One young girl 9 years ago ...
There is always a mad throng around us each time we visit Tumdi Orphanage. There are so many children and they are all desperate to have you touch their hand or hug them or simply to notice them. Despite the chaos though, there seem to always be a few who stand out from the crowd. I can never define exactly why this one or that one makes my heart melt. These often aren’t the children who are the prettiest or most engaging. They often don’t have the most winning smile, aren’t the smartest or most extroverted. There just seems to be something in their soul that connects with mine.
It was love at first sight when I saw Miramgul. She was 7 years old. She was wearing an ill-fitting and threadbare dress that barely covered the holes in her underpants. She wasn’t as noisy and demanding as the others but it was her face that jumped out at me from the crowd. Her eyes had a depth and light and sparkle that marked her as particularly special. I wanted to wrap her up and take her home. The photograph that was taken of the two of us in January 2003 is still one of my most treasured.
Miramgul is now 16 years old and I still love her to bits. She is now taller than me, with impossibly long arms and legs. Although I may be biased, she is one of the most special children with whom I have ever worked. She is truly beautiful in every sense of the word. Her eyes still dance and sparkle and she has lost none of her childish enthusiasm for life. She is an honest and loyal friend and in all the years I have known her, I have never heard a bad or negative word come from her mouth. She is never impatient with others, or unkind in any way. Her true talent though, lies in her ability to make everyone around her laugh. She is an actress possessed of the ability to utilise every part of her body and face to portray any emotion she wishes. At the slightest provocation she will perform an impromptu skit that invariably results in everyone else in fits of giggles. She is a Kazakh Lucille Ball.
I still want to take Miramgul home but now it is because I want to protect her from what I know lies ahead. In a few months she will leave the regulated atmosphere of the orphanage for a training college where there is less supervision. At a time in her life when the horizon should be full of possibilities, others will dictate that she will study to be a seamstress. This lack of control over her own life may lead to listlessness and disinterest in life. She may become cynical, a characteristic that is particularly misplaced in one so young. The sense of hopelessness may lead to alcohol and drug abuse. In short, in just a few months, Miramgul may no longer be the Miramgul I know right now.
Of course, none of this may happen but each year we watch fresh-faced kids from the orphanage enter the college and within a few months, a terrible change has occurred. There are a few who manage to stare down the monsters and come out the other end stronger for the experience, and each day I pray that Miramgul will be one of those. I pray that her light will not diminish. Here is Miramgul 9 years later!