NEW DELHI – They were ignored, discriminated and denied of their rights – from the luxury of a life with parental love the hopes of a rosy future. But the journey took them to the safe hands of a few good people who gave wings to their dreams and there is one dream they held very close to their hearts, prepared for it over eight months for which the team of mentors toiled over an year – but now, all seems to have gone in vain as the embassy denied visas to the 7 orphans to go U.S. to represent India in the World Orphans Choir.
Only 7 children and 1 leader are selected from various third-world countries and after auditioning over 1000 Indian at-risk and orphaned children from different parts of the country, International Children’s Network (ICN) representative from the U.S., Heather Mehra-Pedersen selected final 7 from Udayan Care Homes located in Delhi NCR. The selected seven was deemed the best to represent the country in sharing their stories and culture during a one year United States Tour touring 20 cities. The one-year program was forced to cut short to 8 months as two months was spent on clearing the paper-works, both in India and U.S. including permission from the Department of Homeland Security in U.S. The kids were practicing for eight months to perform before the world stage and to compete with children from different parts of the globe, but just two days before their much-awaited departure, the embassy denied them visas shattering the big dreams of the small minds apart.
“At Udayan Care, we have always ensured that despite their circumstances, children feel “equal” to their peers in the neighborhood, school and society. The most recent denial of U.S. visa, has undermined this belief and their confidence, leaving them feeling “less than” or inferior to other children, They are also deeply disappointed that 6 months of their hard work “has gone waste”. Moreover they are anxious that that their “school friends will make fun” of them,” said Reena Tete, Director-Programmes at Udayan Care.
The embassy says the selected leader and the kids are considered a flight risk and because they are without family ties, they will not come back. The biased commission also fears that they would be adopted. “This “feeling” has no foundation in fact. The other countries from the World Orphan Choir and Matsiko Children’s Choir including Liberia, Peru and Uganda have all met with approved and currently in the U.S., this is only India’s children,” said a statement from the Udayan Care. “There was no written denial of visa. However, at the interview for the visa, we were told that visa cannot be granted as “children do not have strong ties in India,” said Reena.
U.S.-based NGO, International Children’s Network that invited the Indian children have a solid documented history of two prior successful choirs. The denial of visa by the U.S. embassy is contradictory to the facts and odd at best considering the fact that every previous choir has returned back to the home nations safely and moreover, some of these children from India and the selected leader, Pinki Biswas have travelled outside the U.S. and returned in the past.
“We have always appreciated and even welcomed the US Embassy’s voice in trying to prevent child trafficking. However, this unexplainable ruling to deny the 7 orphaned children from India and their leader the chance to help children by coming to the USA with the choir against the advice and research of USA’s Department of Homeland Security and the support of US Congressman, US Senator’s, Schools and citizens is actually unconscionable.” Heather Mehra-Pedersen states.
“These children all come from difficult circumstances of losing their families or facing abuse and neglect. With both countries behind the approval and full on documented support and proven successful history, what could make a decision like this? It’s absolutely an injustice! Udayan Care is constantly telling their children that although they have no parents, they are as valuable to society as those with parents. The U.S. Embassy Immigration Department has negated this fact by denying them visa simply because they are orphans,” said Kiran Modi, Udayan Care Founder and legal custodian of the 7 selected children.