We spoil our kids because we can. Most of the time, we conceive them with love, birth them with the support of excellent medical care, bring them home to color-coordinated nurseries bursting with toys and sensory stimulus, and prepare them for a life where they will have education and choices about their future. I recognize this is not true for all people who live in developed countries, but for the our kids are coddled and spoiled.
Though I visited the homes and met the guardians of our first group of ASAH girls, on this visit, I am hoping to visit and interview some of the guardians to learn more about the circumstances that brought our girls into their care.
We started with Adau, 13 years old, in fifth grade. We sat on plastic chairs in two rows – Manyok, Dau, Jean and me in one row facing Adau and her guardian. Orphaned at 4 years old, an only child, her guardian is her father’s sister, Debora Kuir Deng, mother of four. Adau shares her guardian’s face, the family resemblance is unmistakable. Abraham Deng, her father, died of snakebite in 2000 and her mother died of an unknown illness.
Debora said she is glad Adau is being educated because she believes Adau will be able to help herself, as well as Debora in the future. It has been difficult to bring up an extra child, because they are very poor, and there is never enough food, and buying clothing is very difficult. Since there was no clinic in the area until 2007, she had to nurse all the children through illnesses with no medicine and the fear that she might lose them.
As we got up to leave, I noticed an old woman sitting on the bare ground behind one of the tukuls, naked from the waist up. The woman was Adau’s grandmother, the mother of her father and is about 90 years old – though no one of that age knows exactly how old they are. I asked if I could talk to her.
Her thin legs were folded underneath her, and her torso bent so low that I had to squat to bring my face near hers. I asked if I could take her hand, and Adau’s aunt translated. As she explained who I was and why I was there, her face broke in a toothless grin. As she talked, tobacco spittle ran down her chin. Her sightless eyes were animated, wrinkled at the corners, and she pumped my hand.
When I was ready to go, she asked me what I would give her in return for her granddaughter. I told her I would return an educated woman to the family.
Deb Dawson–January 22nd, 2013.
To see more pictures of Adau and other students at the ASAH School for Girls in Duk Payuel, South Sudan, visit: http://www.facebook.com/ASAHSudan