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  • Writer's pictureAudrey Chin

Am I Really Doing the Best I Can?

Updated: Jun 10, 2022

Our Singapore morning paper is reporting that a whole lot of people are having sex on the side, sex for money, sex for grades. Conversation at a lot of my lunches these days centers around the delicious terrible depravity of some people whom whisper… whisper … we might know! BUT, It’s not depravity that drives me crazy; it’s the small pieces of apathy, its how we allow ourselves to allow the world to slip-slide into awfulness.

Take the case of the girl Jade, whom we almost could not help.  What would you have done? Leave a comment and let us know

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In the countryside around here, where village girls barely budded are allowed to be used and thrown away like tissue paper; then picked up and recycled over and over and over in the city we have learnt to be indifferent. To do only what we can.

Take the case of the girl Jade on one of our scholarship programs. She was fourteen and only in fourth grade, the child of illiterate parents.  They’re casual day laborers who for a time lived in a shed against a grandmother’s house. Later, the hamlet officials built them a charity shelter. It’s funny how people can be illiterate but still know how to count enough to play cards. The mother started a successful gambling operation.  One thing led to another.  One day, Jade’s mum let in a lodger. He had full access to the premises, including Jade – a thirty year old man already married with children!

When we went to see Jade last summer she was pale and listless.  An abortion, the co-ordinator told us later spilling the rest of the beans. I was furious. Why hadn’t we informed the people’s committee? The police?  I was told we shouldn’t rock the rest of our program.  So long as she’s going to school, I was told. And I allowed myself to be persuaded.

In the New Year, Jade told the co-ordinator she didn’t want to go to school anymore. She wanted to learn sewing.  We thought it was a good idea. It would give her the ability to earn a living if she found herself saddled with a child at fifteen, if she wanted to run away. Otherwise, all we could envisage for her, half educated as she was, was more recycling in the city. We went to the hamlet to let her know that we’d found her an apprenticeship. But, she was already gone to the city we were told!  Her mother’s youngest sister was taking her there to introduce her …

What if… what if… what if …  The regret and guilt were so heavy I couldn’t sleep for days. But slowly, apathy slipped in again. You can’t win them all, I said. We’ve done what we can.

We thought there might be miracles worthy of the name! Three weeks later, we were told that Jade was back in school. The co-ordinator went to see her grandmother.  The apprenticeship was arranged. She would learn to be a tailor in another town, away from the lodger, the gambling den, her mother.

But it wasn’t to be. Jade’s father refused to let her leave the village. She could not even go to school.

We decided to cut off support. There was nothing else we could do. Going to the police and reporting the case wasn’t an option. The community leaders already knew and had done nothing.  The co-ordinator didn’t want a knife stuck in her back on the way from one house visit to another.

Who knows what will happen to this young woman.  We can only hope. And pray, that we know what we can change, accept what we can’t, have the wisdom to know the difference and the courage to do something about it … instead of allowing apathy to slip-slide us into awfulness.

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