Wednesday, July 30, 2008


On Tuesday of last week, I was at the Seleka Drop In Center helping the 10 carers hired to cook and provide activities for the 115 orphans and vulnerable children we serve. I admire these women immensely. Although it has taken a year, I think they finally trust and respect Paul and I as their own. Their job is daunting. We all volunteer for an organization which has little funding, and the money seems to 'disappear' regularly. This leads to weeks on end where there is nothing to cook for the children, even though we receive funding yearly from the government specifically earmarked for food. The women try their best to make ends meet by piecing together small donations and occasionally even give some of their own meager stipends to purchase mealies, beans, or vegetables. When first arriving in Seleka, Paul and I had high hopes of being able to help the drop in center financially in some way. However, after extensive discussion with the carers, we've decided that it is best to wait until the political landscape of our organization has changed before trying to make any steps forward. In the meantime, we still go after school on days when we don't have girl’s club commitments, to be with the carers and OVC's and help with the cooking and cleaning.
On this particular Tuesday, I happened to be wearing one of the crafts we did for girls club; a chain bracelet. One of the carers was admiring it and asked if I'd be willing to teach them how to do it? Of course! They all brought a few Rand and over the weekend I purchased some beads for them to make their own bracelets.
Arriving at the drop in center, supplies in hand, I had no idea that this small activity would bring out the sparkle, smiles, and girlish giggles of six women already in their adult years. Having put together a small bag of different beads for each one, they dumped them out on a piece of fleece, laid out on the table to diminish the number of beads rolling onto the floor. Eyes shining, they started making patterns--their own, creative, unique patterns, for their bracelets. Although the small holes in the beads were hard to see for a few (you hardly see anyone with glasses in our community, although I've noticed many of my learners and PNGC leaders squinting..), by the end of the morning they all had their own bracelets on, and were admiring each others.
Creativity expressed through art is not something that is encouraged, cultivated, or sought after in Seleka in the form I know it. Usually the resources needed are just not available. I remember when we were young, having ample opportunities to make things with crayons, markers, fabric, blocks, etc. You name the material; it probably was made into a Christmas ornament and hung from our tree at some point (except for the bird tree--Adam and Ness, you know exactly what I mean). Here in our village, art comes in the form of a crown made from sweet wrappers, a made up song, or drawing in the sand. Wonderful expressions of creativity, but sometimes just a few crayola would add the missing piece between a picture being lost in the next dust storm and being able to bring it home for grandma. Not that I'm advocating that we bring Target to Seleka; however sometimes dust, wrappers, tires, and leftover wire can only get you so far. Seeing the carers work with pretty, shiny objects brought out the young girls in all of them; the young girls that look at a necklace, bracelet, or earrings and say 'ohh'. I realized that morning that I was raised in a country where freedom of creativity is not only encouraged, but where most people have the financial means to achieve it. I guess I had never realized that even the most basic supplies that help young people to express their creativity are still out of reach for so many people in the world. My hope is that through our time here we can create new and sustainable ways to encourage the creativity of as many people as possible. The smiles and laughter on the faces of my friends here should be the norm, not the exception.

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