It’s the ‘jhoola’ we all know – the cradle where desperate Pakistani mothers and fathers leave their newborns – for a new life. A better life they hope than the one they can provide. The babies are left in the middle of the night and the only pictures the center has is of the parents on CCTVcaptured before they fled the scene. While there are jhoolas everywhere all over the city, we are standing in front of the one in Sohrab Goth.
“When they grow up and ask how they were found and got to Edhi Center, we never tell them they were abandoned on the jhoola. Often, we tell them that they were found lost on a train or a bus and their parents could not be located,” says a senior supervisor at Edhi Center.
“One of the kids who was left on the jhoola over two decades ago is now a trained mechanic and has gotten married. It’s such a privilege to see these kids thrive,” she says leading me to the school where the girls study.
It’s a large room where girls of different ages have been divided into small groups and various teachers are teaching different subjects. Some of the young girls have their hair shaved off and I don’t have the heart ask them why.
As school ends, the girls get in line for something special.
One of Aurat Raaj’s ambassadors Masooma has collected funds, food and beautiful clothing with the help of her university friends and teachers to donate to Edhi girls. She’s still studying but has taken out time to think for more than just herself and her family. Masooma’s mother has been integral to this fundraising – she supported her fully and involved her family and networks in the project.
“The last time I came here – one of the little girls was crying. I asked her why and she said the other kids wouldn’t let her play Ludo. So we especially got Ludo for her and plan to play with her as much as we can,” says Masooma.
“Often Masooma gets depressed, I tell her to look at the courage and strength of these girls and learn from them,” says her mother.
One of the girls at the Center has one side of her entire face burnt. “My face was burnt in a gas leakage accident,” she tells Masooma’s mother. I watch from the distance contemplating whether sharing her story will help her or letting her keep it private would help her more.
Either way, all of these girls could benefit from something more than just biryani and bangles – a better education now and a higher education later.
Until we can offer them that, we will offer them hope. And we hope more ambassadors and volunteers will join us.