Child-sized hatches that typically abut churches or orphanages, "baby boxes" have popped up all over Western Europe and Asia as safe, warm spaces for young mothers to deposit an unwanted child, lest they raise it in a broken, ill-fitting home. Some call the boxes miracles, which grant children their rights to life. Others call them dangerous — a means to promote unsafe births.
One South Korean pastor, Lee Jong-rak, has been taking orphans in via a baby box attached to his church since 2009. But his love for helping children in need extends much further.
Lee has taken in more than three dozen children since opening the orphanage in the basement of Seoul’s Jusarang Church in 1998. He’s lost count how many have come through the baby box. He asks mothers who are on the verge of dumping their baby in the trash, or leaving it on the street, to bring it to him instead.
Lee isn’t the first to open a baby box. In Hamburg, Germany, a box has been open for the last 13 years, inviting people for whom childrearing is too great a burden to install their baby in one of the boxes, which are monitored by security cameras (still keeping the depositor anonymous) and include a teddy bear and envelope. Inside is a note, reassuring the person that giving the child away is OK. From there, the baby is taken to a hospital for shots and a check-up.
“The first and the most important [right] is, of course, the right to live,” Lutz Eidam, a German lawyer and author of a book on baby boxes, told NPR, “because without this right, all the other rights that follow out of the constitution are worthless.”