The mother of two of my students is walking down the alleyway. Her face is as beat-up as anyone I’ve ever seen. Black eyes, darkly swollen bruises, one of her arms in a brace…she looks like a motorcycle accident victim, but the nature of the injuries suggests a beating more than an accident. I ask her what happened, and indeed, she tells me that her sister beat her up.
Their family is one of many in the slum that could be called dysfunctional. The woman who was beaten up is in her early thirties I think, one of those people who probably looks much older than she really is. I’ve heard rumors that she is a “loose woman”, though I don’t know to take those rumors seriously. Sometimes she seems not all there in the head. She has two daughters who didn’t go to school before I started teaching them, but who are in school now. The younger of the two is one of the most brilliant kids I know. The girls’ father left the family. Their grandfather lives with them and is somewhat senile (in fact, he’s the old man I mentioned who commiserated with me the day after the riot).
One door down from them is the older sister. She’s probably in her late 30s but also looks much older than her age. The stories about what happen between the two sisters are rough. We’ve mostly heard the younger one’s version, and I don’t know how much is true. But she’s apparently getting beat by her older sister all the time. They’ve called the cops on each other, opened court cases against each other, and accuse each other of making up stories to the cops. I don’t know all the background…but it is deep, and ugly.
There is so much brokenness here.
A month later, the older sister comes to me looking for help. The night before she had found a 14-year-old boy on the road. He was alone, without family, had a deep wound on the side of his head that looked bad, was hungry and somewhat disoriented. The woman took the boy into her home, fed him, let him sleep in their home that night. She found out that his family was the one who had beaten and hurt him, and then kicked him out onto the streets.
Now she’s come to me looking for help, asks if we know about the “Child Help Line” and what they will do. I tell her that Peregrine has dealt with them, not me, and I’ll see what she knows. A young lady we’ve brought under our wings, Shadia, ends up taking over the situation. Shadia goes with her to see the boy, calls Child Help Line herself, waits together with the sister on the street to meet with the Child Help Line rep when he comes, helps her navigate the whole process. Child Help Line takes the boy and places him into a government home. (More than two months later, Shadia will visit the home for a different reason and excitedly meet the boy she had helped, seeing that the wound has gotten much better.)
This is life here. No one remains the “bad guy” or the “good guy” 100% of the time.