TWSC Series: Footprints of a Survivor – Growing up an Orphan

African girl
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Footprints of a Survivor is a column written by Kim Mukwa, a survivor of childhood physical, emotional and sexual abuse. In each article, she reveals the layers of pain she lived through, the damage it caused and the steps she is taking to heal emotionally.

The other day l was giving out a lecture to my son on how blessed he is for having two parents living together because l never had that. I insist that he be grateful and thank God for that beautiful blessing, we might not have much or be able to provide him with everything that he needs at the moment but nonetheless, he should look around him and be thoughtful of others without a complete family structure.

There are approximately 140 million orphans in the world right now, and sadly l am part of that statistic. Being an orphan shaped how l viewed life and behaved in my extended family setting. I knew my place and where l belonged. I knew how and how not to behave. When l did misbehave, l knew l would get the hiding of my life compared to the other kids whose parents were alive. That’s just how it was for me as a child without parents.

Orphanhood is a social disease with no remedy. Being an orphan means there is no shoulder to cry on when you are lonely or heartbroken. You just suck it up and move on. Basic survival is a great struggle for a person without the protective shield of their parents.

Most people have memories of their mom’s smile and warm hands or their dad’s jokes and laughter, l have few such memories. The thing is these memories stick with us and become something important to us. But if all you can remember about your childhood is the absence of a mother, well, that shapes some really sad memories. I had food in my belly and family, but it’s the parental bond that l yearned and still do to this day.

As we begin a new year with all its pomp and fanfare, let us remember the orphan who has no excitement to look forward to. The orphan with no mother or father to surround them with love.

Psalm 82:3 reads, “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless.”

As far as l know, every religion promises to reward those who are kind and caring towards orphans. There are multitudes of heart-rending stories about orphans out there and all we need to do is pay attention. Inquire about an orphanage near you and give of your time or money. Think about the girl child with no sanitary wear or basic underwear…it breaks my heart. I remember a time when l had one panty that would get torn over and over again. I would have to repair it repeatedly.

I will end with this quote on success from popular philosopher, poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“To laugh often and much: To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Read Kim’s story below:

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