Outing with Melrose Place Children

On 18th March, members of Modern Buddhist Fellowship treated 10 kids (9 boys and 1 girl) from Melrose Place Orphanage to an outing at the zoo.

I was expecting to see the childrens dressed poorly, grubbily with poor fashion sense, On the contrary, they were very well dressed, most of them wore better coordinated and quality clothes and shoes than my own kids.

I also had the preconception that the kids would be a little shy, dejected and withdrawn! How wrong I was! They were perky, sociable and vocal! They enjoyed sponsored trips by different groups of volunteers quite frequently. Perhaps that’s why most of them are extroverts, they easily warm up with total strangers.

Trouble started even before we entered the zoo. The eldest boy, John# who is 11, was mischievous. Despite numerous reminders not to use the portable hand held fan blade to swipe against his friends head and face, he remained defiant and nonchalant. After giving him warnings, he switched his attention towards a 7 years old girl Micky# and immediately turned the fan on her. The fan twirled and got her hair entangled. The volunteers could not untangle the hair but the orphanage Chaperon, Mr Ang came to the rescue, the hair was uncoiled from the blade but a unsightly ball of fizz served as a cruel reminder of the boy’s malicious act! From that moment on, I decided that I will be the little’s guardian angel throughout the trip. Anyone who has tries to bully Micky, will have to get pass me first! John avoided me totally from then onwards through the outing.

 

Alexis - Guardian Angel

Alexis – Guardian Angel

2 little 9 years old boys wasted no time in warming up to Mark Wong’s niece Jia Hui. From what I have observed, it is not Jia Hui’s that is chaperoning the 2 boys during the outing, but it’s the other way around. I heard one of them wanted to marry Jia Hui when he grows up!

When snacks was distributed, I was very surprised that the children were very willing to share what they have. There can be many hands reaching into a bag of chips but they shared what they have received from the volunteers. Very generous children indeed, perhaps communal living at the home has made them more willing to share.

At lunch, some children would dutifully declare that the portion of meals given to them is too much, it must been a practice in the home that children will take only what they are able to consume, either that or that I had fed them too much tidbits. They also showed concern towards each other, one of the older boys who had diabetes was constantly reminded by his younger friends not to indulge in too much soft drinks because of his condition. How caring and sweet.

Mark and the kids

Mark and the kids

At the zoo, I discovered that Mark Wong is a SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy). I am particularly charmed by how he pacified a whining 4 years old Gerald* by holding him tightly in his arms and shooting down imaginary monkeys. So protective and assuring. If Mark is a prospective son-in-law, He’s got my approval! (Gerald is afraid of all animals except the giraffe, because someone told him that Monkeys will leap from the treetop and attack him)

Initially we were told that there will 23 kids on the outing, however, on the day itself, 13 kids were taken home by their parents and/or guardians as it was the school holidays, leaving 10 kids, 9 boys and 1 reserved little girl who remained ‘unclaimed” . These kids are in the orphanage because of neglect, abuse, their biological parents are fighting over parental rights or abandoned by their parents because their parents have found new partners. Most of the kids at the outing have foreign mothers.

Although the kids attend local schools, I found out that this group lagged behind their peers in their education. Most of them perform poorly in class and one child had to repeat Primary 3 again. At the home, I guess it is hard to ensure that all 47 children receive adequate attention in this area.

As a mother myself, I know very well that kids need a stable environment. The orphanage do provide a home that meets their basic needs, schooling and good discipline. However, if an orphanage allow a steady stream of strangers to interact, it may not be looking out for the best interest of the child. This is because the child need a safe, reliable and continuous long term relationship with their caregiver. It is highly unlikely that strangers from ad-hoc outings will be able to maintain or commit a stable emotional bond with the children throughout their childhood. Unfortunately, although well intended, this leads to a never ending round of abandonment for the child when the outing ends.

While volunteer’s name is submitted to the Orphanage administration prior to the event, there may be some people that are attracted to vulnerable children for other reasons. By allowing a steady stream of ad-hoc volunteers access to the children, an orphanage may put the children at risk of greater harm.

We cannot see emotional pain the kids go through, there is no doubt that these children will benefit if volunteers / befrienders can commit regularly a few hours a month and stick around for at least a year to emotionally bond with them. However, this is no real substitute to parental love.

# Names have been changed for privacy reasons.

Alexis Soh

MBF

 

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