Street children continued:
On day five, a group of boys wrote the following
story, and acted it out in 6 scenes after practicing for many hours. They worked
so hard and took great pride in their production.
meat for supper. She then leave the pot and go outside.
2. Her son entered
the house. He was feeling hungry and stole the meat from the pot.
the boy was caught eating the meat. The father started to beat him, he then
chased him away from house and told him never to come back.
4. After one week
he arrived in the city and met the street gangsters. They started to teach him
to select food from the trash bins.
5. The boy was taught how to sniff, smoke
drugs and steal and snatch women’s handbags and gold neckless. Later on the boy
was arrested after being the notorious thief.
6. After being staying in
prison for six months he was released. He decided to go back home and
behave…like all kids do. He met his father and asked forgiveness kindly and the
father and mother welcome their son back.
festival, I had been scared and worried about the hardness of the boys, and I
reflected often on how to touch the empathy within them. I had heard repeated
stories about their lack of conscience, “They are thieves. You can’t trust
them.” But, like everyone, when they felt heard and respected, they showed us
their humanity and shared their dreams. By the end of the week their generous
hearts were glowing brilliantly.
On day five, I shared books
that were created by DrawBridge children who live in California shelters, as
gifts for African orphans and street children. The project grew out of my belief
that everyone has something valuable to contribute and everyone needs an
opportunity to give. Facilitating the exchanges between children from different
countries who have shared experiences has become some of my most meaningful
who gets a page to describe him or herself and share their feelings. Typically
the pages are decorated with many colors and designs. The cover says, “We are
one family” and includes a group photo. When I share the book, I like to say,
“Even though the children who made the books live very far away, they are still
your brothers and sisters.”
“What does Africa look like? My name is Brenda and I
am nine years old. I love the color pink and I love basketball. I also love to
dance and sing and eat chicken with rice. Please come and visit me. I love
“My name is Jessica and I am thirteen years old. I made
this beautiful flower just for you. Kisses, hugs and friendship. I love you very
“Hello. How are you doing in Africa? I am fine in
California. I painted a beautiful rose just for you guys.”
When I shared the
books with the street children, they were mesmerized. Little Brucie held the
book open to Brenda’s page and kept kissing her photo (he spent hours painting a
picture for her). Each of them wanted to hold the book and study the photos.
Then I told them, “You can do something really special if you paint or draw a
message for a child in California who is very poor and has no home.” It’s a
simple exercise, yet the result is profound…a sense of inter-connectedness and
the wonderful children in the street of California: First I would like to say
how is your life? I know it is a difficult life. I want you to know that you are
not the only, but we are lots here. We are very happy to see the book that you
have written. I like to dance to Reggae.”
“I like playing
football and basketball and I like the color red. I love the children who made
us the book with all my heart, I wish they could come here one day to see us and
also we will be going there one day to see them. When I go to California maybe I
can find a job.”
“I like playing football. I like playing with
people who share—especially food. My favorite color is green. I love to eat
sadza and chicken. I like those children in California. I wish to meet them
someday. I will tell them, “I love you with all my heart.”
I grow up I want to be a teacher that teaches children to right and read. I will
think about the children in California everyday for the rest of my life.”
the sixth day of the project, I asked the boys to write and draw about their
favorite moments of the week and also what they didn’t like.
“I am a boy. I am 15 years old. I want to
thank you for what you teach us. You teach us how to smile and work as a team
and also you teach us how to share. I want to thank you Gloria for taking
Michelle with you to Zimbabwe and I also want to thank you Michelle for taking
Gloria with you to Zimbabwe.”
“I liked drawing and painting
very much and I also enjoyed taking pictures with the camera.”
“I myself I have been very satisfied about what I have been doing for
the whole week. It was tremendous, really exciting, interesting and educative.
This was absolutely great. Before I only used pencils, so we learned to mix
colors. Everyone had their own ideas and it was so exciting….but we all painted
together. I’m proud because I didn’t expect that we could behave like this. This
is the best thing that we ever did as a group and I hope we can come back
together next year and do this.”
“I wish God bless Michelle
and Grorea with his love. Now I can do many things like art.”
“I loved the food very much. I never painted before and I never
knew what painting is. I love Michelle and Gloria very much.”
“I wish I could stay with Gloria and Michelle at the happy time. They
being good to us.”
“My name is Learnmore. I love every
“We didn’t know that people from outside Zimbabwe
could care for us so much.”
