All orphans come from difficult circumstances, but at Anwesha, more children come from troubled pasts. Many of the children placed in Anwesha came through the eastern Indian Childline, a service for reporting abused and neglected children. Some children lost their parents to malaria. Others were found living on the streets, already addicted to glue and other chemicals. Some suffered physical trauma from beatings. Others had been abandoned at temples. Some have been rescued from child trafficking. As you can imagine, these children have even greater needs than the orphans in our other homes. And yet, children have a special capacity for joy, love, and resilience. Already at Anwesha, these children are beginning to open up and trust each other and their caregivers.
When we arrived at Anwesha, the children welcomed us as esteemed guests. They performed songs and dances for us in beautiful costumes.
Again, it was Makar Sankranti, the end of winter festival, but in this eastern state of India, Tripura, the holiday is celebrated by eating sweets, which they served to us on plates. As is typical in India, we ate with our hands.
After the welcome ceremony, the children were grabbing the balloon decorations from the walls, but the ones on the ceiling were too high to reach. I stood on a chair and took down all the balloons, handing them out to the delighted children. Never have I seen children so happy and eager to receive a balloon.
We played outside with the children, a chase game where we roared and pretended to be lions. They absolutely loved it. The youngest boy, Akash, began to cry. I asked his house father why he was upset. He answered, “Akash doesn’t want you to chase the other children. He wants you to only chase him!” The children were also very excited about their cow’s new calf. Anwesha has four acres, which include vegetable gardens, banana groves, and grazing land for the cows.
In the early evening, it began to grow dark. The one bald light bulb didn’t shed much light in the library, where children showed us well-worn, paperback picture books in English. When it was time for the evening snack, the girls all rolled out their mats and chanted in prayer. Their voices were so beautiful and rang with hope. After prayers, they ate bananas dipped into puffed rice cereal.