Krish Kandiah – Faith in the Family
Richard: Hello, I’m Richard Sargeant and this is Faith in Action, a podcast about how faith affects the way we live and work today. The family is a haven in a heartless world, but do the faithful have a distinct vision of how to create that refuge? With me to discuss this is Krish Kandiah, founder and director of Home for Good. Krish, welcome.
Krish: Thank you. Nice to be here.
Richard: What is Home for Good?
Krish: Home for Good is a movement of people passionate about making sure the most vulnerable in our society get the love and attention that they need. Currently, in the UK, there’s around four thousand children that are waiting for adoption. They’re often not babies. They’re older children, siblings, children with additional needs, children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. And we’re also short of foster carers to the tune of 8,600. We believe that fostering and adoptions are fantastic contribution that you can make to the life of a child. A lot of people tell me they’re interested in justice and they’re passionate about that, so I say, well, here’s a real way that you can kind of make the rubber hit the road. Open up your home. Open up your family and let’s welcome children that need loving parents in their lives. Let’s welcome them into our households.
Richard: That sounds fantastic. I don’t know very much about fostering or adoption – you said that there are a lot of people waiting – is that something that’s gone up in recent years?
Krish: Yes. There’s a lot of children in care at the moment. Somewhere in the region of 62,000. And a lot of our foster carers are aging out. They’ve been doing it for decades and they’re getting older, and so that’s been an issue. And then, sadly, it seems to have dropped off the public agenda. Adoption used to be babies. It used to be mothers who weren’t able to look after their own children and gave them up for adoption. And now it’s not, it’s children that are in the care system. They’ve been removed from difficult situations. Seventy percent of the kids in care have been removed because of neglect or physical abuse or sexual violence. And so, that’s a different kind of mindset that comes forward to say, I’m willing to adopt someone that’s in that kind of context. So, I think that’s what’s happened.
Richard: And where did you get the idea from? Where did you get the motivation to start Home for Good?
Krish: It started with our household, actually. So, my wife and I, we have three birth children, and we had three in three years. So, we were under thirty and it was all going great. I had an idea that I was going to find it difficult when my kids left home. So, I tried to build a silver lining onto it by having the kids close together. Because then, possibly, they would leave together, and then our empty nest would be a love nest again – just me and the wife and long romantic walks along beaches, all that kind of stuff. And so, the plan was going well until my wife said, hey, why don’t we become foster carers. And I thought that’s a great idea… for other people. And the more I was reflecting on it and, some friends of ours in their sixties became foster parents, so I thought, wow, if they can do that in their sixties, we can do that in our thirties. And then, as a Christian actually, my faith was important in that decision. The Bible talks a lot about God having special concern for the vulnerable. God Himself is described as a father to the fatherless and a protector of widows and orphans. And so, for me it became, hold on, am I really willing to take my faith seriously? Is it going to affect more than just Sunday mornings when I go to church or when I read the Bible? Is it going to affect the way I do everyday life? And so those three things – my wife, my fiends, and then the Bible – those were the kind on convictional things that happened to us; and we became foster carers. And it was absolutely the most difficult thing we’ve ever done. Heartbreaking, the stories you hear of the children, what they’ve experienced. But actually it’s one of the most rewarding things that we do. We see children that have had a tough start in life, and you just pour the love that you can into them and you see change. And it’s incredibly powerful. And then we became aware of the statistics around the country and thought, whoa, hold on, we could do something about this. And so that’s how the charity formed.
Richard: How did you birth children relate to the foster children and – and your adopted children that – that came into the house, into the family?
