This is the incredible story of a boy raised with animals and the Australian woman who has brought him back to humanity.
Sujit Kumar spent his earliest years living with chickens. When we first brought you his story in 2006, the world was stunned and he quickly became known as The Chicken Boy.
Facing an almost impossible task, the woman who found Sujit abandoned her life of wealth and comfort to devote herself to him.
Bryan Seymour returned to Fiji after eight years to file this world exclusive.
“From a wild animal to now someone that's pretty normal (incredible) it's a big difference,” said Elizabeth Clayton.
“They, (Sujit’s parents), wanted to get rid of the dysfunction so they put him out into the chicken pen to live with the chickens and so as a result he became very chicken-like, I mean he imprinted with the chickens and that's been very hard to rid those sorts of behaviours,” Clayton said.
Every once in a while, the world is stunned to meet a wild child; a human being raised by animals. When they emerge into society, they are often shunned.
To understand how this man - branded an animal - has survived and thrived... You have to know where he's come from.
Life for most of Fiji's 850,000 people is basic and poor. For those living in the rural village like this one, like the one where Sujit was born, it's especially tough. We know that the first four years of a person's life are the most crucial… it's when the brain is hard-wired to carry us through our lives. Try then to imagine your child going through this…
Born in a poor and remote village, it's said Sujit's family were immediately suspicious of him.
“We believe he was put there because he has, his parents thought, he had an evil spirit in him because the family was completely dysfunctional,” Clayton said.
As a toddler, he was left all day and night with chickens in a pen and he learned their behaviour, their mannerisms and becoming known as The Chicken Boy.
“Some of the behaviour is just pecking (motions) like pecking at the wall and things like that because when he was in the chicken pen or tied up he would (motions) that action was very prominent in his behaviour and he still has that type of behaviour… he used to roost, he used to... in fact he wouldn't sleep in the bed, he would get out of bed and roost, he would perch, he could sit on the edge of a chair and just perch,” Clayton said.
By age eight, Sujit was too big to stay with the chickens. His parents had died so local authorities did the only thing they could think of. For 22 long years Sujit was tethered by sheets strung together and fastened to a wall.
“When he was eight he was put into an old people's home and he was left there for 20 plus years.
“He was tied up, he was tethered to the bed and for years and years, he's got marks, he's got scars around him.”
“He was abused too, he was smashed in the face, his teeth were broken, his nose was broken, he has a denture now,” Clayton said.
Elizabeth Clayton had moved to Fiji over 10 years earlier, with her husband, mountain climber Roger Buick. They built and exported furniture and made a fortune. Then, tragically, Roger died while climbing Mount Everest.
Soon after, in 2002, Elizabeth met the person who would change her life.
“When I saw him I didn't know if he was a child or an old man, he was decrepit looking,
he had swollen fingers, he had sores all over his face, he had log whiskers… and they used to fear me going in to touch him because they thought he was so wild.
“I saw a glimmer of something in his eyes, I saw some normal behaviour and I figured that there was someone in there,” Clayton said.
Since then, Elizabeth has taken Sujit around the world seeking expert advice and medical tests; along with constant therapy. At the same time, she opened Fiji's first private orphanage, The Happy Home.
This is the major payoff for Elizabeth's work with Sujit – a safe haven for other children.
“They've all been on the streets begging, all of them. All of the children that you've met have been on the streets begging,” she said.
More than a dozen children now stay at The Happy Home, aged from four years old to 17, they have found here, through Elizabeth, a chance at life they could never have imagined.
“What I love about these children too is that they've all got the same background, they can all relate and I tell them all they have a great story to tell,” she said.
It's inspired others to join Elizabeth. Cristin Mollberg is a 19 year old from Sweden who plans to study sociology. The few months she's spent volunteering at the happy home have made her more determined than ever to help others.
“It's amazing, I have never met a person like that before, she's amazing… she's just doing everything for these kids and for Sujit and it's just amazing,” Cristin said.
Elizabeth borrowed $60,000 from the bank to refurbish and repair The Happy Home. She knew it would force her to a financial breaking point... What she didn't know, was that she would soon meet someone almost as giving as herself.
“This is just in our spare time helping out an Aussie friend,” said Rod Bradley. He and mate Ernie Underwood are in Fiji on a major construction project. They're overseeing the ground-up rebuilding of the heritage-listed Grand Pacific Hotel. It's a massive job, which means, they occasionally have the manpower to help out a friend in need.
“We're replacing all the gutters, fixing all the leaks in the valleys and replacing their bathroom area,” Rod said.
“She's taken on this project of helping out disadvantaged children, pretty much funding it all out of her own pocket and just thought we'd give her a hand,” he added.
“They're just fantastic and they're real rough diamond Aussies,” Clayton said.
A local company is re-doing all the electrical wiring for free. Inside the carers and staff at The Happy Home work around the clock. Every morning at six am, Sujit undergoes several hours of intensive physical therapy, basic motor skills and social training.
The evening is a celebration and a good bye. Cristin has to move on but plans to return to Fiji to study at the university and to see the children who have taken her to their heart.
As volunteers come and go the need for donations to keep the happy home thriving grows more urgent.
“I can take him out anywhere now, I can do anything with him and he's just like a normal kid to me,” Clayton said.
“I call him my boy, he'll always be my boy.”
Bank account details
Account name: Sujit Kumar Happy Home Trust
Account number: 9803050419
Branch: Westpac banking corp, 550 Ratu Mara Road, Nabua, Fiji Islands
Swift code: wpacfjfx bsb no: 039 012