Friday, November 12, 2004

The little boy whose penis was cut off

NOTE: For now, no more money is necessary, we have enough that we can be be comfortable. My Porties are the best, they didn't hesitate. It's only been ONE week. If any of you have donated money, thank you so much. It will still be helpful (for things like Psychiatric therapy, this child has a long road ahead bfr normalcy can be achieved - if ever). For those of you who were thinking of donating, thank you as well. You decided to trust me so you could help this child even though you've never met me, you haven't seen my eyes, the way I speak and move, all you know is what I choose to write. That was unbelievably generous of you and I am very grateful for your leap of faith. I'll never forget it. It gives me hope. Thank you also for that.


His name is Samuel. He is 10.

On October 1 2003, two men castrated him in cold blood. Please read this before I go on. PLEASE DO READ IT.

He arrived in Lisbon on Wednesday night for reconstructive surgery.

In April 2003 a delegation from the Portuguese Chapter of Amnesty International went to Mozambique on a mission dedicated to Education and Human Rights. This mission was coordinated by TN, the former President of our Chapter [since we don't need money anymore I am keeping them anon]. I know her personally. She is good through and through. In fact, she is too good. Dr. Mabota, from the Maputo-based Human Rights League (MHRL) got in touch with her and told her Samuel’s story. When she returned, she contacted Prof. Gentil Martins, a famous surgeon who has performed such surgeries before (he often separates Siamese twins). He immediately said he’d do whatever he could. (I am so proud of my Porties at times, we truly are a generous people). She then contacted Dr. Mabota with the good news, who then launched a fund raising campaign (Samuel’s family are very poor, as are the majority of the people in Mozambique).

Samuel was actually very fortunate in a way. He is the only child so far to have survived such an encounter. Many children disappear every year never to be heard from again. Organ traffic has a huge impact in Mozambique, tribal beliefs abound - and that is also why his penis was cut off, because tribal medicine is still very important and penises are highly sought after. But he, of course, has had a very horrible life since it happened. He used to live with his parents, his siter and his uncles in a remote area. After his mutilation, he was forbidden to touch plates and cutlery because he no longer had a penis. Eventually, he was kicked out of the house. He was an outcast. His father and he then left Chimoio and went to Maputo to seek medical help. The family has been separated since.

This all happened on October 1. Samuel was not able to urinate from October 2003 to April 2004. I repeat, for 6 months this child did not urinate. His urethra was gone, the whole thing was inflamed, it’s a medical wonder how he didn’t die from the shock first, and then from the infection. He was dehydrated because he did not want to feel the need to pee. Because he couldn’t, you see, only a few drops would come out. He was used to peeing standing and he no longer could so he’d lay on the ground and writhe. He also decided he was going to be a priest because that was all that was left for him to do. Once they reached the hospital the doctors could not believe he was alive. His urine production from all those months had invaded his entire body. He had foul urine edoemas UP TO HIS SHOULDERS. It was everywhere. He had many surgeries so he could urinate again - and that’s when he first felt hope, when he saw he still retained that ability. Somehow, that was a turning point in his traumatised mind.

Some television stations played his story and one man, one absolutely lovely man decided to call one station and offer his home for the child and his father for as long as they needed to be in Portugal. He then kept in touch with Dr. Mabota all these months, paying for all the phone calls himself so as not to burden the MHRL. Again, Mozambique is a very, very poor country where dramas unfold daily. All these years after the wars, there are still hundreds of people (women, men, children) who loose arms and legs, sometimes a whole set to anti-personnel mines. Of which there are still a horrendous number left. So this man, who does not wish to be named, opened his home and his heart to them.

A bank account was created for donations. It was important that the people who opened it were trustworthy and that they all lived near each other because of the signatures. I never donate money to bank accounts because I don’t know who’s behind them and how that money will be used. I don’t want to be giving someone a fancy car while the supposed recipients go on starving. But this case is very different. There will be a folder available with photocopies of all the transactions so that people can see exactly what their money is being used for. The three people that have access to it are TN, whom I’ve mentioned before (she also runs what we call “The TN Hostel” since she keeps having people from every poor country imaginable staying in her house, sometimes with dire consequences and unnecessary worry for her). She was, as I mentioned, the President of our AI Chapter for years, after
Zé Manel died. The other one is Tweedle. She has been my best friend for 20 years. She has belonged to several Amnesty Boards and the Fiscal Council. I would trust her with my life - and I’m very very picky when it comes to friendships and trust. We've called each other Tweedle since I wrote my thesis' Acknowledgements (“T., my Tweedle Dee ad eternum where I am Tweedle Dum”). But we’re just Tweedles, that’s enough. Finally, there’s Commander JA, who was a mate of Zé Manel’s in the navy (my English fails me here, “Commander” is supposed to be the Alpha Male in charge of a ship. Captain maybe? Here it's a higher rank than that). He belongs to the Old School of thought and words like Loyalty, Honesty, Decency are not just words, they’re credos to live by. Actually, this is true for all three. I trust them all. Oh, I was also First Secretary for more years than I care to remember - if that helps you trust me more. I put up my picture again so you can see who I am, and I'll email you with my real name if you want.

