Haoua is a young girl growing up in a remote village in the Republic of Niger. Spirited, independent and intelligent, she has benefited from a stable home life and a loving and attentive mother and enjoys working and playing with her siblings and friends.
Haoua worships her elder brother, Abdelkrim, a serving soldier who sends money home to support the family. But, on his last home visit, Abdelkrim quarrels with their father accusing him of gambling away the money he sends and being the cause of their mother's worsening health. It also emerges that their father plans to take a second wife.
Despite this Haoua finds contentment in her schoolwork, her dreams of becoming a teacher and in writing assiduously to the family in Ireland who act as her aid sponsors.
But for Haoua, there are new storm clouds on the horizon: as civil strife mounts in Niger, she begins to fear for Abdelkrim's safety; Her mother's illness is much more serious and further advanced than anyone had recognised, and her father's plans are turning out to be far more threatening than she could have ever imagined.
Approaching her twelfth birthday, Haoua feels alone and vulnerable for the very first time in her life.
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