The Missionary/Calm #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

 

“When you went off on a missionary trip to Africa, we certainly didn’t expect you to come back with a wife,” Mrs. Cartland exclaimed, her expression one of disdain as she looked at her son.

Rolf sighed.  “Naija isn’t my wife, Mother.  I’m not sure why you think she is.  I’m sure I was clear in my letter that if I didn’t do something, she was going to be taken out of school and married off to a man old enough to be her grandfather.  In Nigeria, girls like Naija and younger are given in marriage without their consent.”

“And so you decide to bring her to England.  What about her parents?  I can’t imagine that they would let you just whisk their daughter away like that.”

“Her parents and I came up with an arrangement which will benefit all parties.  They were going to give her away in marriage because they are poor and need the money.  The man they were going to marry her to, has money but I offered them more money in exchange for marriage that Naija come to England instead.  I will put her through university.  After, she graduates, it is up to her if she wants to remain here or return to Nigeria.  Her parents agreed that if she should return, she is not expected to be married off but can get a job so she could continue to support them.  While she is here, I will send money to them on a regular basis to keep them.”

“You’re going to send them money?” Mrs. Cartland was aghast.  “And how long do you propose to do that?”

“Until Naija can afford to support them herself.”

“And when exactly will that be?”

“When she finds steady employment after graduating from university.”

“I fear, my Dear, that she’s going to take advantage of your generosity and you will find yourself supporting her for longer than is necessary.  You’re far too indulgent and gullible when it comes to the dregs of society.”

Rolf’s lips tightened but he held his temper in check.  “Mother, I appreciate your concern, but Naija isn’t like that at all.”

Mrs. Cartland didn’t look at all convinced and was about to say something else when her daughter, Rosalind spoke up.  “Rolf, let’s go for a walk.  It looks absolutely gorgeous outside.  Mother, please excuse us.”

Grateful for the interruption, he rose to his feet and after excusing himself, he followed her out of the room.  “Thank you for that,” he said to Rosalind as they walked down the hallway.

She glanced at him.  “No problem.  I could see that you were trying very hard not to blow your top.  And Mother can be very irritating at times.”

“At times?”

Rosalind laughed.  “All right.  Most of the time.”

Rolf’s lips twitched.  They were outside now and it was a gorgeous day.  “Let’s take a walk by the stream.”

“What a splendid idea!”

The stream was about a ten minute walk from the family’s mansion.  “Do you remember when Dad used to bring us here on a Sunday morning?  While he and I fished, you fed the ducks pieces of bread from the egg and cheese sandwiches Mrs. Hogwarth made?”

“Yes and I remember getting pecked by one of them and Dad had to bandage my hand with his handkerchief.  I was scared of the ducks after that.”

“Yes, that’s how Mrs. Hogwarth found out that you fed her sandwiches to them and she clobbered you.”

“Yes, I was scared of her after then too.  Oh, Rolf, what a riotous childhood we had.  I miss Dad.”

“I miss him too.”

“He would be so proud of you, being a missionary and all.  It was something he himself loved.  He always regretted leaving the field when he married Mother.  She never understood his love for it.  She preferred being the wife of a government minister rather a missionary’s.”

“I love being in full-time ministry, helping communities in London and overseas.  It’s how I met Naija.”

“You’re in love with Naija, aren’t you?” Rosalind commented, looking at him closely.

He blushed.  Nothing ever escaped her.  “Yes,” he admitted quietly.

“I see the way you look and act around her.”

“Can you imagine how Mother would react if she knew?”

Rosalind waved her hand dismissively.  “It doesn’t matter what Mother or anyone else thinks, Rolf.  You have to follow your heart.  It’s your life, your future and your happiness that are at stake here.  Remember, Mother wanted me to marry Reginald but I married Maxwell instead?  Reginald was a good man but I didn’t love him.  I was mad about Maxwell and we have been happily married for twenty-six years now.”

“I think you made an excellent choice.  Maxwell is an exceptional man.”

“Thank you and yes, he is.  Does Naija know how you feel about her?”

He shook his head.  “No.”

“Don’t you think that perhaps it’s time you told her?”

His heart lurched.  “I don’t know,” he said in alarm.

“Come on, Rolf, don’t be such a coward.  Sometimes, happiness comes by taking chances.  I took a chance with Maxwell and looked how that turned out.”

