Orphan Centre in Mirpur and SOS Village in Muzaffarabad looking after dozens of quake orphans
The epochal earthquake of 2005 gad wreaked colossal damages in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, decimating dozens of villages, towns and cities, and leaving tens of thousands of people dead. The bigger tragedy was countless children orphaned by the tremor.
In AJK, the government failed to take care of these young, innocent survivors. This is where two philanthropic institutions- the Orphan Centre in Mirpur and SOS Village chief Shamim Baig, while sharing details of the earthquake orphans, whom, she said, she loves more than her own children.
“I know I have other family members to take care of my children but an orphan needs more of love than shelter and food. Therefore, we, as a policy, try to bring them out from their bitter past and trauma,” Baig said.
Yasir Siraj, 15, Nasir Siraj, 14, Abid Siraj 13, and Asad Siraj, 12, are real brothers, who live in the SOS Village. These four siblings, who hail from the Panjkot area some 35 kilometres away from AJK’s capital, lost their father in the earthquake. When the mother of these children remarried four years after the earthquake, these children were shifted to the SOS Village for shelter and education.
“All these brothers are intelligent and studious, However, when anyone tries to talk to them about their past they feel uncomfortable. We do not allow visitors and the media to talk to these orphans about the earthquake as they have forgotten what had happened 10 years back. Their focus is now on education and they love to play cricket,” said a teacher of their school.
“When our father died in the earthquake, our mother tried her best to look after us within her limited resources. But due to poor financial conditions, she decided to remarry and we accepted it.
“For us there was no option but to shift to the SOS Village for education. I will complete my studies and want to help my mother who suffered a lot in taking care of us and she will remain and ideal mother for the whole universe,” said Yasir Siraj.
Siraj said he not only wants to study himself but also wants to see his brothers getting education and serving the humanity in different capacities.
Rashid, 14, Javeria, 13, and Shumaila, 12, are also siblings who lost both their parents when the earthquake shook Neelum Valley. Their relatives later shifted them to the SOS Village for better education.
“All these siblings are excellent in studies and have forgotten what had happened 10 years back. We try our best to give them what they hoped to get from their parents,” said Baig.
However, she said that at times, these orphans miss their families, “Specially, on Eid days we read on their faces that they have been missing something, and to keep them away from their bitter memories, I, along with my staff, prefer to celebrate Eid with them,” she said. The SOS Village chief said the orphans, specially the girls, are at times seen deep in pensive mood during their studies both in the academy and at the school. “We try to engage them in co-curricular activities to bring them out from their trauma, which is the only way to keep them smiling and active,” added Baig.
There are some 30 earthquake orphans in the Mirpur Orphan Centre, where they are being given proper education.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2015.