A Daily Assault on Self Esteem

Last week four girls were told they could not take “tuition” at their school.  It was ugly and painful.  Today another girl was set to have tuition locally with her friends, and then the coaching teacher called and said she wouldn’t take her — no explanation.  This is our girl who DOESN’T have head lice.  This was to be our first venture into the community in terms of letting our children study with local children at their study centers.  For twelve girls we have twelve different plans of how to meet their needs.  The after-school classes were to be 5:30-7:30.  She went off to school excited about being able to be with her friends after school.  When she came home at 4 o’clock, I had to tell her that the teacher had said no, with no explanation.  It’s been a week of epidemic rejection.

I am not aware of any services just for orphans.  For the most part they are institutionalized in prison-like places, without education, and with only minimal health care.  At 18 they are sent out.  Or, orphans are sent to “orphanages” that are really serving as boarding schools for the poor.  They serve a wonderful function in the society, but  a child who has a parent, or an aunt, or grandmother still has some grounding, some roots, a place or places of origin on a map.  Those relatives, even with minimal visiting, exert some pressure on the homes in terms of their children.  These relatives serve as advocates.  In most orphanages there is some part of the year when children briefly return to their families.  Orphans simply have no place to go. 

Gibi and I battled with the government to take orphans.  They are usually reluctant to allow orphans out.  They came to inspect our home and said it should not be empty, suggested I take other children until we could get orphans.  We refused.  At one point they wanted us to take children of sex-workers.  We met with the NGO people.  They advocated and advocated.  There is a lot of money available for NGOs taking children of sex workers.  We refused, saying, but where would we put our orphans?  Eventually we were given our twelve orphan girls.  Then two months later they wanted us to take four more girls, non-orphans.  I was at the end of my resources, emotionally, managing this home, dealing with all the other obstacles.  And, I did not want children who had mothers, working mothers, and who were already in schools.  I imagined what it would be like, my girls suddenly at the bottom of the status and skills ladder.  I imagined having to deal with mothers who wanted the best for their children.  I didn’t blame them, but that’s not why I came to India.

I refused and in one meeting with the government a mother was there, mother of one of the girls they had wanted me to take.  The gov officer asked me what was the difference between her child and my children.  I turned to the mother and told her that she was a wonderful mother, that her child was really fortunate to have her trying so hard, but my children did not have that.  The gov official was furious and said she would order an inquiry against me for discriminating against children with parents.  

I was told that I had insulted the government by not taking the additional children.  I was told that our license would not be renewed and they would take the children we had.  I was terrified.  But there was nothing I could do.  Taking four girls with parents would have destroyed what I was trying to do.    Children with parents have advocates.  And that’s what I am for my children here.  I am the wall that protects them and the voice that makes them visible during this vulnerable time in their lives.  For many months after that battle I slept by the door at night; I didn’t leave Shishur Sevay except for brief errands.  I told them they would take the children over my dead body.

It’s been a long day.  The girls are tough.  We get through these things.  It’s just hard and painful at times.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Janet Way
    Aug 30, 2011 @ 00:57:26

    You are surely a strong woman , working against all odds for some potentially very strong kids. Bless you. You are in my prayers.

    Like

    Reply

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