Wandering souls

Many children have a lot to endure. War, violence or neglect being the cause. And when they are finally save new legislation makes them sometimes suffer again beyond reasoning.

Netherlands – He was twelve. And had only recently come to live in the Netherlands. His parents had come for him in China when his grandmother, with whom he lived, had died. It took a while to adjust to his new country, a new language and to his own parents.

That morning they had left together. From their home to a large train station. Frankly, he did not know where they went. He thought something to do with business affairs. When switching trains something went wrong. He stepped into the crowded train that his father had indicated, but once inside, he did not see his parents.

Alerting the police

He felt panic rise and succeeded in jumping back on the platform. But his parents were nowhere to be seen. He waited for hours on the platform. At the end of the day he went back home. For over a month, he waited. Food was long gone and he was too afraid to speak to anyone.

It was a neighbor who finally alerted the police. Shortly after, he came to live at our house. A shy boy in an oversized body who spoke no word of Dutch. I could not even imagine the depth of his despair.

Young refugees

With him, I found myself frequently wondering where his parents had gone. And secretly I thought: “What the hell did those parents think they were doing? That he would stand a bigger chance to stay in the Netherlands? Hansel and Gretel in the illegal version.


For more than a year he lived with us. He started to look happy again and I was assuming he would continue to live with us until he reached the age of 18.

However with the introduction of the Asylum Bill 2001, everything changed. Minor asylum seekers were to be sent back as soon as they reached the age of sixteen. One afternoon I found him weeping.

Centre for refugees

He had called his guardian and asked to be transferred to a centre for refugees. By fits and starts the story came out. It made no sense to stay with us, he argued, as he had to go yet again. He was only going to love us more and what good would that do if he soon had to return to China? He could not cope with a big loss in his life once again.

In the end he was not sent back but that only came clear two years later. He kept us at a distance on purpose. Sometimes I see him walking, the shy boy in that oversized body he still did not quite manage to control. And then I think of all the children who have lived in our house over the years.

Wandering souls

Ibrahim from Sierra Leone whose parents were slaughtered right before his eyes, and who had nightmares of Harry Potter. Dela, the wild Iranian who had a new boyfriend every week and confused sex with love. Wandering souls I call them. Young people who have been damaged by adults and are searching their whole life long for something to eliminate their pain.

Text: Anneke de Bundel – Beeld: Nicole Franken



Share at:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

News from the Ladies

Curious where the ladies are or which adventure they’re throwing themselves at this time? Leave your name and email and you’ll receive news from the ladies twice a month.