Cecelia and her brothers pull faces for the camera. Photo by Mike Amos, World Vision
When I was little, my big brother used to drive me nuts. There was a phase where, if I knew my brother was in our living room, I had absolutely no possibility of walking through it without being rugby tackled, tripped over, having some kind of ball thrown at my head or being just plain wound up. Cue fighting, tantrums, tears.
And when we’d fight, my mum would separate us and say “I know you don’t believe me now but you’ll be best friends one day.”
I remember looking at her as if she’d just told me I was going to grow an extra head.
I was reminded of this last year when I travelled to Myanmar and met a little girl called Cecelia and her family, including two very mischievous older brothers. As we sat and talked to their mother Daw Mena about the struggles she faces make ends meet, Cecelia eyed us very suspiciously. She was very shy and had sad eyes. It was pretty impossible to make her smile.
Daw Mena explained to us that Cecelia and her brothers had all been very sick the year before, and how they’d had no choice but to borrow money to pay hospital fees. The extortionate interest has put them into crippling debt. It’s a vicious cycle, as the debt leaves them without enough money to buy food or clothes, meaning the children are at continual risk of becoming sick and needing to go to hospital. And so the cycle continues.
I could see why Cecelia was so sad.
Now, their only choice may be to move to a very remote part of the country to work for a few years to pay off their debt. It’s not near any schools, so Cecelia and her brothers will miss out on one of their only chances for a better future – an education.
Once she’d got a bit more used to us, we tentatively took some pictures of Cecelia in the tiny wooden 2 room house they live in. But she was continually distracted by her brothers – prodding, poking and teasing in a way that only brothers can.
And then I realised two things.
Firstly, although they were driving her mad she still seemed happier when they were there. They were only ones who actually made her smile.
Secondly, yes they were winding her up but they were also keeping an eye on her. After all, who were these funny World Vision people from Australia taking pictures of their sister?
I pulled out my iPhone to divert the terrible two (it turns out kids in any country think selfies are hilarious). It meant I could give them a distraction from teasing their sister, but they could still stay close by, which made Cecelia more at ease.
Brothers – they drive you nuts, but they’ve got your back.
I hate it when my mum is right.
Helping Cecelia’s parents to earn more could make all the difference. When families are empowered to earn a better income they can invest more in providing their children with healthy food, health care and the education they need for a brighter future. See how you can help.