I am telling you all this because I am asking you to donate and help him. It doesn't have to be a big amount, every little bit helps. I realise I’m asking a lot from you. Truth be told, most of you don’t really know me. You only read me. I understand if you feel you can’t trust me enough but I am hoping some of you will because the boy needs every cent we can raise. The information for donations is at the end of this post.

He was immediately seen by Prof. Gentil Martins that very night and was hospitalised Thursday morning. His father is allowed to stay with him in his room. He is also looking forward to working while he’s here. That is reassuring because a) it shows us he has no plans for living like a parasite (and you’d be surprised); b) it’s a way for him to not be so dependant upon us (i.e., the money raised). It would help him enormously to lose the helplessness feeling that has been destroying him since his boy’s penis was cut off. He is devastated.

We went to the airport v early and waited for the press to show up. At first we were afraid they wouldn’t because here you never know. But we were hopeful because 2 of the stations had even sent reporters down to Mozambique. And they came, did they come. All stations, and a handful of newspapers. While we were waiting, a former PM and big News Mogul came out and not one journalist tried to talk to him. Very heart-warming. We also talked to them and asked them not to tape/photograph his face. All said they wouldn’t and many said they has already instructed their cameramen. T. and I had been talking abt how overwhelming it must be for the kid to step out and be engulfed by the melee of people, so we decided that we’d whisk him away while TN, his father and Dr. Mabota gave the first interview. We were small fish so no one would be interested in us anyway. And that was fine. At first when we got there we were the only ones, TN hadn’t arrived yet and we didn’t know if she was going to be on time and I told T. she’d handle the press (she has before, often, and it doesn’t faze her. Me, I have nightmares just thinking abt it. We have this running joke that she’ll run for President one day and I’ll write her speeches and do backstage work. BACKSTAGE. We were aiming for a low profile) How naïvely stupid we can be at times. Most of the time, to be honest. We did whisk Samuel down the ramp but the bloody cameras were everywhere. Of course the kid was the big attraction, they wouldn’t let him go that easily. So it was a small journey through hell. We sat him down at a table and gave him the bag with the presents but he wouldn’t even touch it. He told me to open one (I’d found a watch for him) and wouldn’t even hold it. The whole thing was too much. In retrospect it’s amazing how trusting the child is. In one shot you can see our backs flying down the ramp, him holding the Nice Man’s his right hand, my left one, and T. scooting along (she’s really tiny) holding coats and the bag of presents. (You can also see my enormous ass, that my hair badly needs a haircut and, damn, do I have a bloody long and pointy nose and a skinny face! Low profile indeed.). From then on it went downhill and all hell broke loose. My face was aflame, even my ears were burning from the inability to not expose the child and the self-exposure. In that airport there was no place to go really, it only got better once they started interviewing the father, TN and Dr. Mabota.

Let me tell you, though, the kid has spunk. He’s a fighter and a winner. He learned Portuguese while in Maputo (in 5 months only) - we were actually v worried abt that. When we reached the end of the ramp I leaned over and said “We can go look for a quieter place for you to opne your presents, there are many people here” and His Royal Highness tells me “Wait, wait!” and POSES FOR THE CAMERAS, left side, right side, smile, here we go. And us so worried about not showing his face! (moot point anyway, that night no one did, now it’s all over the place. That’s why I put the picture here, I think it will help if you see him) (actually, I think all this protagonism, if it doesn't go much beyond this, may be helpful to him egoically. He's gone from shunned and severly neglected to being the centre of attention. Of course he'd enjoy it. I'm even hoping all this attention is a little bit healing.) While we were sitting I lit a ciggie and he looked at me IN HORROR! He said “You smoke??? You’re a woman. WOMEN DO NOT SMOKE!” Problems he may have, problems he’ll go on having but they will not stem from a deffective endoculturisation process, THAT is quite clear. His social and cultural values are very clearly properly filed away, my place is obvioulsy at the cooker. (Oh but bigger and older males have tried and failed, kid. So sorry.) The dormant anthropologist in me was actually very grateful for it. Also, The Nice Man’s son was there and Samuel immediately clung to his jumper. Him being a man, you understand. It’s so sad, his father says he used to be a very happy child and was never comfortable leaving their side for long. Now he disappears for the whole day, takes long walks all alone. He told us Samuel asks him on a regular basis if all boys get their penises cut off when they reach that age. And he says "No son, only you."

