Published: June 29th 2009June 29th 2009
There is an 11 year old boy in our neighbourhood who doesn’t really have a home. I have come to learn that his mother just got out of jail and he stays by a friend or by his uncle's house. He has no shoes, always wears the same shorts and t-shirt, never really speaks, nor smiles. He seems so vacant... hard to explain. Early last week at 12am, I heard a knock on my door. The kid was standing there without explanation. After standing with him outside for half an hour, I ascertained that he was locked out of his friend’s house, didn’t really have anywhere else to go and was not going to school for some reason unbeknown to me.
My friend, Miss. J., who was an intern in Barbados last year, told me that going to places like this, it is important not to touch anything or change anything because there could be unintended, unknown ramifications for my actions. She’s a wise duck. In school, too, we are warned about the dangers of interfering and the tendency that IDS students often have for wanting to “save" or “help” individuals. But I’m here. I’m in the flesh and I’m
fallible. And the good advice from my friend and all that I have learned in school didn’t really prepare me for the situation of having a hungry kid on my doorstep at 12am.
Other concerns interjected and made matters more disconcerting. Would I make anyone distressed or angry by taking the boy in? Would I make matters worse by contacting Child Protection Services? Would I give the boy a false sense of security by taking him in? Did he have another agenda other than that of finding shelter for the night (i.e. stealing from me)? In the end I went with my gut instinct. I took necessary precautions and then took the boy in, set up a bed for him and gave him something to eat (oh boy, I can already see the disapproving head shakes from those who would say that it was the wrong choice!). The same thing happened the following night, by which point I had already contacted a social worker. The incident gave me a lot to think about. I’m still thinking about it.
There is no conclusion to this blog entry or “lessons learned.” It was a difficult and tricky place to find
myself in. The fact that he came knocking on my door was not because we have a particularly close relationship. It was because of the way I’m perceived in the community (refer to previous “white girl” blog entry). It’s a real eye opener when you are confronted with issues like class and privilege in the face of one child. Theory is stripped away and what’s left is face to face human interaction and hard choices. My maternal instincts kicked in and all I really wanted to do was hug and look after him. It’s sad that in this world we live in, it can be a complicated and messy affair just to be able to care for another human being in whatever way you know how to care.
I don’t want to end on such a heavy note. Instead, I’ll end by reporting on Operation Goat. After three weeks of unsuccessfully trying to befriend the goats that hang out by the office, I’m opening up the floor to any suggestions as to how to befriend said goats.
There are more photos below