My experience at WYA Africa has been very eye opening. It was different from what I had previously expected but amazing all the same. There is so much I could say but I will highlight what has been imprinted in my heart.
Human dignity is at the heart of WYA’s focus and all our work revolves around ensuring the place of the human person is at the center of every discussion. When we talk about the human person our first focus should be how their human dignity can be protected and upheld. As I was joining WYA, I remember mentioning on the first day of our orientation that I would like WYA to be a stepping stone for me to be able to join the humanitarian field and use my experiences at WYA to catapult me there.
We were introduced to the Certified Training Program right after the orientation and the discussions on White Papers. I must say the information and knowledge I have gained has definitely made me a better person. Whenever I am in a discussion or a debate, my arguments are no longer from a point of ignorance but rather from a point of facts and statistics. I often quote the great authors such as John Finnis, Martin Buber, and Charles Malik among other great writers who took time to analyze various topics and highlight the place of the human person.
I have been watching the news and daily I hear of human rights violations all over the world. From the law makers who pass legislation without considering the consequences they have on the dignity of the human person to the various other arms of government that also place the dignity of the human person second or third.
If there is something that I have learnt from WYA it is the fact that irrespective of anyone’s background, creed, political opinion, race etc., we all have dignity. No one human person is more superior to another and no person should ever make another feel like they are less. Let us take the refugees as an example. They leave their countries of origin for various known reasons and seek asylum from another country. Many of them are subjected to very harsh conditions that are not fit for any living creature by the mere basis of their social status.
Many people have accepted the state of affairs not knowing that they are entitled to better living standards. It grieves my heart when we blame the lack of education or information as an excuse to the inhumane treatment of other members of our society when a majority of the culprits are the elite. World Youth Alliance has done an incredible job in promoting awareness as to human dignity however it is notable that there is still so much to be done and this must begin from you and me.
I had a chance to execute a dignity project at a daycare unit within the Lang’ata Women’s prison. The daycare houses children between 0-4 years born to the women within the correctional facility. It was a great opportunity, not only to play with the children, but also to interact with the mothers and remind them of the inherent dignity they possess.
I also had an opportunity to go to a children’s home within Nairobi. It was evident that amidst the smiles and laughter they expressed, a lot was hidden. 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 no one would ask.
As I 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 sips 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.”
Wherever you find yourself in life, forget everything else but let this remain; love, honor and respect toward the Almighty God who throughout the changing circumstances of life will remain and weather the storm with us. Another important set of principles is love, hope, and dignity. Let no one take these away from you. They will keep you and take you through 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.
Written by Winnie Kishara, B1 2018 Intern at WYA, Africa Region