How far would you go for Five Dollars?
How far would you go or what would you do in order to get five dollars?
I’m assuming, some of us would take silly bets or do simple silly things to earn a few bucks here or there. Take, for instance, my friend Michael who will eat any spicy/odd concoction of food for a few bucks. But everyone has a limit–what they wouldn’t do for five dollars. So what would YOU do?
Well, what you are about to read is a story of what some people here do for five dollars…and (this is not just a warning) I promise you that the contents in this blog are nothing less than shocking.
So, the other night, I willingly decided to do something dangerous. (Mom, don’t freak out…read Esther 😉 ) And I have never looked fear in the face like that ever before. I have never been so scared in my life…and I never even stepped out of the vehicle.
After Bongiwe’s disappearance and the new knowledge I received about her life as a prostitute, I decided I wanted to find her. Since coming to Swaziland this time, my focus was initially looking to build a free school; however, since I’ve been here my focus changed based on seeing an even greater need. Because of Tenele’s situation and hundreds of girls like her, I decided I wanted to help start a girls’ home. While this had been an increasingly growing desire of mine, recently, I had lost the fire and energy to help do such a thing. Maybe it was the maggots or the heat, or just general wearing down, but I lost all motivation and desire to help start a home. So, I faced a possibly dangerous situation on purpose. I wanted to see the areas of prostitution, and see if it was really something I wanted to invest more time into in the future. I knew there was a need to help the girls but I had selfishly become numb to it.
So on a Saturday night, three of my students took me the biggest area of prostitution, which is in a place outside of Manzini called Matsapha. The three girls had said that is where Bongiwe always is on weekends. I took one more volunteer Eilidh with me and a Swazi man named Bravo. Bravo works for MYC as one of the boys’ house fathers and also works with the social welfare office doing “street nights” to find homeless/orphaned boys. Needless to say, Bravo was the perfect guy for a situation like this.
He readily agreed to take us and help us find Bongiwe. So, the six of us went to Matsapa Saturday night in the only vehicle that we had access to, which is the venture, a vehicle known for breaking down and not being able to actually properly lock the car. But it was the only access we had, besides taking a bakkie (which is a truck, and it clearly is not safe to take that) so we took the venture.
When we first drove through the area, it was sickening. So many drunk people were everywhere. It’s a strip of about three or four “clubs” all together and people were packed inside as well as outside. Bravo parked the car a bit away from the comotion and turned to Eilidh and I and said very sternly,”it is far too dangerous, so you and Eilidh will not step foot out of this vehicle, do you understand?”
(I honestly didn’t think it was THAT dangerous until the day after when I got quite a yelling at from different people about how lucky I was to be here and that I wasn’t hurt, raped, or stabbed. If I would’ve known it was that dangerous, things might have gone a little differently. But that’s the beauty of the night. Yes, those things could have happened, but they didn’t! We were under the best Hand of protection.)
Anyway, so Bravo took two of the Swazi girls and went on the search for Bongiwe inside the differen clubs while Eilidh and I and the other girl, Nobuhle, were in the car waiting. After a little while, a car full of men pulled up and parked right next to us. They all got out and stood staring at us, talking amongst themselves. Nobuhle, (who told me earlier that I didn’t need to be afraid because it was fine) said, “Those aren’t good guys. We need to go.” I was trying to be calm, though the whole time my heart was beating out of my chest. Eilidh was shaking and I just kept saying, “it’s fine, it’s fine. Be calm. They’re not going to hurt us.” Then Nobuhle said, “He has a knife! We need to go!” Luckily, I had asked Eilidh to get into the driver’s seat earlier in case we needed to escape quickly. (I don’t yet know how to drive stick, so we are soooo lucky Eilidh was there!)
Anyway, after a mishap of trying to get the car started, we finally got it going and took off. We parked somewhere else and then realized it was not even safe to park, so we drove up and down the road until Bravo was done. They had heard Bongiwe was there but couldn’t find her. So we chilled for a bit and they went back for round two. After round two, they figured she had been there earlier but had already gone home with a guy.
By the end of the night…no bongiwe, and NO HARM done…so I wasn’t too worried. But what was gained?
I gained vision–the vision and passion I had been lacking came pouring over me like a waterfall. I saw with my own eyes the life, I experienced the fear, I heard from the girls and Bravo what it was like inside. It is SICK. It breaks me. But it has given me passion and vision to help these girls. One of the girls with us said she walked into the club bathroom and saw a friend her age (15) naked having sex on the floor. They said the prostitutes usually are dancing and when they get with a guy, they ask, “Do you want this?” Then the guys says, “How much?” And the girl sells her body right there in the club or sometimes if the guy offers more, he’ll take her somewhere else. But do you know the sickest part about this? Do you know HOW MUCH the standard is for girls selling their bodies? 30 emalangeni, and sometimes even 20, which is the equivalent of FOUR or FIVE DOLLARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
CAN YOU IMAGINE SELLING YOUR BODY FOR FIVE DOLLARS??????????????
It’s a sick and crazy twisted trap they are in. And I WILL fight to help bring freedom. No matter how many people here tell me it’s pointless and a waste of time (which, trust me, there are too many voices saying this). Girls have been treated like that here for way toooo long. And it’s going to change. It will change because we’re going to pray for it. And I am asking your deep, committed and faithful prayers for these girls and whatever mission God has for me in helping them. The trap is thick and the blindness is repulsively destructive. But it’s a battle worth fighting for.
Like my good friend Page told me in response to this, “Keep up the good fight. It matters more than your life.”