If I were to put one common word when describing children from any country, I would say ‘resilience’…
Children are developing beings, changing at a rapid speed, growing, absorbing, evolving and filled with energy that drives them through their process of becoming young adults. What I saw in a lot of the children in Congo was hope, strength, power, joy and possibility despite of and against all odds.
At the beginning of their life journey, their future is unpredictable, unknown and allowing for just anything to happen. It makes me wonder what will become of the these young bright faces that I met, where they are now and where they would be years from now.
photo taken: during a french lesson at the Cajed center for the care of ‘les enfants de la rue’ (the street children) in Kinshasa.
For ‘les enfants de la rue’, the children of the street in Kinshasa, a bit of ground in an enclosed secure place can make a world of difference where their safety is concerned. These children roam the streets by night in search of food, opportunity and means and ways. During the day, a center like this one (Cajed), is a place for them to be with people who care for a few hours. The can, eat, have lessons, play and most importantly rest. These 2 children were fast asleep during the whole of my visit and despite other children playing and running and jumping all around them.
I am quite behind in these Congo posts for April, because it gets more and more difficult each day to go relive this experience through the thousands of photos captured there. Each photograph forces me to relive the moments with all the emotions that accompanied it.
One of the most precious gifts we humans receive upon our birth is the gift of choice and free will…
We have the faculties that allow us to think, evaluate, compare, investigate, evaluate and then based upon our findings make an informed decision. It is a the first and most important principle for our freedom.
But when this gift is stolen, taken away, then we are forced to live in oppression and to become the involuntary players in the games of others.
This boy was destined to become a player in a game of war, not by choice, he is far too young and far too vulnerable to make his way towards his freedom. He is a prisoner in one ugly scheme and it has drawn the old man out of the little boy.
And the game is till being played…
“May the odds be in his favor”… the quote that still haunts me from the recent movie “the hunger games”
A small boy, on the run from Rwanda, pausing in a medical center in Goma, hiding behind the folds of a UNICEF tent, his life will never be the same again…
While days before he was just a little boy, living in a village, part of a family, living a somewhat normal life, today he is labelled a refugee. He is another number added to a list, a surprisingly large list, that grows and grows each time a new war and a new conflict is born. This boy is a side of effect of the greed of humans, of their struggle to gain power and of their disregard to what misfortunes and casualties their games are producing in the lives of others.
Being born into conflict, struggling to survive, finding themselves short of even the most basic of life’s necessities; what kind of future are these children looking forward to having?
If children are the hope for our future, if they will be the beacon for much needed change to come, then don’t they deserve much more than the world is giving them? It is so much easier to close one eye and just look at Africa as a lost cause that only rarely makes it to the front pages of our newspapers, but these issues are real, the children exist, their futures are hanging by a very thin thread.
Isn’t humanity dependent on humans feeling the need of other humans and doing something about it? Is enough being done?
These are some of the questions that haunt me as I go through this photo archive and as the memories these children begin to illuminate themselves in my mind again…
They say that only when you come so close to losing something do you value it the most…
That is definitely something I have witnessed in Congo and growing up in a Lebanon during the civil war. War can make you more sensitized to the value of life, so when you cry, you cry more deeply, and when you laugh, you laugh with all of your being.
Life is strange like that. It takes a shock to wake us up the wonder of it all. This boy’s smile in the streets of Goma speaks volumes to me about the richness of human existence, the power of our emotions and the joy of simply being alive.
Some images print themselves in our minds and on our hearts because they affect us beyond the surface of visual impression. They go deep, they etch a mark on our soul…
If you were to ask me what moment in my journey to Congo was the most haunting, I would say this one when I took this photograph. This child was one of the youngest in the center for demobilized child soldiers. He never spoke, he just stood there and let his eyes that stared without blinking, the scar on his chin and his cloud of melancholy speak for him. His gaze was steady, his look far but near, his mind unreadable. It was a child who spent far too much time in the playground of the lords of war and cruelty.