Friday, 29 May 2015

Home Children

   After reading "The Orphan Train", I searched for more books on the subject.  I was reminded that Jean Little wrote a youth fiction book about the orphans in Canada.  They were called the Home Children.
   Jean is a delightful woman who lives just a few miles from here (in Guelph).  Years ago, I invited her to speak to the children in my school.  She is blind and is accompanied by a seeing eye dog.  She writes fascinating stories for children and I am pleased to know that, at 84, she is still writing, using her talking computer.
more info about Jean:
- she was born in Taiwan and her family moved to Guelph when she was 7
- she was legally blind from birth, but went to regular classes in schools in Guelph
- she has a BA in English Language and Literature
- she began her career teaching disabled children
- her first novel "Mine for Keeps" was published in 1962, about a child with cerebral palsy
- she has published 45 books- novels, picture books, poetry, short stories and biographies
- she has taught children's literature at the University of Guelph
- she has 6 honorary degrees and is a Member of the Order of Canada

               "Orphan at my Door" by Jean Little
   I loved this book.  It is not told from the Home Child's perspective but is powerful nonetheless.
   It is the diary of Victoria,11, the daughter of a doctor.  Victoria's mother was expecting a fourth child and was not well, so Victoria's father took her to the train station to pick up a "home girl" to help to run the home.  The only girl available was Marianna, who happened to be only one year older than Victoria.
  The girls became good friends and Victoria discovered that Marianna has been separated from her brother and baby sister. In fact, her brother, Jasper, 8, was living nearby and was being beaten and starved. 
  The novel is fiction and shows the good and the bad of the 'home children' program.  It points out how prejudiced some people were to these children.  Even if they were sent to school, other children and even teachers treated them badly.
   This book is part of a series: Dear Canada.
   The 'home children' are part of the history of Canada and some school curriculums teach their story.

   Doctor Thomas Barnardo was the organizer of the Home Children program.  Around the same time as Charles Loring Brace was organizing the orphan trains in the U.S., Barnardo began establishing 'receiving homes' for orphans in U.K., Canada and Australia.  His goal was to find homes for the thousands of destitute children in Britain.
   From 1868 - 1930, 350,000 destitute children were placed in homes- 100,000 of these children found homes in Canada and were called "Home Children".
   In 2001,the records were opened for these children and thousands of requests began flooding in.  There was a BBC documentary and the offices of the Bernardo organization needed to be expanded to keep up with the requests.

A fascinating article about the Barnardo Boys can be read here from the
Winnipeg Free Press.

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