Mumtaz Faleel National Coordinator Emerge Lanka
My first day at the shelter is a day, a moment even, that I will never forget for the rest of my life. Since starting at Emerge, this was the first day I really had the chance to spend time at the shelter, to see how our programs are conducted, and most important of all, to meet these amazing girls. At first, they were quite curious as to who this new from Emerge was. While their expressions indicated that they would like to approach me to ask who I was, something held them back. Then the program staff announced to the girls that I was the newest member of Emerge. The moment they heard this, it was as if I was a long lost family member that they were meeting for the first time!
One by one, they started to ask me questions, starting with my name. They were not sure if I could speak Sinhala and were extremely pleased to realize that I could! Before long, they wanted to know so many details about me! How I came to work with Emerge, where did I work before, how old am I, do I know to make jewelry, how many people were there in my family, where do I live, did I go to school, what are my beliefs, why did I decide to join Emerge, why do I work for children, why do I love children, do I like girls or boys more, on and on and on! They wanted my life story then and there! It was as if being a part of Emerge enabled me to become this special passport to get close to their hearts, that includes the blind faith that we are their family. Not for a moment did they treat me as a stranger; they only wanted to become my friend. I became very emotional, as I realized that by meeting them, by being welcomed with open arms, my life would change for ever. I instantly wanted to be a part of these wonderful girls’ lives, who do not think twice about sharing their love and affection.
Once their questions were done for the day, they decided to share details about themselves. Their favorite color, what they liked most about our programs, how they spend their day when Emerge programs are not conducted, their favorite food, their favorite music, the names of their friends, where they are from, their favorite activity with Emerge, and their hopes and dreams. Some of the girls wanted me to meet their babies, and to carry and cuddle them.
I completely forgot about time, and enjoyed every single moment with them. I didn’t want to leave, but eventually, it was time for me to say goodbye. With goodbyes and blessing galore, I left the shelter with a heavy heart. However, I also left with the resolve that I will do everything I can to bring long-lasting happiness to every single girl and that I will never stop telling their stories, which have inspired me like nothing has ever done before.