Farrah Javed is a long time volunteer and supporter of GiveLight. She recently joined our founder Dian Alyan on a trip to an orphanage in Mexico along with her son and six other volunteers. Givelight is now sponsoring six orphans in Mexico through a partnership and we aim to increase that to 20 by 2020. Below is Farrah’s reflection from the trip. We hope it moves you to action so that together we can make a lasting impact in this world.
“My reflections on a trip I took with my son are difficult to put into words. I’ll try to share the experience as best as possible. I keep the moments close at heart and when I close my eyes, I see them again.
I woke up early that morning with excitement as well as anxiety. I had chosen to take my son this time to have him meet the orphans and try to understand what exactly is an orphanage. He was still a bit lost, “Why are we visiting them again?” We had studied the idea of what an orphan is, and recalled that our Prophet, pbuh, was one at a young age. I tried to explain briefly and not overwhelm him. “Well, don’t you like it when friends and company come over? They are excited for visitors to come play with them too. They don’t get friends coming over often.”
This experience would be different though. I knew these orphans were growing up in a society of poverty around them, some were victims of abuse, abandonment or forced away from parents due to domestic violence. In any case, it didn’t matter. They were no longer under a roof with a parent’s love, affection, and attention. They were now housed in a home in which they eagerly yearned for acceptance. I feel my entire purpose was not just for them, but myself.
We arrived in the morning after a three-hour bus ride. Our tour guide was also one of the founders who gave us a brief intro about the orphanage and reminded us of our purpose; i.e. to give these children hope. Our presence itself was impactful. I was initially hesitant about the idea since I didn’t know any Spanish and I wasn’t sure of their level of English, if any. I kept thinking to myself, should I have come on this trip? We ventured out and I knew in a way, that no language was needed to play with a child, giggle, laugh and give a high-five.
We arrived to children singing around a cake. I couldn’t see a candle nor could understand the writing on the cake as it was in Spanish. I couldn’t tell if there was a birthday child as they all crowded around the cake as if it was their birthday. I guess they were happy we were there, so it was a welcome for us.
We spent the afternoon playing cards, marble run, arts and crafts with the children. We shared their activity space with them and stopped to have lunch together. My son enjoyed foosball and water-bottle flipping with them. At many times, my son was found wandering around wondering who could he play with next. We had name tags so the volunteers could learn each other’s names. However, the orphan children didn’t. During play, we’d get to identify them through smiles and laughter.
My connection was with Frank. He was thin, wore a red shirt and hopped from one activity to another. He could be described as the life of the party and class clown. We connected over a game of memory with cards, trying to find a matching pair. His memory was sharp and when he’d know where a pair was hidden, he began jumping up and down cringing if anyone went near his card. There were about 6 of us playing, and I came in last. Frank walloped us. His smile and laugh were contagious. As I saw him hop from activity to activity, I couldn’t help but wonder where he would be when he grows up. Would he remember us? What could be done to make sure he didn’t fall through the cracks of the system? Then I wondered, he was the most vocal one. What about the shy and quiet ones who didn’t know how to convey their feelings? During their last performance, the entire group of 52 children sang a passionate song. It brought me to tears I hadn’t experienced since my parents passed away. I felt gutted and hopeless. They sang with such love and hope. I couldn’t understand anything, but the look in their eyes showed that all they wanted was love and an opportunity. An opportunity society took away from them, and maybe with this orphanage they could get it back. These children need support, counseling, love, trust regained, and most of all, affection. How could a staff of 12 be spread evenly among 52 children? Even as a parent, I find sometimes I give one child more attention than the other and have to find ways to make up for it and balance it out.
We ended our visit with a tour of the orphanage. We walked through their hostel rooms, saw their restrooms, saw where laundry was done and other activities were taught such as welding and woodshop. We departed with a group photo. I wanted to stand next to Frank but he was lost in the crowd of attention. I glanced back at the children one last time and thought to myself, I have to come back, but next time I need to learn Spanish. As we walked through the dusty road back to the bus, we boarded back into our cushioned seats, a/c and water bottles. My heart sank at the comfort I had. I checked on my son, stroked his hair and asked if he was okay. He nodded, “It wasn’t what I thought it would be. It’s different than the cartoon.” I looked lost, “What cartoon?” He went off to sleep.
I pray I never forget the feeling of visiting the children and the tears I had for them. May Allah answer my duas for them and inshAllah I can return with more for them than myself.”
Thank you Farrah for sharing your details of your journey. If you want to help us meet our goal of sponsoring 20 orphans by 2020, then please click on the donate button below. Note, it takes $75 per month per child sponsorship, so please choose accordingly.