What she said made a lot of sense but the thought of revealing his feelings to Naija was daunting.  He would have to think about it some more.  “I’ll think about it,” he said after a while.

Rosalind slipped her arm through his and smiled.  “All right,” she said.  “Sleep on it, then.”  They continued walking alongside the river, enjoying the sunshine and the quietness.

****************************************************

Naija was already at the park, waiting when Rolf got there the following afternoon.  He had just come from a staff meeting.  She smiled when she saw him and the large brown paper bag in his hand.  He smiled as he sat down beside her.  “Have you been waiting long?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No.  I got here about five minutes ago.  Thanks for getting this.  I’m starving.”

He opened the bag and took out a box of Fish and Chips and handed it to her along with a plastic knife and fork.  He took out the other box.  On the bench between them, he put the cups of flavored milk tea and the straws.   After he said Grace, they tucked into the food.  It tasted as good as it looked and smelled.  As they ate, they talked about different things.   And all the while, he was thinking about what Rosalind had said.  He wanted to tell Naija how he felt but he was terrified.

“What’s wrong?” Naija’s question startled him.

“Nothing,” was his quick response.  A pause and then, wanting to shift the attention away from himself, he asked, “What are you plans after you graduate from university?  Will you stay here in England or return home to your family?”

She thought about it.  “I’ll stay here,” she said.  “I’ll find a job or I can become a missionary and work for you.”

“Being a missionary is an admirable vocation but what are your dreams?  What would you really like to do with your life, Naija?”

“I like writing.  I like to write about what I see around me.”

“Sounds like you’re thinking of becoming a journalist.  That’s very good. Perhaps, you’ll let me see some of your writings.”

“I will,” she promised.  “I keep a journal.  It’s almost full.  I write about university, what I observe on the campus, what I hear on the News and the conversations I have had with my host family.  I’ve written a lot of things about you as well.”

His eyebrows arched.  “Really?  And what exactly have you written about me?”

“How you’ve been so good to me and how blessed I am that you came into my life.  I will always be indebted to you, Rolf.”

A muscle began to throb along his jawline.  “I’m the one who’s blessed,” he replied.  Their eyes were locked.  His heart was racing.  This is foolish, he thought.  I’m behaving like a lovesick fool over a girl almost half my age.  She just sees me as her benefactor, nothing more.  All she feels towards me is gratitude. 

“That isn’t all I wrote about you,” she said shyly.

He swallowed hard.  “What else did you write about me?”

She looked nervous now.  “Rolf, I know that I’m only eighteen years old but, I–I was hoping that our age difference wouldn’t matter to you.”

“What are you saying, Naija?”

“What-what I’m saying, is-is that I want us to-to be more than friends.”

He expelled his breath in an unsteady sigh.  “Are you sure this is what you want?” he asked, his expression tense.

She nodded at once.  “Yes,” she replied.  “It’s what I’ve wanted since we met.”

“Oh, Naija,” he cried, his cheeks suffusing with color.  He set the empty boxes aside and rose to his feet.  He reached down and pulled her up.  “It’s what I want too.”  He pulled her against him and his eager lips found hers.  Overhead the setting sun cast its crimson glow on them.

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt –  Calm at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Sources: Erika and Eva Toh TravelsLondon City Mission

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Danny

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Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding

I stood before the shed where they found my friend, Danny.

We used to hang out every day, daydreaming about how we were going to change the world.  He wanted to be a lawyer for the poor and disadvantaged while I dreamed of being a social worker.

Danny was more than a friend to me.  He was the older brother I wish I had.  I am the youngest of three girls.  My sisters didn’t have much time for me.  They were too busy with their friends and social engagements but, I didn’t mind because I had Danny.

He and I were thick as thieves.  We were inseparable.  That’s why his sudden change in behavior was a shock for me.  The sweet, easygoing guy I loved so dearly had become a stranger to me.  He had mood swings, was hyperactive and seemed to have trouble concentrating or staying on topic.  He became withdrawn and spent most of his time in this shed.  I learned later, that he was taking Crystal Meth.  It claimed his life and his dreams.

This morning, I wanted to stop by on my way to the Centre where I run a Crystal Meth Addiction Treatment Program.

199 Words.

This story was inspired by a program I watched last night on CNN about a mothers addicted to Crystal Meth.  The story that really touched me was that of a young man whose mother was taking it.  On the wall of their home hung framed photos of him as a boy and as a promising football player.  All those dreams of a bright future were dashed when he became addicted to Meth and if convicted of selling it, he faces life imprisonment.  What a waste of a young life.

