Under the warm moon glow of a South East Asian night sky I wondered looking for children in need of help. I was an outreach worker based in Kuala Lumpur. I worked on cases where I managed to find shelter, food and school for homeless children, provided medical assistance to children previously denied the right and raised donations. But even if you win 1000 cases it still can’t outweigh the 1 loss. I count 3 defeats in my thus far short career. 3 defeats that still haunt me.
‘You can’t win them all.’, ‘just think of all the people you helped.’ The same offers of support just don’t get through. There are moments when I am very proud of my work and the children I managed to help. But those 3 losses, 3 cases totalling more than 10 children, more than 10 lives in danger whom I could not help. Some of those children called me ‘Uncle Ian’. Some of those children may be dead now or worse.
Sweet little smiling faces of angels the world had let slip looked to me for help, I took the same case notes as with other cases and worked just as hard but came up short. The little children being beaten daily, will continue to be beaten, I couldn’t win that case. The little girl selling herself on the street corner will continue to do so, I couldn’t win that case. The little girl who wanted a family and a home will continue to live alone, I couldn’t win that case.
I’m still in touch with some of the kids I worked with, they are now entering adulthood and many have made it to University, I burst with pride. They do enrich my life and I value their gift to me. But what hurts is that the children whose cases I lost gifted me with just as much, they trusted ‘Uncle Ian’ could make things better and they signed our social contract with that genuine smile that can only beam across the face of an innocent child. I fought for them and I lost, if someone else had been lead on their case would their life be different? If I had forgone some sleep and fought a bit harder would their lives be different?
It’s tough to accept defeat, to hold your hands up and say this is beyond me, I can’t change this much, I can’t help this child’s life. I’ve considered holding vigils for those children, I’ve even considered returning purely to take up those 3 cases again. But maybe this can be the beginning of the tribute they deserve. All of those children blessed me with their smile and many asked me to join in games. They gave me strength, purpose and drive. Loosing their cases has made me more focused and determined and realistic about working in such a volatile sector.
The children offer innocence and purity, though the world within which they dwell is embittered and chaotic. They offer smiles and hugs even in environments were that could result in a fierce reaction of hate. The children do not deserve to stay in these situations but their gift to the world is to continue to offer joy where little or none is afforded. Let those children be the light that continues to shine a ray of hope in humanities darkest corners.
– By Ian Werrett