We had a special girl that lived next to us for over a year. I won’t use her name here for security reasons, so I will just refer to her as “Girl.”
Girl and my kids talked through the fence, shared things, and played together. But Girl is from Sudan, and her parents are back in Sudan. She stays here with her aunt and cousins in hopes to get a better education.
The whole family speaks Arabic, but Girl was learning some English and Lugbara at school, so we could communicate a little.
Over time, she started talking to us less – or only when her aunt wasn’t around.
Sadly, I started seeing her get beaten. I would make my children remain inside when I heard the stick begin hitting her bony frame and heard her screaming out.
I would walk to the fence (as hard as it was), in hopes that her aunt would not continue beating her if I was looking on, but she never stopped. Sometimes, there would be over 70 swats with the stick before she would quit.
One day when the aunt was not around, Girl told me at the fence that she had been told if she were caught talking to us, she would get beaten. Her aunt also threatened her saying she would call the police on us because she said we were trying to take Girl away from her.
Well…Girl and the family moved to another house at the beginning of June.
But last Wednesday, Girl came to the gate asking if I would pay for her to go to Sudan.
Of course, I had a lot of questions.
Does your aunt know? “Yes, she said if I got money to go, I could go.”
Are you going to travel alone? “No, my cousin-sister will go with me.”
How will you know how to change vehicles at different stops? How will I know if you reached there? How can I know you will be safe? Etc.
I told her to come on Friday with her cousin-sister so I could talk to her.
Girl and her cousin-sister came. Thankfully, my teacher, Florence, was still around, and Florence had learned Sudanese Arabic when she lived in Sudan for a time. She was able to help me decipher some of the issues.
We decided that the girls would come to our place on Sunday morning at 8am, we would drive to pick up Florence, and she would go with us to the taxi park to translate between English, Lugbara, and Arabic. The taxi vans leave at 9am to go to Sudan.
I went to Patrick, our guard, and he talked to the guard next door that used to work for Girl’s family. Patrick and I asked him to take his bike to where they are living now and see if Girl was on her way.
He found her and brought her to my place, but it was already 8:40. She came in complaining of an arm injury from being beaten again.
Girl gave me a number to call her cousin-sister to find out where we could pick her up on the side of the road.
The phone was not turned on. ???
Sarah said to just go without her. (*ring, ring* those are bells going off in my head).
We picked up Florence and then headed back to town. Through translation, I asked why she was late, and she said her aunt had told her she couldn’t go until she cooked for the day and washed all the clothes.
Florence was amazing. She talked to three drivers before she found one that carried a phone with a Sudan number. She wanted to make sure that someone could call when they arrived in Sudan. AND she found one driving straight to Girl’s town, so she wouldn’t have to change vehicles.
Florence and I went and bought food for Girl for the journey, while Doug made sure her luggage got loaded. We paid the driver money for the phone call he would make from Sudan. We gave Girl extra money to eat on the way, and we gave her her ticket for proof that she had been paid for.
God had orchestrated for a man to sit in front of Girl whom Florence knew. Florence talked to the man, and he also agreed to call Florence when Girl reached home. In fact, he offered to walk Girl home once they got to her town.
Girl was sitting in the back of the van smiling. I hadn’t seen that smile in a long time.
We left happy because she was going home and satisfied that she would be well taken care of.
Of course, we didn’t know someone was lying…
Four hours later, a boy arrived at our gate wanting to know where Girl was.
We told him everything we knew, and that she had said she had permission to go. (We couldn’t confirm with the aunt because she does not speak to us) We also said that cousin-sister knew and had come here with her to inquire.
The boy said that cousin-sister was indeed going to Sudan, leaving in one hour. But he said he didn’t know about Girl.
I know she’s safe. That’s all I know for now, but something tells me this story isn’t over.