“I enjoyed painting and mainly
the food. I like to thank Gloria and Michelle for playing games with us. The
lastly I like to thank God for giving us time like this. I did not know how to
paint but now I can teach others. We enjoy so much. You will always in my
We told them that the last day would include a party and
surprises. They asked, very respectfully, if we would buy soap so that they
could wash their clothes and their bodies in preparation for the party. Michelle
and I stayed up half the night preparing for the party. I printed 28 copies of
the HIFA ’07 group photo to distribute (my portable printer is junk but I
managed somehow) and I also prepared a slide show, sifting through thousands of
photos that had been taken during the week. What a labor of love that was!
Michelle carefully wrapped bundles of $10 for each child in shiny patterned
origami paper, wrapped with gold ribbons. The packages looked like exquisite
flowers…almost too beautiful to touch.
morning and managed to finish the construction of the three installations (that
she had designed, working every night on detailed diagrams and sketches) by
bending rebar into arcs and screwing the panels onto the rebar so that the
panels stood upright and created a tunnel that could be walked through. When the
boys arrived at the HIFA site on the morning of the last day, they were amazed
at the beauty that Michelle had created. Everyone was. The founder and director
of HIFA came by our area and congratulated us on putting together the most
successful interactive art project of the festival.
had arranged to have cooks prepare an extra special (and extra big) meal and
they brought tables and real plates and served the children. Soft drinks (two
per child) and a large beautiful chocolate cake was part of the feast. We ate in
a circle and everyone wanted to be photographed with his or her plate of
inside…perfect for the slide show. The children sat in a group, close to each
other, wondering what was about to happen. As the show began they were screaming
with laughter, pointing and yelling out names, “Brucie!” Anyway!” “Milton!” They
were beside themselves with enjoyment and wanted to see the show over and over.
I’m certain that they had never seen photos of themselves presented so
beautifully. They were truly being honored.
Next surprise…Michelle and I went
around the circle and presented each child with a photo and a bundle of money.
Many hugs and handshakes ensued. Then I spoke about how proud I felt and what an
honor it had been etc. etc. I could barely get the words out because I was so
overwhelmed with love and appreciation. After my speech, (Michelle gave another
better one because she knows some Shona), the boys very excitedly and proudly
presented us with a gift that they had been secretly working on. They had made
an exquisitely framed painting/collage for us. That’s when I started crying and
couldn’t stop easily.
to share their feelings. Fanuel looked at me with tears in his eyes, and the
video camera in his outstretched hands. “In my lifetime, I never thought that I
would get to touch something like this. You taught me how to use it and you gave
me skills. You gave me a new start in life.”
the boys left, although I ran into some of them over the next two weeks as I
walked around downtown. It was a thrill to hear one of them call my name and run
over with a huge smile, sparkly eyes and a hug. I felt so thoroughly proud to
During the last few days of HIFA, Mkhululi shyly approached me
several times and told me that he wanted to go home to see his mother. He had
run away from home four years earlier after his father died and there was no
more food. The mother lives in a rural village near the border of South
Africa…quite a journey from Harare. The last day of our project he told me
tearfully that he had dreamed about her the night before, and then he painted
the dream to show me.
return home. Michelle and I decided that we would send Mkhululi, Frankie and
Thomas back home. The first step was to clean them up and purchase new
clothes…top to bottom. They were unwilling to go in rags and it was very
important to them to return home with a sense of dignity. They looked fantastic
when they showed up at our hotel the following morning in brand new stylish
athletic suits. Gift and Ivor, our assistants, agreed to chaperone the boys back
home. We paid for bus fare and food for the several day journey and they were on
Several days later we received a phone call…Mkhululi’s mother was
beside herself with joy to see her son again. I am currently sponsoring Mkhululi
to set up a chicken farming business ($20 a month) and I know without a doubt
that he will succeed. Thomas is back with his mother and he immediately enrolled
in school. Because he is exceptionally tall, and was placed in a class with very
young children (because of his level) he felt out of place, left school and
decided to start a small business.
arrived at his village and his aunt (mother’s younger sister) wouldn’t take him
in because her husband wouldn’t allow it. “They rejected him,” said Gift when we
spoke by phone. Gift stayed with Frankie for a while in the village and finally
persuaded the step-uncle to give it a try, and Gift enrolled him in school
(Michelle is sponsoring his school fees). Hopefully it will work out…Frankie is
a beautiful child.
life on the streets. They want to educate people about their humanity. “We are
good, we are not bad” said Learnmore. I will help them with their dream because
it’s a good one and because I believe in them. A professional crew will need to
train and guide them as they write the script, act and shoot the film. Any
thoughts or ideas for funding would be appreciated.
“Through art everyone can
understand you. Art is a language.”
~ Pardon, HIFA mural project 2007