The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

When Children Attack...

We talk a lot about the Linux computers we install for disadvantaged kids.  Most of the time, it is deeply gratifying and it assures me that I am in the right place within The Universe.

But it ain't all Unicorns, Glitter and Rainbows...

Many of you may remember that I suffered a minor knife wound when an angry and intoxicated uncle cut me for not leaving a computer in his nephew's home.  They had a new car, a large screen TV and every family member was doing their best to imitate Mr. T's gold necklace collection.  The family may not have had any "conventional" income, but there was a money pipe gushing cash into that house somewhere.

I'll leave it to you to figure out how.

We've run into stuff like this often in our work.  Since 2006, I've been stabbed, had guns drawn on me three times,  a door slammed on my face, a rock thrown through the back window of my car, I've been bitten by the family pet pig and gang members have demanded I pay them to come into "their" housing project to do my work.

When you work in rough neighborhoods, you expect rough behavior.

But not in the suburbia.

Mom has a tough gig.  She is the single mother of twin 6 year old boys exhibiting obvious symptoms of ADHD.  On top of that, she has an 11 year old son and a 16 year old daughter doing her best to emulate Paris Hilton.

Mom is herself disabled with a severe back injury and lives on Social Security and a meager child support payment every month.  When MHMR contacted us, we of course responded.

I brought the computer into the house while the boys circled around me like twin tornadoes.  It was all I could do to get into the home without tripping over one of them and taking them down with me.  The mom stood in the kitchen watching the whole thing, seemingly unaware of the possible danger of me dropping a 25 lb piece of hardware on one of her little sweetheart's head.

I sat down at the desk in the living room she had set up for the machine and began hooking it up.  One of the little cherubs kicked my heel rhythmically and asked me questions as I worked on my hands and knees under the desk.  


"Does that puter have race cars on it?  I want race cars.  Does that puter have race cars on it?"


The evil twin yelled back.


"No!  Dinosaurs.  I want Dinosaurs on it.  MOM!!!!! Make him put dinosaurs on it?

The first twin started screaming at his brother, demanding race cars.  He picked up a boot from behind the front door and chased his brother into the nether-regions of the house.  From the sound of it, the boot did find a soft, fleshy target.


The cable guy had been there at 10 AM that morning to hook up Internet for them.  We had paid for 90 days of service for them through the Austin Prometheus Project.

After 90 days, they would start paying for it themselves.

I sat at the computer, changing some themes and wallpapers, enjoying the relative quiet of my immediate surroundings.  I was just drawing a breath to tell the mom to bring the kids in so I could start showing them how to use the computer when I felt the nasty sting in my back.

"I WANT RACE CARS!"


Those were the words the first twin screamed just before he shot me in the back with a pellet gun.


I jumped up from the chair and turned around as he was trying to cock the pistol again.  With one move, I snatched the gun from him and firmly belt-carried him to the living room sofa.  I pointed my finger at him and told him firmly.


"If you get up from that couch, I'm going to take the computer away."


With gun in hand, I looked up and over to the kitchen to see if Mom was going to threaten him with time out.


She wasn't there.  


I walked down the hallway and stopped at the first open bedroom door.  The daughter sat at her mirror applying makeup with a trowel.


"Where's your mom?"


She shrugged without turning around and met my gaze via the mirror.


"Probably taking a nap".  She made a pouty lip face and went back to her construction project.


I knocked on the bedroom door at the end of the hallway, guessing it was the master bedroom but no one answered.  It was locked when I tried to open the door.  


I went back to Madonna's bedroom and told her to watch her brothers while I made a phone call.  I called CPS and told them the situation.  It was less than 15 minutes before the caseworker arrived.  I answered the door, gave her my business card and told her to call me if she needed any more information.


So yeah, our work is gratifying, but there are those days when you wonder how things can become so unbalanced in any given environment.


If anyone wants to start a pool, my bet is that the computer I left will be broken in 3 days from this post.


I'm just sayin'.


All-Righty Then...










28 comments:

Kevin (Whizard72) said...

There are people out there who don't need to be parents and that "mother" is one of them. There are tons of people out there who want kids but can't have any of their own.

Michelle Minkin said...

"Where's your mom?"

She shrugged without turning around and met my gaze via the mirror.

"Probably taking a nap". She made a pouty lip face and went back to her construction project.


Yep, I'm guessing Mom is a Prozac queen. With those kids, I sure would be.

Chelle

Anonymous said...

No good deed...

Perhaps it's time to rethink your community contributions. Surely you can do good some other way. You shouldn't have to risk your life to try and help people.

Santam said...

"Since 2006, I've been stabbed, had guns drawn on me three times, a door slammed on my face, a rock thrown through the back window of my car, I've been bitten by the family pet pig and gang members have demanded I pay them to come into "their" housing project to do my work"... amazing you are still on this project after this !! Hats off to you

Anonymous said...

I had principles too, but then I got kids myself.

Since then, I do not judge lightly disabled single mothers with 4 uncooperative kids.

Morale outrage never solved a problem.

Mike said...

You and the work of your organization continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.

robinsrantsandraves said...

How do you judge - especially in advance of a visit - whether a household is truly needy and deserving, or whether you are "casting pearls before swine," so to speak? Perhaps the answer is to have a caseworker visit or something done in advance of bringing a computer there with internet access already turned on.

Anonymous said...

