Helping Those Left Behind
When I was visiting my youngest daughter in the Iranian orphanage that she lived in prior to our adopting her, I saw many other babies and young children living in conditions that no child should have to endure, including malnutrition, inadequate physical contact, a high child to caregiver ratio, no opportunity to bond with an individual caregiver, etc. I carry their faces with me as clear as day--especially the look in their eyes. I had never personally seen such desperation and yearning and lostness in the face of a child before. It was absolutely heartbreaking. While my baby's eyes no longer show the weight of the world carried on tiny shoulders, I will never forget the faces of the children who continue to suffer from the lack of a family and the endurance of institutional neglect.
When the orphanage's all-woman administrative staff became familiar with me during the weeks that I repeatedly visited the orphanage, they began to ask questions. They knew I was a clinical counselor and sought up-to-date and research-based information about orphanage management and counseling of adoptive parents. While carrying my soon-to-be daughter in a baby sling, I stood in the cramped administrative office and helped the orphanage psychologist translate from English to Farsi articles that I found for them on the Internet. It was slow work involving a great deal of compassionate discussion as the information often challenged how things were being done. Relative to what was needed, I was only able to help translate a small amount before we obtained custody of my daughter and I was unable to continue visiting the orphanage. My baby needed my care and we eventually left Iran to return to the United States.
I know that my work is undone. When I asked the orphanage director what the orphanage's greatest need was, she said "etele'at-e elmi": scientific information. Constrained by limited funds, as orphanages generally are, the administrative staff members are only able to do a fraction of what is needed. Yet they yearn to know what more they can do for the children in their care. I dream of continuing this work of translation (with the help of volunteer and paid professional translators), collaborating with the administrative staff to further develop their volunteer caregiver program, as well as finding a way to help more materially, most likely through the Child Foundation (http://www.childfoundation.org/) which serves children in Iran, among other countries. We could only adopt one baby--and my time and energy are almost entirely consumed by caring for her and her older sister. But I do not want to forget the babies and children whom I left behind. They are suffering so greatly without a family of their own to provide the love and nurture each and every one of them so deserve.
Cynthia Good Mojab
Director, LifeCircle Counseling and Consulting, LLC