CHAPTER 1 (CONTINUED)
When the baby came, it was a ... girl. Disappointment could be felt in the entire family a mile from home. Again, as staunch Christians, they allowed the ordinary woman and her baby girl to remain with them for a while. Perhaps they wanted both mother and child to remain until they were strong enough to be kicked out.
Once more, misfortune visited the family. The ordinary woman died shortly after. Luckily, the baby was healthy and looked to survive well into old age. Thus, the Christian family did the Christian thing, the right thing: instead of dropping the baby down an open manhole, they deposited her at an orphanage. The orphan baby was now given away by the only family she had.
When the baby came to the orphanage, it was baptised Isabel. Baby Isabel was to spend seven good years of her life in this orphanage. They were not particularly happy years.
Fanaka Children’s Home where she was taken was in the outskirts of the city. Besides serving as an orphanage, it was also a rescue centre for children who had been abandoned or abused by their families. It offered residential care to most of the children but there were those who received day care. The latter category consisted mostly of the children who had parents but were vulnerable at home.
Fanaka Children’s Home was run by a Catholic nun, Sister Mary Francis. She had great love for children and welcomed all those who were in need. Together with other volunteers and nuns, they took care of scores of disadvantaged children. Nothing stood in their resolve for charity, not even the innumerable difficulties that they faced every day. Sometimes the food was not enough, other times there were diseases, and yet other times, they were short of accommodation space. But at all times, there was never enough money to run the home.
At the home, some non-formal education was offered by the nuns. They noticed that Isabel was a shy but very intelligent girl. She kept mostly to herself and didn’t cause any trouble. She was a fast learner and could read, write and count by her third year. Most remarkably, she performed her chores diligently.
As she grew older, Isabel got used to Sister Mary Francis’ hospitality and saw herself living contentedly in the orphanage forever. She was apprehensive about taking advantage of the foster care programme in which Fanaka Children’s Home was involved. In this programme, a child was placed in the care of a real family. She was scared of leaving the only place she called home to go to a strange place. She was also not comfortable with leaving behind the only people she had known to go and live among people she did not know.
Isabel’s fear came from the stories she had heard about adoption and fostering from some of the older children. Sometimes things went well and other times, it was tragic. If one was lucky, they got picked to live with a good family, who might treat them the way they were being treated in the orphanage or even better. They would get love, care and an education.
Sometimes, life would be difficult if one was picked and went to live with bad people. There were stories of how some children had been mistreated and made slaves in the house. They had been made to do all the cooking and cleaning. They had also been made to care for the foster family’s real children. Isabel was terrified by the possibility of ending up with one of the bad families. She just didn’t want to leave.
Things turned out for the worst when Sister Mary Francis fell ill and died. Fanaka Children’s Home became a pale shadow of its former self. Those who had been left to continue with her work were unable to cope. It was completely run down and there was an effort to place the children with as many foster families as possible.
A month before Isabel’s prospective foster parents came to pick her, the orphanage shut down. The children were to be taken to court for relocation, including assigning them foster families with whom they could stay. Many of those who had families would be placed back with them, while those like Isabel with no family would be placed in other children’s homes. Isabel did not want to go anywhere. She did not want to leave Fanaka and neither did she want to go to another home.
As they were being huddled to be taken to court, ... Something happened ... Isabel ... Did the needful, she............
*****END OF EPISODE*****
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