“The boys can sleep here,” Lin’s sister announced as she patted the outdoor space on a platform beside her. A wide-eyed Jivi – who has never been out of the city before – was on her lap and Jivin was sleeping close by. “The roof has holes so the tin has to be replaced. And, of course, they will need a bed with a mattress and a mosquito net.”
Ah, she does get points for chutzpa. These kids have slept under a tree or on the concrete under an awning since they were born. But when a perceived cash cow presents herself you have to go for as much milk as you think you can get.
Not to be deterred – and she was on a roll – the monologue continued, “Our family book (read birth certificates) has to be replaced so they can go to school. That will cost $25. And besides the tuition they will need a bike to get there.” Which turned out to be true enough, but eight-year old Jivan and six year old Jivin are so puny it is questionable if they could manage to ride that far.
“Oh, and we will need more rice to feed them.” By this time I am exhausted from all the palavera. I asked Nick – our translator – to tell them that I don’t have any money and that it comes from friends in Canada and Australia. That caused a bit of confusion as they expected me to just open my wallet and start to hand over cash.
We left with the agreement that the sister would do a needs-assessment and get back to Nick. I had already decided I would veto everything except the school fees – which I would pay directly to the principal – and the bike.
The beginning, the middle and the end
“I have an uncle who has a van,” offered Nick last Friday. My eyes still looked like the hangover-from-hell and after the trip to the jail I realized that to go there in a tuk-tuk would have been total stupidity, even with the swimming goggles. So for an extra $20 gracias a Friends of the Dump we did an upgrade. And we are all glad we did.
“When I checked yesterday the husband said he was going to go with his family. That he couldn’t be separated.” Nick warned. When we arrived at Street 110 slightly ahead of schedule Lin and the boys were waiting. I got out of the van, lowered my sunnies and shot the totally-useless Tran a withering look. He suddenly decided it wasn’t in his best interest to push it and slunk away.
On the way out of town we bought 50kg of rice, 10 tins of fish and 12 bottles of soy sauce. Basic staples to ease the welcome home. Well sort of.
Once loaded in the van, Jive howled and rubbed his filthy hands into his tear stained eyes. “He is tired and needs to sleep,” Nick commented. I’d taken the screaming child from Lin as she couldn’t cope with him and three-month old Siva. Since I forgot to have children I didn’t know what to do with him other than cuddle and rock. It worked and he drifted off.
The middle of the sage you have already read. Poor people will try to get as much as they can. Fair enough. But Down in the Dumps doesn’t want to create a dependency or pour money into a black hole, which is exactly what would happen.
The bike would be stolen and need to be replaced. The kids wouldn’t go to school. Or even if they did, it would be sporadic. They would need 10 notebooks a week. Another dozen cousins needing tuition paid would materialize. And there would be a never-ending list of things that needed to be bought/fixed/ done. Somebody would die or get married and we would be expected to contribute.
The final decision? Cut them loose.
Down in the Dumps got Lin and the boys away from an abusive situation and gave them a grub-stake. We have done as much as we can and there isn’t any point in going any further as a long-range plan is impossible. A fundamental change isn’t going to happen.
On the way to Lin’s village we learned that a couple of months ago some westerners helped Lin replace her identity card. Translated that means they paid about $100 to fast-forward it. Then – oh dear, oh dear – she dropped it in some water and it disintegrated. But she doesn’t take any responsible.
Only help those who want to help themselves is as true now as it ever was.
With limited funds our money is best spent elsewhere. Cruel? Possibly, but this is the Kingdom. Pity about the four boys as their chances of a better life doesn’t look good. But Down in the Dumps throwing money at the situation isn’t going to improve the odds.