June 17, 2010
Yesterday, the family of the Rehema Girls Rescue Center went to a celebration in town, commemorating the “Day of the African Child”. Each year this day signifies the year of 1976 when thousands of children in Soweto, South Africa took to the streets in protest. Many children were shot to death and thousands of lives were lost. On June 16, celebrations across Africa celebrate the courage of these children and lift up current issues that effect the African child. The local government held a parade and a presentation in the nearby town and invited the local orphanages to come celebrate together. It was a really special day for the girls at Rehema. They were able to sing and dance in front of the crowd and an older girl named Eunice stood up proudly and gave an eloquent speech about the importance of education in the life of a child and that it is the parent’s responsibility to make sure that children are educated and given a chance to live a good life. I was so proud of her! She was tremendously courageous.
It was great to see other children too. They are such great dancers and singers! There was also a group of children from a near by orphanage for disabled children. It made me so sad to see this group of children, but at the same time, I was inspired by their courage and their spirits. They were also one of the best group of singers at the entire event. Kristie and I have decided to go visit this home and we want to take some of the girls from Rehema with us. I think it will be great for them to take part in a community outreach project. When they see children that have it even worse than they do, I think that it will give them a new perspective of their own life and the sadness that they have experienced. It won’t take their pain away, but maybe they will find another reason to be grateful.
Unfortunately, as the disabled home was singing for the audience, the rain started to come down in buckets. We were then relocated to a local primary school. The children were fed a good meal and the district officer of the welfare of children spoke to the group. I will be honest in saying that I disliked this part of the day! I don’t trust anything that any government official says in Kenya. He spoke for about 20 minutes regarding the role of the government and all the initiatives that the government are implementing for the welfare of children. They talk a big game, but at the end of the day, the orphanages in this area receive very little support. In fact, in order to participate in the celebration yesterday, each home had to give 1,ooo Kenyan shillings, which is about 12 dollars, to the government organizing committee. It may not seem like a lot to us, but that is enough to buy a bag of maize or to contribute to a child’s school fees. It is a lot of money to an orphanage. The government has the money to sponsor the entire event, but just like day-to-day life here, the money never reaches the people that really need it. There is a vicious cycle of poverty in this country that will never end until the corruption in the government ceases to exist. Until then, the child will suffer and be dependent on people like Ben and Tabby and organizations like HEAL to support them and give them a better life.
It is one of the most frustrating things about this country, but I can’t let these problems discourage me from doing the right thing. The ironic part of all of this, is that the government officials and all the corrupt and dishonest people in this country still say that they are fervent believers of God, Jesus and all things spiritual. Christianity is intertwined into all aspects of life here. They are so open about their faith and their belief in God, that I am sometimes taken aback by their openness. Whenever I am here, I find myself questioning my faith and my relationship with God. I believe that it takes more than prayers and attending church to believe in God. Believing in God is a way of life, and dishonesty and corruption is not part of that life. I hope that someday, the people here will start realizing that and maybe the African child will really become a real priority for everyone.