A Bakers Dozen, Abandoned Children’s Stories
Bereket , Gifiti , & Eyne Abeba ~ Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
To appreciate the happy ending of the story of these three little Ethiopian girls one must first understand the circumstances they were born into. And one must never, ever forget the millions left behind, besieged by poverty.
Poverty is more than having an empty stomach day in and day out. Poverty is so much more. Childhood poverty makes children vulnerable to exploitation, violence (physical and sexual), discrimination and being stigmatized. They barely survive let alone develop anywhere near their full potential. As parents they are not educated and some don’t even have their full mental faculties due to lack of nutrition in their own childhood. Worst of all, they perpetuate the cycle of poverty for generations to come.
13,000,000 children under the age of 14 live in abject poverty in Ethiopia (UNICEF). Girls as young as 11 are married off to bring in a dowry for the family, many flee their remote villages for the city where they end up in row upon row, street upon street of tin shacks. By night they stand outside their doors and wait for customers.
Bereket 5, Gifiti 6, and Eyne Abeba 6, come from such beginnings. To see them today is a joy and blessing.
They are only 3 of a number of orphans brought to our orphanage. It took many days before Gifiti and Bereket spoke or ate. Gifiti arrived nameless, dumped by the government, her past only to be guessed at and was called ‘Gift’ by our staff. Eyne Abeba (meaning flower) is HIV positive and often sick. All were thin, dirty, bedraggled and frightened. They wore sadness like a tight-fitting coat.
Today they are funny, playful, loving and affectionate. They go to school, have warm beds, food, clothes and care givers who love them and give them attention – to know them is to surely love them.
Boosah, Kabul, Afghanistan
Boosah grew up in a poor family in a small village just outside of Tehran, Iran. She was young when she met a young Afghan man her father had brought home after work one day. It was love at first sight. Within six months they were married and making plans to travel back to Afghanistan. She knew she would be joining his first wife and children.
Boosah’s sister-in-law and his first wife routinely abused her depriving her three young children the opportunity to go to school, and withheld giving them even food. One day Boosah learned her husband was bit by a rabid dog and died. The abuse and rejection at the hands of her in-laws became intolerable. In desperation, Boosah fled with her children to Kabul’s Human Rights Commission who referred her to our project partner for help.
Boosah’s story is one that echoes the haunting cries of countless abandoned, abused and rejected women and children in Afghanistan. With Abandoned Children’s Fund supporting our partner in Kabul, Boosah and her five children were able to return home toIranwhere she was reunited with her brother and his family. The long process of court cases, immigration papers and applying for passports to return to Iran, nearly broke her spirit.
“It is so different now. My brother has said that his food and his house are ours. I believe a different ending to our story is possible, because we’ve experienced acceptance and care. I learned we could be wanted again. And now, this long journey that I thought would never end has come to a close.”
The daily life of the average Afghani is brutal and harsh. Harsh weather and climate, grinding scarcities and poverty, ethnic tribal and religious strife, and an endless state of war has been a fact of life for generations and there is no prospect of any change soon.
Women and children suffer these conditions often without any vestige of relief. Girls are usually forced into marriage before the age of 18, there is virtually no education for girls or women, and property ownership for women is unlawful so loans for business enterprises for women are non-existent.
Our project partners in Kabulare rooted in the culture but are not part of the culture. Whether caring for Kabul’s own street children or child refugees from internationally organized relocation efforts into Kabul, our child centers are characterized by the touch of acceptance, family love and personal attention and kindness.
Begom Jan, Afghanistan
Oddly, one of the things that we need to be reintroduced to these children is the experience of playing and having fun. Some of them have either never played games or have gone for so long without anything resembling fun that it needs to be learned. Begom Jan is one such Afghani girl. Little is known about her past other than she was resettled to Kabul from exile in the north where she lost her all connection to family ties. Begom Jan had to be trained to play and discover fun because it was foreign to her experience.
In the more remote rural areas of Afghanistan, where there are little or no strategic combat agendas vying for military of religious control, our partners have been able to identify remote tribal people who are crying out for food, medicine and educational assistance. The smile on a malnourished child’s face, after going for long periods of time without proper nutrition is worth the days of travel it takes to reach them with bags of rice and grain, ten times over.
This beautiful little girl, Angelina, was admitted to our Abused Child Centre in thePhilippinesafter being sexually abused by her father. Her tiny body was thin for her age and she was pale and weak. She is also suffering from a skin allergy and gonorrhea which was due to her father’s sexual abuse. In just a few months after arriving she had gained 2 kilograms (from 16 kilograms to 18 kilograms) and increased 7 centimeters in height (from 97 centimeters to 104 centimeters). Angelina is free from the skin allergy, has healed from her vaginal discharge and is now a healthy and active child. When asked if she wanted to thank those who had helped her to be rescued this is what she said.
“Salamat po sa mga taong tumutulong sa amin. Salamat po sa pagkain. Nakakakain kami dito ng tatlong beses sa isang araw at may meryenda pa kami. Sumigla din ang aking katawan at gumanda. Sa tulong niyo natutugunan ang aming mga pangangailangan dito. Mahal na mahal kami ng mga tita at lahat ng staff.”
Thank you to all the people helping us. Thank you for the food. We can eat three times a day and we also have snacks. My body became more active and I became more beautiful. With your help, all our needs are provided here at the centr. Our tita (aunt) and all the staff as well, love us so much.
