Hearing Angelina call me mama is wonderful. It is so nice to walk into the orphanage every day and hear her cheerful voice ring out with “mama!”
But then a chorus of voices echo behind her with more “mama!” “mama! mama! mama!” “moiya mama!”
Angelina is not the only child in her orphanage desperate for love.
In her group there are 12 girls including Angelina. Of the 12, 5 are available for adoption (including Angelina). Of those 5, 3 have committed families while 2 are still waiting. The rest still have family who visit. Some family’s visit frequently, some visit only once a year or once every other year. But the children whose parents have not given up their parental rights are not available to be adopted. Perhaps I’ll talk about that issue another day. It’s a topic that I mull over frequently these days; it is complicated and needs time and compassion and I’m not here to talk about that today.
Today I’m going to tell you about one little girl who calls me mama, but I am not her mama.
Jasmine (her Reece’s Rainbow name) came up to us on our second day, grabbed my husband knee and rubbed her cheek on his hand while softly calling “papa, papa!” Every day when we visit Angelina, Jasmine will make her way over to us. It is slow going for her in her wheelchair, the more excited she gets, the most her spasticity kicks in and the harder it is for her to move her chair. She happens to become more and more excited the closer she gets to us, so excited in fact that by the time she is 3 or 4 feet away she can’t move her limbs any more and she just coos and calls “mama maaamaa, papa, papa, I love you!” If she is sitting close to a bench and I sit down near her, she wriggles and hops until she manages to sit in my lap. I don’t even know how she does it, but her determination gets her where she wants to go.
Jasmine is well loved by her nannies and they ask our facilitator why no one has come for her, she is such a treasure. The psychologist at the orphanage asks the facilitator why no one has come for her, she so desperately wants a family. And Jasmine herself asks our facilitator why we are not her parents, why her parents have not come for her.
And our facilitator tells them all a family will come.
I believe our facilitator. A family must come for this girl who beams love from every pore. In a country that has disability acts, public education open to people with disabilities, good medical care, and infrastructure that is wheelchair friendly, this little girl could have a future. In a family that loves her, this little girl will thrive. Here, in this country, she does not have any of that hope.
At the moment she is in a safe place that maintains her basic daily needs, but when she ages out the only place left in this society is the adult mental institution. Just like the case with Angelina, Jasmine does not have a mental disorder, she seems cognitively bright, but mental institutions are all that’s available for care here after a child with physical disabilities ages out of the orphanage. I have said it before, I will remind you again, it is estimated that over 90% of children transferred to adult institutions die within the first year due to abuse and neglect. It was this knowledge that led us to commit to Angelina over a year ago. Seeing that threat still looming in Jasmine’s future breaks my heart every single day.
Jasmine knows we are not her parents, but she still likes to pretend we are when we visit Angelina. She will hold my hand and tell me “when my mama comes, she will hold my hand like this” or “when my mama comes, she will brush my hair. will you brush my hair mama?” and the hardest “when my mama comes, she will say “i love you” and I will say “I love you” Do you love me, will you be my mama too. I love you mama.”
I don’t cry while I am with her, her questions spring from a tender heart and her reasoning is typical for an 8 year old girl who longs for love and family, she wouldn’t understand my tears. But oh the quiet tears creep out the corners of my eyes as I leave the orphanage day after day. Right now they are freely running down my cheeks as I think of the little girl who calls me mama, but I am not her mama.
Maybe you are her mama or papa. I pray you are.
If you wish you could help her but can’t fly across oceans to bring her home, please help in other ways:
- Pray for her continued health and safety.
- Pray her family finds her soon.
- Donate to her adoption grant. Adoption grants are filled with little drops in a bucket that can build. I know this from personal experience. At the moment Jasmine only has $18.00
- Share her story. Many people shared Mandy’s story and helped make a difference in her life, the same can happen with Jasmine.