One of the afternoon art clubs that Leslie runs is so big, that the 7 seats in her car fill up after driving down the first block of one neighborhood. The other kids who don't get a ride have to walk. But they do walk.
Last week when we were picking the kids up, I got out of the car to come walking with those who didn't fit in the van. Our group got larger and larger as we walked through the community "picking up" kids. I was surprised that one girl was going- she looked to be 16 or 17 and I was surprised that she would want to hang out with kids in the afternoon. She was dressed in a mini-skirt and high heels- an outfit most commonly worn by prostitutes in this town.
We engaged in conversation:
Me: You must really love art to come to kids club! Do you always come?
Girl: Yes I really love kids club.
Me: What grade in high school are you?
Girl: I'm still in elementary! I'm only in 5th grade.
Me: Oh! Ok.... and how old are you?
As I continued to walk with her, I began seeing so many red flags for this girl's life. Once we got onto the main road, nearly every guy was whistling and calling out at her. And she was loving the attention.
"I thought he whistled at me because he knew me, but I don't know him at all! I wonder if he thinks I'm pretty," she giggled. In a town where underage prostitution is common, comments like that coming from a 13 year old are scary.
So what can we do? The purpose of the kids clubs here at The Refuge, are not just to give kids a place to hang out- its a place where Christian adults who love and care about the well being of children can build relationships with them, and build value into them.
This 13 year old girl is high risk- but we're doing what we can with her. She's coming to kids club, she's connecting with us, and we then connect her with the local church through youth group. It's not a hopeless situation, and it's not too late.
"Although the world is full of human suffering, it is also full of overcoming it." - Hellen Keller