Buba is the sweetest, most loving child you will ever meet. Marie says that he is a true innocent in this world. He does not know how to hurt someone. There is only good in him.
Buba lives with his grandmother, his uncle and his wife and their children. Far away in Bessumbala. We are taking him home, so we can talk to his family.
Things are not going well at this house. Buba is not getting enough to eat. We have had to take him to hospital for malnutrition after the last holiday. It is obvious. Nobody is taking care of him. He is being neglected. Severely.
We stop to talk to visit Isatou first. They know Buba here too. They know how gentle he is. They also know how badly he is being treated. Isatou’s mother, in all her pain and misery, stops us before we leave. She brings a plate of food for Buba, to eat in the car. So he at least has a full belly before going home. This gesture almost reduced me to tears.
Buba eats. He sighs with the pure pleasure of the food. He holds Marie’s hand from time to time. Points at the plate, shows her the spoon. Does she see this plate full of food. Yes, she says. All for you. Enjoy.
When we get closer to his house, he becomes more and more agitated. He clicks his teeth continuously. He tries to get up and leave the car. Marie lets him sit down again and strokes his head. It is heartbreaking. If we could take him back to Second Home, we would do so in an instant. Unfortunately, that would be against the law. And impossible for us as well. We simply don’t have the means to offer full residential care.
When we pick up Buba’s uncle, Buba cringes and moves closer to Marie. We drive the short distance to their house. Greet the grandmother. Sit down and begin the slow process of getting to the point. He has a difficult life. His business is failing. There are lots of people to feed. We should give him money. Fix his motor bike.
We explain that we are there to help Buba. We talk about the fact that we need him to take Buba to the bus stop on Monday and collect him there on Friday. The bus stop is 50 yards away from the uncle’s shop. And maybe a mile away from his home. This proves tricky. The uncle rides his bicycle to work and as we can see, there is no way he can take Buba on the bicycle. Now, if we arranged for his motorcycle to be fixed………
This is the way the conversation ebbs and flows on and on. We should buy him a taxi, so he can have a new business and then we can pay him to take Buba to the bus stop. Or better yet. All the way to Senegambia. His grandmother is old, she cannot take care of Buba anymore. His wife has to visit people and cannot take care of Buba. To keep Buba safe, so he doesn’t wander off, he is forced to lock Buba in a room. It is after all in the child’s best interest. If we pay him, he is willing to feed Buba in the weekends. When we propose he gives Buba up completely, he is highly offended. Buba is his. We cannot take him.
It is highly frustrating and very painful. Especially after having seen Isatou and her family earlier.
We put the uncle on notice. We tell him he is being watched. That we will make sure that this situation is resolved. And we offer him solutions. All so Buba will be safe and happy. We are even willing to be nice to the uncle, hard as it is.