Be the hand of hope.
Written By: Otto Orondaam
It was on the 19th day of May 2012, myself and over hundred other young, impact driven volunteers gathered with senior officials from over 15 different governmental and Non-governmental organizations, community elders and many guests to enroll 118 children into 3 Schools. These kids, although they looked malnourished and some abandoned, were filled with so much intelligence. We never knew the impact of what we were doing until that Saturday morning when we watched tears drop down the eyes of their parents/caregivers and saw how the atmosphere was filled with pouring emotions.
I sat down and watched these kids from afar as they presented a cultural dance in appreciation of what had been done for them. I could barely identify them, as they had been totally transformed. They looked so different from the kids we had been with in the slum for months. I couldn’t believe they were the same children we saw playing without clothes and swimming in the brackish water.
They were well dressed in their new school uniforms with backpacks and had smiles all over their faces. Sotiana, one of my very favorite beneficiary spotted me and ran towards me, she grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Her mum was late and she was abandoned by her dad to roam the streets of the slum selling fish. She was 13years old and for 8years, she had never seen the walls of a classroom. I held her and tried to get her back to the others children but she held me tight with tears rolling down her cheeks. Although she looked small and couldn’t express herself, but i could see gratitude written all over her face.
As we distributed their school kits according to the names on the enrollment list, we were caught up in another dilemma. Other groups of children who were friends and siblings of our beneficiaries stood looking sad, depressed and rejected. They also needed the same opportunity. They needed to be given a chance to have a bright future. They looked desperate yet helpless. I could do nothing at this point but watch in pains. Rather than feeling fulfilled after the successful enrollment ceremony, I went back home sad and broken. The thoughts kept running through my mind and their voices couldn’t just cease to echo in my ears.
“Uncle you did not give me bag”, “Aunty I also want to go to school” “Aunty me, Aunty me, Uncle me”, were the words they spoke in their local language, which was translated by our community volunteers.
Few days later, we began the monitoring and evaluation stage of the project and then decided to go back into the slum, forfeit our jobs, sacrifice our weekdays, train community youths, organize series of outreaches, advocacy visits and after rigorous screening and verification exercise we finally have 200 more children who are willing and desperately waiting to join their mates in school.
It has been a journey worthwhile, a journey of hope and fulfillment, a road filled with challenges and setbacks yet we stayed steadfast and strong. It really feels inspiring seeing the number of volunteers increase everyday. Volunteers, who are willing to take a stand for change and act, rather seat indoors and complain. Young ladies and gents who will take off their jackets, roll up their jeans and jump into the slum just to secure the future of disadvantaged children.
However we have now gotten to another juncture where we quickly need to go across the hurdles. We have been through this before and we believe it wouldn’t be difficult this time around. Can we please give these kids the hope they desire?
Yes! We can play our own role and talk to others to play theirs.
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