We were making a cake together, using this as a ‘cooking exercise’ to keep the children occupied during their school holidays instead of having them idling at home. I was left with a group of 10 girls. They were all very experienced in the kitchen and very responsible, instinctively attending to things that even I did not notice.
I knew they were classed as ‘underprivileged’ but I would have never guessed so. They all had beautiful complexions, rich dark brown with remarkably well maintained hair (probably guarded ferociously with coconut oil applications by their mothers). There was nothing about the way they spoke or behaved to suggest that they were any different from what I would have been a few years ago...until I asked how old they were.
I was speechless when they quoted, one by one, their various ages: 11, 13, 14, etc... These kids were only half my height. I genuinely expected them to quote a range of 7-10 maximum. This discovery prompted me to ask them details about their home life. I started by asking them how they were so well trained in the kitchen.
Some told me about how they would help out at home so that their younger siblings could go to school instead. When I asked whether they enjoyed the food they cooked, they started to compete with each other about the range of curries they could make. Then one girl piped up and said that often the yummiest things she made she did not get to eat because they went straight to her fisherman-father and older brother who was doing his O/Ls.
The story of the young girl who sacrifices her future to support her mother’s duties is a pity line so often milked by charitable organisations that I used to get frustrated hearing it so much, wondering why they would use the same cliché. The fact is, when you hear it first-hand from a girl like that, the story leaves its mark like a fresh wound.
These were children that were not so far away from my own age and who lived around the same area as I did. They went to a school that I knew of. How is it that kids in circumstances so similar to mine end up with fates so different?
This similarity is only at surface-value, of course, and there are reasons deeply entrenched in social circumstances that bring about the difference. The point is, though, it is not unchangeable. There are many who are hunting for ways to change this system, to change the injustice of birth circumstance. There are new innovative methods coming up from all walks of philanthropy and community service but no matter what, the awareness of the general public and their cooperation is what is always needed.
This column was written by a STITCH volunteer to learn more visit www.stitchmovement.com .