“Before I continue with Sarah’s story,” Nani Jaan began, as she adjusted the throw on her lap, “I want to share with you my experience when visiting an orphanage.
The first time I walked through the gates of an orphanage, a flood of children ran towards me. I stepped forward with my arms opened wide and a broad smile on my face. I have never felt more loved or needed as I did in that moment. Each one of these children were clamoring for attention, for just an ounce of love.
Children who are in orphanages have experienced the most traumatic separation: the loss of a family. This is a loss they will carry for the rest of their lives. As I walked in I wanted to do my best to give them the love and attention they deserved, but I soon questioned myself, could I make it permanent or would I just break their fragile little hearts even more?
When these children run into your arms, it makes you feel loved and needed and like your visit has a purpose. But I later questioned myself if this was normal behavior for children? If I had to walk into a place full of kids with loving parents, would the children run into my arms or would they be apprehensive about a stranger in their midst?
I soon realised how ignorant I was when it came to orphans. A major realisation I came to was that unless you are willing to commit to the child you are holding, cuddling, and forming an attachments with for not mere hours or days – but an entire lifetime – the best way you could truly love them is to not visit in the first place.
Children in orphanages are vulnerable and deserve our utmost protection, sensitivity, and respect. They have already experienced loss and abandonment, and to perpetuate this cycle by allowing people to come and go has been proven to be detrimental.
These poor children like Sarah, have little to no affection, love and care which affects them terribly. Even Sarah, who never knew what the word family meant, never remembered affection and didn’t experience love, yearned daily for a connection, a bond with someone else.
Sarah was lucky that even though the orphanage was understaffed, the staff who were there were extremely kind and did their best to see to all the needs of the children. When Sarah turned five they ensured that she was enrolled into school.
On her first day of school she was very nervous and scared about whether she would make friends, what sort of teacher she would have and if she would miss the orphanage which she had hardly ever stepped foot out off. She was also quite excited to see new places and meet new people.
Her first year in school was one of the happiest years of her life as she really enjoyed school. She made friends, she loved her teacher who was very kind to her and always gave her yummy sweets.
She loved the homework she was given which mostly consisted of colouring. She really liked the fact that she didn’t need to worry about getting her own stationary as the preschool teacher had a box filled with crayons and pencils and erasers and sharpners and all sorts of stationary that she allowed the children to use.
This was a teacher who she fondly remembered for the rest of her life because as she moved on in life she learnt that not all adults were as kind and accommadating. This was also a year that Sarah often remembered and wished to return back to.
Sarah soon learnt not to trust anyone as her trust was broken time and again, until she was eventually left with trust issues. Just when she thought she had someone to love her, that person would leave her. When she thought that she had friends to love and play with her, those friends would betray her. She eventually learnt to trust no one besides her preschool teacher.
By the time Sarah reached grade four she absolutely detested school. The teachers seemed to ignore her and never assisted her when she requested their help. If it wasn’t for the kind preschool teacher who felt sorry for her and gifted her with stationary at the begining of each year she wouldn’t have even had stationary to do her work.
Those kids who were once upon a time her friends soon started drifting away from her and some went as far as to start bullying her. They didn’t want to be friends with a girl who wore ugly clothes, with a girl who didn’t give them gifts on their birthdays and with a girl who was a social outcast.
She would have loved to drop out of school like the many other people who couldn’t handle it had done, but she knew if she wanted to get anywhere in life, if she wanted to get out of this dump and if she wanted to help her fellow brothers and sisters in the orphanage then she needed to work hard. The first thing she needed to do was to finish school.