Rays of sunshine stream into the room I walk into, its white curtains floating softly like the wings of a guardian angel embracing the baby cot in the corner. Leaning over soft cotton sheets and the fragrance of baby powder, I am introduced to two month year old Adam as he wriggles quietly in his cot, a smile playing on his face. Watching the vigorous movements of his arms and legs, I can’t help but imagine a few swimming medals in his future.
But behind Adam’s innocent disposition lies a tale of danger and misfortune, one he experienced on the day he was born. On a cold January morning, a stranger carrying a black gym bag cautiously approached an orphanage in a middle-class suburb in Cairo, casually placing the gym bag underneath its large bus. “Our guard saw a black bag sticking out from the other side of the bus at around nine in the morning,” explains the orphanage’s owner. “But because he thought it was garbage from the street, he didn’t think to investigate.”
Because Adam is an unusually quiet boy, he remained unnoticed until midnight- thirteen hours after he was left underneath the orphanage’s bus. “My husband and I were spending a late night at the orphanage. It was a freezing night and we were all eating hot popcorn and cocoa to warm up. At around midnight we said goodbye to the children and prepared to leave,” she shares, her voice catching as she remembers the night they discovered Adam.
“Before we left, my husband wanted to move the bus out of the street and inside the orphanage’s garage. But although the car started up, it wouldn’t budge.” With what is described as a miracle, the school bus remained stationary, the husband investigating the wheels to see if there was an obstruction. “I still have nightmares where the car moves and I drive over the baby,” the husband admits. “As I inspected the bus, I noticed the bag sticking out from the passenger’s side. I called out to my wife when I realised there was a baby inside. I knew it was meant for us.”
As they tentatively unzipped the gym bag, they were stunned to find a cold baby boy wrapped in layers of expensive designer clothes, with expensive baby formula placed next to his tiny head. The couple describe how overwhelmed they were, not only for finding a baby, but very nearly driving over him. “But this wasn’t the case of poor parents desperate to get rid of a child because they couldn’t afford to keep him, this baby belonged to someone wealthy,” the owner shares dejectedly. “People’s hearts have turned into stone,” the couple passionately state in unison.
I watch baby Adam wriggle silently as he is lovingly stroked by those around him. Although he was saved twice that night, Adam would be growing up in an orphanage with the sounds and drama of fifteen nine-year-old boys. Female supervisors would be breezing in and out with commands, often replaced without notice, acting as surrogate mothers between the school and the orphanage. The door of the orphanage would remain open to welcome visitors who dropped by. And the owner of the orphanage, addressed as “mama” by the boys, would pay a visit every other day for a few hours, mostly spending the time in her office tackling paperwork before leaving to visit the orphanage’s other three branches scattered around Cairo.
But what other option did baby Adam have? The next three hours at the local police station, the couple going through tiresome and lengthy bureaucracy to adopt the baby boy, proved how challenging it is to adopt a child in Egypt. “This is the first time it has ever happened to us,” the owner explains, looking at her husband. “I usually go to the hospital to choose an orphan; I have over thirty in my care. But this was a completely different case; we had to prove that the baby was discarded in front of our orphanage.”
Asked by the policeman handling their case if they were sure they wanted to adopt this baby, the owner was certain. “I may have chosen all the orphans under my care, but little Adam was sent to us and saved by God's mercy. How could I ever turn my back on that?”
*Adam's name was changed to protect his identity.