The youngest Kuwaiti couple ever to adopt a child from the country’s only orphanage is 27-year-old Safa Al Failkawi and 31-year-old Hisham Al Tawari, who welcomed their five-month-old baby boy, Mohammad, into their arms, and their home, in October 2011.
The couple’s courageous decision to adopt a child in a society where adoption is a rarity, and even when done it’s a hushed about topic, is truly an inspiration to many. Whether one is or isn’t considering adopting a child, Al Failkawi’s and Al Tawari’s bold choice to welcome an orphan child into their hearts and home is truly an inspiration to all.
Many couples or individuals choose to adopt children usually after having trouble conceiving biological children of their own. This couple, however, did things the other way round. Al Failkawi, an art teacher, and her husband, an engineer, were 25 and 29, respectively, when they adopted Mohammad. They didn’t adopt a child because they couldn’t conceive their own, but because they wanted to.
The orphanage, which operates under the management of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, ordered a plethora of paperwork from the couple, and after eight long months of adoption procedures the couple finally welcomed Mohammad into their family.
In the midst of society’s judgments, we all need to remember that at the end of the day, whether a child is or isn’t related to you by blood, a child is still a child, and there is nothing that can bring more happiness into one’s life than the joy a child can bring to a home.
The couple’s story is a reminder to us all that children enter our life so that we can cherish them, love them, and guide them in the right direction. Children teach us how to put somebody else’s needs above our own; we learn from them how to unconditionally give love and receive it in return. Most importantly, children prove to us that opening our hearts and souls to another being can fill our life with gratification and joy, be that an adopted child or otherwise. The love that Al Failkawi and her son Mohammad share lays testament to that.
The family recently moved to Ohio, USA, where Al Tawari is pursuing his graduate studies and we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview Al Failkawi as she illustrates to us her courageous decision to adopt baby Mohammad.
What influenced you and your husband’s decision to adopt a child?
We were so touched by other adoption stories around the world, so we thought why not? I think we have so much love to give and we want to share it with a special child who needs it. After much research, we decided to adopt a child from Kuwait’s orphanage.
I know that local adoption procedures require that the adopted child to be the one to choose the family, and not the other way around. Could you elaborate more on how Mohammad chose you?
When I was in the orphanage and it came time to adopt, out of all of the kids there, he smiled at me. When I held him for the first time, he held on to me so tightly that I couldn’t help but start crying!
Does Mohammad know that he is adopted?
No, not yet at least. I am now reading adoption books and stories to him. These books are specially made for adopted kids. At the age of 3, we will tell him that he is adopted, in a positive way of course. We want him to be proud of who he is and we want him to know that he is the special addition to our family.
Is your child going to keep his original last name or is he going to share your husband’s?
In Islamic, and local, law it is not allowed for the child to share his adoptive father’s last name – he can only share the first and second name. Therefore, the last name has to be any name, since my son’s biological parents are unknown.
Did you face any hardships prior to, and during, the adoption process?
Of course we faced hardships; the process itself as a whole was hard because my husband and I were the youngest couple ever to adopt in Kuwait. And as we had only been married for three years, it was a bit more challenging.
How is Mohammad getting along with yourself and the family?
We were surprised that he bonded with us and with the family members so quickly. It was like he was looking for some love and care that had been missing in his life, of which our family was able to provide to him. It truly was amazing.
Have people been supportive of your decision?
Of course! Our family members especially were so supportive of us!
What do you know about your son’s background?
Unfortunately, we were unable to meet or find out any information about my baby’s birth mother; therefore, information about this subject is very limited. We do know bits and pieces of information about his background; we know that he is half Pilipino for one. We are proud of him no matter what his background is. If one day he wants to learn his mother’s language or if he wants to meet his birth mother we will support him because that is his right.
How do the children in your family get along with your son? Do they treat him any differently?
We told them the whole truth about Mohammad, and we explained to them that he became our son in a different way. If anything, that made them love him even more.
Why do you feel that adoption is not as widely accepted in Kuwait and the Middle Eastern region as a whole?
Unfortunately, adoptive parents in Kuwait and the Middle East are afraid of sharing their adoption story because of society’s viewpoints on the matter. As Muslims, we have to change this negative way of thinking about these little angels. I have received so many bad comments describing my son as a “child of sin” or simply “orphan”. As hurtful as these comments may be, they only make me stronger, and encourage me to keep moving forward.
What advice could you give to others like yourself that are hoping to adopt?
Follow your heart, be brave, and save a child’s life. No words can describe the blessings you will feel. If you have room in your heart and in your home, go and adopt a child.
Do you plan on adopting more children?
Of course! We’re planning to adopt three more children in the future, even if we have our own biological babies. Adoption is the most wonderful experience we have ever had.
You can follow Safa Al Failkawi’s daily journey with adoption on www.instagram.com/safa_alfailkawi
Images courtesy of Safa Al Failakawi
This article first appeared in the Oct/Nov/Dec 2013 Power Issue. To view or order the print issue, visit our MagCloud page.