The Orphanage Leavers

May 2011

It is almost the end of another school year. For most, a time of celebration. Young people around the world look forward to graduation and a new chapter in their lives. For children in orphanages, the end of their education also means a new chapter, but one faced with fear and trepidation. Once school is over, the safety and security of the orphanage they have known for most, if not all, of their lives is about to end. They will be put on a bus, then a train and sent to a far off city with only a plastic bag containing their few belongings. Separated from friends and their siblings left behind at the orphanage, they face the future alone. They are only 15 or 16 years old.

 I have been there when the kids leave the orphanage. Their anguish and fear is heart breaking.  Outside the orphanage, they cling to their little brothers and sisters, friends, mamas, teachers and even me.  There are a few stoic faces, but most are crying because they know they will probably never see each other again. Fifteen year old Zhamilah hugs me tight, her body shaking with sobs. I met her in 2003 and have watched her grow over the years. I try to reassure her, telling her everything is going to be OK. I  silently pray that it is true. I hope she and the others can't see the  fear for them that I know is in my eyes. I will not let my tears come  until I am alone in my room. 

It's time for the bus to leave. No one wants to let go. This may be the last hug for a long time. Or forever. The Director comes outside. Time to go. The older kids tear themselves away, looking back as they board the bus. Once everyone is on the bus, the Director says a few last words of encouragement and direction. She gets off the bus, the doors close and they are gone. I  walk to my room and close my door. Of all of the days I have spent at the orphanage, this is by far the saddest.


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Newport, KY  41071

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