Hungry Orphans

Aunty has been going to the Child Welfare Committee, trying to get transfers for her children.  Each time she is told to come back in a few days.  “They are busy.” Wednesday we went with her.   

Aunty’s Support Team Leaving for CWC, L-R: Purba Rudra, Ph.D, Academic Director; Jasvinder (Gibi) Kaur, Vice-President and co-founder, and Maggie Redden, Director of Communications
To Date: The eight hospitalized children are back from the hospital, some having lost weight; the community at large has become belligerent because of unpaid grocery and medicine bills; the staff is taking what food they can, as they have not been paid and they also have families to feed.  Aunty tripped and fell over a brick in the walkway of the Home a few days ago, so she is having trouble walking, and she is in despair over what to do with the children.  She is 75 years old.  This is not how she wanted it to be.  The government says, “The check is in the mail.”
We went with Aunty to the CWC, the Child Welfare Committee, which is charged with decisions about welfare (placement) of children. 

I’m writing at midnight and tomorrow I will take some action regarding the starving children with disabilities, but before I turn in, I just want to summarize yesterday and today.  Yesterday the government agreed to transfer six of the children, the older ones, to another home.  They wrote the order.  Today Aunty’s staff took the boys to the new home, and the home refused to take them.  I can’t quite figure out why as the phone connection was poor.  Aunty called everyone she could think of, but there was no way to get the boys admitted, so now they are back hom.


 The waiting room of the CWC is an interesting place.  First of all, there is no security, and people just wander in off the street, or groups congregate outside.  It is also not accessible.  We had to carry Maggie up the entrance steps.  Shishur Sevay has  guards 24/7.  No one enters without signing in.  (The guard can be seen in the top pic as the team is leaving).     Shishur Sevay no longer has steps, only ramps.

I’ll try to explain all the connections that went on yesterday.  The above sketch is of people from an adoption business.  Cici and I visited there in January 2004.  The room was freezing; the babies were laying on plastic sheets, and only partly covered by tiny blankets that they said had been donated.  The babies were so cold, ice cold hands and feet.    Now eight years later, two of Aunty’s children come from that home, the children for whom the agency could not get any money, and eventually gave to the government, and then to Aunty.  Initially the agency supplemented government money with “sponsorship” money but then they stopped paying.  There is no legal agreement.  These children are the byproducts of adoption, the human beings no one wants. .  So here I sit, looking at two ladies holding two babies who are now in the custody of this orphanage.  They are here at CWC to make it legal.  If those babies are OK they will be adopted; if not they will eventually become the responsibility of the government.

In another part of the room, a social worker I’ve met before sits with a group of older girls.  These girls have all just been rescued from trafficking.  They look lost.  One has family that has come, as her mother had been hunting and hunting.  The girl had been kidnapped and imprisoned by a family member.  I’m not sure this young woman will ever be ok.  That’s just how rape is.  I know.   I tried to tell her she will be OK.  I made her laugh.

At the CWC, Gibi goes in with Aunty to meet the Committee.  I stay in the waiting area with Purba and Maggie.  This CWC always finds reason to yell at me, and the job now is about the kids and I’m a distraction.  Gibi and Aunty go back 30 years, so they go to meet with the Committee.  We wait.  Gibi comes back;  The Chairwoman has called and called, but no one will take the older boys.  These were from the group of 10  boys sent to her one day, already on their way to her when she received the call, and tried to refuse.  Now the government has no place else to put them.  They tell Aunty, “No, No, We will help you.”  They have said the same for months.  Then the Chair turns to others in the Committee room, representatives of other NGO’s and scolds them for not taking these children.  They are accused of only taking children who have relatives, and treating these orphans as GARBAGE.  That is the word that is used.  The Chair is saying the NGO’s treat the orphans like garbage. 

Back out in the waiting room, Gibi reports all this.  As she says the word, “GARBAGE” I see Maggie wince, tears welling up, and I know what she is thinking.   Maggie had polio; she was adopted by an American woman 25 years ago.  She was one of the unwanted, one of the very lucky unwanted.  She sits there, a paralympic champion wheelchair racer, a Nike representative, a Polio spokesperson, University graduate and independent woman, and she hears the words of how orphans are seen and treated in her “homeland.”

Everyone seems happy at the Chair’s angry words, but I’m thinking, ” Why should orphans be the responsibility of NGO’s?”  Why don’t NGO’s want to take these children?  Well, for a start the government doesn’t pay enough to take care of them.  The government money is like seed money, meant to start the system going and then the NGO’s have to raise funds for the real cost of the children.  In this case, the seed money comes late by months.  NGO’s have to depend on their fund raising, their ability to make their cases for charity, in some ways not so different from begging.  “Please, Please, help these orphan children!”  But why?  Why should an orphan’s life depend on the charity or fund raising ability of  “NON-Government Organizations?”  The government shifts its responsibility.  If no one wants to give money, the children go hungry.

Hungry orphans are not an accident.  They represent a society’s decision not to feed them. 



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January 2012
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