On the 3rd March of 2018 (Saturday), World Youth Alliance Africa had an opportunity to go to Villa Teag Children’s Home for our dignity project dubbed ‘FUN DAY’. During the project, we got to interact with the children within the home and also took them out for swimming. Upon arrival, we were received by the adorable children who were so thrilled to have us around. They sang songs for us as they welcomed us to our seats. Afterwards, we got to briefly introduce themselves. They got to tell us a little about themselves as we also got to tell them about WYA, what we do, and how they can be involved.
Amidst the smiles and laughter, you could tell that a lot was hidden inside them. They had such radiant faces that beamed with joy and hope; their eyes, however, spoke more than their lips could utter. In their silence, our hearts could read into the unspoken lines of the stories that they withheld; those they hoped we wouldn’t ask about. “How do we join WYA?” a young girl asked with enthusiasm. Patricia, our Regional Director, was thrilled by this question and went right ahead in taking her through the steps of being a member. As I watched the children, I couldn’t help but appreciate life from a different angle. One of complete joy amidst the full glare of the midday sun. These children reminded me that human dignity chooses neither your religion, ethnic background, your financial situation nor the circumstances you find yourself in, but is instead universal and inherent in nature. It does not choose and therefore is incapable of being biased.
In our interaction with them it was hard not to ignore the joy we all shared. It has been said that ‘a warm smile is the universal language of kindness’ which is a fascinating yet beautiful thing about humanity. It is absolutely possible to meet a total stranger and form a connection right after saying ‘hello’. We had swimming as the main activity and also undertook other fun activities that left the children laughing and cracking jokes throughout the day. Despite the stories they each carry in their hearts, they all have space in their hearts to accommodate bigger dreams. Just like I always say, we all have a story to tell but there are not enough people to listen.
As we interacted with some of the older children, I asked them what challenges they face and one of them told me that he had been out of school several times due to lack of tuition fees. He explained that when he grows up he wants to be an engineer so that when he gets enough money he will come back to renovate the home. I could see the determination in his eyes as he highlighted how sad they feel when it rains and as a result water seeps into the house through the holes in the roof and from underneath the door. The determination in his eyes was so contagious. It reminded me of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s quote, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” This boy, together with many others, held a hope that went far beyond themselves. They were ready to carry the burdens of others thereby practicing solidarity without even having been taught what it is. They emphasized that when they complete their studies they will not forget their roots. It was something they all believed. Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
What stood out for me was the love, togetherness, and discipline that these children possessed. Different backgrounds and different circumstances put them together in the home, yet you should see how Farida for example was so concerned about Halima and Eunice. They all got along, showed respect to each other and shared everything they had as they cared for the little ones in their midst. I stood there, humbled at the sight of these children as they restored my hope for humanity. They had such invaluable lessons for my team and I. Wherever you find yourself in life, forget everything else but let this remain; love, hope, dignity and solidarity. Let no one take these away from you. They will keep you and take you even when all other things fade away.
At WYA, we believe that it is important to understand the idea that solidarity begins as friendships amongst individuals. Such friendship must be based on a mutual recognition of the value of each person, and the truth of this value even in the face of opposing claims or coercive ideology. Our Dignity project was a successful one with great coordination from the WYA team and Villa Teag children’s’ home staff. We had a great day interacting with the kids.
Written by Winnie Kishara, Regional Intern at WYA Africa Office, Batch 1 2018 and Patrick Kariuki