Tonight Vicki has dressed for leisure, not work, as she sports baggy purple sweatpants and a loose sweater. It is time to go to work, but she strolls with me around Alonzo de Mendoza. Sometimes it is like this; she takes a night off and visits with me as I treat my street patients . . . .
At 1:35 am, I pack my things and prepare to go home. Vicki strolls over. “We should go and party sometime, Chi” she tells me, trying to make eye contact. “You can take me clubbing.”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea.” I try to take control with a serious stare.
“Come on, Chi.” She maneuvers about, shaking off my stare. “What is a little dancing and a few drinks? It won’t hurt anyone.” For street girls, “Dancing” means that the man pays for the girl’s drinks and the girl lets the man have sex with her.
“Vicki,” I say,” you know I don’t dance. You see these two left feet. Plus, I have the rhythm of a chicken.”
She giggles. “I can teach the chicken how to dance.” She grabs hold of my arm and scoots her hip against mine.
“No.” I parry her hand away and back off. “Vicki.” I look her square in the eyses.
Vicki sits down on a bench. She pouts. I sit down too, on the other side. Cold silence. She looks out into the distance and sniffs, then sniffles. He doesn’t want to dance with me. I can hear the words in her head. . . . She looks at me. Looks me square in the eyes. She narrows her eyes at me – out of hate or out of curiousity. “I wish,” says Vicki, “I wish there were more good men like you out there.”
Me too, I say to myself. Me too. . . .
She walks over to the street boys. As she approaches them, her steps stutter. Vicki turns around and looks at me. I see on her face a look of pain – if not pain, then some sad question about her fate. When? Where? How?
Me too, Vicki. Me too.
When Dr. Chi Huang was about to graduate from Harvard Medical School, he took a half-year sabbatical with organization that provided medical care to street children in Bolivia. Fifteen years later, he's still there, splitting his time between Boston and Bolivia. He has since founded Kaya Children International, an organization that provides shelter for street children around the world.
I've had the privilage of hearing Dr. Huang speak about his work several times, and it is truly inspiring. The story above, from his book When Invisible Children Sing, has a happy ending. Vicki, who was working as a child prostitute, eventually moved off the streets and as of 2005 was attending classes to become a beautician.
Why am I telling you about this group? Well, today is donation matching day at GlobalGiving.org. Any donations made before 11:59pm EST time on Wednesday, June 16th will be matched by 50%. If the group's work intrigues you, I invite you to join me in making a donation at their project page.
Thank y'all for tuning in. We'll return to our regular programming next week.