I’ve been really busy this month – as the holidays approach, I suspect that’s true of most of you – but I didn’t want to let November go by without a Charity Sunday post. After all, this is the month where we particularly celebrate gratitude, when we’re more aware than ever of our own blessings, and want to share.
My chosen charity for today is KIND – Kids In Need of Defense. This organization, founded more than ten years ago with support from Microsoft and Angelina Jolie, has a very specific focus: providing legal services and assistance to unaccompanied children caught in the U.S. detention system. KIND organizes pro-bono representation for kids who have been separated from their families, children facing deportation and children who’ve been trafficked. They also work at the policy and education level, for more humane and responsive laws and regulations that do not further victimize migrant and trafficked youth.
My heart aches for the thousands of kids torn from their families and trying to survive in hellish conditions in immigration detention centers. I’m deeply ashamed that my country is responsible for this human rights catastrophe. Of course, none of us can change the system alone, but I believe that every bit helps. Hence, I will give two dollars to KIND for every comment I receive on this post.
Meanwhile, as usual, I have an excerpt for your entertainment and to thank you for visiting. I don’t have any stories about immigrant children in the U.S., but here’s a bit from Refuge, which takes place in a refugee camp on the Thai/Myanmar border.
She found me the next morning. I was sitting on the steps of the barracks, reviewing Daeng’s last letter. I insisted that he write to me, even though we talked by phone once a week. He needed the practice. I always sent his letters back, with spelling corrections. I was determined that, somehow, I’d help him go to university. That was the only way to save him from the trap I was in.
I had expected excitement and gratitude from her, but her face was twisted by worry.
“Hello, sir...” she began, tentative.
“Nu. You can call me Nu. And your name?”
“People call me Preean.” She pronounced it as two syllables.
“Pleased to meet you, Preean.” I tried to put her at ease. She stood there with her eyes downcast, her hands knotted together nervously. I stuffed the letter in my shirt pocket and waited for her to speak.
“Sir... Khun Nu... thank you so much for the pencil and paper.”
“Never mind. I think you needed it more than I did.”
“Still—your kindness means a lot, to me and to the children.”
“Forget it. Really.”
She raised her eyes. I was startled to see that they were dark blue, like dusk behind the mountains. Also they were glistening with tears. “I need to ask your help again. Something much more serious.”
On impulse, I grasped her hands, gently releasing her tense grip. Her nails were bitten down to the quick. The creases in her palms were embedded with grime. Nevertheless, her skin was deliciously soft. Sympathetic tears pricked at my eyes. “What is it? How can I help you?”
“It’s Su. One of the children. She’s very sick. Diarrhea and a high fever.”
“Did you bring her to the infirmary?”
“They said it was probably just some bad fish. That they couldn’t do anything. I think she needs to go to the hospital. She’s burning up.”
“The hospital? In Mae Sot? That’s more than two hours away!”
“I went to ask the commander for permission to take her. He wouldn’t even let me into his office.”
She tried to kneel before me. I stopped her, terribly embarrassed, not to mention worried that someone would see her. “Please, Khun Nu. She’s much worse today than she was last night. She doesn’t even know who I am.”
What can I do? I started to answer. I can’t do anything. I’m practically a prisoner here myself. But the desperation and hope I saw mingled in her face stopped my voice.
“We would need a jeep...” I remembered when the commander sent Kai and me to town, a month ago, to pick up mail and supplies. Maybe I could convince him that we needed to make another run.
“Let me see what I can do. I’ll let you know. Where can I find you?”
“If you can get a jeep, tie this around one of the supports on the water tower.” She held out the shoelace that had been securing her ponytail. It has once been red. Her jet locks flowed over her shoulders in a shimmering cascade. A lump gathered in my chest as I gazed at her, so small and vulnerable, so brave. “I’ll meet you at the turn off for Baan Huay Bua, half a kilometer along the road. Around noon.”
She smiled. “There are exits. Gaps in the barbed wire. Places where it’s rusted away. We all know them.”
“Then why don’t you leave?” I imagined her, free, dressed in bright, clean clothing, laughing with friends. Teaching in an actual school.
“Where would I go? My village across the border? It’s gone, burned to the ground by the generals’ thugs. My parents were murdered. My sisters were raped. I have no idea where they are now. Without an identity card, I can’t get a decent job. Oh, maybe I could make it to Bangkok or Phuket and work in a bar. Flirt in exchange for drinks. Have sex with tourists. Would that really be any less of a prison than here?”
All proceeds from sales on Smashwords
will be donated to Amnesty International
Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/07TDYD7DB
Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07TDYD7DB
Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/945432
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Every one helps kids stuck in legal limbo.