Krish: It’s a great question, Richard. And, um, it was a fear for us that the older kids would struggle, they’d feel displaced or upset. And two things that helped us with that. One was we involved them in the process. So, we always say to the kids whenever we have a foster child move on to adoption or, reconciliation with parents, we have a family lunch out and we say, okay, that was tough saying goodbye. Do we need to have a break? Do we need to give this up? Are you still up for it? And every single time they’ve always been up for it. So, that’s one thing. And the other thing is we’ve seen a tangible difference in our children. A lot of people have got this idea that you have to protect your children from the big, bad world out there. So, why would you bring in troubled or children that have had a difficult start into your family? Surely, that’s going to mess them up. And, as a Christian, I want my Christianity to inform my parenting. And so, it can’t just be the middle class values of making sure they get a good education, or they got access to sports or music. I want the character of God to impact on their lives. So, how do you help a child to become more compassionate and gracious and kind and generous? Well, actually, them having to share their lives with children that have had a difficult start means every day that’s part of who they are. One incident that really convinced me this was the right way forward was our daughter had to go on a school residential. They want down to the Battle of Hastings site, I think it was. And the rooms that they were in had three beds. So there was one for my daughter, one for a best friend, and then there was a spare bed. So, there was one spare girl, as well, that seemed to not have a home – nobody seemed to want her…to have her in a room. And so, my daughter and her friend said, okay, she could come. And at then end of the week, we had a kind of parent-teachers consult, and the teacher came to us and said, well, your daughter is incredibly loving, almost motherly to this child that’s had a lot of challenges. Where did that come from? And I thought, well, she has been an older sister to probably twenty different foster children, all from different backgrounds. So that’s probably helped her to practice these kind of motherly compassionate, generous characteristics. And so, we’ve just seen a fantastic impact on our kids. It’s brought really good things out of them.
Richard: It almost sound like this is something for everybody. Is it something for everybody, or is it a particular vocation?
Krish: I think everybody should think about it. I think we challenge people at all sorts of stages in their lives to consider whether, as they think about forming a family, thinking about whether those children that don’t have ongoing family support could be part of that formation. And so, we think, single people can be fantastic foster carers or adoptive parents. People that don’t have their own children that are married, they can be. People that have had their own kids, people that are at another stage in their life, maybe the kids have left home – all of those guys should consider it. But it isn’t for everybody because you are going to be exposed to children who have had all sorts of challenges, and some of us are not emotionally ready for that. And there is a role that you can play in supporting other people. And so we – we’ve have setup buddy programs where families that can’t foster or adopt, support those that can. Our church has been great. When we would have a new baby that comes into our house, they’ll bring meals around for a couple of weeks. And, those kind of things really help families like ours keep going. And so, we say it’s not for everybody but everybody should consider what role they could play.
Richard: If people are interested, how can they get involved? What’s the first step?
Krish: A really simple step is just to visit the Home for Good website. It’s homeforgood.org.uk If you want to chat, there’s a free phone number that you can phone. If you want to webchat, you can do it anonymously and just use the text messaging service there. Just to consider, as you think about your stage in life, could you be the parent that child is really needing in their lives?
Richard: Fantastic. And, Krish, do you ever get asked why you’re a Christian? Where your faith comes from?
Krish: Yeah, often. I think particularly because my name is not your average Christian name. So, my name is Krish, which is short for Krishna. And, my dad was from Malaysia. He’s from a Hindu family. His dad was from Sri Lanka, also from a Hindu family. My mum was born in India and her dad was Irish. So, I’m a real mix of different racial and cultural and religious backgrounds. And, for me, becoming a Christian, the main influences on me were kind of three things. I – I kind of put an “e” to remember each one of them. So, one is an experience. There were things I saw in a close friend of mine. I saw him really transformed after he became a Christian from being one sort of person to becoming a very different kind of person, and a real change for the better. And that really challenged me. I think the second is the kind of explanatory power that the Christian faith brings. So, I see lots of people acting in a very moral and gracious and compassionate way. And, often, people without faith, I think, live better than their philosophical convictions give them. So, if there is no God, if there is no meaning, if there is no ultimate morality, if there really is no such thing as good or bad, why live generously? And I think Christianity provides a better explanatory framework for some of the work we’re doing with fostering adoption. Even though, as I said, I think atheists and people of other faiths live it well, I think Christianity provides the framework and makes sense of why it is such a joy to make such a difference in a child’s life. And the third thing for me is evidence. I’m a Christian rather than any other particular faith because I think Jesus was a historical figure. I think he really lived. His life was witnessed and recorded in the four Gospels. I think he really did perform miracles and, raised people from the dead and healed the sick. And it’s chronological snobbery to think that people were more gullible to those sort of things. Actually, in the ancient world, they’d be more familiar with death. We’ve dressed up death so that we’re not exposed to it very much. But, people in the ancient world really knew what a dead person is like. And they were totally understanding that dead people don’t come back to life again. And so, the conviction that the church had right from the beginning, that Jesus was killed on a Roman cross and then three days later, not resuscitated, not his body stolen, not just a hallucination, but he really came back from the dead, that kick-started something that spread across the world ever since. And I think there’s good, solid historical evidence for that. And so, those three things – experience, explanatory power and evidence – those are the reasons that convinced me to be a Christian.
