Are we so desensitised that we need a wake-up fall as a wake-up call? A musing on the plight of so many children around us – abused, exploited by syndicates, sold into prostitution by their own families, forced to live in squalor and are helpless to untangle themselves from this vicious cycle for survival – yet remain unseen despite the fact that it is happening right where we shop, dine, work or sleep.

No, this is not a typo. It is literally a “wake-up fall” as compared to a “wake-up call.” I came across this phrase in an article just yesterday and I thought, how apt.

My baby took a tumble from the sofa two nights ago. She was sitting too close to the edge and fell backwards right on her head. My heart stopped for a moment and I rushed to pick her up. Of course by that time, she had screamed the place down!

It was probably more of a fright that she got rather than the pain she felt because she cried and cried until she was shivering in my arms.

I felt completely awful, like a horrible person, the worst mother in the world. I was sitting right next to her on that sofa, how could I have not prevented her from falling? I just looked away for one second, and down she went.

Even now, two days later, that incident still traumatises me. My baby has forgotten about it and she’s back to her cheerful self, but the image of her lying on the floor is still vivid in my memory and I feel horribly guilty. I spent the entire evening that day checking for bumps and bruises, and researching articles on the internet about the consequences of a fall for babies (which is where I found the phrase “wake-up fall”).

The very fact that I am still feeling guilty for what some might say is a trivial matter, is ironically something that I am thankful for. For it is truly a “wake-up fall” – for me to be more vigilant and watchful over my child and to have eyes at the back of my head, as my mother used to say.

Unfortunately, many other parents appear not to have the same emotions and feelings. Take for example the case of the 3 year old girl who died of child abuse, whose injuries were discovered by the doctor examining her. Her mother and stepfather was subsequently detained for questioning. How about the other little girl who was brutally slain by her mother’s boyfriend and the mother had the cheek to lie to the police about it?! We can never imagine how people could do these horrible, utterly inhuman acts to innocent little children, moreover their own flesh and blood.

Almost everyday in the newspaper there is a despairing story about child abuse, murdered children and children being made to beg for a living. Just today in The StarRunaway boy cites parental abuse. He is only 10 years old but he is covered in more scars and bruises than most would have in a lifetime! I could go on and on but the stories would fill too many books to be imagined.

"Ports" where the street kids of Star Hill sleep in (Source: Malaysiakini)
"Ports" where the street children sleep in - a hole in the wall filled with rubbish and rats (Source: Helen Hickey, Malaysiakini)

Also, just the other day Malaysiakini carried a special report, Saving the “Star Hill” kids about an expatriate lady who spends her time helping the children who beg along the affluent streets of Bukit Bintang. Truly she is an angel in disguise.

I was watching Desperate Housewives the other day; Gabrielle Solis (played by Eva Longoria) was despairing at the fact that the other mothers in her neighbourhood are convinced that she is bad mother. Her husband consoled her by saying something to the effect of, that she shouldn’t feel bad about her slightly “negligent,” ways in bringing up her children – it is because of that that her children are already learning to be independent and strong. (Wouldn’t we all want husbands like that?) Sadly, the fact is what he said is the truth.

Source: The Star
Scars on the body of the 10 year old boy (Source: The Star)

Not everything can be blamed on the negligence of the parents. Sometimes, circumstances determine the fate of many children around the world. Watching American Idol: Idol Gives Back the other day, it is terrible to see that even in developed nations like the United States, many children are living below the poverty line – with not insufficient food, malnutrition, deprived of proper education and not even a proper place to sleep. With the situation as such in America, there is no need to even describe the condition and plight of children living in Africa.

The bottom line is this: we all need a “wake-up fall,” whether it be for our own children or the children around us. We can love and protect our own but sadly there are so many children who do not have that privilege. Let us do what we can.

A change in one child’s life can make a difference in the world.

LB: Jill McWilliam (of the Malaysiakini special report linked above) and child rights advocate Dr. Hartini Zainudin plan to open a drop-in centre in Jalan Alor in the next six months, where children can get a hot shower, a change of clothes, food, and counselling. Those who wish to help can email: [email protected]

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