home in the UK- the son back to school and me on my way to a slightly later than planned, scan- have tried to balance myself all week. But I came from a city where too many children are being burned, into a city with media images of displaced people and dying children- what is wrong with the world and why does it feel so overwhelmingly bad? The squatter camps in Europe mirror those that many of the children I met in South Africa have lived in for years.
Sure, there is ingenuity here and the shacks have corrugated roofs and makeshift kitchens, hoddled together over time. So many of them, and frequently, catch fire because of illegal electricity connections and the need to keep warm with substandard heating systems- and I’ve met with the consequences- the brave children. I want to take them all home but I can’t. Bronwen does a remarkable job- but she can’t do it alone. I hope this years walk through London will go some way to aiding the children’s medical needs- crisis management though it is, that Perlucia can have fingers to be able to do up her buttons,
that Melissa has the care to make her scar tissue on her face and arms bearable,
that Quando is able to grow hair on her head and Loide can walk without a limp…and the others ; too many to mention, and to those who continue to pass through the charities’ care. I have visited the camps, talked to the children through to the parents and grandmothers, witnessed their daily lives- it’s not something you forget. Unacceptable living standards- but this has been their home since birth, not because they have been displaced because of war but because this is where they live- it’s not a halfway house. They have no choice- no future.
Shortly before we flew home, myself and my son visited a burns unit some way from Aukland district- distressing for both of us to see children, many naked apart from their bandages, a smell of I don’t know what, an alien environment for the children with little contact with others and no visiting relatives at that time. – one toddler stood by his cot, holding onto the side, crying until we arrived and distracted him. We had come with books. Those who were sitting up gratefully received and held onto theirs. Some had a fluffy blue blankets in their cot- made me think of cat baskets- some comfort. I was told I should take photographs but not publish- what to do with these images that remain in the forefront of my psyche? – give them to the charity for their records- they have children who started at the hospital. I drove back to Jo’burg at speed so as not to miss our flight, navigating through dust cloud motorways being constructed alongside vast squatter camps- not easy to resume normal but an eleven hour flight to think about it.