My fists were clenched. Hurt and angry, I glared at my mother. She whispered
softly, 'This is the best chance for an education, Dear. Behave yourself.' I
did, not because of my mother or any need for studying or the threat that I
might have to be fostered out like my two younger siblings. It was the promise
of food in my stomach that stopped me from fleeing the House of Sunlight.
father had died of a heart attack two years ago. The once comfortable life that
we -- my two younger sisters and I -- had became a thing of the past. My mother
barely made enough as a cleaner to pay the bills left behind by my father and to
put food on the table. Then, her diabetes worsened and she had to go on
I was accepted into the welfare home. I hated it. It was a torture having to
live with eight others in a dormitory. There was absolutely no privacy. My space
was invaded by seven strangers who seemed oblivious
that I needed to be alone. My mother's words 'Get an education and we will have
a chance to be a family again. You are our only hope' kept me from shattering
the early months.
I detested the rigid and structured hours. We all had to be up by 5.00 am.
Prayers, cleaning, washing. Off to school. Then back to the prison. Prayers,
washing, preparation for school, exercise, cleaning the compound. Prayers,
cleaning, more study time. It was a nightmare.
One day, feeling especially sorry for myself, I
huddled in my corner and refused to help clean the compound. After a
while, my dormitory mate, Leela, gave me a shove and arms akimbo, muttered,
'Stop wallowing in self-pity.'
When I refused to answer her, she reminded me of all we have learnt at the
House of Sunlight. Having to do things on our own has taught us to be
independent. Why, we would survive anywhere. `Where else, Joey, could we get
free tuition, free clothes, free accommodation, free lessons in life, free...'
'Food, I smiled.
Leela is right. The House of Sunlight has turned out to be a blessing in
disguise. I have learnt the value of discipline and education. It is indeed a
house of hope for me.