Concertina wire surrounds her house like all the other houses in her area. A series of locked gates envelops the property. One cannot see outside the metal wall of gates because the fortification is intended to keep outsiders from seeing inside the premises. From the inside the owner checks ringing doorbells through a tiny slat.
A small car can be parked inside a carport area at night only when a code is pushed quickly or a person inside quickly pushes the heavy metal gate open for the driver to enter and just as quickly pushes it shut behind it. This covered area serves multiple purposes. During the day it is a lounge with lightweight couches. One can easily push these couches aside to open up the area.
It is here that we find the beautiful and talented little eight year old spending much of her free time. She can sit on the couches to do her homework, cuddle with an adult, or draw pictures. As the couches are pushed aside, the girl next door and she listen to music and dance. She loves to dance and has hopes of becoming a professional dancer when she grows up.
In this area, half-carport/half-rec room, the little girl is quite safe. The space is not really outside, although one can HEAR the street noises on the adjacent sidewalks just beyond the metal walls. Some fresh air does get inside. But this area is not large enough to roller skate, skateboard, ride a bike, play soccer, or jump rope. It is on concrete; not a grassy garden area open to the skies, either.
She is safe inside this structure kept under lock and key; yes, locked inside.
Each neighbor in this block pays $25 a month for armed security to patrol their block. The same is true for the other blocks in their neighborhood. Some guards are part of a security service; others work independently. Sometimes even the guards cannot be trusted and must be fired for a variety of reasons. Attractive little girls can be prime targets.
This little eight year old lives only two blocks from her adoring grandmother. She is the only grandchild. “Do you allow her to walk there alone?” we ask her dad. We know the answer but want to hear it from him. It is not safe, of course.
Recently the family traveled to the States to visit extended family. This bright young child was quick to notice the freedoms her same-aged cousins enjoy compared to her own sheltered and protected lifestyle. Her cousins ride their bikes throughout the neighborhood at their leisure. Friends and neighbors freely come and go as they choose. They lock exterior doors only at night. Gates and concertina wire are non-existent.
“Daddy, why can’t WE live like this?” this innocent child asks.
Her father shed tears as he shares the story. He has no good answers for his precious daughter. He has the same questions himself.