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‘Angel’ rescues homeless family
When night fell Reshma Juman would take her four young children, including a one-year-old baby, to the pavilion in the recreation ground next to the Chandanagore Primary School and prepare them for bed. Bed was the top wooden step of the pavilion.
“I will reach there around seven and organise them. I couldn’t brush their teeth because there was no water.
“I would have a two-litre plastic bottle with water. I used to ask the guard by the school to fill it up. I would rinse off the children and put them to sleep.
“They would lie down on the bare board with no sheet over them. When I left home, I only walked with clothes to change, towels, pampers and milk.”
With her last $200, Juman took her children, Annisa, 6, Hakeem, five, Ameera, three and Aqueela, just over a year, and walked away from an abusive relationship four months ago. She said she confronted him about the abuse and he went into a rage. “He threw all our things outside the house.”
Juman, who grew up in Korea Village in central, was staying in the relative’s house. She said she had nowhere to go and was afraid to leave.
“I kept praying and asking for courage. This is what made me seek a way out.
“I could never have the courage to do this by myself.”
Finding it easier to face the unknown than see her children being abused, she gave up the roof over her head and the security of a home and went on the streets, living the life of the homeless for three agonising days.
“I felt badly about asking anybody to stay at their house. I knew people wouldn’t want so many small children in their home too.
“In the day we would lime around Chaguanas, mostly by a play park in a mall. The children would play and when they were hungry I would give them bread I had in my bag, and butter. I always got water from people to fill up the bottle I had.”
As soon as the sun went down she took them back to the pavilion to sleep. “A lot of mosquitos bit them.
“I would stay awake, sometimes until three, watching over them, crying. I used to be real praying and crying, sometimes whole night.
“I kept praying and asking God to send somebody to help me. I told Him my children are on the street and I need help for them.
“In the morning my eyes would be swollen but I never let the children see me crying. I would wake them up at five, change them and we would go down Chaguanas again.
“I did that for three days.”
With depleting funds and growing despair, after three days Juman decided go and see a friend, Anna Lisa, one of 14 children of Mala Joseph of Chandanagore who was featured earlier in this column.
“I had stayed by Aunty Mala once before but the relative came and asked us to come back home.
“I went to Anna Lisa’s work place in Chaguanas and told her we were on the streets. She called her mother and Aunty Mala told her to put us in a taxi and send us home.
“I prayed for God to send somebody and He sent Aunty Mala. Like an angel.”
Juman said the Joseph family built a room for them and gave them a bed.
“Aunty Mala cooks for us and we have three meals a day. My children are in a safe place now.” Her children’s education were disrupted but Joseph is trying to help get them in schools, Juman said.
“As soon as they are settled in school, I will look for work.” She said she would never abandon her children. “No matter where I go my children will be with me. No matter how bad things are I will never leave them.”
To numerous women who are silently enduring the abuse of their children by relatives for the sake of security, Juman said, “Don’t stay and go through that.
“Your child could get killed one day and you may not be able to bear the guilt.”