By Edwin L. Carpenter
Dove: The book you wrote included a lot of the pain and hardship you went through in dealing with the abuse of children. At what point did you decide to write a book about it?
Shirley: “My husband Mark and I had lived in Canada for about thirteen or fourteen years and we had come back again. I got involved with a group of orphans, they were teenagers, I helped them with homework as part of a program. I did a writing competition for them and I said to them, ‘I just want you to tell me your life story. I was so touched by their stories. And when we first arrived back I was wondering what I should get involved in. And I’d heard about a writing contest in Connecticut. So I decided to do that and when I had to choose a subject for the book then immediately that’s what I thought of, of actually putting a face to the orphans, of telling their story because they have no voice.”
Dove: What were the challenges in getting the book finished and published?
Shirley: “There were all kinds of people around me who needed help so those kinds of challenges keep you from writing. It’s very difficult to be published in South Africa. I had actually sent my book to various publishers and been rejected and then I saw this writing competition that Anthony Horvath had and tried for it and won. I was very fortunate that I managed to get in that way.”
Dove: Has a comment about your book blessed you or what positive thing can you tell us about in relation to the publication of your book?
Shirley: “I think one of my biggest desires for this book is that some of the hearts of white people here in South Africa would be changed. There are a lot of people doing a lot of good stuff now, and that’s been really encouraging. A lot of people are really untouched by what happened in the communities and so I got this little response back from a South African who made me feel quite helpless and ignorant: ‘We’re so used to seeing poverty and filth on every street corner that we eventually stopped seeing it. Deep down one knows that these terrible things are happening in townships and rural areas (the abuse of children) but because we’re not exposed to it, it doesn’t worry us and we don’t think about it. I haven’t stopped thinking of your story since I read it. It was uplifting in one sense in that a widowed white woman without means went above and beyond the call of duty to help all the children and intriguing that somewhere out there tonight there are real children hiding in their huts and waiting for me to come; very African.’” “That was meaningful to me. That is my biggest desire,” Shirley continued, “to help break down the barriers. There are an awful lot of people who really are part of the solution now. There are still those who struggle.” Shirley confirmed that there are efforts being made to turn the book into a movie. Copies have been sent to interested film producers. “Of course it’s a waiting game, you just have to wait now,” she said.
Dove: Since you wrote about the abuses of the children, have things improved?
Shirley: “Any child is vulnerable because of the age factor; because they are powerless and they can’t talk back, and women too. I think the most common thing is they desire to have a door that locks. It’s just not safe out there, just from the perspective of them having their things taken and that kind of thing.”
Dove: It really comes out in the book that you care about the kids.
Shirley: “The saddest thing is that they really don’t have a voice and they honestly feel that they’re alone, that no one knows or understands what they’re going through. It’s not a good place to be.” And yet Shirley Mowat Tucker has given a voice to their suffering and she has opened the door for others to become involved and make a difference.