Richard: Three “e’s” – spoken like a preacher. You pay attention to other people’s experiences through scripture in your book. Have you ever had your own faith tested from your own experiences?
Krish: Yes, I have. One incident would be when – when my mother had contracted cancer and, of course we prayed about it. And my mum got worse. She didn’t get better. And my mum had been very careful. She’d been a nurse and she had looked after herself. She looked after other people. And yet, cancer had come and ripped through her body. And my dad, who had been a chain smoker for most of his life, he didn’t get cancer. Just the unfairness of it. And just praying and praying and nothing coming back. And I write in the book, about the – the paradox that the God who speaks through silence. God, why – why didn’t you answer my prayers? Why couldn’t I hear you? I didn’t feel you particularly close in those times. I felt very abandoned and – and desolate, I suppose. And so, coming to terms with a God that isn’t meeting your expectations and yet still coming to a point of trust in Him. I think that was quite an important part of my journey in the Christian faith.
Richard: I wonder if you think that modern 21st century British culture is – is better or worse equipped to engage with faith than the last hundred years?
Krish: Yeah, that’s a really fascinating question. I think it’s interesting. It’s a little bit like Antique’s Roadshow. I don’t know if you like that show. I love it when somebody’s brought a really expensive painting and asked to get it valued. And then, the Antique’s Roadshow expert tells you, well, actually, the frame is the most valuable part of this painting. You see the shock of horror. Or you’ve got another lad and he’ll bring in his collection of milk bottles, and his mum so embarrassed that he’s on TV. And then, wow, these milk bottles were used by Queen Victoria herself. And, oh, I never knew the value of it. I feel like our culture needs to go on that journey with the Christian faith, that actually a lot of the things that we take for granted actually exist because the Christian faith has influenced our culture. Things like the rights of the individual. That’s an incredibly powerful concept that I think owes its origin to the Christian faith; the Judeo-Christian journey, at least. The idea that we’re, every single human being, whether you’re a serf or a peasant, whether you’re rich or poor or black or white or abled or disabled or gay or straight or male or female, every single human being has intrinsic value because we’re made in the image of God – that concept doesn’t flow naturally out of Darwinism. And I believe God could use evolution as his mechanism. But if Darwinism is all we’ve got – the strong survive and the weak die out – I don’t think you get to an egalitarian society. But I think Christianity gives you that. And so, I think our culture has come to rely on so many things from its Christian heritage, but we’ve not realized how valuable that is. And I think we need to get on that journey again.
Richard: Krish, what – what next for Home for Good? Where are you going to take this?
Krish: Well, we’re passionate that we want to find a Home for Good for every child in – in the UK that needs one. And yet, on our doorstep, there are thousands of children that are in desperate plight. And so, the refugee crisis that’s engulfing the world needs to be a part of our agenda. And I think one of the challenges is that the nation is going through all sorts of questions about what it means to be British or English. One of the questions is, well, how are we going to demonstrate hospitality and generosity? What’s that going to look like? And there’s a lot of fear going on that we’ve got a particular standard of living and we need to protect that from other people that are gonna rob us of that. And that’s a really interesting position to be in because that’s not part of our British heritage. There’s a whole story that, actually, the UK was the haven of safety in Europe for many centuries. And, we’ve got an incredible tradition of welcoming. I think of the Huguenots that we welcomed, or think of the Kosovans, or think of the Kindertransport in the Second World War. There have been times when Britain has been the place of hospitality in a troubled Europe. And so, I think that’s a really powerful question for everybody. Particularly for the Church. It’s an interesting one because if you read the Bible – someone once said it’s a book written by refugees for refugees – so many of the people in scripture are people on the run or displaced or marginalized. And so, somehow we’ve turned the Bible into a kind of middle class book. And so, reclaiming some of that refugee history may change our perspective with the crisis that we’re in.
Richard: Krish, how many more children are you going to adopt?
Krish: There are six children living in our house at the moment. And, I think, partly because we’ve run out of bedrooms and we’ve just bought a minibus to be able to fit everybody in, I think we might have to pause for a little while. But my eldest son is not too far off going to university, hopefully, so we may have some more space in the near future.
Richard: Krish, thanks so much for joining me.
Krish: My pleasure, Richard.