But he’s here now and there’s hope. The remaining stump shows, unsurprisingly, a high level of fibrosis which means more will have to be removed. I am v worried that it may not be possible to do a full reconstruction bcs of it - and I’m not talking abt now, he still has to go through puberty and all the hormonal changes but I’m worried. Still, it’s a blessing he has been given hope before adolescence settles. THAT would have been unbearable. He’s actually threatened to eat rat poison a few times. There will be many exams before the course is clear but some kind of cutaneous tube will replace his penis and then he may need a prosthetic penis for consistency, which needs to be large enough to encompass changes due to hormonal growth. Then, of course, he needs to be able to have an erection so a special device will have to be put in too at a later date. His father is so grateful, he was talking to us and kept crying and thanking us. It made me feel so horrible. Imagine being poor and uneducated and feeling utterly helpless to help your son. Abandoned by all. I cannot begin to imagine. Samuel now smiles a lot, is very affectionate and much more communicative but this is the beginning of a long struggle. He was so exhausted on Wednesday that when he finally got home he didn't even want to eat and promptly fell asleep on the sofa. He is only ten years old. (Oh, revolving doors, litfs and the tube ARE HUGELY ENTERTAINING!)

I am so proud of my country and the Porties now. Since Wednesday evening they’ve donated a generous amount, considering the full-blown recession. It is nowhere near what may be needed but the Portuguese are really trying to help this little boy. It helps reconcile me with this country of mine I'm so at odds with most of the time. These are truly warm, giving people. Tugas, well done!

Thank you for reading this. This boy, this post, have been haunting me. Still are. It would be lovely if you could donate something, even a small amount. I will try and make it as easy as possible for you to do it. Thank you so much.


[Again, details edited bcs no longer needed]
If anyone has any ideas on how to make all this more transparent and trustworthy please let me know, this is all I could think of.

Again, it doesn’t have to be a lot. If he received enough 5$, it would be a big help already. If you'd like to write a small post linking to this one, or otherwise insert a noticeable link in your blog, that might draw more attention to his story as well. Thank you.


At 12/11/04 17:20, Blogger Ana said...

I am sorry to be a "blog hog" today but I had to say I am so impressed by this. I lived in an orphanage in Mozambique for 2 months in the summer a few years ago (on one of those student mission things) and Samuel's story really hit a soft spot with me. I saw him (and you I suspect) on television last night and I couldn't help but cry.
I imagine how horrible it must have been to have all the cameras poiting at him but at least it caught people's attention.

Agora vou fazer a minha doação...

At 12/11/04 17:23, Blogger The Lioness said...

Muito, muito obrigada. Doesn't everyone love blog hogs though??? You're always welcome here, don't relurk.

At 13/11/04 16:35, Blogger CarpeDM said...

Oh, dear sweet God. This is terrible. Horrible.

I trust you implicitly. How could anyone doubt this? We see what happens daily in this world. I'm going to post a link to this on my site & hopefully it will get around to other sites as well.

That poor kid.

At 13/11/04 19:29, Blogger Noorster said...

This reminds me of a book I stopped reading around page 15, Allah Is Not Obliged.
What can I say, I wish him well.

At 13/11/04 19:32, Blogger Ana said...

Lioness, thanks for the tip about Magriços' blog, that was really helpful.

At 13/11/04 20:05, Blogger ontheface said...

Sometimes life is a bit too much, isn't it? Like Noorster, I really don't know what to say. Except, dear Lioness, that your capacity for compassion seems to be bottomless, and that is a wonderful quality to have.

At 13/11/04 21:53, Blogger Serialangel said...

God, I can't believe some of the things that go still go on. Thank you, thank you so much for bringing this to my attention, and that you are part of trying to change SOMETHING even though your not solving everything, bless you! You are doing, acting, working.

At 14/11/04 01:47, Blogger brooksba said...


Thank you for sharing this. The world needs to hear this and respond. This can't keep happening.

I do not doubt at all how legitimate this story and the bank account. I, like DM, will be adding a link to my site later this evening. More need to hear this.

I admire your courage and your love for others. It is so apparent how much you care. I listened and I will continue to listen. You are a hero of mine, you are so strong and so wonderful.

Thank you.


At 14/11/04 02:45, Blogger The Lioness said...

Oh believe me, I'm no hero. In fact, my whole part in the whole process was very very small. In fact, I often pray not to be involved in things like these. I sometimes think I'd rather not know. So believe me, no hero. Quite the opposite in fact.

At 15/11/04 03:05, Blogger Lala said...

I was trying to spend money today to make myself feel better, I think this is a better idea.

At 15/11/04 09:46, Blogger Beleobus said...

While I realise this is not the best time to be making sociable remarks of a personal nature, we are back, dear lioness to fight the injustices of the world in every way we can.

It appears you have been extremely busy in my absence... keep up the good work!


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