A little boy grows up


We can meet people in different and sometimes interesting ways. My wife and I met this person through a brother of his. The brother was ‘cheesed off’ because his mother had just delivered twins her twelfth and thirteenth children, and the family was already struggling. He was ‘cheesed off’ because his siblings kept tearing pages out of his school books for sanitary reasons. He was not the oldest but the only one of the siblings going to school, and the parents were talking about taking him out of school.

We had already employed the older brother part time as a guard to allow him to keep going to school. He was more than a worker, we were friends. But the above problems were hidden from us until we discovered that he had started living in a small ‘room’ in our back shed, sleeping on the floor. Then the truth came out fully and he eventually came to live in our home. I may tell you more about him another day.

But this is about one of the twins.

We felt obliged to call on the parents. Although, by now several months old, the babies were skinny scrawny little things, who looked as if they were not long for this world. What, if anything, should we do about it? We had taken one mouth from the family table and he is still like a son to us. But what about the twins? We bought milk for them and had it delivered to their home for the five years we were in the area. By then they were healthy little kids and I must confess, having left the area, we didn’t think about them again.

Some 12 years later we were back in the country but in a different city teaching in a recently developed medical school. One Sunday afternoon there was a knock on the door and two young men introduced themselves. The boy twin and his mate had just qualified level 10, not with enough marks to go to University, but were allocated to a college to train as language teachers at a primary school level.

The government gave them an allowance, after which, combining their resources, they were able to rent a room and were left  with the equivalent of US$5 to feed and clothe themselves. Could we help? They were to teach English and we could help them with that. So they came every Sunday afternoon for conversational learning of English. We gave them a good nutritious afternoon tea – their was a curfew which meant they had to be off the street by 6 o’clock; we took them once a month to a local hotel for experience and a tip-top meal; and we gave them a financial top up. This was not a huge amount but we and they thought they could live simply and healthily on what they now had.

Eventually they graduated, and were appointed as language teachers to different schools in their home region. They didn’t need monetary help any more. We forgot them.

Recently I got an invitation to befriend this guy on Facebook. In his photos he’s straight and tall, his English is pretty good – no doubt with a slight Australian accent. He’s filled out a bit, doing a good job and happy. It all started with a little milk.

He is a think a handsome man after his scrawny start!


Dominic Cartier.

One thought on “A little boy grows up

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