Day 28~ April 28th~ Congo

boys at work~ Goma

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.

Day 27~ April 27th~ Congo

hairdressers in Goma

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.

 

Day 25~ April 25th~ Congo

driven by angels

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.

Day 20~ April 20th~ Congo

in the game

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”

Day 19~ April 19th~ Congo

adapting to a new life

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.

 

Day 18~ April 18th~ Congo

Looking ahead

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…

Day 17~ April 17th~ Congo

To smile fully

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.

Day 16~ April 16th~ Congo

depth

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.

Day 14~ April 14th~ Congo

the girl in Goma

There is a great power in Africa which throbs in the land like a drum beat and then spirals up through its people, radiating from every pore in their skin and fashioning a most complex range of human expression…

I look back at this photo of a girl in Goma and I see shyness, strength, pride, defiance, warmth, dignity, among so many other emotions that come at me from her face and her posture.

If you have been to Africa, you perhaps would have felt that it is a place that keeps beckoning you back, because you realize that you left a part of you there and took a small part that always tugs at you to take it back home.