Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Uma and Maya face an uncaring world

How many of you have little daughters (children even)?  

How would you react if you knew that they were lost? Would you hope and pray for some kind stranger to show up? Would you be worried about "stranger danger." Our advice for the children is to holler, (as is clear from the article) just standing and looking forlorn may not suffice.

What about the stranger himself? If he is a man, our advice is to look for a woman (or a cop). Doing nothing is not an answer.

One little girl was clutching her favorite toy while her younger sister was sucking her thumb – and both looked utterly lost and forlorn. The girls stood for an hour on a Saturday morning in a busy shopping arcade looking for 'help', as part of a social experiment for television.

Hidden cameras recorded Uma, seven, and Maya, five, who took it in turns to look lost.

Astonishingly, over the whole hour only one person, a grandmother, took a moment to find out if there was a problem. All of the 616 other passers-by completely ignored the girls.

ITN researchers chose Victoria Place shopping centre, next to London's bustling Victoria Station, to test the British public. Maya and Uma agreed to help and were brought along by their mother Reshma Rumsey, who watched from behind a nearby pillar with a presenter. Uma went first, standing alone in the middle of the concourse, holding her pink  doll and putting on a good act of being scared and vulnerable.

Under the gaze of the hidden cameras 25 yards away, dozens of shoppers and travelers bustled past. A mother with a pram manoeuvred around her, then a group of women pulling suitcases turned a blind eye. After 20 minutes, not a single person had stopped to ask the seven-year-old if she was all right, even though some of them had plainly seen her.

Next, it was her five-year-old sister's turn. Maya stood sucking her thumb, and then tried kneeling down, gazing up forlornly at passing shoppers, but she too seemed to be invisible. Eventually, a pensioner gave her a concerned look. At first, Pearl Pitcher, of Kent, who is in her seventies, carried on walking, but she soon turned around and came back to ask Maya if she was waiting for somebody.

Mrs Pitcher said later: 'She had stood too long by herself and no parent or friend came up to see her. I was very hesitant to come and ask her, and I walked past but I thought I must come back – just in case. 'I think the older generation would stop, but very cautiously, a bit like I was. I don't know about the younger generation. A lot of people walked by and didn't take any notice at all.'

Mrs Rumsey said she was 'gobsmacked' by seeing her daughters ignored by more than 600 members of the public. The 39-year-old journalist said: 'When you see that little face looking so lost, and people are walking past, it is awful. 'I did not expect so few people to stop … it's shocking that people noticed a child on her own and they just walked past, whether it's through fear or because they didn't care or because they didn't notice. As a mother, to watch your child on their own, looking lost and needing help and watch people walk past is heartbreaking.'

Experts said the reluctance of the passers-by was partly explained by people being busy, and partly a fear – especially among men – of any help they offer a child being misinterpreted.  

But the NSPCC said a child's welfare was more important than worrying about being labelled a 'stranger danger'. A spokesman said: 'We have got to get a message out to adults that they have a responsibility to protect children and that must supersede any concern you have for other people's perception of why you are reaching out to help that child.'

* Little Girl Lost: A Police 5 Special will be shown on Channel 5 at 6.30pm tomorrow.


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