Sunday, September 18, 2011

$2 a Day

We were set loose for an hour at M2, a children's remand center in Uganda, to socialize with a group of mostly teenage boys. This prison was similar to our Juvenile Hall system in the US, except the children had no representation. No one to speak for them. Many had committed crimes. Many had not. Most didn't have family that wanted them.

This group was a little different. They were street kids. Wise to the ways of the world. They knew what their future held if they did somehow gain freedom.....more street life, poverty, and scraping by. At M3, the kids were still so young....just needing a warm bed and someone to love them. At M1, it was hard to tell. They all seemed innocent, glad to have a bowl of beans to eat each day. Here at M2, I had to remind myself that yes - some of these guys were criminals.

Enter these two above. I scribbled their names down, but lost the little scrap of paper in my travels home. They knew enough English to talk. I knew enough to listen and be wary of stories.....but they didn't sound like stories. I felt they were telling the truth.

One said he had been working, and when it came time to pay him, his employer made up a story that he stole something so he wouldn't have to pay his wages ( a common practice we later learned). The other came up to me, begging for help to send him to school. He had no family. His mother and father were dead. His uncles did not want him. He had been on the streets where he had witnessed a fight. When the policeman asked if he was involved, he told him 'no', but the policeman said, "Pay me $6 or I will send you to prison." Having no money to his name, he had no options.

One loved science and wanted to be an engineer. One simply wanted to go to school and become "a businessman." Both wanted to be free, but neither knew how to live in the freedom. At one point, one said so realistically...."I know I can't go to school on my own. What....if I get out, I can sell eggs. That makes only $2 a day! I can't pay for school with that." Poverty is so real.

I am haunted by these stories.

I have so many stories to tell. But for some reason, they lay in the back of my mind and surface only one at a time. This is the story that surfaced tonight..... is doing their best to be the voice for these can help, too.


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