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details, visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  Serenity Acres

The Paper

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Photo:  Joy Pixley

She couldn’t believe that she was sitting there, watching a western with Kyle, the hottest and most popular guy on campus.  It felt surreal.  It was that morning when he approached her as she was closing her locker.  He smiled his incredible smile as he offered to walk her to class.

As they walked down the hallway, he invited her over to his house that evening for pizza and a movie.  She accepted, smiling when she saw the other girls watching them.  I bet they never thought a guy like Kyle could be interested in a girl like me. 

He picked her up in his convertible and took her to the family mansion.  His parents were at the opera.  After a quick tour, they ate and then settled down to watch the movie.

When it was over, he took her home.  Outside of her house, he turned to her.  “I’ve this paper that’s due next week and was wondering if you’d write it for me.”  He took out his wallet.

Her heart sank.  Now she understood the reason for his sudden interest.  “I stopped writing papers for other students.”

“Bummer,” he replied.

She got out of the car.

198 Words

Written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  Study Breaks

Nisha/Wave #writephoto

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Photo courtesy of Sue Vincent

Her sister, Nisha was dead and she felt nothing.  As she stared at the sea her mind traveled back to what happened to her ten years ago.  She was 13 at the time.  She left her home with Nisha and her husband, thinking that they were going to Delhi but instead, they ended up in a remote village.  She was sold into marriage to a man old enough to be her father.

Hatred toward her sister and her brother-in-law welled inside her.  They had betrayed her.  She trusted them and they betrayed her.  They made her believe that they were going to Delhi but instead they took her to a village where strange men were coming into the room where she was kept and looking at her as if she were a piece of merchandise and offering money.  All the while Nisha stood outside, knowing what what was going to happen to her and not having a change of heart.  She kept hoping that her sister would rush in and try to stop what was happening but she didn’t.  Fortune meant more to Nisha than her sister did.

She managed to escape and was rescued by an anti-trafficking charity.  She was sent back to her parents.  She was among the lucky girls.  Many of them are lost to their families and trapped in a world of sex and domestic slavery.  Several days later, word got back to the family that police busted a human trafficking ring.  Nisha and her husband were part of the ring responsible for selling girls to men in the same village where they had taken her.

Now ten years later, she was working for the charity which rescued her.  She was determined to fight people like Nisha and her husband and all the evil forces to protect other girls from going through the horrors she did.  Nisha was dead now but there were others like her out there who preyed on young girls for profit.  She was going to fight them.  And more traffickers were going to end up in prison like her brother-in-law.  She hoped he was rotting in there.

One thing she learned from this whole experience was that the face of evil didn’t have to belong to a stranger–it could very well belong to someone very close to you.  She felt no sorrow over Nisha’s death–only peace.  It was one less evil person to fight against.

To remain silent in the face of evil is itself a form of evil – Sue Monk Kidd

Do not accept an evil you can change – E. Lockhart, We Were Liars

This was inspired by a true story of a teenager who was sold into marriage by her sister and brother-in-law.  It was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Waves at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.  For more details click here.

 

Sources:  The Guardian; Washington Post

The Plight

She sat on the plane, heartbroken

the faces of the girls she photographed

etched on her mind.  Child brides.  Girls

married off as young as eight.  She knew

child marriage existed in India but now

it was there in front of her face.

 

A photojournalist living in Nepal, she traveled

back and forth between there and New Delhi,

using her camera to tell about the plight of young

girls forced into marriage due to poverty

and lack of education. Mothers, former child

brides themselves saw their daughters doomed

to the same fate because of lack of viable

options.

 

Girls too young to get married or to

have kids were forced to become women

before their time. How she wished she

could do more.  She sighed, looking out

at the overcast sky.  For now she would

continue to turn her lens on the communities

where this practice continued to flourish.

 

149 words

This was written in response to the flash fiction challenge, Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers.   For more information, click HERE.

Source:  National Geographic

World Water Day

Photo:  Hope Spring Water

Imagine this is your daughter fetching water in the container on top of her head.  It’s heavy and who knows how long she had to travel to find it.  This is the reality of girls in Africa and Asia.

Today is World Water Day and this year’s theme is:  Nature for Water exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.

