By Ashna Shareff:
From research, to a lifetime journey!
The first time I walked to the orphanage was five years ago, when I went for one of my research projects. I remember sitting down with the kids and interviewing them, asking questions about their lives inside the orphanage.
I was almost too timid to talk to them, and so were they with me. It was a very new experience in my life, but somehow we managed to talk, laugh and share for a few hours. I was unaware that this day would be a starting point of my journey with the kids.
I began to visit them infrequently, with a group of my friends from my university, every two months. These visits shifted to every week when I became a member of the “Sunshine club”, a program sponsored by the university of Kurdistan-Hawler. This club is run by a group of volunteers who visit the kids every week to help them with their studies and teach them new things about life.
In my journey with them, I have played games like ‘Habwri Bwri’ with the kids. I have face-painted on their little faces, expressing the characters they wished to have. Little simple things that brought them joy and laugher.
I have read stories for them as I have read them for my own niece and nephews.
I have grabbed their hands tight, wiped their tears from telling a funny story and held them in my arms whenever they have felt scared. And, for the first time, I walked towards their dream and watched as if became reality when I and a group of friends took them to Erbil International Airport to see planes.
I have done fund-raising, bought presents and celebrated the New Year with them.
In my journey, I was not alone. I had my friends, from in and outside the university, who dedicated their time and energy to help the kids with teaching, advising, playing and turning dreams into reality. They are many to mention, but they all have left their prints in the hearts of those kids.
Yet, I learnt, all this is still not enough.
Two days ago, friends and I visited them to see how they were doing. Often when we come back with big smiles on our faces but this time was different.
We sat down with the manager and listened as he told the stories of some of the kids. Earlier that day, we did witness something distressing about one of them.
Here is the story of Hogr and Balien.
Hogr, the little tiny boy with wide black eyes and golden hair, was brought to the orphanage with three of his siblings a few months ago. Hogr’s case is one of the very serious ones.
Hogr refuses to talk to anyone. The only times you hear his voice are when he cries out loud. Apparently, Hogr’s mother passed away and his father married another woman and so, ever since, Hogr and his sister and brothers are living in the orphanage.
Hogr not only refuses to talk to people but he is also very aggressive towards his siblings and the other kids. It doesn’t matter how any presents you bring Hogr or how much you try to make him the center of attention, he is always lonely and violent towards everyone.
Another heart-tearing story is about little Balien.
The background perhaps is the same as Hogr’s, the pain is the same, but the expressions are different. Balien’s father has married another woman and he has completely refused to take any responsibility for Balien. On the other hand, Balien is too fond of his own dad. He has been in the orphanage for a long time. As years passed, Balien’s love and eagerness for his dad grew bigger. Balien now does everything to get his father’s attention, but the dad has no interest in responding.
These are just two stories among so many inside the blue building called the orphanage for those who suffer from emotional disorders.
The kids need financial support to provide them with necessities, especially school uniforms, and stationary.
And, more importantly, the kids are in need of your attention as fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends.
If you ask me what they need I will say I am not as eligible and experienced as I should be to judge, but I do know that they need your care and love.