I dressed myself in my newly brought traditional Curti and placed a scarf over my hair (the horrors of my dad tugging a nit comb through my hair from my childhood definitely made me want to prevent getting lice at all costs!) It was day one of working in the orphanage. A place I would come to know well during the next month. I had heard many stories of what it was like, how intense it is, how emotionally draining it gets, how much Poop you deal with on a daily basis. So during the 30minete rickshaw ride I felt rather prepared for what I was about to face.
The two story complex stood tall, placed on a back road away from the Main Street. The windows seemed to have mesh covering them, coupled with a few bars which made it impossible to see in. The painted walls of the fence displayed happy faces and many bright colours. Similar decorated stairs carried me to the second floor where the kids were. Smiles and stares filled my vision as little hands pulled at my clothes while cocked necks and eyes beamed up at me. About 40 kids, aged 1-6 all sat in this corridor. It was shower time. I was taken back as I watched how forcefully the women held the kids down to wash and rinse them with a bucket and a bar of soap, right there in the corridor. We all got to work, each with a task. Someone on placing diapers on the younger ones, someone undressing, someone drying and someone dressing (Every morning we bring diapers to the orphanage as they cannot fund it themselves). Even with the younger ones wearing diapers it still turns into a poop war zone, with little deposits placed everywhere.
As I dressed them in whatever clothes seemed to fit them it struck me. Nothing is their own. They don’t have that personal entitlement of ownership. They all share clothes, staff members attention as well as volunteers, no toys are in the orphanage, they literally don’t have anything that is individually theirs. I’ve noticed that with even the smallest of things, a button or a packet of tissues they are extremely protective, for this reason.
I think at first for a while I just shut my emotions off in order to deal with them. Because when I truely addressed them I couldn’t bare it. It was too overwhelming. These kids don’t have any parents. I mean how do you comprehend what that would be like? No base? No one to tuck you in at night and tell you they love you as they plant a kiss on your forehead? They wake up have a wash, eat (usually something not very nutritious like a lolly or a few biscuits) go into a room where there is a TV and watch it for hours before taking a nap and repeating the cycle. They only go outside of the orphanage twice a year, On a picnic which the volunteering organisation plans.
Some of the kids backgrounds are just insane. One of the boys witnessed his mother being murdered by his father, another’s mother is scarred with acid burns from a similar attack, others were simply dumped on the street or parents too unstable to take care of them.
Some of the children go to school, About 10. They are sponsored by mostly past volunteers to be able to afford to go to school.
The kids call us ‘deedee’, meaning sister. I definitely am not going to miss hearing that word day in and out in about 40 voices all at the same time.
The language barrier wasn’t a huge issue at the beginning as To keep them entertained all you had to do was piggy back them around the room, dance with them, poke funny faces at them, throw them around and show them a few hand games or so. Once I’d actually formed a connection with one (4 year old) girl in particular I wanted to be able to talk to her which was frustrating. It was amazing how we could form such a loving, emotional, goofy friendship with no words, just a heck of a lot of laughter. Everyday when I’d walk in, her beaming smile would come running into my lap coupled with a griping hug. As the days went on it was getting harder to cope with the fact that this would soon be gone. I would be ripped away from her, leaving her with that familiar feeling of abandonment. I’ve spent countless hours questioning if working in an orphanage for such a small amount of time (in the grand scheme of their lives) growing so close to the kids and then leaving is actually better or worse for them? In conclusion I find solace in the phrase, “it’s better to have loved and lost then to not love at all”. I mean if anything I’ve shown her what it means to give and receive love, what it means to be happy and given her some light in her world even if it was only for a brief amount of time.
The day came for me to leave. I managed, with some help, to translate to the women that I was leaving, this would be the last time me and my beautiful friend would see one another. We stood in that same corridor I’d first step foot in 4 weeks ago. The moment the Indian lady finished her sentence i saw the sadness in her little wee eyes, her bottom lip dropped and tears began welling in her eyes as well as mine. I held her so tightly for about 10 minetes before one of the ladies came to take her away. I had to peel her off me which made it 10 times harder to stop the tears from streaming down my cheeks. The pain was so aweful, I’ve never experienced something so emotionally powerful that my whole being was completely sucked into it. I was such a mess. I felt guilt, betrayal and utter sadness as I watched her scream and kick as she faded down the corridor.
Before I mentioned all I’d given her by being at the orphanage. I failed to mention all she’s given me! So thank you my sweet girl, thank you for making ME smile everyday with your cheeky smile, genuine little laugh, the way you would insist I stand up and cart you round the room, throwing you from side to side, playing with my necklace and bracelet’s 24/7, undoing and re-doing a few million times and for teaching me that happiness is so simple.
*for privacy I’ve left out photos and names.