Away from the murky world of politics, may I digress and zoom on one of the issues which I find close to my heart – Street Kids! As a member of a Royal family, one of the core values imparted in me during my formative years to remain stoic and take leadership even as the chips went plummeting down, furiously!
So when I came across an urchin rummaging through a dump site as a strong stench from a rotting dog carcass assaulted my nostrils one quiet afternoon, I didn’t harangue him but rather engaged him courteously. He discarded whatever he was nibbling and stood up as he tried to balance himself on his matchstick limbs, awkwardly.
“I’ve to do this everyday to raise money to help support my family,” he yielded to my interrogations regarding his presence at such an unlikely place. “My father abandoned us when my mother was critically ill……and I had to drop out school.”
He was in threadbare clothings and flip-flops which I thought weren’t serving any purpose at all as they had gaping holes in them. He was firmly clutching a soiled sack cloth which seemed to contain his only valuable earthly possessions. Why should someone be eating from the dump site in a country like ours? Why should they be literally in rags? Why should a toddler be the one to fend for his family? Why has society seemingly neglected him and his family? Mixed feelings raced through my mind in rapid successions like a whirlwind!
“I am 9 years old….” he replied cheerfully as if everything seemed normal in the world when he shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
I asked him to come with me as I sought to know about him and his family further. I learnt that he dropped out of school in grade 3. He was the only bread winner as his mother was still ailing to engage in any strenuous activities.
“I still want to go back to school so that I can become a pilot….” he said as he gazed at a chopper circling in the skies as it prepared to land at nearby Presidential Guest House.
He had 2 siblings…….a 12 year old girl who was equally lazing about at home and a breast feeding baby. Whenever he managed to salvage any scrap material of value, he’d sale it to raise money for food. Like most other kids, his favourite food was obviously chicken! However, when lady luck didn’t smile at him on what he considered a bad day and he didn’t stumble upon anything of value, then they’d have to go hungry or make do with plain porridge. I felt like somebody had just punched me hard in the stomach…..I felt like vomiting.
I promptly asked the boy to tell his mom I wanted to have audience with her whenever it suited her. There were a few things I needed to verify just in case Peter was being economical with the truth. Early next morning, we woke up to feverish knocking on our gate! The entire family had come calling. The boy had even changed into decent clothes as though he was coming for a job interview he intended to secure at all costs. Meanwhile, the child cried hysterically and threw its tiny limbs around, furiously as it laboured to tear off the blouse of its mother.
“She wants to breastfeed, but milk hardly comes out nowadays,” she explained, coyly.
They looked as if they hadn’t had a decent meal for ages……..they were literally teetering on the fringes of starvion!
“I don’t have much strength left to do work anymore due to my prolonged illness,” the mother was crying. “Each day that comes, we’ve to wait for my son to raise some money……”
I remained subdued for quite some time as I pondered their predicament. Why dear Lord? Is this the pain that some folks have to endure…….going without food for days on end without even any hope of ever coming into contact with water? I shuddered at the thought of these kids staying away from school well aware that they’ve been condemned to a perpetual life of pain and misery!
At that moment, I recalled the words of John F. Kennedy….arguably one of America’s great presidents, “Ask not what the country can do for you but what you can do for the country!” The challenge of street kids is not even a complex one that demand services of a Rocket Scientist to help us arrive at a practical solutions……What is required is just a bit of compassion from each one of us and then the problem is gone!
If you’re in government, have you put systems in place to ensure that your services are trickling down to vulnerable people in society, particularly the street kids? I even find this idea of randomly rounding up homeless people and putting them in detention as punishment, ridiculous! You ought to equip your citizens with survival means. And if you’re a Church, what is stopping you from running soup kitchens for those in need? If you’re a company, why aren’t you exercising corporate social responsibility by endeavouring to ameliorate the plight of our people in poor communities?
One of the attributes I treasure about Muslims is the emphasis they put on Alms Giving. Fellow Christians; what are you doing for those in need in your communities as commanded in the book of James? You surely don’t have to be Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos or indeed Aliko Dangote to spare a coin for those in need?
My wife and I have assured the family that we are going to buy uniforms and books for the kids next term and of course assist the mother with a bit of money to start a small backyard business on condition that she helps out with cleaning at our house once in a while.
May those with contrary views add their voices….
Prince Bill M. Kaping’a