The IR team sat on an old mattress on the floor and glanced around the small house.
The only light comes from a small lamp which uses electricity borrowed from a neighbour. Water is collected from an outside tap. The walls are not painted and there are no doors. The windows are just holes covered in plastic sheets to stop the rain, but the cold air blows straight through.
A photograph of Shefa’s late father hangs on the wall.
Shefa was playing with her dolls and her pet cat. When asked if she likes cats, Shefa replied: "Very much, but Maher is not just a cat. He is a member of our family. I love him so much, and I miss him when I go to school. He waits for me till I come back," she continued, "I spend most of my time playing with him. We have no relatives or friends to visit as my father's family lives in Jordan".
Shefa has friends at school, but her home is isolated and difficult to reach so she only sees them during school time.
"Hanan is my best friend. We study together in the fourth grade but her marks are better than mine because her father helps her. My marks are quite good though. I like Maths and Art. Drawing is my favourite hobby.
"When I grow up, I want to be an engineer. However, Hanan told me that I will have to study Engineering in the English language and I am not that good in English.”
After preparing tea, Shefa’s mother came to welcome IR: "Please help yourself,” she said. While sipping her tea she spoke of her ill-health. "I have been suffering from chronic muscle inflammation for a very long time. I do not take my medication regularly because it causes me stomach pain. I feel like an old woman, even though I am not yet forty-three-years-old".
The room fell silent as she started to relate her tragic story.
"Illness can be recovered from, but heartbreak cannot,” she said.
“My mother got divorced just one week after giving birth to me. I was very young when my father remarried and his new wife treated me badly. I was forced to work on a farm throughout my childhood and I never had a day of happiness until Shefa was born. But fate deprived me of my husband and her of her father. He died from cancer when she was only three months old"
With tears welling in her eyes she continued:
“We were saving a small amount of money to finish building our house which is not fit to live in, but we spent our savings on his treatment. He died without ever really knowing his daughter and she often looks at his photograph and questions me about him.
"It is only the Islamic Relief sponsorship and money from other charities that fulfils our needs. I breed some hens and sell their eggs in order to provide Shefa with a little pocket money so that she doesn’t have to feel that she is beneath her friends at school. This is all I can do.
“My daughter and I are very grateful to Islamic Relief and to the sponsor. No one supports us but Allah and them. May Allah bless them.
At this point Shefa too started to cry, so the IR team attempted to distract her, asking about her doll.
“Her name is Haneen. She was a present from Islamic Relief. I also received a drawing set with nice colours,” Shefa boasted, running to her room and hurrying back with a pile of crumpled drawings.
“Here are my drawings. I used the drawing set to colour my pictures.” The picture showed a group of children singing on a stage. “It was a special event. I took part in the Islamic Relief Orphans’ Day. I sang a very nice song."
Shefa goes to bed early because she is scared of the dark. Dogs bark all through the night making it difficult for her to sleep. She rises at dawn and prays with her mother. They make dua for Shefa’s sponsor and then Shefa sets off for school. In the afternoons Shefa eats her lunch, studies and helps her mother around the house. In the evening she watches cartoons and plays with Maher.
“I love my Mum and I am afraid that she will leave me as my father did.
“When I grow up, I will do my best to make up for all her worry. I will buy a bed for her instead of her sleeping on this cold mattress and when I become a successful engineer, I will refurbish our house and turn it into a piece of paradise."
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