Making Fiction Count. Why I support Safe Child Africa.
I was scrolling through Facebook the first time I saw the post. I couldn’t help but stop to look. It was a startling picture; maybe you’ve seen it too: A child, maybe one-years-old, naked and dirty, clearly starving, standing in the streets being fed water from a disposable plastic bottle by a young blonde woman crouched next to him. The caption below said the child had been thrown into the streets by his family to die. The reason? He’d been branded a witch.
Yes, a witch.
I was horrified. They’d left a defenseless baby, barely able to walk, in the streets to starve to death. It didn’t seem possible. I come from the United States where we see our own share of atrocities committed on defenseless children—for all kinds of reasons—but this child wasn’t just abandoned by his family, he was abandoned by the world, he lived in the streets, ignored and invisible and he had no idea why. I couldn’t imagine how confused, scared and alone he must have felt.
It haunted me.
I grew up in an unusual melding of religions. My mother was a casual Catholic and my father was raised Southern Baptist but he didn’t really believe in church. I, like my older sister, gravitated towards nature based religions: Wicca, paganism, etc. I was lucky. My parents never batted an eyelash as I researched and dabbled in every possible religion. But no one religion ever seemed to fit. Even now, at this point in my life, I could describe my beliefs as a melting pot of witchcraft, Christianity and Irish catholic superstition. My sister and I, as well as our daughters, refer to ourselves as the coven and it’s not a term we use lightly.
Why am I telling you all this? I suppose because when people look at that post above, many of them think it’s ridiculous that they are persecuting a child for believing he’s a witch because witches don’t exist. I know witches exist. Maybe not the nose-twitching, spellcasting witches of television but good, kind, people who believe in harming none. It breaks my heart that not only do people see witches as so vile, they must be cast out of society, beaten and starved, but that they would label a child as such for no other reason than circumstance. Nobody should be treated like that, for any reason, but especially not an innocent, helpless child. Never a child.
I tried to research the Facebook post further but I couldn’t find the origin of the picture. So, like most people, I moved on. I went on to publish two young adult fiction books about the supernatural, writing about reapers, werewolves, fearies and, yes, witches. I’ve built a fan base off of the supernatural. Many of my readers are obsessed with it. They are often claiming allegiance to one faction in my group or another so I decided to create a social media game where their factions could battle it out, not just for prizes but also for charity.
My first task: hunt down the charity behind that photo to help raise awareness and, hopefully, money to help children like that boy in the photo. I wanted my witch faction supporting that charity. I wanted my witches helping those innocent children being falsely accused of witchcraft. It took a few creative google searches but I finally found Safe Child: Africa and asked if they would partner with me in helping to bring awareness to their cause through a silly internet game: The Faction Wars.
I thought I knew what this organization did but once I truly began to explore their website, I realized they do so much more. I was blown away and so grateful that people like this exist. Now that I know what is truly happening to these children, there is no doubt in my mind that I’ll be involved with this charity, not only for the few months of the game, but forever.
Martina McAtee is a bestselling author and the winner of the 2016 Reader’s Favorite Gold Medal for her first book, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things. She lives in Jupiter, Florida with her teenage daughters, her best friend, two attack Chihuahuas, and two shady looking cats. By day she is a registered nurse, but by night she writes young adult books about reapers, zombies, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures. She wrote her first story when she was five with an orange crayon on a legal pad she stole from her mom’s office. She’s been writing ever since.
To find out more about Martina and The Faction Wars visit www.martinamcatee.com