Yemen’s First Ever Orphanage for Girls! [Archives:1998/40/Health]

October 5 1998

The situation of orphans in Yemen is different from that in most other country because of the solidarty of the old social relations and the pulverizing impact of the Islamic religion on Yemeni society. Therefore, the problem of orphans is like any other problem that is solved within the family. Usually one of the relatives of the orphans undertake the responsibility of care. The orphanage in Sanaa is not only a home for orphans but also for poor children. The Female Orphans Care First Center, FOCFC, is something new for Yemeni society. The economic hardships will make people unable to support the orphans relatives. Thus, the availability of orphanages becomes necessary lest they deviate.
Dr. Salah Hadash, Yemen Times Managing Editor met Ms. Yasameen Al-Awadi Director (FOCFC) and filed the following interview.
Q: Could you please tell us something about the center?
A: The center was first established with the help of some Swiss charitable societies which are basically Islamic societies that are interested in helping poor nations. They have implemented many charitable projects worldwide. They came to Yemen and made a survey of poor families in particular and the situation of society as a whole, in general. They came to Yemen many times and gave some help in different rural regions. Then, they thought of establishing the female orphans center. They discussed the matter with some Yemeni counterparts. They visited the existing orphans center and felt that a new one was needed. Actually, they met with Ms. Ekhlas Al-Khatib and the Deputy Minister of Housing through the Al-Kamil Group which works in the Urban Development Program.
Q: What is the main objectives of the center?
A: The center adopted the caring of the girls between the age of 5-8 because children of this age are ready to accept the instruction. The center gives them full – healthcare, food, education and training. It prepares the girls for a new life.
Q: What activities are carried out within the center?
A: Girls under the age of schooling are given some training and education so that they will be able to assimilate what is taught to them later.
Most of the female orphans coming from the village are afraid of education and medical check-ups. Therefore, we try to make them familiar with all these things. We have all the facilities that make them accept and love education. The center is provided with television sets, videos, educational films for children, environmental films, etc.
Q: How many girls have been admitted to the center?
A: During this month we have received 5 girls and we are expecting more and more. But the center can’t accommodate more than 20.
Q: Do you have any plans to develop the center?
A: We can enlarge the center but we are short of money. We do really face a lot of problems. For example, I accepted a 10-year old girl although she is above the permitted age. I was actually forced by her difficult situations.
Q: What are the main difficulties you meet?
A: Right now we don’t have factual difficulties but our main problem is that our budget is very limited. I hope the benefactors will help us, especially with foodstuff and health care since these services are of the activities of the center. We don’t have a medical laboratory.
Q: Do you have any problems because of social values?
A: The problem is that the society here consider girls or women in general as shame. Therefore, they feel that giving them to any charitable institutuion to care for them is disgraceful. The result is that the girl grows up with spite for her family. Hence, she becomes an impotent person unable to do something for society. I think the center gives the girls affection, safety and education necessary for them in their life.
Q: Do you have donors from within Yemen?
A: The Swiss Society have donated some good furniture, including beds. Al-Muhandiss office has given us desks and chairs. Jamal Al-Yaf’ee has also donated YR500,000. If we really gain a good reputation and people feel that we are doing a good job, the center will carry on.
Q: Are there any other orphans centers in Yemen?
A: The Swiss Society has promised that if the Sanaa center proves successful other centers funded by them will be opened in Aden and Hadhramaut. Our problem is that we don’t have buildings; we spend a lot of money on rent. The rent of this center is now YR 35,000; the landlord is asking for YR 50,000 after 6 months. The location of the center is very important; we need it to be at the heart near the government institutions. Al-Asbahi zone doesn’t have water and so we have to buy it and this is very expensive. The electricity supply is not too regular. We hope that the international organizations will present their moral as well as material support. We also feel that training courses for the teachers of the center would be very useful.
Q: Have you got a license?
A: The concerned authorities have promised us that the procedures of getting a license are being simplified. We tried to contact the Deputy Minister of Social Affairs but he was busy. The license will be issued in the coming few days.
Q: Do you allow the girls to visit their relatives?
A: Yes, of course. They are allowed to visit their relatives. We actually encourage them to develop a sense of belonging. This is also because when they reach adolescence, their relatives have to come and take responsibility for them. Some girls go to visit their families accompanied by someone from the center. We also invite the families to come and visit the girls.
We do our best so that the girls don’t feel grieved so we offer them entertaining programs and visits. But so far we don’t have a bus. The Swiss society has promised to give us a bus if the number of orphans increase.
We have a daily program which the girls have to follow from the morning till the evening. We take them to school and bring them back. We supervise homework and teach them the Holy Quran. They also play games.