Reuniting with the girls is always my favorite part of my mission with One Body Village. It has been four years since I was first introduced to OBV by my dear friend Kelly. I experience feelings of dread, anger, sorrow, and an overwhelming tightness in my chest every time I recall her stories about rape and torture of children no older than eight years old. She told me of a young girl who was tied to a four-post bed drugged and raped for long and insufferable hours under the weight and sweat of the heinous man who bought her. In tears, she told me of how that young girl cowered with impenetrable fear under a table at the sight of that same man days after her abuse. To me, the most unspeakable crime is that of which the freedom and innocence of children is so audaciously violated by monsters disguised as men and witches of women who allow it to happen. The wicked business of stealing children, selling children, and sleeping with children is foul and impermissible.
I was greeted with gleeful delight when I met the girls again this January. The young girls that I met three years ago, who captured every bit of my attention and commanded every ounce of my devotion, have grown to be even lovelier than our first encounter. Their hair have grown long, their faces matured, and their demeanor is notably more elegant and demure. Even little C.L. has grown many inches since I saw her last! It touches my heart that they still remember my face, my name, and what we have done every year together. As always, D. compliments my makeup and says, "Co Trang de thuong qua!", which translates to, "You're so easy to love". I could say the same about each and every one of them.
I love walking the girls to school every morning. We eagerly walk together hand-in-hand. They were proud to show me their classrooms and didn't want to part when the school bell rang!
This year, we took all the girls from Vietnam and Cambodia to a Dam Xen Water Park as a reward for their good behaviour throughout the year. They loved it, and I loved seeing them playful and happy!
And then I met C., who was rescued by OBV less than a year ago. Her dark brown eyes were wells of sorrow. Her sulky expression and slouched, spiritless posture conveys an inarticulable gloominess. I was instantly struck with sadness when I saw her hiding in the doorway at a safe distance. As her story goes, she was raped by her mother's boyfriend at the tender age of four and a half years old. Her mother, 26 years old, was veryindifferent to her existence. C. wandered the streets aimlessly with her teddy bear wrapped in her arms while picking cigarette butts. She never went to school. She never learned to speak properly. Her brutally defiled bodywas left swimming in a pool of her own blood after the twisted villain was done with her. The government and community sponsored C. with a great sum of money as her story captured media attention. What did her mother do with it? She selfishly spent the money on her own needs.
C., now six years old, seldom smiles and close to never does she laugh. How could she? What did she have to love and laugh about? C. keeps to herself, despite the gentle efforts of her older OBV sisters to engage her. She was basically mute when she first came to live with OBV. She couldn't even say, "Mom". All of her mannerisms reveal a child that was abandoned and neglected by family. I once caught her quirkily eating a sandwich with a spoon with mismatched shoes on her feet! Although I chuckled at the time, I was quickly reminded that she is a damaged andtormented child who will require years of love, structure, and discipline to be even a fraction of what we would consider, "normal".
Sister Ngoc (mother of the OBV home) said that C. has never been so happy and attached to anyone like she was to Danh, one of our group members. Within moments of meeting each other, she instantly opened up to him. She has never laughed, played, or been so verbal with anyone. She wakes up every morning searching for him. She clutches onto his hand every moment they are together. He is that symbol of strength and protection that she never had.
I also met T. for the first time this year who was a victim of unspeakable cruelty. Already naive and too trusting because of her mental delay, she was lured by a neighbor into a grassy field. The vicious man raped her, beat her senselessly, and even twisted both her nipples until raw, bleeding, and detached from her body. He was moments away from killing her if her mother had not found him hovering over her limp body. The man is now in prison but I truly think that even death is not a fair and just punishment for this godawful act.
T. is different from the other children. She also keeps to herself and tends to eat with the adults in the home. She mumbles when she speaks in a low tone that is difficult to understand. Her suffering was unjust and I become increasingly angry when I think of what she endured.
These girls, and so many other children like them, are subject to the depths of human depravity. Their history of sustained sexual, physical, psychological abuse is unfathomable. People ask me how and why I continue to fight for them, given that I work long hours in the emergency department that exhausts my time and energy. I cannot fail these children, especially having met them, by diverting my eyes from the neatly disguised face of slavery that clings to them like a shadow. I am so happy to be a part of One Body Village that gives them the tender love, care, dignity, and respect that they were so cruelly denied.