According to the World Water Day Organization, “damaged ecosystems affect the quantity and quality of water available for human consumption. Today, 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water at home; affecting their health, education and livelihoods.  Sustainable Development Goal 6 commits the world to ensuring that everyone has access to safe water by 2030, and includes targets on protecting the natural environment and reducing pollution.”

Preserving nature will keep our water clean and that will benefit us.  Polluted environment leads to polluted water which leads to poor health or death.  Water is something that many of us take for granted which is a shame in some countries, many people face a water crisis.  For them, clean water would be their talisman because it would protect them from diseases which could lead to death.

Water connects every aspect of life. Access to safe water and sanitation can quickly turn problems into potential – unlocking education, work opportunities, and improved health for women, children and families across the world.

Today, 1 in 9 people lack access to safe water; 1 in 3 people lack access to a toilet. More people have a mobile phone than a toilet. We can change this.

Check out this video.

I cringe when I see how people waste water.  One of my relatives lets the kitchen pipe run while she is busy doing other things.  Once when we were visiting her and my husband saw her doing that, he turned off the tap.  All that wasted water going down the sink and there are families who don’t have any running water for bathing, washing or cooking.  Tap water is better than no water and it can always be boiled.

 

The water crisis is a women’s crisis.  And here’s why:

Photo:  Getty Images

Women are disproportionately affected by the water crisis, as they are often responsible for collecting water. This takes time away from work, school and caring for family. Lack of water and sanitation lock women in a cycle of poverty.

Empowering women is critical to solving the water crisis. Involving women can make water projects 6 to 7 more times effective. When women have access to safe water, they can pursue skills outside of their traditional roles and experience greater autonomy and independence.

Women and girls spend up to six hours collecting water.  They travel long distances to find it and then have to retrace their steps back home, carrying heavy containers.

It is a health crisis because many don’t have access to safe, clean water and as a result, many die from water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases.  Having access to safe water will reduce child and maternal mortality rates, improved health, reduced physical injuries from constantly carrying heavy loads of water and reduce the risk of rape, assault and danger and increased safety for women and girls face when they have no choice but to go to remote and dangerous places to relieve themselves.

The water crisis is an education crisis because it is the responsibility of the children to collect water for their families.  It reduces their time in class and being able to play. And 1/3 of schools lack access to basic water and sanitation.  Can you imagine this happening in your child’s school?

It is an economic crisis.  Without access to safe water, families are unable to pursue education and work opportunities that would break the cycle of poverty.  The loss of money due to lack of basic water and sanitation is staggering.  It is simply amazing how much of a difference access to clean water would make in the lives of so many people.

We are encouraged to take action because everyone should be entitled to safe water.

ADRA Canada is changing lives by providing people with new ways to access, conserve, purify and use water. With your partnership ADRA is able to provide families with life-giving water. You can help provide water to those without.

Watch this video and think about how you would like to help ADRA Canada to give the gift of water.

Sources:  ADRA Canada; World Water Day; Water.org

Women’ s History Month

I learned today that March is Women’s History Month and it is a celebration of women’s contributions to society.  Before Women’s History Month, there was Women’s History Week, the birth child of the school district of Sonoma, California which participated in Women’s History Week, an event designed around the week of March 8 (International Women’s Day).  From 1978 to 1979, the idea to secure a National Women’s History Week lay incubated until February 1980 when it was born, thanks to President Jimmy Carter who issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980, as National Women’s History Week.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the law which was passed making March Women’s History Month in the United States.  This year’s theme is “Nevertheless, She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination against Women.”  What a great theme.  Like warriors facing bitter battles with ferocious armies, women face societies, communities, institutions and governments that would deny them their rights.  Nevertheless, like phoenix rising from the ashes, women all around world are rising up, joining together and fighting for what they believe in.  Their voices are raised in unison, refusing to be silenced, in spite of the draw backs they face.  Silence is not golden.  Using one’s voice to be heard is golden.

Throughout history, women have had dreams, hopes, plans and visions which they had to fight hard to realize.  No amount of discouragement, obstacles, nay-saying, discrimination or opposition could quell those dreams, hopes, plans, visions which had taken shape.  Women clung to their faith that one day they would be able to vote, own businesses, own homes, land, get an education, work in jobs and play in sports that were predominantly male oriented.  They had to have the courage and the faith to step out, speak up and conquer a world that had long denied them and still does in some cultures, equality, recognition for their accomplishments and basic human rights.

