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'I don't want to be an orphan'

Nagapattinam, Jan. 18 (Reuters): Fourteen-year-old Kavidevi breaks down as her uncle begins to register her and her three sisters at a government centre for tsunami orphans.

She keeps shaking her head, mumbling that she does not want to live in an orphanage after her parents were washed away by the sea last month.

Her uncle and orphanage workers try to console her, but she cries and runs out of the gate to hide in the motor rickshaw that brought the sisters from their fishing village.

'I don't want to stay here, I don't want to stay here,' she says as she sobs, begging her dead father's younger brother to look after the girls himself. Her two younger sisters and an older sister stare blankly as Kavidevi pleads.

Uncle Ramajeyam fails to convince her that she would be better off at the orphanage and could even find a new home as hundreds of people from across the country and abroad have offered to adopt the tsunami orphans . He takes the girls back to their village, hoping that he will succeed in persuading Kavidevi after a religious ceremony in memory of her parents later this week.

Kavidevi's refusal to leave her village and live in an orphanage, let alone consider being adopted by a new family, does not surprise adoption experts.

The last thing orphans want, especially those above the age of five or six, is to be uprooted from the environment in which they grew up, they said.

With Indian laws requiring the consent of children before adoption, it is a scenario bound to disappoint hundreds of couples who are keen to adopt tsunami orphans.

'One of the most difficult things for a child is change. And children have had so much change right now that naturally, an average child or even an average adult would not want any more change,' said Aloma Lobo, head of the government's Central Adoption Resource Agency.

S. Suryakala, head of Nagapattinam's social welfare department, said authorities were only considering allowing adoption of tsunami orphans by families in the same region and no thought had been given to foreign adoption. 'We have to be very careful. We have to ascertain that there is no child trafficking or abuse,' she said.

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