financial turmoil. This instability culminated in Zay being abandoned by his parents, leaving him in a dire situation.

During a visit to Zay’s village a few years ago, Titus, a partner of Agape Asia, was approached by local residents who knew him as a compassionate Christian leader. They pleaded with him to help Zay. Responding to their call, Titus took Zay into his own home, where he joined a family of 15 other orphans.

Since then, Zay’s life has undergone a remarkable transformation. From abandonment, he found security and love in a new, large family. He started school, excelling academically and enjoying activities like biking and soccer. Most importantly, Zay embraced Christianity, growing from not knowing Jesus to actively leading worship and sharing his faith with others.

Zay’s story underscores several key lessons we’ve learned at Agape Asia:

  1. The Evolving Definition of “Orphan”:
    • Traditionally, an orphan was a child who had lost both parents. Over time, this definition has expanded to include any child without parental care. Today, we recognize:
      • Double orphans: children who have lost both parents.
      • Single orphans: children who have lost one parent.
      • Social orphans: children who may have living parents but are deprived of adequate care due to various incapacities.
    • At Agape Asia, such children are considered at-risk or vulnerable. Zay, for example, is a social orphan because his parents, though alive, could not provide the necessary care due to their addictions.
  2. The Importance of Family-Based Care:
    • Families are the ideal setting for children to grow and thrive. When natural families are unable to care for their children due to various adversities such as illness, addiction, or poverty, the primary solution remains within the family structure.
    • Agape often works with single mothers or other relatives to maintain children within their biological families. We support families on the brink of separation due to economic hardships or social challenges, striving to preserve and restore family units.
    • When staying with biological families isn’t feasible, Agape facilitates placement in loving foster homes, like that of Titus, who open their hearts and homes to orphans.
    • In exceptional cases where no suitable foster families are available, children may reside in care centers. These centers strive to replicate a familial atmosphere as much as possible. Although most of Agape’s children now live in family settings, about 15% reside in care centers, reflecting a significant shift towards family-based care over recent years.

Zay’s journey from a vulnerable orphan to a thriving young leader highlights the profound impact of compassionate intervention and the enduring value of family, faith, and community support. As we continue our work, let us remember the transformative power of love and the importance of providing a nurturing environment for every child.

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