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Bahati's story

TypingBy Lucy Tothill, 14

Let me introduce you to yourself. First off, your name is Bahati, which means fortune, or good luck in your language. But that is hardly what you have. You live in slums in central Tanzania, with your mother and four siblings. You know that two of your brothers died long ago, and your father, too.

You can’t go to school most days, even though you would almost die to. You struggle to find enough food each day to feed all six in your family. What little money you have from running errands around where you live is used to buy rice.

Lucy sent us this story for our Term 2 and 3 competition in 2010.

She hopes this piece might help people see a bit further than the 40 hours they contribute to the 40 Hour Famine.

Read the Bahati's story as a PDF (13kb PDF)

Every day, you walk three kilometres to the nearest well to get water, but it is often murky and makes you feel sick. When someone in your family is sick, everyone is sick. No one can go to school, or do jobs or help Mama.

When your tiny shack of a house starts falling in, you and your brothers scrounge for sticks and metal scraps to fill the holes. Your younger sister, Doto, cannot help. She is too small and sick. Mama says she will die. You don’t want Doto to die. Your family is all you have. You don’t have shoes; your clothes are little more than rags. Welcome to your life, Bahati.

You wake up feeling every rock beneath you, hearing the early traffic of the morning groaning outside the door. You reluctantly get to your feet and find the tin bucket in the corner of the hut.

When you walk outside you see everything that you see every morning. The canal running past your hut, littered with everything from sewage to food wrappers. It smells like it does every other morning, damp and the sickly sweet smell of urine.

You get on your way, down to the well. It is three kilometres away, and the road is rocky, hot and filled with people. They all want water, too. You wait, and wait, and wait until your turn for the water. It runs out when your bucket is only half full. The people behind you groan and you quickly hobble away, before they take your own water.

Your feet are strong now, but they hurt from the rocks in the road. When you get home, Mama is up. She is holding Doto, and sighs when she sees the bucket only half full. The boys are running errands for the people across the road. Mama puts down Doto and finds a little packet of rice. You help her make the rice, and you want to make it well because you know there is no more rice in the house. When you are done with the rice, the three boys come in.

“Mama,” They beg, “Can we go to school?” Mama looks weary, tired.
“Are your jobs done?”
“Yes,”
“Ngapi-how much?” Mama asks how much they were paid. I sometimes do jobs for other people, across the road, but Mama thinks it is unsafe for me, because I am a girl. I know I am unwanted. Girls don’t get an education, they just marry before they become more of a burden on the family. I’m sure Mama will be relieved when I leave home.

The boys pull out a small sachet of rice, smaller even than what Mama and I have just made. The look on Mama’s face says it all. She sighs a long sigh, but she knows that it is all she can do. She takes the rice.
“Ask for money next time. Then you can buy the rice, much more cheaply!”
“Can we go to school then?”
“Hmmm, okay. Take Bahati, too. But be back before jobs this afternoon!” You scramble to your feet.

Read the rest of Bahati's story as a PDF (13kb PDF)

Submitted 19 May 2010, published 4 June 2010