Children in orphanages around the world may have food, clothing and shelter, but often they lack an essential ingredient for basic health and happiness—touch. Without it, kids can feel discarded, forgotten and even untouchable, especially if they’re sick or disabled.

In an effort to address the need for nurturing touch among children, massage therapist Tina Allen formed the Liddle Kidz Foundation. The foundation’s mission includes setting up massage programs in orphanages across the globe.

“The long-term effects of not receiving safe, healthy and nurturing touch can have a huge impact on a child’s stability for the future,” said Allen, a massage therapist and educator for more than a decade.

Most recently, Liddle Kidz traveled to Thailand, where Allen and her team provided training in infant and pediatric massage to staff at the Bann Fuang Farr Orphanage, near Bangkok. Following the course, massage was demonstrated on children in several wards of the orphanage.

According to Allen, Bann Fuang Farr is the only government orphanage in Thailand for children with special health-care needs and disabilities. More than 600 kids live in the facility, with conditions ranging from hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy to Down’s syndrome and blindness.

“Holding a sick child’s hand, when they are considered untouchable, communicates that they matter,” Allen said. “You are telling them, through the touch of your hands, that they matter and deserve to be loved.”

Liddle Kidz has brought the message of nurturing touch beyond Thailand, to children in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Haiti, Ghana, Belarus, Moldova and India. The group’s focus is on programs that serve infants and children who have been orphaned or may have special health-care needs.

“Many of these settings have children ranging in age from babies born prematurely to adolescents, which gives you quite a broad scope, working with children of all emotional and developmental stages,” Allen said. “It is my dream that one day children everywhere will receive the benefits of nurturing touch.”

She describes those benefits using a basic hug as her example: “There is much more to a hug than simply placing your arms around someone,” Allen said. “A hug communicates your care, compassion and love for another.”
—Brandi Schlossberg