Mom sounds absolutely overwhelmed. I'm glad you made the phone call. Keep on going Ken, I believe you are making a difference.

Dave

gus3 said...

It's his to risk, or not; I'll honor his choice either way.

James Dixon said...

> Perhaps it's time to rethink your community contributions. Surely you can do good some other way. You shouldn't have to risk your life to try and help people.

It wouldn't be the first (or possibly the last) time Ken has risked his life, anon.

The percentage of folks like this he deals with is probably less than 5%. Most people don't fall into this category.

Adam Gonnerman said...

Is there a screening process to sort out families that wouldn't really need/benefit from a computer? Any coordination with social workers? This seems needlessly dangerous and rather like pouring resources down a rat hole.

I'd like to see the local HOPE worldwide chapter where I live get involved in something like this, but would like to know more about how you acquire the hardware and identify families that can benefit.

Neil said...

I am sure that there are more than enough families that could make better use of your great work. Perhaps it is time for some sort of screening to make sure the right people get the helped?

Anonymous said...

Raising four kids (and I know this firsthand) is hard enough with two healthy parents. With only one, and a disabled parent on medication at that, what do people expect?

These don't sound like especially bad kids, just kids who have no guidance, role-models or authority in their lives other than what Hollywood, Wall Street, and Washington provide.

Sounds like some bad stuff has happened to Mom, and she's in a state of giving up. Or maybe it was just a bad day in the life of one family. We have those too.

Blog of helios said...

I am sure that there are more than enough families that could make better use of your great work. Perhaps it is time for some sort of screening to make sure the right people get the helped?

We do count on the various city and state agencies to do this screening and thus was the case here. This was an anomaly and I didn't write about it for any other reaction but to indicate how messy these things can get from time to time. I've installed over 1300 computers since 2006 and the incidents I reported span that period.

I'm just surprised things like this don't happen more often. You should see some of the housing projects and neighborhoods we go into.

Those who doubt are more than welcome to join us.

Anonymous said...

Ken,
As one who knows, any woman can be a mother but it takes someone special to be a mom. I say bless you for your patience, especially with your own personal anvil to carry.

Kissing the carpet said...

You're doing a great job - if only some of the kids benefit, its still great. I can imagine for some it feels like the best thing that anyone has done for them. One of them could start the next Google or be the next Linus Torvalds - who knows?

Guillermo Garron said...

What a great job you do, unfortunately some people think is your obligation to do it.
They also think they deserve your effort, they do not see it as a gift, and that is completely wrong.

Grant Johnson said...

Do we all need to chip in and buy Ken a bullet resistant Kevlar jacket?

MAS said...

Yes...!!! I vote for the Kevlar...!!! That is just so sad - but for every bad apple, there are many who are eternally grateful for the service you provide the community...

JeffHoogland said...

Oph! I would say I am surprised to hear a story like this, but sadly enough after hearing the stories my father brings home after working in a court house in the City of Chicago...

Well, lets just say people aren't getting better any time soon.

JRaz said...

This is unforntunate to read about especially following Henry's story. But you did what the Helios Project is all about and that was to deliver and setup a computer for this family. Perhaps it won't get broken and maybe something good will come from it being there. I applaud you Ken for keeping the project going in times such as this.

Gavin said...

Difficult to judge either way. You either screen the households so thoroughly that "good" homes fall outside your help, or you loosen your standards and let some potentially "bad" homes receive your help.

Innocent until proven guilty? I say we stick with this and leave totalitarianism to someone else.

Keep up the good work, Ken.

Brian Kemp said...

I'm still trying to figure out why a 6-year-old would have a pellet gun. Most of the kids I knew growing up were a least 10-12 before they got one.

Blog of helios said...

Bryan, that makes two of us. Actually the first thing I wondered is how I could strangle the little bugger and get away with it.

Mom had the gun on the kitchen counter because she had an infestation of Possums and raccoons in her back yard. Her sweet little darling decided to punctuate his point with me using it.

It is my understanding the children are now in foster care awaiting a hearing on the fitness of the mother and the environment on a whole.

h

Blog of helios said...

@ Santam

"Stabbed" is probably a bit strong for the final outcome. Moderately sliced would be more apt. Five stitches to close the wound on my right arm...

Way too far from my heart to kill me.

;-)

Anonymous said...

This woman is overwhelmed by physical disability while trying to keep a couple of ADHD six year old boys alive - and probably suffering from sleep deprivation. Are you proud of having further broken and already damaged family? The lack of sympathy here is appalling. What's more a computer in this household is more of a burden than a help for these people _especially_ with TWC which charges DOUBLE for Internet access what AT&T charges for DSL (at least in Austin).

Michelle Minkin said...

@ the last Anonymous poster.

First rule of blasting someone on the Internets. If you are going to sling criticisms, post your real name.

Second, you're an idiot. Computer interaction has been proven to be an important part of comprehensive treatment for ADHD kids. And AT&T? That was their choice, not Ken's. Are you proud of yourself for questioning this poor woman's judgement given the burdens she already has?

And my name is Michelle Minkin, I live in Seattle Washington and I'm in the book.

Let's see, it's 2:13 here and you're still and idiot.

Anonymous said...

Hello Ken,
I was wondering what is the over/under for this family? I was reading how you figured by three days later the computer would be in ruins. Granted this is of small importance in light of what you and Diane are going through. I am glad to hear the two of you have moved into a newer place. Good luck.