A Sad Afternoon
Besides all the happiness that we encountered at Bakhita Village, there is the reality of some difficult situations. We had one particularly sad afternoon while we were there.
As you all know, wonderful friends and parishioners put together gift bags of items for each girl at Bakhita Village. Each bag was for a particular girl. Upon arrival, we discovered that 2 of the girls who were living at Bakhita had left to return to their home villages to live with extended family members. That all sounds good except that their relatives only wanted them back because the government pays a small stipend to guardians of children who have been orphaned. In the case of each of these girls, an unscrupulous relative petitioned to take over guardianship of the girls in order to get the government stipend.
Srs. Nancy and Helene were determined that these 2 girls would get the gifts that were specifically prepared for them. So one afternoon, we set out to find the houses where the girls are currently living and to deliver the gifts. It was a sad afternoon.
Maria is living with an aging grandmother who has had a stroke and wants Maria to care for her. The grandmother also has several other smaller grandchildren living with her so Maria has been tasked with caring for them as well. Maria was thrilled to see her gifts and to know that people cared enough to buy her something and then to come and visit her. But she cried when we left and asked Sr. Nancy to please help her come back to Bakhita Village.
The next story is quite more disturbing. Mapula was made to leave Bakhita Village and return to the home of an aunt who petitioned child services saying she was the only remaining relative of her sister who had died and left Mapula orphaned. The aunt is now receiving grant money from the government and using Mapula as child labor to take care of her other children while she sits, eats and does nothing. They are living in squalor with about 12 people living in a hut with nothing. The aunt is not interested in Mapula attending school.
But Mapula was so happy to receive her gift and she cried when we said we had to leave. It was pretty clear that the aunt was ready to take possession of the gift items, although Mapula did get her shoes and bracelet out of the bag right away.
On the brighter side, Srs. Nancy and Helene will keep in touch with both girls and will interact with local social workers in the hopes of getting the girls back into Bakhita again where they can be with the girls and house mothers they've come to know and love. There may be a happy ending yet.