Happy’s brother comes to the Centre to beg money from Rita. Happy has no money for school fees.
Rita asks, “Why do you come for her? If Happy wants to go to school, she should come and ask herself.”
Happy can walk again, as well as anyone. Her legs are straight now. She’s practically the poster child of the rickets program of Hope for the Village Child, the NGO Rita heads in Nigeria. Rickets afflicts many children in the villages, the result of a lack of calcium in the bones due to reasons which are still not clear. Genetic? Environmental? A surgical team came from Germany, and an operating theater was set up. Now over 70 children have had their bones broken and re-set. The children lived at the Centre the months they were in casts so their conditions could be monitored.
Rita asks the boy, “What are you doing now? Are you helping your parents farm?”
No, because his parents are not farming. They lost their land in payment to the “doctor” who operated on their stomachs. Both of them.
Rita wants to scream.
At the start of Lent, as children we were given cards with slots for coins. Our nickels and pennies and (when guilt really hit) quarters went to help save “pagan babies.” At the end of Lent we handed them over to Sister. We never found out how successful we were.
Rita has asked friends and family to sponsor the children. Having gone so far to help them to a better life, would she stop now? My guy is Jonathan. His legs were so deformed he had to have the procedure done in two stages. I’ll get a thank-you note one of these days, Rita says. She’s making sure the children write them.