Monday, June 17, 2013

Orphan Stories

Here are two stories on orphans that I have been flowing up lately. Both relate to Sakina Girls Home (SGH), an all-girl orphanage in Andheri, Mumbai, India which CAI supports. One is of two new applicants and other is a follow-up on two orphans who grew up, received a quality education and now, as adults, live away from SGH but still benefit from CAI scholarships. These stories will, perhaps, give you better appreciation on orphan care, something Allah (S) constantly cautions us about in His holy book.
Fatema’s story:

Sayeda Fatema Hussein (alias), a widowed mother of three girls and an infant boy, calls Aliakberbhai Ratansi, CAI’s India representative and requests placement for two daughters at SGH. SGH is already bursting at the seems, with sixty girls of varying ages crammed into a dubious, dingy, ramshackle three-bedroom apartment building located deep into a crowded, narrow, winding alley that two people cannot abreast walk. These orphans will insha’Allah move to better facilities, once their brand new digs are ready; but that will take another four years.
Sayeda Fatema’s application is one in hundreds such cases SGH is overwhelmed with every year so Aliakberbhai has to be very choosy who to give sanctuary and whom to deny, something most uncomfortable for any judicial human. Finances, food, clothing, health care, living space, educational opportunities (both Islamic and secular), emotional needs, discipline... The needs of orphans are complex and varied, akin to challenges of any household with kids, multiplied several folds for orphanages, so entry criteria must be and are stringent. Often, orphans that meet and pass rigorous requirements have to be turned down, a prospect too emotionally draining for me; Aliakberbhai however, has little choice.
So unschooled Fatema, a nervous wreck, arrives for an interview and scrutiny of her children. She is a diminutive figure, barely resembling a child herself, so you would be fooled to think she is an accompanying sibling. But she is twenty-seven years old, a mother of four already, three daughters and an infant son who her husband did not live to see; he died of a heart attack a few months before his son was born. Distraught, numbed and now destitute due to the tragedy, Fatema is partly supported by her father but finds herself overwhelmed by four kids and wants SGH, who she says is her last hope getting her kids a decent education and general care. She wants SGH to take care of two middle daughters while the eldest daughter and toddler will stay with her; she would toil to care and educate them.
The decision is a no-brainer, to me certainly, except SGH has no more space. What to do? CAI has a girl orphanage with space in Kargil but that would mean a cultural shock, extreme weather distress for the kids and the family would stay separated. Aliakberbhai relents and accepts the kids; space will have to be made, finances sourced. Here is Fatema with her two daughters.

The Khan Sisters
I have been following the progress of these two graduate girls from Sakina Girls Home for a number of years; they are already subject of an earlier Blog (read their story) and I will continue to document their progress until they complete their CAI supported scholarships, get married and become fully integrated, productive members of their community insha’Allah.
Both Saika and Shaheena Khan travel quite a ways in Mumbai’s inclement monsoon weather to meet with me at SGH, so they are understandably late and wet. Both sisters are doing exceedingly well in their education, well on their way to becoming IT engineering professionals.
Their success is mostly due to efforts they put in their education, true. Both sisters, due to their superior grades, qualify for part college concessions; CAI provides part scholarships and they bear the balance. But it is not easy. They travel early to college over an hour each way, by train, bus and walking; this can easily be two hours in Mumbai rains. Indian college education syllabus is one of the toughest worldwide, competitions brutal. Yet, they excel alhamd’Allah.
But this is also, I know, due to opportunities SGH afforded them in crucial developing and formative years. A safe and secure home, with instant access to water and power, three square meals a day, excellent schools, after school tuition, computer training, Quraan and madressa tuition, clothes, books...all combined to give them space to grow and excel. This is not something ordinary poor children can take for granted. CAI donors will insha’Allah continue supporting these girls until they graduate, with their promise, they too, will, in turn, use future personal resources in supporting SGH.
Here are Saika and Shaheena with me at SGH in Mumbai recently.

CAI donor funding built and now operate (either partly or whole) five orphanages in India and two in Afghanistan.

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