Dubai, UAE: Orphans in Dubai have been offered hope of a brighter future through the Family Village in Al Warqa, which is seeking permanent homes for 20 children.
The facility is the first of its kind in Dubai and has grown since 2012, when a plea for help on Twitter was sent to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, to create a permanent village for orphans.
Vulnerable youngsters between 2 and 12 years old have been taken in by the Awqaf & Minors Affairs Foundation, which also cares for 2,547 other minors in Dubai.
Tayeb Abdulrahman Al Rais is secretary general of the foundation and has become the orphanage’s father figure.
“This group of children has nowhere to go and no one to turn to,” he said. “In any society in the world, if these kids are not looked after properly they lose their way and become lost. They become the number one target for sexual predators, or used for drug trafficking or terrorism. They are vulnerable and have nothing else in their lives.”
Surrogate mothers, fathers and aunts have been employed by the orphanage to care for them until they can be found a permanent home.
“These mothers have the same role as any other mother in a family home, to look after the children from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed,” Mr Al Rais said.
“We had to create their role because it didn’t exist before, it was a new job description.
“These men and women have gone through strict psychological and psychometric tests and been trained by the Dubai Women’s Association. Some of them are natural parents.”
Parents have to be between 35 and 50. Most are single but they are committed to caring for the children and work three and a half days a week, sharing the parenting role with an aunt, so the child has continuous care.
The model is based around the SOS Children’s Village International that has been providing similar care for 60 years.
Sameera Ali, who has six children of her own, has begun working at the village as a mother. She said: “I was dreaming of this kind of work, as I love being a mother to all children.
“I have three children at the orphanage, it was hard to leave them when I went on holiday, so I know it will be very difficult when they find families.”
Afra Al Shamsi is a mother to five orphaned children.
“I have lots of nephews and nieces so I had an idea of what parenting is like,” she said. “In the beginning they need love and care and to know someone is looking after them.”
The village is supported by charitable donations from across the UAE. Its hope is to become self-sufficient within three years by renting out vacant villas on site.
The children are from all over the country – and from different nationalities. Older boys share rooms in groups of three, the same model used by SOS to help prevent bullying and isolation.
Younger children have their own play areas on the ground floor where there is a kitchen, large performance room and a games room for older children.
Sharia states that the orphanage’s responsibility ends when the children reach 21.
Abdullah Rahma, 36, adopted a son who is now 19. Mr Rahma has taken up a father role at the orphanage. “It was easy for me to see these children as my own and give them the care they need,” he said. “I don’t see it as a job. I try to give them what they need as a normal father would.
“There are challenges, like when they ask me where their real parents are. I can’t answer them but I try to comfort them.
“It will be hard to see them leave when the time comes, but I will be happy for their future.”
© The National