Another month of blogging comes to a close, the journey back to Congo, the beautiful children, the fantastic sense of hope and resilience, the bright faces, the humanity that I experienced in that war ridden part of Africa is over with this post. But it goes on in me, it never stops and it pulls be back always to revisit it, to never ever forget.
Thanks to all who followed, commented, encouraged, shared, critiqued and thought about Congo this past month. I hope that by more good people thinking and being aware of what goes on in that part of the world, more can somehow be done to change it. As they say, the first step in helping something is being aware of it.
Tomorrow I start a new month of a totally different nature. Stay tuned!
When we grumble about the extra pound we had to lift in our air conditioned gym, the heavy bag of groceries we had to move from the supermarket cart to the trunk of our car, or when we have to work an extra hour in the office, it is good to remember how some other people live around the world.
It is good to remember that wealth is not distributed fairly on this planet and that the balances are off and have been for a long while. Do we just say ‘this is life’ or do we work on having a better life? Many do, and as I come closer to the close of this month’s project on Congo, I send thanks to them. I am grateful to the humanitarians of the world, to those who give without counting the cost, and who push so hard to try and even out a crooked world.
Working children is a concept that is becoming more and more foreign to us in the western world, but in developing countries, young children are often forced to join the work force. I find myself showing these images to my daughter on several occasions when a reality check and a need for the right perspective on life is needed.
These boys were paused near one of the wall murals that UNICEF paints on the city streets to educate children through art. It seems to be the right way to deliver a message, as I saw the children totally absorbed in deciphering the message until they saw me and diverted their attention to act playful for the camera.
I have seen again and again that despite war circumstances, no matter how tough it gets, people try to retain a sense of normalcy in their day to day life. In Congo, everyone’s hair seems to be carefully colored, styled, braided and impressive looking. I loved seeing all the different hair dressers salons around town in Goma painted with colorful murals and boasting their professional services in every neighborhood. It is a sight I keep going back to when my mind wanders back to Congo.
I like to think that there are special angels assigned for each child that is born to this planet, to guide them, watch over them and shower them with buckets full of joy when life get rough…
Glowing smiles, shiny eyes, boundless energy, these things are not what I expected to see in the children of a war ravaged country like Congo. But children are just incredible, aren’t they? They seem to be plugged into an entirely different power source to to the one we are connected to as adults. They never seem to tire, they can run for hours, the can laugh madly about the silliest things, they can jump, sing and react with no inhibition in a safe circumstance and yes, they are like that even in Congo.
Coming from Lebanon, I get asked a lot about the civil war that ravaged my country for so many years and with that question there is always a request to clarity what the war is all about there. On many occasions I find myself likening the war to a board game. The board being the land, the game pieces as the warring parties, and the ‘players’, well these are the giants and the warlords who have their big stakes in the game. The pieces get so sucked into the game that they forget who they are and sometimes even the reason they are in it, and the rule are changed often by the warlords and handed down to the players who follow blindly.
Congo is just another board game with so many bleeding players, young, old, male, female, tossed around mercilessly and discarded as the game keeps getting played.
It is difficult to imagine in our day of gadgets and the time of i-this and i-that available to everyone in the west even small children, that in some places like Congo, this is not the case at all.
And because of that, the children I met often asked me to take a message back with me from them to the world. They spoke mostly Swahili and through their translators they told me that they would like to draw these messages for me to photograph. So here, in the Cajed center for helping the children of the street, ‘les enfants de la rue’ in Kinshasa, the volunteer teacher allowed the children to take the time and draw some messages on the blackboard. And like the children that I met in Goma, these boys also dreamt of peace, of a world with no guns, of a colorful world that included them in it…
Then they went on to sing to me very playfully and very shyly their national anthem (video). After singing, they turned to me and requested that I sing my anthem to them, which I did, a bit more shyly than they did. I sang them the Lebanese anthem, because being with them brought me back to my childhood in Lebanon, or maybe it was the school desks that took me right back to elementary school. It was a very moving day for me meeting their bright faces and sharing unforgettable moments together.
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.