When Anna from South Africa started her lecture by having the whole group jiving with actions to a song, we knew this lesson would go well…we had a master teacher! She shared on children’s participation – how they engage children in making the rules of the after-school center they run. This risky, crazy initiative has cut down on graffiti and has kept the facility cleaner and in better condition as the children remind each other of what they had decided.
Her husband, Sizwe, a Xhosa South African, spoke about growing up in economically vulnerable communities and moving at least every two years. He shared about the attraction and the belonging that the gangs recruiting him offered, and yet there was a man… a normal, older guy in the community. He wasn’t trendy, he wasn’t wealthy, he was just a guy – who kept pursuing Sizwe and warning him against joining the gangs. He stuck with Sizwe and somehow convinced Sizwe to stay in school and fight for a future. Sizwe himself then launched into advocating for children, becoming the advocate for those in his world who could easily fall through the cracks.
From her decades of work with people who are HIV-AIDS positive and who she was with as they died, Irene from Uganda spoke on how to talk to children about death. She shared the importance of creating space in cultures that send children away to grandparents to protect them from watching a parent die. Irene spoke of how children need to have conversations with their parents, to have hope spoken to them and let them know that there is a plan. The pain in the room, as many have walked through the impact of this disease, was palpable.
Jane Brenda, also from Uganda, spoke on abuse – how to speak to a child who has been abused – and this Mama Africa, with a heart the size of the continent, modeled looking into a child’s eyes and speaking truth and comfort.
The power of local facilitators is the power of identification. When someone who looks like me, knows my world, is convinced of God’s goodness and care, can enter my pain, and can also lay out a strategy to move forward, I receive Hope to continue.