21 May 2013

Showing Dignity

So today I went out to interview some street boys who have taken part in one of our programmes. We went to one of the slums, one I had been to before, one that I knew for being quite... Rough, to say the least. 

I love days like these. They get me our of the office and into our programmes and into life in Kenya. I get to learn what life is like for people living in poverty here. 

Last week, I went out and got to speak to a very passionate teacher and a shy but dedicated girl. And it was awesome! I loved the learning, even though much of what I was told was shocking, saddening and more. 

Now, when one goes out to collect stories, there is a proper protocol to go through, specifically that the individual is the owner of their own information. And that they are human and not worthy of being exploited, no matter what their situation in life. 

We show dignity. Because if you were in their situation, you would not want to be pitied, or feel like someone is using you or taking advantage of you. 

It all goes back to the golden rule. Treat others as you want to be treated. 

And it's usually not super hard to treat people with dignity. I am there to listen. You tell me whatever you want! If you are uncomfortable, that's fine too. 

But today was hard. There was this boy, you see. A teenager. Drugged up on something or other. Huffing, coke, MJ, it's all present in the slums. 

As soon as I stepped out if the car, this boy was by my side. Wanted to be cool with the mzungu you see. He was touching my camera, talking to me, trying to touch me. I just tried to work around him because I could tell he was on drugs. As I was interviewing another teenager, he was standing right there too, I could tell he was waiting his turn. 

But when it became apparent to him that I was not going to interview him, he started becoming unmanageable. Fuck you's were thrown around, as was the finger; it took much of the group to keep him busy while I continued my interview. And many times it just was not possible. To keep him busy. 

I tried to promise 'Next time.' And then he started asking for money. He deserved to be paid if I was going to make money off his story, his photo (I'm not... I didn't even take a photo). 

He was causing a stir all around. This slum is a tough one. I was beginning to be worried for my safety. One never knows when threats to throw rocks are true. 

And from then on, it was hard to focus. It was hard to be open. It was hard to continue with the interview, to give the young boy the attention he deserved. I lost it. I lost the desire to give dignity. I just wanted to get out of there, to run. This young boy telling me his story did not deserve that.

But how can you show dignity when a drugged up teenager is causing a ruckus, and forcing everyone to pay attention to him? To both him and to the others around him?

I tried, to be sure. I can only put myself in his shoes and imagine what he has gone through. No home, no money, hungry all the time, no education. Limited options (such as trolling through the dump site to find scrap metal to sell). The feeling of having no future. 

His boldness only egged on the others and I left the football pitch after finishing the interview, having to be squeezed into the car for my own protection, with street boys surrounding me asking for money, shouting they were hungry, asking for help. 

Sometimes, life throws a person into our lives to make us think. About how we show dignity to others. It's easy to do when the person is calm, kind, and interested. But when they are difficult, drugged up, threatening you or asking for money... what do you do? What is the best?

I only hope I responded in a good way. But let's just say I will ponder this boy for a while and how I approach others like him.

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