Sequim’s Steven Fry Making a Difference
Steven Fry shared an incredible story this week in Sequim of how childrens’ lives are being saved in the Amazon. It’s a story that is so stunning, so unusual and shocking, it keeps you on the edge of your seat, and yet the story has a happy ending that delights the soul. Steven who works with YWAM (Youth With a Mission), told the story of Hakani.
Hakani was born in a tribal village in the Amazon. When she was a year and half old, she had not yet walked or talked, and the village elders informed her parents that the tribal law must be fulfilled: Hakani must be buried alive. The rule of law for many generations was that any child born with a defect must be buried alive, because the belief was that such a child was possessed by an evil spirit. They also believed that the last breath of the child carried that evil spirit, so the only way to be safe was to bury the child alive so the spirit could not escape.
If a child is born with a mental or physical handicap, the child must be buried. If a child is born as a twin or triplet, or born out of wedlock, the child must be buried. This has been the belief system of the tribe known as the Suruwaha, where Hakani was born. The Suruwaha is one of the most remote tribes on the earth deep inside the Amazon.
Infanticide is practiced in many of the tribes of the Amazon. Every year hundreds of children are buried alive, suffocated with leaves, poisoned, or abandoned to die in the jungle. Mothers and fathers must suffer the horrible anguish of beliefs that force them to do the unbearable, and as a result many of these parents, unable to kill their own children, have eaten of the poison root to kill themselves.
Hakani was born in Suruwaha, and at the age of one and a half, the village elders told her parents they must bury her, but they were unable to bring themselves to do it. They took their own lives by eating a poisonous root. That left their oldest son, who was 16 at the time, with the responsibility of burying Hakani, along with her other brother who also was identified as having some kind of defect.
Hakani and her brother were buried, but her muffled cries after many long hours were heard, and someone could not bear it any longer and dug her up. Her other brother was already dead. Hakani survived in her grandfather’s hut, but the elders insisted he kill her, so he tried to shoot her with an arrow, but missed his target hitting her in the shoulder. He could not finish what he started and in great sorrow, he attempted to end his own life. When that failed, he stated that he could not kill Hakani, but neither could he care for her.
At two and a half years old Hakani was left on a banana leaf at the edge of the communal hut. She lived as an outcast for three years surviving on rain water, bark, leaves, insects, and occassional scraps of food her brother smuggled to her. After a long time, her brother Bibi rescued her by taking her to a missionary couple that had been working with the Suruwaha tribe for 20 years.
Hakani was five and a half years old at the time. She weighed 15 pounds and was only 27 inches long. She was taken out of the jungle for special medical care, and slowly she began to come back from near death. Today Hakani is about 13 years old, and as you can see in her smiling photo, she is a healthy beautiful girl. She is growing and normal in every way.
Steven’s story of Hakani did not end there. He shared how severral people from YWAM (Youth With a Mission) joined with others to produce a documentary entitled, Hakani. Through great effort and a worldwide campaign, this documentary was shown to 25 million people, including heads of state and leaders in a number of countries, exposing the false beliefs that was costing the lives of precious children in Brazil.
A new law is now on the congressional ballot that will recognize the human rights of the indigenous children and empower the tribes to eliminate this practice. There is also an ongoing effort to educate the tribes about the various defects the children have, and how they can be easily treated. Several Chiefs have already made the decision to no longer allow children to be buried within their respective tribes as a result of multiple births (twins, etc.) or being born out of wedlock. In addition, an effort is being made to take the recognition of the human rights, most specifically the right to life, to an even higher level by passing a constitutional amendment.
How many precious lives will be saved because of this work? While Steven Fry is only in his 20’s, he has grasped the value of life and eternity, and is intense when it comes to helping save lives and minister to those who are less fortunate. His work now takes him to Switzerland, to the University of the Nations campus, to begin research on a new project. Due to the sensitivity of the issue and the state of the people group the specifics cannot be posted here, but suffice it to say this issue is as important as the issue of infanticide. And the effects of this particular campaign have an even farther reach then the last. Steven’s desire is to work to see an impact with this next project as dramatic and positive as the last.
Let us hope this short article will help him do just that. We can be grateful to have one of our own young men who grew up in Sequim making a difference in the world. If you would like to be a part of something much bigger than any one of us, and if you would like to make a contribution to help Steven with his educational expenses and the continuing work he is doing in the field, you may do that with these links that his family provided. Steven’s parents, Sherry and Steve Fry, own Common Sense Nutrition in Sequim, and they have graciously created links on their site for online donations.
In order to continue this work in Switzerland over the summer of 2009 Steven will need support from others who see this vision. Would you consider being one of them? At the writing of this update (April 12th) he is in need of $3,000 no later then mid April, or he will be forced to return before the project can be finished.
If you would like Steven to add you to his email communications and updates, you may email him at email@example.com. Should you prefer to mail donations, you can use his parent’s Sequim address, which is P.O. Box 3129, Sequim, Washington, 98382.
On behalf of all of us in Sequim, let’s say a hearty “Thank you” to Steven Fry for the work he is doing.