Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A father's nightmare?

Introducing Roy

Roy is a handicapped, middle aged man with a wife and seven children. His oldest child is nine years old. He owns no land and no house. For the past 5 years he has lived with his family in a two room shack constructed of plastic sheeting and cardboard, and literally built on top of lava rock. He does not own or rent the small plot of land where he built his shack, but rather was offered by a friend to live there temporarily while he saved money to rent his own land. That day never came. And soon the friend began demanding that Roy find somewhere else to live.

It isn’t that Roy doesn’t work. In fact he is talented at sewing. He is the man that taught the SHONA ladies much of what they know. And he goes to work in a sewing group every day. It is just that there is no money in that group. A corrupt manager, stole $5000 from the group, vitually all of the profit from a huge order that the group has been working on for the past year. So there was plenty of work, just no pay.

This past week, Roy’s wife became seriously ill and was hospitalized at a clinic, and then transferred to a larger hospital. And this man who hasn’t received a salary for months was faced with the question of how to pay the hospital fees. Then his youngest child also became sick and was taken to the hospital. As he cared for his wife and baby at the hospital, his other children remained at home. The oldest child went to school, leaving a seven year old girl to care for her younger siblings. Perhaps this was not the wisest thing to do. I have conversations with people on a regular basis trying to convince them not to leave young children home alone. But in a world where existence is so hand to mouth, young children are regularly left to fend for themselves as parents and older children go off in search off work and food and water. And in the midst of an emergency, two family members hospitalized, it is not surprising that these young children found themselves alone. So they were alone when an older man arrived. This was a man that the children knew, they were taught to call him “grandfather”. He was often a visitor to their house. But this day, he came in the house and sexually molested the seven year old girl. Seven years old.

I read the letter that this man wrote, confessing to having molested this young girl. He offered to pay the family a goat to get rid of the bad luck which his action might bring. A goat.

How do you protect small seven year old girls from a world like this? Following the thread back is long and complicated. Why was her mother sick in the first place? Why wasn’t this little girl in school? Why couldn’t they afford someone to look after the children? Why did this man believe he could pay for his sins with a goat?

I am happy to report that Roy did not accept the offer of a goat, but rather is determined to see justice done and this man put in jail. He has reported the incident to the police, testified in a hearing and taken his daughter to a rape clinic. But how many families with no income and no food to eat close their eyes and accept the goat?

Surely the protection of this little girl begins with the protection of her family. Perhaps her father was able to refuse the goat because I have given him some additional sewing work and advanced him the money for his work. He has paid the hospital fees for his family, bought the medicine they need and they will eat dinner tonight.

And if he had work, paying work, everyday, what else might this father be able to offer his family? Children are so vulnerable here because parents are so vulnerable. They have so few choices. And so many responsibilities.

So I am left to ponder how we at SHONA could offer this family the stability they need. Stay tuned for our solution for one family, and one little girl.


Anonymous said...

I cried over this story. So sad. But, the ending lines are more optimistic.

shona congo said...

Thanks you for your compassion!
It is indeed so sad. But there is a part II coming soon, and it is a good one, so hang on!