Dhaka (AsiaNews) - "Don't cry when you go away. I'm
fine here. I'm happy," said ten-year-old Sima. Although her body still bears
the marks of the acid that was thrown at her when she was ten months old, she
is the one reassuring her mother. In January, a new chapter in her life began;
it is called Snehonir or 'House
of caring', a hostel for children, some of whom are physically disabled,
orphans or from poor families. Sister Dipika, from the local
congregation of Shanti Rani (Immaculate Heart of Mary), runs the place. She takes
care of the children, teaching them about the value of being and sharing with others.
Sima came to the hostel with her friend Aisha, who
was also the victim of an acid attack, albeit a less serious one. She appears
to have well adjusted to her new surroundings, two months after arriving. Both play,
jump and have fun with other kids. Sima sings well and is a good learner. Seila
is very vivacious and likes to play tricks on others. "The two are a force of
nature," Sr Dipika said.
Sima's singing is like a prayer from a misshaped mouth.
Her Calvary began when she was 10 months old. Her
father threw acid on her because he wanted a boy. She only survived because
of the quick intervention of the Acid
Survivors Foundation (ASF)
Ten years and many operations later, Silma's face
is not very expressive. Framed by rebellious hair, one of its eyes now opens. She
can move it but cannot see with it. Her nose was reconstructed, but it is
small. Only one of her ears is intact. Her mouth can open but it is uneven. Her
skin is paper-thin and prone to inflammations. She will have to undergo
operations all the time. This is true now that she is still a child because her
skin is not developing proportionately to her skeleton. However, it will also be
true in the future, when she is an adult, because her skin will never be adequately
elastic or properly nourished. Yet, in Snehonir her ravaged and apparently inexpressive body does not make her
different. Sima runs, plays, skips, laughs and studies like all the other
children; he especially does all of this with them.
Most of the kids are Christian, but there are three
Hindu kids. Two girls are Muslim: Sima and Aisha. Originally, the hostel was
part of the local Shanti Rani convent.
Some years ago, one of the nuns, Sister Gertrude, took
in a couple of orphans, one of whom had physical problems, but they went well
together. This led her to image a place where able-bodied children could live
side by side with disabled kids. The mother superior of the convent agreed to
the construction of a small hostel, which became today's Snehonir thanks
to contributions from a local donor.
Nicknamed Dolly because she has the face of a doll
despite her 40 years, Sr Dipika, who took over from Sr Gertrude, studied
physiotherapy and nursing to care better for the children with disabilities.
Unlike in other hostels where parents come once
every two months, Sr Dipika encourages mothers to come any time they want. "Bring
them what you want!" she told them. "I'll teach them how to share with others."
Sharing, good cheer and freedom is what Sr Dipika
is giving the children every day. In turn, the little ones bring all this to
their classroom, beyond the walls of the hostel.
Even Sima is going to school, outside. She is doing
so well and fits in so well with her fellow classmates that teachers asked Sr
Dipika to send them more children like her. This never happened before.
At a recent picnic, Aisha said she wanted to become
Christian. "I like the chants and the prayers," she said. "But we are Muslim,"
answered an astonished Sima. Looking at them from a distance, Sr Dipika smiles as
they go back to play. Snehonir is also this.