Izzie was born in a one-room shack with a crack wide enough to see the street activity right outside. Loud horns, scrounging dogs, people walking back and forth all day… and then the night.
She was scared of the dark. When the sun went down, the shadows of people walking by would cast weird shadows on the wall. Her imagination would turn them into scary monsters. But more than that, she hated the night because she was alone.
It’s not as if her mother wanted to leave. She would tuck Izzie in on the one dirty mattress they owned and wait until she thought she was asleep before slipping through the creaky door and out into the night. Izzie would lay there, squeezing her eyes tighter and whispering to herself that it was ok. Mommy was coming back. She just had to go out so she could bring food home.
And then one night, she didn’t come home. Later, Izzie would learn that her mother had died tragically while trying to sell herself for food. She would hear stories and learn details that would cause her little body to tremble in despair.
These are pivotal moments in a child’s life. Who will she turn to? Perhaps a friend of her mother who works in prostitution will take her under her wing, teaching her the tricks of the trade so she can provide for herself. Or maybe she will turn to other street children and learn to steal food from them. Whatever she does to survive, it is sure that her options will likely be extremely limited and dangerous.
Tragically, Izzie’s story is far too common. Born into a desperate environment where basic necessities are a luxury, mothers will go to tragic lengths to put food in their bellies. And far too often, cycles of prostitution and extreme poverty continue into the next generation. Vulnerable children like this will never have the chance to know the stability of a family, never receive an education, never know what it means to dream about their future. Futures are set in a dark path where they just live to survive.
But stories like this don’t have to end there.