Our last blog entry was in regards to one of our orphans at the project, “Jessica”. Although there were no signs of another physical beating, things continued to look dismal. Both her grandmother and her aunty kicked her off of their properties and she was literally sleeping under a tree, in rainy season.
A couple of weeks back I was sitting with Jess asking lots of questions as I usually do and found out that there was some tin roofing at her uncle’s (in a different village) that had been left by her parents for her and her brother but they could never afford the rest of the construction material to build the hut. The tin roofing is one of the bigger expenses in building a hut and is a huge start so immediately my heart said that we needed to build this hut for her, and we needed to do it ASAP.
The question was, where should we build it? With the Grandma, who treats these kids as slaves (no joke), or with her aunt who is an alcoholic and turns to violence when under the influence? With the help of our dear friend Zeka as translator we started to talk to neighbours to find out some outside perspective. Grandma said she didn’t want the hut on her property because she felt “aunty would be too upset”…don’t know if that was the whole truth. Then the aunty came in search of us.
We spent two hours sitting with aunty, Jess and her brother trying to mediate between them. Aunty began with a very defensive and angry attitude saying that these kids are practically her own as she has been responsible for them since their mother died when Jess was 5 and her brother was 10 days old. She was adamant that the hut be built on her property.
We then wanted to try to understand why she was kicking Jess off the property if she wanted her so badly. Some of the answers were: she is still wetting the bed, she is sleeping around with a married man, and she refuses to sleep next to another teenage boy. We asked Jess to leave so that we could talk to aunty alone. We explained that she is wetting the bed because of the physical abuse when she was younger and that she is not doing it intentionally, and by telling the community she is embarrassing her even more. We asked what evidence she had that Jess was sleeping with this man and she said “she heard it from someone” (Jess was beside herself with tears when this was brought up and told us that the rumours were unfounded), so we again tried to explain that shunning “her own daughter” for something that she could not prove was extremely hurtful, especially to a 13 year old girl with a history of sexual abuse. Then we tried to explain that it was understandable that Jess didn’t want to share a hut with another boy because she already feels unsafe. These are but some of the issues that came up and it is evident that there will need to be much intervention and counselling in order to restore this relationship.
The next day, Zeka and Daryl spent the afternoon purchasing materials for the house (basically wandering around the village to different spots where piles of wood and sticks were for sale, then Zeka haggling over the price with Daryl trying to stay out of the way so we didn't have to pay the "Sharumbu" (white person) price.) The next morning at 6 am, with all the material bought, we picked up our team of workers that Zeka had recruited and began building the mud hut from scratch (see pictures!).
We were praying for no rain and were so thankful that for two and half days, we were rain-free giving the majority of the hut time to dry. We had an incredible day being in the community and blessing Jess (and her brother who will live there with Jess when he is a bit older).
We had been feeling quite a bit of frustration and disappointment with a multitude of things regarding the project these last few weeks and what an uplifting and positive experience it was in the face of all the negativity to produce something good.
As an update, I met with the social worker yesterday (finally) and she is going to gather a team of colleagues to meet with the family next week. We are very keen to involve these folks, so that the family understands that it is not just our opinion that what they are doing is wrong. The team will also explain their actions are against the law and warn them that they have the right to remove the children if things don’t improve. We are also hoping to get some information translated regarding alcohol abuse. Please pray for us as we seek to show love and grace all the while helping to protect and counsel those that are hurting.