the boy who was afraid of everything

In the front row of the local mother’s support group, in the slums of Dar es Salaam, a baby boy’s eyes widen in terror. He opens his mouth in a silent scream, little hands flailing in defence.

Then comes the sound – high, painful and like all the demons of hell are after him.

Something awful must have happened to Sande. He is terrified of people wearing dark clothes – we are in navy blue and green. We try a peace offering. He turns his head in panic to hide from the fluffy koala toy.

He is afraid of cats, he thinks the koala is a cat, and there is more screaming.

Sande was orphaned not long after birth. He lives with his grandmother, Elizabeth Mwambola. Elizabeth has worries.

“If I die there will be no one to care for Sande. My son and daughter-in-law died, who will care for him if he cannot care for himself?”

She cradles him, trying to stop him squirming out of her grasp. His cerebral palsy is no barrier to his fear.

“I want Sande to walk one day. I bring him here so he can be more independent.”

Sande works with the Support Unit physio every week. Esther and the team of three community workers massage his constricted limbs and try to sooth his crying. They wear white t-shirts.

“I wish my grandson will get an education, but the problem is I am poor. I feel so sad because apart from his problem, he gets malaria and is sick. I think because he did not suckle he has not got good immunity.”

Sande has calmed. It is the moment to take a photo. We inch closer for the shot, and he shrinks back into his grandmother with a wail.

A tiny banshee.

He is afraid of cameras.

the boy who was afraid of everything

nameofagirl

Joined July 2007

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