Sisonke. That’s me and my bestie Tina. Ask anyone in our street and everyone will agree that we are like sisters. We’ve been friends since we were young. Tina is bubbly and smart. She's also girl’s girl and always looking out for other girls, not just her friends. For example, when Mbali told the class that she wants to be a pilot, Tina told her about career days and other information to help her get to her dream. The tables turned and she needed help. She didn’t say what was going on, but her school marks were dropping. I knew there had to be a serious reason.
I invited her over to my house so we could talk in private, in my bedroom. We read magazines and just chilled for a while, talking about easy things, like celebrities. When we were both relaxed, I asked what was happening I said, “Choma you are not yourself lately. What’s going on? When she said nothing, I did press her. I hugged and told her I loved her. I also reminded her that she can always count on me if she needs to talk, to just chill at my house.
Sometimes the best help we can give friends in trouble, but not ready to talk, is the assurance that we’re there for them. I also figured that until she is ready to talk, I would do all the talking. I’d call her or WhatsApp her just so tell her I loved her. I tried boosting her confidence by reminding her that she is a great person and student even though it didn’t seem that way at the time.
A few weeks later, she told me what had been happening to her. Tina stays with her aunt, who recently started treating Tina badly. She’d call her names like useless and on some nights, Tina went to bed without food. Children have rights that are protected by law, even though some adults break it. We have the right to safety and protection, health care and education. Our parents or guardians are supposed to look after us, not break us down.
I encouraged Tina to talk to her favourite teacher, who suggested seeing a social worker. She was able to get help. The social worker went to her aunt’s house, Tina also told her mom and dad so they could step in.
This made me realise who important it is to reach out to friends, even when they say everything is fine. A little support goes a long way!