My time with the boys and girls in Kenya was both heartbreaking and inspirational.
The challenges these children face are innumerable. Each and every day they deal with horrible, tough circumstances. These boys and girls have seen and experienced more in their ten years on earth than most people will in their entire lives, things that no one should have to deal with, let alone children.
In Kibera, almost every child we met had lost one or both parents to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It is an unspoken rule that one doesn’t leave your home after dark because the alleyways are too dangerous. Often, the meal the students receive at the Red Rose School is their only meal of the day.
In Kisumu, on the bank of Lake Victoria, we heard story after story of girls who are forced to trade their bodies to the local fishermen in exchange for a bit of food on the way to school due to the of lack of food in their homes. In one school we visited, half of their students had been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS and three girls had contracted the disease themselves.
Everywhere, girls take on an unequal burden of the household chores, cooking and cleaning for the entire family and spending hours fetching water.
Yet, the boys and girls in the LitClubs are still joyful. They dream. They think about the future. They have hope.
For many children in Kibera and Kisumu, their hardships become isolating and all encompassing. But the boys and girls in the LitClubs have an amazing ability to think about these challenges in a productive and positive way. They plan on become pilots or human rights lawyers or teachers. And even more strikingly, they see these professions not as a means of escape from their community, but an opportunity to return and make meaningful change so that other children will be able to grow up safer and happier and healthier than themselves.
I believe this is the greatest success of the LitClubs. Yes, LitWorld’s work revolves around literacy. Yes, the boys and girls who participate in the LitClubs are doing well and school and becoming leaders in the classroom. But they also have friendship, a sense of community, a time when they can leave behind their hardships and just be kids, hopes and goals for the future.
After spending two weeks with these lovely, amazing, thoughtful, beautiful children this is what resonates with me most. They are happy.
- Lauren G.