When she was 7 she was hit by a car. The car took her leg mid thigh and caused significant damage to the other leg. She is 12 now. She has come several times to play, but it’s not culture here to ask about her suffering.
Yesterday Gift told me that Deja burned her leg making Nsima (boiled corn flour until hard mashed potato consistency). I asked Gift to invite Deja over so I could take a look at the damage. The wound is healing nicely and didn’t need further attention. More than that I was able to finally ask her about her missing leg.
“Is it hurting you still?” I asked. I have friends that suffer for years after losing a finger, I can’t imagine the whole leg being easier.
“Yes, most nights I don’t sleep because it hurts so badly.” She said.
I went to my spare room and grabbed a large full bottle of ibuprofen. Then realized, she can’t carry it? How does she carry anything, I thought to myself? I emptied out my personal back pack and added a few things like bar soap, toothbrush/toothpaste and a long sleeve t shirt. When i gave it to her, she started to cry. I hugged her and told her that she had a Muzungu auntie now. I left her, in a room full of her friends to comfort her, in her own language. A few moments later Gift came to my room and said, “Deja is still crying.”
“Chifuquwa?(why?)”, I asked.
“Come. “, Gifts tone raised the hair on my arms, something is wrong…
I sat and listened to Dejas story…
Her father is dead. Her mother is sick and doesn’t live with her. She lives with her grandmother, grandfather and uncle. There are also 3 sisters to Deja all younger then her staying at the house. Her uncle is the major problem. He loathes her because of her deformity. The uncle drinks heavily and Deja takes the resulting mad man on by herself. Last week he burned all of her cloths. He regularly beats her with a stick on the stump of her missing leg, which is excruciating. The grand parents don’t help, in fact the grandmother also beats her. In a culture where women do 90% of the physical labour, missing a leg is not helpful but a burden on the family. She is told regularly that she is ugly and useless. Her grandfather told her she had to find her own food from now on. I have met her grandmother one time, Dobby had eaten Dejas one shoe. I tried to explain that I would replace it but the grandmother chased Deja down the street yelling the whole time.
“What about your sisters”, I asked.
“They love them because they are real people.”
“Deja,” I said holding back the tears in my eyes, “they are wrong about you, many would have died from that car accident, you are so strong. They don’t understand just how strong you are. When you see a mirror, you know you are beautiful, yes?”
It took several moments before I heard her whisper, “Yes.”
“Yes you are. I see you, Deja.”
Keep in mind that Deja is 12 and nothing is confirmed.
Tomorrow I’m going to have a sit down with the family. Prayers are appreciated.
I’m considering having another daughter, however that means- another bed/ net / mouth to feed / school fees/ clothing…. it adds up quick…
So I’m bringing it to you, my team.
I will likely cry myself to sleep tonight because of the stories I heard from Deja. I’m inviting you to cry with me.