Today I got a change to get out of the office and go out to the field with some of Kitovu Mobile counselors. I was glad to finally be out engaging with people and take a break from writing up my project proposal. It was one of those days that made me sit back and realized how blessed I am to be here with these people. I visited a school with the group that handles working with children. The official title is “Psychosocial support to orphans and other venerable children.” The first workshop I sat in on was Nursery to Primary 2 students. As soon as we walked in, you could tell that the students were excited to have visitors and even more so that they were getting a period away from their normal classes. When the counselor greeted them with, “How are you?” all of the students stood up and responded, “We are fine, smart, and or-gan-izedd”. Definitely goes down as one of the cutest things I have ever seen in my life. And I was so shocked that kids these young could even be so well… trained? Not sure if that’s the right word, but its working! We started the session with things they enjoy then asked them what they weren’t interested in. Most of the students responded with being punished for not doing chores at home. That seemed very normal to me, of course no kid likes to do his or her chores or be punished. However, the next answers are what threw me by surprise. Students began saying that they don’t like when their father beats their mother or when their father comes home drunk. They said that this makes them run away from home and they have to find a neighbor who is willing to let them spend the night. I was mostly shocked that students were opening up this type of information to all of their classmates, and then I was also shocked that right then and there adults in the room weren’t making calls to any type of authority to have this handled! Then I sat back, looked around, and realized where I was. This is a completely different society and culture to the one I am used to. And possibly, the reason these kids were so open to sharing was because it is such a normal occurrence to them and their friends that there is no need to hiding it. Even writing this right now, it is hard to explain the emotions of confusion and helplessness that I was feeling at that exact moment.
Next we went to talk with a class mixed with Primary 3 and 4 students. These were older kids so I was interested in their answers to the same questions. We started off with their career goals in the future. Boy, were these kids ambitious! We had future, priests, sisters, Imam’s, carpenters, pilots, farmers, doctors, nurses, policemen, and even the future President of the United States (2nd Obama he said)! All the kids were eagerly waving their hands in the air so excited to share their goals with the rest of the class. After that talk we went into problems that they face at home. Many of the answers were the same as the younger students, fathers beating mothers, drunkenness, and they also added chore work. A girl spoke about how she hates having to fetch water from the well late at night, sweep, wash clothes, and clean the whole house because it doesn’t leave enough time for her studies. Many of the other kids agreed with her comments. They also added that they worry when they can’t afford school fees. These kids are so young with that feels like the weight of the world on their shoulders. It is apparent though that they take these hardships and turn it into motivation. Many one else with their situation could have given up and left school, but these children still had goals that match the same goals as kids all over the world. They are strong, resilient, and most importantly happy individuals who are taking advantage of their education. I feel like I learned so much from just hearing their stories and seeing their actions after, enjoying the day and moving forward.
At the end of the day, a 14-year-old girl passed me a note asking to be my best friend. Earlier she asked the counselor if I was Filipino, when the counselor told her that I was, the girl told her that she must introduce herself. Apparently she is a HUGE fan of Filipino soap operas and loves their accents and watching them on TV but never has met one in real life. I’m far from a Filipino soap actress but she didn’t mind at all. She asked for my address to send me letters for when I get back to the states! I can’t wait to get it!
P.S. Today I met the cutest little boy that I have ever seen. That is all. (Black and white picture above)