Gill and Mary were both grinning like Cheshire cats, Joshua just stood there waiting for the expected reception, which he duly received.
“Oh my God, Joshua your head what happened?” Gill turned to Mary in confusion, her eyes taking in the bloody, dirty bandage on Joshua’s forehead.
“There was an incident Gill,” Mary is inspecting Joshua’s wounds and her words are dismissive. They brook no discussion. “Joshua here had a fight with a rock.” She tousled his hair and sends him outside to wait with the other kids. “Come on let’s get this done and grab the bus back.”
Sweeping finished, Gill left Mary to finish up and went outside to see where Joshua was. The boys immediately came over and started chatting and she sensed they were distracting her from the back of the building. She stood her ground and watched. The boys were furtively disappearing out the back one by one, she followed and the remaining boys called out a warning. Joshua comes forward and tries to intercept her, he smiles at her winningly, come lady you are my friend, he says. She is not distracted and finds them sharing a bottle of glue. Her efforts to retrieve the bottle are in vain and she quickly seeks the help of Godwilling.
As Godwilling handles the situation and removes the glue, it is obvious that Joshua is the culprit. He brought the glue to the centre. The disappointment Gill feels in Joshua is personal. How could he be so disrespectful, how could he bring glue here of all places? But mostly Gill is hurt by the slyness of his attempts to distract her discovering the glue. His innocent and tiny face turned up to hers as he had clutched her hand declaring friendship. This hurt Gill the most.
Godwilling separates him from the others but it is already too late, the damage is done and he curls up and sleeps on the front porch. Gill watches as Godwilling expertly checks his clothes, feeling the hems and pockets for any other substances.
Disheartened, tired and emotionally drained Gill tagged along with Mary and Godwilling as they made for the bus station. Mary was happy they had two boys with them, Joshua and Elisante, the new kid Mary had found at the bus station last night. Joshua was dragging his feet and stumbling as he clutched Gill’s hand, his eyes showing clearly that he was still lost to the real world.
The bus journey back to Moshi only added to Gill’s emotional turmoil and physical exhaustion. She would tell friends later it was probably one of the worst two hours journeying of her long and varied life! The bus was hot and overcrowded and Gill had the misfortune to be seated on the rear bench seat with the heat of the engine searing up through the metal seat and the thin tatty cushion and directly onto her rear end. Similarly her legs were being slowly roasted from below. To top it all, the makeshift aisle seat in front of her is broken and so the lady in front’s full weight is resting across Gill’s knees. she had a straight black bruise across both legs for days after.
Joshua slept most of the way back his skinny body contorted into a ball on the back seat next to Gill. She envied his tiny frame that allowed comfort in these cramped conditions.
Finally, back at the centre and Joshua’s reception is without castigation. There is genuine pleasure among the staff. Gill watches, confused and upset at her own sense of betrayal.
Will Joshua or Elisante make it through the system that is Amani and graduate from school?
Will Joshua or Elisante turn out to be a natural scholar and be awarded a funded place at a private secondary school or will they attend the local school under Amani’s sponsorship?
Or will they, like Godwilling, not prove to be natural scholars and move onto vocational training.
Or maybe, like Peter they just won’t be able to give up the freedom of the streets. The emotional and physical abuse of their past may have damaged them to a point where they cannot respond to the strictures of the Amani process.
They may jump the wall and be lost.
All that is known for sure is that Amani will not give up on them.
RESCUING CHILDREN, RESTORING HOPE, TRANSFORMING LIVES
Gill stands at the gates looking up at the sign above the door. Finally she accepts what the first part of that statement means and knows that if she can’t understand and accept Joshua’s behaviour she should turn round now and call it quits.
She stands making her decision and as she looks around and watches the day-to-day happy routine around her she thinks about Part Two, Restoring Hope.
She decides to be a part of that story and smiles as she walks up the steps into the hallway. She will try to help Joshua and Elisante make it. She will try to help every single child she has contact with make it.
She will try to help restore hope.