Another special message is on its way to be delivered to Maria this time in Lebanon. Maria is one of the “by art we live” featured child artists who is incredibly lively, bright an full of promise in her love affair with art.
I am so delighted to be able to hand deliver this message scribed and drawn in her own little journal in the hope of inspiring her to do more of what she loves doing
Lucky are we if find out what we love to do in life and end up doing it.
Maria is happy in art, bright in art, clever in art, imaginative in art and most importantly, in love with art.
Demobilized child soldiers dancing in Goma, October 2009
Before the trip of “by art we live” to the Democratic Republic of Congo, an open line of communication and collaboration was opened with Jody Kennedy who teaches Middle School students in White Plains Public Schools, NY. Ms. Kennedy currently serves as a virtual trainer and consultant with the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration in Cleveland Ohio. She is the founder of the Global Ambassadors program and the Global Run project which is highlighted on the United Nations’ UN WORKS For People and the Planet website. Connecting with over 26 countries, Jody provides a virtual stage for youth to share ideas, art, music, and poetry-she has pioneered live videoconferencing to promote a global, borderless classroom. Jody’s expertise in interactive technology brings young people all over the planet face to face, in real time, to celebrate culture and art and a collaborative vision of humanity.
The Global Ambassadors, who are a very inspired and inspiring group of children, were very moved to launch an Art Drive to raise awareness and raise funds for the purpose of assisting demobilized child soldiers in Congo.
After several video conferences that I was invited to by Ms.Kennedy and the Global Ambassadors, a video was produced as well as a drive to collect art supplies and materials for sending to the Congo.
Quoted from Ms. Kennedy: “These are some examples of what the students who learned about the Congo from you created in order to help teach our community about Child Soldiers! Hannah created the T shirt design,Daniella and Sophia had the idea of selling pencils for $1 to raise funds to buy more art supplies. Daniella created the drawing . Hannah is an accomplished artist for her age. She herself has said that art has taken her through some hard times in life. I think that is why she feels so connected to this project.”
What is better than children helping children? So inspiring! Thank you to Jody Kennedy and her Global Ambassadors who are always doing so much. I am so honored to work with you.
Today was my last day in the DRC, and I had planned to visit some child artists and some centers for children of the streets. For the first time since I got here things seemed to be all going wrong. Cars coming late, information miscommunicated, child not at appointment… you name it.
By the end of it, I almost gave up and asked the UNICEF person helping me to go back and call it a day. But being as sweet as he is (a very warm and wonderful Congolese named Florent), he insisted on making some calls asking desperately for child artists for me to meet in the last 2 hours I have in Kinshasa.
So, finally we ended up in one of the REEJER centers in a slum part of Kinshasa. I could not believe my eyes entering this place. It was a small courtyard with children playing soccer with a self made little ball of paper and tape, other children asleep on the dirt floor, a few dingy offices, someone asleep in a little hole in the wall, and a small classroom with a dozen children who were told to expect my visit.
It was incredible walking in there. Piercing little eyes stared at me hesitating between a smile and a defying look at first, until their “teacher” asked them who would like to show me how they can draw?
Immediately 3 eager hands flew up and 3 of the boys went up to the board to draw what they called their message to the world, my camera being the messenger that will take their message with me on the plane to the big wide world outside Congo.
They drew with chalk, a message of peace, they said they want the guns to be turned away from the children of Congo. They want to live in peace and to grow in peace.
It was very moving to hear them and to watch those children, totally abandoned by parents, step parents, orphaned, or demobilized child soldiers, who are taken in by centers like this for lack of any other facility.
They then asked me what I would like for them to show me, so I said how about a song? Can you sing something. One volunteered to sing the Congolese national anthem, and was joined instantly by a deep chorus of voices repeating “Congo” rhythmically. It was simply beautiful.
Then I was about to thank them and give them a small present for their willingness to share their time with me when they totally threw me one off left field!!
They said, “hey, how about you sing us YOUR national anthem?”
“yes” they all echoed. And they stared at me and waited. I felt pretty helpless and in all fairness I had to stand there in front of their beautiful faces and sing with my totally non melodic voice the Lebanese national anthem!
When I was done, they just cheered so enthusiastically and we all laughed so much that an unforgettable moment was etched in the story of my life.
I am so grateful for the chance to be with children like these, who in the end of the day, and after all the brutality they go through and witness, are just children. They are funny, innocent, warm, naughty, full of mischief and just plain beautiful!
It was so moving being in the CAJED center for demobilized child soldiers. Just the idea of being with a child who has experienced trauma of that level and can yet be so resilient to want to be a child again is mind boggling. Most of these children spoke only Swahili, so when I interviewed them all had to be translated. But the moments that they just watched me with piercing looks and just held their gaze, I felt my breathing stop. Their eyes searched, questioned, told, sought, defied, but never wavered.
I will never forget these eyes that disarmed me completely and transmitted stories too horrible to be told with words.
Pure power was what met me when I walked into the CAJED center in Goma. Power of youth and children exploding right in my face, incredible force emanating in their dance, movement, facial expressions and eyes. Maybe it is Africa or maybe it is the fact that the force of these children was imprisoned during their stay with the armed forces and then suddenly let free, but it was overpowering and incredible to be in the presence of it.
In these centers, the children are taken in and allowed to be children again. They dance, they play, they create, and most important of all, they are so eager to learn. Most of the children dream about being a student again, and of being simply children.
On this day, the children danced the whole time I was at the center, close to 2 and half hours of unrelenting force moving through their bodies. It was exhilarating to witness.