Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Story to Share....

I am hoping that my friend T will not mind me sharing this very personal story. I have spoken about T before. He has touched my life in ways I cannot explain. I keep an arms length to some degree, because I am still not sure how to deal with some of the tragedies he has to deal with, but I am slowly finding myself more and more drawn in, wanting to know how I can help, or whether there is simply nothing I can do.

In short, A was one of the two boys that accompanied us on our trip to Bali. S was the second boy, the 13 year old who was addicted to glue sniffing. Both came from the slums of Suluwesi, Indonesia. T, who has adopted them, took them to Bali to give them a break from living in the shelter, even just for three days. T didn't stay in a fancy hotel with them. He stayed at a modest bungalow so that they could have clean beds and showers and fresh clothes just for a little while.

These two boys single-handedly, by virtue of just being there, shook me to my very core. S had a stare that could burn through your heart - a stare that told a thousand stories, stories which you would not wish to re-tell. Child prostitution, beatings, child labour... all of the things that you know, but wish not to believe, happen these days. A was the more placid, calmer, more stable of the two but he had a story just as painful. Prior to running away from home, his father used to beat him with chains.

Thanks to T, over the last 12 months, A has had his education and accommodation paid for. A had been going wonderfully at school and you could tell from engaging with him, that he showed great promise and that maybe, just maybe, he would be one of the success stories. He was well mannered, despite the language barrier. He liked to laugh and play on his newly-obtained computer game console (a gift from T, I expect).

Only recently though, his mother found him and A was forced to drop out of school. He was forced to return to working on the building construction site, despite being only 11 years old. Now that his mother had found him, he had the responsibility to feed and shelter not only himself but her as well. At 11 years old, he was embarrassed to tell anyone that his mother was a prostitute and so he made excuses up, that he no longer wished to have further education. All he wanted to do was help his mother, and to try and prevent her from having to prostitute herself.

I just heard from T that A's father has found him and has dragged A somewhere where he cannot be found. He has threatened his mother that if A is removed, he will kill A's mother and beat A badly. While you would think that A's father is doing what is best for A, by bringing him back under his care, the truth is, A's father just wants A on the construction site near him, so that A can bring home money for the father - not the mother.

It is not for love, but for money.

It is a horrible, horrible situation. Every part of me wants to fly down to Suluwesi and pick this boy up, out of the grasps of both his mother and father, and provide him a life that he, and all of the other boys in Indonesia, truly deserve. Instead, he is in Suluwesi, having his childhood torn away from him because of the harsh realities of life.

While we all want to hate his mother for being a prostitute and his father for being a cruel, selfish tyrant, one of the lessons I am learning is that this is the way life in Indonesia and in other parts of Asia. Stories of child prostitution and child labour were once stories on the news, as far as I was concerned. Now, I am exposed to these stories and they are hitting me hard. One of the facts of life here is this - children are viewed as money-earners - as mere commodities, traded so that they can earn money for others, not for themselves. Worse still, this money is not being earned to give the children - or anyone for that matter - a better life. The money is being earned out of sheer survival. In Indonesia, everyone is out to survive, whether it be the prostitute mother, the tyrant father, or in the case of S (the second child), the disabled, incapacitated parents.

Tonight, my heart is full of sorrow for A, and also for T, who has gotten used to stories such as these. He knows that he cannot make everything okay for these children but he tries to give them just a little bit of normalcy, through school and accommodation. To then be reminded of the cruel reality of Indonesia, to have the little person he has taken under his wing, disappear into goodness knows where under goodness knows what condition, would just be devastating. As T says though, nothing is forever, and this is what he has come to expect. It just makes whatever effort we make for these boys even more special - because we never know when their day may be their last.

I am keeping A and T in my prayers tonight.

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