While Mother’s Day is a time of celebrating families – for some it is a stark reminder of missing out. Kate Ginn meets the children who live in one of the country’s orphanages.
It’s on an ordinary residential road and the high wall surrounding the complex of buildings protects it from the outside world. There is nothing on the entry gates, no clue as to what lies within.
Inside is a little community all of its own.
Low, nondescript buildings are grouped around beautifully manicured grass, washing hangs outside on a clothes line and a playground with swings and a slide stands empty. There’s also a mosque and gymnasium.
Everywhere is immaculate with not a drop of litter on the tree-lined streets.
You would be forgiven for thinking it was some sort of upmarket residential complex.
In fact, this discreet compound in Al Khoud is the child care centre where the unwanted and orphaned children of Muscat and other parts of the country live.
On a recent trip to the orphanage, Y saw first-hand how these children, many of whom have been abandoned by their birth mothers, are cared for.
Around 120 children call the centre home. Many are Omani by birth but there are other nationalities including Filipino.
Most have been born outside wedlock. Some are abandoned outside mosques or hospitals, and others are even left on the centre’s doorstep. They are often just a few days old.
The police or health authorities take them to the centre, where the children with no names are handed over to staff, who will have to give them full names so birth certificates can be issued. All of the orphans are automatically given Omani nationality by the government, according to staff.
The only ‘mothers’ they are likely to know – unless they are one of the 40 or so lucky ones adopted each year – are the women who act as foster mothers and do their best to provide some semblance of a family.
I ask one of the staff if the children carry the stigmatisation of being born outside marriage, at their schools or by society in general, and she replies no, that they are accepted as any other children.
Tomorrow (Thurs) as children all over Oman celebrate Mother’s Day and their love for the one who brought them into the world, it will be a far more muted day at the orphanage.
Most of them, of course, will never know who their mother is.
Previously the children’s home was in Al Khuwair and moved to the purpose-built complex, which is managed by the Ministry of Social Development, in 2011.
The children can remain there until they reach adulthood, although girls can stay longer if unmarried.
Around five to eight children, usually including a baby, will live with a foster mother in each of the 20 or so villas. There is a small kitchen and a small sitting room, and the older children have their own rooms.
It’s eerily quiet when the children are at school, the villas and playgrounds empty, like a ghost town.
The nursery, however, is bustling when we wander in. Today, there are visitors and the children are dressed in spotless pale blue and white uniforms, sitting on little plastic chairs. They smile shyly at the attention.
As I am leaving later, a villa front door bursts open and four children tumble out. Little Yousef squeals with excitements as his big ‘sister’ swings him around and protectively hugs him close.
They seem happy. As I leave, they stand watching me waving until I am out of sight.