International hired me to work for one afternoon at an after school program in
that district. My assignment was to work with two groups of thirty children
each, ages 15-19. The children, very proud to be attending school, walked many
miles from surrounding villages in their often tattered school uniforms. The
countryside was lovely…rolling hills with giant balanced rock formations
scattered here and there.
asked to be shown the ladies room and several of the female students, giggling
explosively, told me to follow them. There was a “Ladies” side and a “Gents”
side (painted in large orange letters). I was in a tiny closet size space with a
hole in the floor, nothing else, and ten girls were waiting outside for me. I
asked if there was water to wash with and one stunningly gorgeous teenager with
a sparkling smile said, “We will take you to wash your elbows.” This was right
after I had asked them what their favorite subject was, and in unison they
yelled, “English.” The gorgeous one said, “It is easy like cutting margarine
with a warm knife.”
The first part of the sessions included game playing,
acting, singing and dancing. A school administrator set up a bench and a table
under a large tree for the very important Head Master who joined us. He was an
unsmiling man with a huge stomach and he sat at the table looking bored, reading
his newspaper. The large group of children, meanwhile, sat in the dirt, in the
sun, putting their hearts into gripping plays about their challenging lives,
created on the spot. At one point the Head Master distractedly walked away.
Fine, I thought.
The children and I sat under a tree and I showed them
the books created by the DrawBridge children. Then they created messages, in
response to the books, for me to bring back to California.
what she had made:
“I am Patience,16 years old and I love you all. I was very
grateful to see your nice messages and drawings. Take care and keep well. You a
cute and precious. I like cracking jokes and sharing ideas and problems. Have
you seen my smiling face? The sun is always shining for you, so no need for
She pointed to the part where she had written, “I like sharing ideas and
problems” and she said to me in a soft voice, “I have many problems.” As it
turned out, she really needed to share her problems, and yes, they were too
many. She is an orphan and she is also a child head of household…quite common in
sub-Saharan Africa. She cared for both parents as they were dying (fed, bathed
and held them) and now she cares for three younger siblings. The youngest is
four years old and stays with their grandmother during the day. Grandmother is
sick, there is no food, and Patience doesn’t think that she will be able to stay
in school. My heart was breaking. I wanted to wrap her up in a cozy soft blanket
and take her with me. Instead, I gave her an orange, which was all that I
“What’s up guys? Here Africa is good. Be good, nice and
humble. Take good care of yourself. I was so pleased by the articles you make. I
just say, guys, keep doing that. I hope one day we will be united as one
Cryty, age 15:
I love you all. Feel free, don’t be feared by
Chrisptopher, age 17:
I feel sad being an orphan, but I
know that we people in Africa and those in America and other countries of the
world are one family, one people, one world. I feel great about the friendship
between Americans and Zimbabweans.”
like cutting margarine) included in her message: “I love some kisses, more than
50 per day or night.”
two or three, is given a 6 inch square piece of white fabric and they are asked
to share (with California teenagers) the challenges and difficult situations
that they face as African teenagers.
“Hi! We are facing different problems especially
the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Problems are part of life so please don’t lose hope. Take
care and fight against these problems. You can do it.”
“Here in Zimbabwe we youths we face some problems such as:
3. HIV/AIDS pandemic.
4. Lack of education.
5. Lack of resources.
6. Lack of computers in schools.
Be proud of
what you are and SAY NO TO RACISM.”
(They included a drawing of crying
children, saying, “Uniting against child abuse.”)
“Young people, especially orphans are
facing problems like abuse. They are sometimes abused by their guardian. There
is shortage of food and young people are starving due to hunger.”
"Childrens of 14 years old were abusing by their
parents by being no give them food and shelter.” (Drawing of crying child
appears here.) “Others they suffered from HIV/AIDS. At our school there is no
few books for reading. Love and Peace.”
“From Zimbabwe to U.S.A. and the world. To you all children we would
like and love to say be proud of what u are whether you are black, white or even
an albino. Don’t wish to be someone else. Thank you all for sending us your
pictures we appreciate that. Be satisfied of what you have. Thank
Hi guys. Here in Zim we are facing problems like:
1. Educational facilities.
2. AIDS pandemic.
4. No support in education.
Being optimistic will solve
our problems and we can have a newly born world.”
“We are facing problems like child abuse. Many children are
suffering from HIV and AIDS. We have many orphans who are homeless and end up
being street kids. Many children are suffering from malnutrition (kwashioker)
because of the lack of balanced diet. We love you all.”
“The problems which are actually faced here in
Zimbabwe by children are:
1. Some are being raped with their stepfathers and
some are being abused with their parents.
2. Lastly, some are being attacked
with AIDS especially us youth.”
“We best friends. We know we are children.
Our problems is abusing at our homes. We don’t have money to pay school feez. We
have shortage of computers in our school. We have a problems of
one of them yelled to me as the car drove away, “Don’t forget my name.” On the
drive home, Never, who can light up the entire universe with his smile, told me
about the deaths of 2 of his 5 children. Every person in this country has a
story to tell…a bad one.