Dressed in a small pink shirt, he had his head buried into the arm that was holding his weight against the corner of a bleak concrete wall. No older than three years old, he was sobbing incessantly, his chest heaving in utter anguish. He looked and sounded as if he were about to hyperventilate at any moment.
This was Abrahim’s first day at the second institutional orphanage we visited in Iraq.
His mother had left him at ten days old. His father left him yesterday. He was abandoned on the outskirts of the town during temperatures soaring to 120 F. His two young sisters were discarded at the same time, during the same blazing heat.
Everything Abrahim knew, everything he identified as being his life, everything he held as being normal and secure, changed in an instant.
I’m sure I’ve been at many orphanages and orphan homes on the day that children were brought there for the first time. However, I’ve never been consciously aware of it during the 200 or so such places I’ve visited over the years. This was right in my face…and right through my heart.
To experience the very moment of gut-wrenching pain, loss, questioning, betrayal, change, destruction of self esteem, crushing of worth…was to also wound my own soul.
I wish that I could say that Abrahim will now find a new sense of belonging and a new sense of family but, sadly, that is hardly ever the case within a government-run orphanage.
(Image: A young boy plays outside, very near the institutional orphanage)