Published: August 11th 2011August 10th 2011
We have now been at the orphanage for five days and are slowly, but surely settling into this very different way of living.
To help you picture what an average day of a child here looks like, here is the the schedule, which is strictly adhered to (one has to right a tight ship here with so many children):
5am - wake up
5-7am - daily chores (sweep, wash their clothes, cooking, washing dishes, clean floors, bathrooms, etc)
7-8am - breakfast and prayer
after 8am - walk to school
4pm - come back from school
4-5pm - more daily chores
5-6pm - go to park
6-7.30pm - homework
7.30-8.30pm - prayer
8.30-9pm - dinner
9pm - bed-time
38 children, boys and girls aged 4 to 16 live in a large rented house of a very unusual shape. The area they live in is very nice and the only reason why they are staying here is due to the rumours that the house is haunted, hence no one would rent it. We have not seen any signs of ghosts ... yet!
The children lives are the same day in and day out, with older children doing more
difficult chores and taking care of the smaller children, although for most of the day, these children are not supervised, mainly because there’s not enough adults to look after them.
Most of these children were picked up off the streets of Hyderabad by Police because they were homeless, begging. Often, siblings come to the orphanage together. Some of the children’s parents are deceased, some have only one parent who is too poor or too sick to look after them.
The orphanage is run by Pradeep and his wife Rebecca. It survives on donations only. Pradeep and Rebecca are doing an amazing job by providing everything they possibly can for these children, including private schooling in English in order to increase their chances of getting good jobs in future. This however, comes at a cost, and the cost is in this case, daily nutrition that is unlikely to meet their growing bodies’ needs. Their diet consists of daily rice with either dahl or curry, and this is for all the three meals.
Fruits, green vegetables, milk, cheese, bread, butter, and let alone lollies are pure luxuries for these children who dream about eating an apple, who handwash their
own clothes with small cheap soaps, and wash their dishes without any detergents.
I wander what will come of these children. Their hunger for simple gestures of care and affection is beyond imagination. I have never felt so cherished in my life, neither have I ever thought that my affection could awaken so many smiles. They come close to you, bury their eyes into yours, look at you and touch your hair for a long time, as if they have never seen a human being before. They love touching Jill’s and mine hair, they think is like pure silk.
Where these children differ most from the children in the first world countries is their toughness, self-sufficiency and ability to monitor their level of attachment. They were living a merciless life on the streets before coming here. It is even hard to imagine what some of them have gone through or experienced. They are rough with each other and while they help each other with practical things, you hardly ever see them being affecitonate between themselves, even between siblings. Maybe because no one had shown them the affection. Surviving, just surviving ...
India such a strange place and
I’m still not sure what I think of it. I’m confused in more than one way. The lack of hygene, sanitary facilities, the dirty roads, the poverty, the rubbish and rats, beggars and smog, the sadness in the air, the harshness of life and division of casts ... all of this gets to you, it opens your eyes, it questions your soul, makes you exhausted and burnt out on some days ... and this is why right now, I would not be anywhere else in the World!