As I was waking up today, reluctantly and slowly, I remembered a morning about three years past...
When I heard him cough, I was relieved that he was still breathing, despite great odds, and I then found my feet and arose from bed.
At last, the wild creature had turned into a little girl. And that little girl loved our home, and she felt safe with me.
She was in my room because she had nightmares during the night, and had grabbed her teddy bear to come and be comforted… and it was an honor to have earned enough of her trust to be able to do that for her.
I saw the corner of a package of stickers coming out of one of my suitcases, and I grabbed them. Elton watched me interested. I smiled at him, and placed one finger in front of my mouth motioning for him to be quiet.
Elton smiled as I opened the package and began to take shiny sticker after sticker and place them gently on the face and arms of the little girl.
When she finally dared to open her eyes to assess her situation, we made eye contact.
I smiled at her, she blushed, remembering where she was, and Elton grinned. Her eye caught the glitter of the stickers on her arms, and I grabbed a piece of broken mirror (the only one we had) and showed her her face.
Although the courts were involved, without the help of the policemen or witnesses there could be no charges. So she was taken from us and forced to go back and work for the family. However, some of our caregivers left work when she was returned, and followed behind at a safe distance, and took note of where she was living. After a few weeks we were able to witness that she was being abused again.
And when she did, and she saw me she ran into my arms. I picked her up and carried her to a hospital to document the many abuses that had befallen her. I was in the examination room, holding her hand. I saw. And yet, the doctor would not witness, because he feared.
After a few months of trying to make things successful in court, there was a night when I awoke suddenly from my sleep and I knew that we had lost her again.
Thankfully, the court listened to that plea, and ordered that she could only remain with that family IF she was enrolled in AND attending school full time. So then I found the school and informed the teachers of her situation. I asked them to document her attendance well, and gave them my cell phone number and talk time to inform us if (and sadly when) anything was noticeably wrong. So when she was beaten... we knew about it.
I was given the go ahead from the social welfare officers to take her back into our custody at any time… if I could get the family to sign away their rights to her. I couldn’t buy her, because that would look like corruption or trafficking.
I had to get them to do it for the right reasons, and by their own free will.
And I just have to say... in a world which honors the strength of heroes like firemen, armies, superheroes... I still think that some of the bravest people alive in our world today are the unprotected, orphaned little girls who are growing up in the streets of Africa.
Imagine what the world could be like if the effort that they have to put in just to survive each day could be redirected towards something that benefited everyone? There is so much power in them if only they were given the chance to share with the world the goodness and strength that they are capable of.