However, despite the strides women have made in their fight for human rights, they still face mountains like human trafficking, modern slavery which target young girls, child marriage, FGM, access to safe water, realizing their self worth and potential in societies which favor boys over girls, pay equity, access to safe water and quality education.  Just this month, the organization, Freedom United is calling for action for the following campaigns:

Show solidarity and tell Uzbekistan to drop all charges against Malokhat.

Malokhat is being targeted because of her determination to expose human rights violations and forced labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry.

JOIN THE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM FOR GIRLS

The fight to end modern slavery today in order to help girls like Phoebe, forced into the commercial sex trade at just 15 years old.  Women and girls make up 71% of all modern slavery victims. 

These girls should be in school getting quality education so that they would have a bright future.  Sex should not something that they engage in until they are adults and married.  Sex came from God was never meant to be exploited or forced on anyone.  It was meant to be a physical and emotional expression of a husband’s and wife’s love for each other.

Help End Forced Marriage in Lebanon

Momentum is growing to repeal laws that enable convicted rapists to marry their victims to avoid punishment. As well as the horrors endured by victims, this law means many women and girls where these laws exist are then forced into marriage against their will

Marriage was meant to be between a man and a woman not a man and a child.  And any law which allows a rapist to marry his victim to escape justice, should be done away with.  It is a disgrace to human decency and dignity and it violates the victim’s rights.  Marriage is a holy institution and is meant to be entered into with the consent of both the man and the woman.

Call on Niger’s President to outlaw child marriage.

Three-quarters of girls in Niger are married before they are adults. Child marriage often amounts to slavery, for example, when girls have not given their free and full consent, are subjected to control, exploited and unable to leave, so outlawing it is an important step towards protecting Niger children.

Imagine you have a young daughter and that a Nigerian girl her age is being married off to an older man.  At the age of twenty, Fati Yahaya has been married twice, divorced once, suffered a postpartum hemorrhage after giving birth to her first child.  I didn’t have a child until I was 41 years old!  It’s so hard to fathom a young girl going through two marriages, one divorce and suffering excessive blessing following the birth of her first child.  I don’t know how many children she had afterwards or if she suffered any more hemorrhages.  And I can’t imagine giving my consent to have my daughter marry at the age of consent which is 15 or even younger when she should be in school.  I can’t imagine subjecting her to a life of “abuse and unrealized potential”.

End sexual exploitation of children in Kenya

The last place you should expect to find a child is in a brothel; yet for 17-year-old Phoebe from Kenya, this is her life.

Phoebe comes from a poor family. When she dropped out of school, she went in search of a better life – instead she has been forced to have group sex with tourists for no money.

Reports indicate that more than 50,000 children are involved in different forms of commercial sexual exploitation.  It is most common along the Kenyan Coast where the majority of tourism activities take place – in fact sex offenders travel to Kenya for this very reason: to prey on these vulnerable victims.

It’s sad that Phoebe had to dropped out of school and instead of finding a better life, she found herself plunged into a world of sexual exploitation.  A brothel is no place for anyone, especially children.  Sex offenders who travel to prey on young girls should be prosecuted and the brothels should be put out of business.  Basically, the Kenyan government needs to do something.  They need to protect the vulnerable.

Help end domestic slavery

Women and girls leave their homes every day to find jobs as domestic workers in the cities of your country.

But when they show up for their first day of work, some find out they’ve been deceived. Locked inside the homes of strangers — no contact with their families, and often beaten and sexually abused — they are caught in the nightmare of modern slavery.

What a nightmare it must be for women and children to go to what they believe is a job which will help their families only to be faced with brutality and sexual abuse.  They are cut off from their families and forced into a modern slavery.  People are not property and slavery should not have any place in our society.  There need to be tougher rules for domestic workers and anyone caught exploiting their rights should be imprisoned.  It’s time to get tough on those who exploit others.

Women’s History month is not only a celebration of the difference women have made in their communities but it is also a reminder that we still have a long way to go and that raising awareness is key.  When I shared these stories with my husband, he commented that there is a whole different world out there that we are not aware of.  And he’s right.  If it weren’t for organizations like Freedom United, Equality Now and many others we would have no idea of the realities that many women and girls are facing.

Sources:  Wikipedia; AJC.com; Freedom United