Virgie & Lovely, Manila Philippines
Virgie and Lovely were abandoned by their mother when they were 3 and 4 years old. In the absence of a mother they were raised by their father who secluded them from neighbors and all other relatives and eventually when the girls reached puberty he took to sexually abusing them. They were trained to hate their mother and depend completely on their father, fearing separation from him as their only known family and support.
The sexual abuse was eventually exposed when Virgie wrote letters and threw the letters out the back window into the yard. The wind carried some of the letters to a neighbor who was able to read the letters and reported them to police.
The father was put into jail while the 2 girls were admitted to ourAbusedChildCenterin 2005. In 2007 their father died while in prison, and the 2 girls felt hopeless Despair as total orphans.
During their stay in the center, the girls were surrounded with love and healing which helped them to accept their situation and grow close to one another. Their love and concern for each other shows that they get the strength to move on with their lives from each other’s company. Virgie and Lovely are 16 and 17 years old now and they are more expressive of their feelings and needs than ever. They seemed to cope with their sad experiences more positively and are trying their best to perform well in school and really compete for other students.
Janet, Naga City ~ Philippines
In Naga City, Philippinesa a local Social worker, the University Outreach Director and their attorney came to our Project Partner and admitted “this one is beyond our ability, can you help us please”. Six month old Janet is the youngest of 5 children who had been abandoned first by the father who went toManilalooking for work, and later by their mother who went looking for the father. Neither ever returned. Care for the children fell to the grandmother who struggled with acute hunger herself and had no money, no work, no family, and no means of feeding 5 grandchildren.
Janet was immediately admitted to the pediatric ward of the hospital and slowly nurtured back to health by the nurses and nuns. She clung to life by a thread when she arrived, weighing less than 11 pounds, her swollen stomach betrayed advanced malnutrition as she had survived thus far on daily servings of “ams” (a liquid made from boiling rice grains over and over) and the inside of her mouth was filled with sores which made receiving milk or soft bread painful for her.
Janet’s scalp was crusted with grime that needed to be soaked off with warm oil, and because she had been kept in a dark room since her birth, she was sensitive to sunlight and tried to shield her eyes from the light and color. Janet has never been heard to cry in spite of all her suffering and she does not yet talk, but she is beginning to move around in her crib and strength is returning to her tiny limbs.
Arrangements to place Janet’s four brothers and sisters were made but Janet required intensive care, much loving kindness and attention (which she receives from her new family).
Poverty can at times bring out the very worst in people who look for ways to prey upon the weak and gullible. Armando was abandoned very early as a disabled child with cerebral palsy. He was used as a prop by a professional begging racket to solicit sympathy from passing strangers. Even the poorest feel pity for the hopelessness of others in worse condition than themselves.
Armando was rescued by our project partner and none to soon as he was only being feed the bare minimum to keep him barely alive and malnourished, as that enhanced his value as a begging prop. A woman would be placed beside him (a prop herself) on a street corner to give the appearance of a hopeless mother and son. The coins would mount but Armando was not being compensated for his contribution. One of the guest interns at the home where Armando now lives would hold his 10 year old limp, spastic body in her arms for hours and sing to him. This is not something Armando had ever experienced in his life. It took a full week of this kind of tenderness to bring the first smile Armando’s face had ever shed.
Baby abandoned in a Latrine, Zambia
In Zambia an infant child was discovered by a member of a church congregation when she went to the outhouse and heard a whimpering voice coming from the latrine. She looked and discovered an infant just a few hours old had been disposed into the latrine. The congregation dismantled the latrine and rescued the child and placed her in one of our partner orphanages. Within days the child was healthy and cheerful and recovered quickly. The abandonment of this child, while dramatic and horrifying, will probably not have long lasting consequences, as there was not a great deal of time for the infant to struggle in the process of the distress.
Sovann ~ Phonm Pehn, Cambodia
Sovann was brought to our project partner’s care home when she was 16 years old after having been trafficked for some time. At first she was lonely, friendless and utterly miserable. She cried continually and wanted to run away but a house mother comforted her and she began the long process of healing. “I received a lot of support and care from my new friends like shelter, food, counseling and skills training. What I liked most was hearing about God and soon I began to experience Love and Trust. Now I have many friends and I believe God has rescued me for a purpose.”
Today Sovann is 18 years old, and has graduated from the vocational training program she has been provided. She has a job as a receptionist in a small office. She has enough money to save a little each month after her expenses are met, which she is planning to use to open her own tailor shop. “I have a dream God has given me to follow, that is bigger than the terrible past I escaped, through the kindness I received from these wonderful people.”
Monkeys protect Abandoned Child, Zambia
In another story from the same orphanage is the story of a 3 month old girl who had been abandoned by her mother by being left, wrapped in a blanket, deep in the forest where no one would discover the abandonment which was obviously not only the cause of profound grief to the abandoning parent but also a source of deep shame and guilt. The next day a professional hunting party discovered an oddity. A group of monkeys had formed a defensive circle around something and were screeching and threatening the hunting party until being driven away by gunfire. When the hunting party investigated they found the infant had been fed and cared for by the monkeys.
The child was brought to the orphanage and within a few years was as normal and healthy as any of the other children. Love and care had healed the wound of being exposed to a group of primates for a time.