I noticed three boys sitting idly on the grass under a Nando’s chicken sign in a small South African plaza. You can easily tell that they’re homeless, living on the streets, beggars. Two of them were possibly 10 years old and the other about 15. They wore dirt; you could see the dust on their clothes, their heads, and their faces.
I noticed another young man, with food he had grabbed out of a nearby trash bin, walking toward the three. He unwrapped a sandwich and chips (they call French fries “chips”). Part of the sandwich was already eaten. He scattered the chips over a brown paper bag and the four of them began to eat together, passing around the sandwich. One lowers his head into his shirt and inhales from what looked like a juice carton.
I asked the man assigned the task of shuttling us back and forth, “What are they drinking?” “It’s glue,” he says. Glue!? “They inhale glue. It’s a drug.”
“Why are they on the streets?” I asked. “They either left home or their parents abandoned them.” I stared. As we pulled out of the parking lot, I saw another group of young boys – none over the age of 17 and some as young as 8 – sitting on the dirt side road with their heads in their shirts, inhaling.