VISITING A SHELTER
A message on a friend’s Facebook wall grabbed my attention: 16 girls, between the ages of 6 and 18, have been rescued from life-altering situations … So on Sunday we head out to meet them. I’m apprehensive. What do you do? How will they feel having strangers invade their space? We stop the car at the end of the gravel road. We hoot. No response. We hoot again. Then a few little ones come bounding towards us. They help us unload the things we brought to make the place feel more like home. I’m overwhelmed but try to keep a lid on it. We are introduced to fresh-faced children and my eye catches a little girl who looks about four years old. She wears a bright pink dress and has little ponytails on either side of her head. Surely not, I thought. I didn’t actually want to know her story. I wanted to pretend, for at least that moment, that nothing horrible happened to her. Two older girls were in the kitchen making slap chips and bread for lunch. The cook, when asked if she wanted to be a chef, gave the biggest smile and said that would be awesome. The other missed a year of school but is keen to finish Grade 11. I couldn’t bring myself to ask how they got there; all I cared about is that they were safe for now. Unfortunately their safe place has already been breached by thugs who thought it okay to violate two of the girls. They need security but how do you get someone in there to help? Will he also take advantage of them? Plumbing needs to be done. Him too? I can’t imagine how they will piece their lives together but there’s an undeniable resolve to get through. To change the course of their lives … And this is just one group of children, in one home, in a country with millions of children with similar stories. When will this end?