He walked around, fearless, a motherless child – a runner on the streets. Many knew his face, but few wanted to know his story.
His scruffy t-shirt and dirty nails spoke of the untold trauma he’s had to face. Shaking his stone filled 500ml bottle to the rhythm of his high-pitched voices belting out “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine . . .”
I observed him from my cosy corner, a creamy cappuccino in my hand, while he continued to beg for a few cents on the pristine sidewalks near the seaside.
People shooed him away, like a fly, the mere sight of him annoyed and riled shopkeepers while tourist continued to hand out R10, R20, R50 notes. His thriving metropolis, the narrow buzzing streets, where he survives by laying claim on his territory amidst the car guards and dealers.
“You are my sunshine my only sunshine . . .yes Ma, only R5”
“Sorry man, ek hettie”
My very brief interaction as I leave the coffee shop, my thoughts a million miles away, yet present in the moment. I don’t want to keep a mental picture of his face. I don’t want to give in to the urge to drop a few coins in his hands. He is, after all, a child at risk, a child in need of protection. I am encouraged to not enable life on the streets. I understand this world . . .
Tonight he will hand over his income and receive his commission on his earnings for the day. This, in turn for protection on the streets. A vicious cycle – many have struggled to rehabilitate him, but his keeper has him addicted to glue. He is only 12 years old, or at least this is what he told the young tourist who was taken by his charming smile and high pitch tone.
His case file at the Department is thick, going back to 2009 when his mother, a tik addict, abandoned him. Leaving him in the care of his ill-equipped grandmother who lived in absolute poverty on a pension of less than R1000. His older brother joined the gangs at the tender age of 14, pulling him in as a Runner at the age of 8. Delivering drugs to neighbourhood users.
His been seen by many social workers, and always placed in the care of his grandmother. The system is, as some may know, about keeping the “family” together. Referral after referral, he slowly slipped through the cracks.
Fending for himself, surviving his harsh life, immune to critique and conscious. I know his story, I know the system, I know that no matter how many billions we throw at it – will we ever rehabilitate a child on the streets who calls it his home? The only place where they are in control, where they feel safe AND invincible.
Danny, the boy you once knew, was lost the minute you closed the file on him and moved on to your next case . . .
“Danny Boy!”, is this week’s title of a tandem blog, 3 bloggers 1 title. All published on the same day at the same time. Read my fellow tandem blogger’s interpretation by following the below links. Comments AND shares are welcome!