Friday, September 30, 2011

A Child's life ... in Africa

The kids are celebrating Children's Day and included me in the fun, dragging me from place to place and posing for pictures.  Here, they're standing still just long enough for the photo.  Then back to bouncing and running.  Kids!  Too nice for words.

Delightful youngsters at their elementary school insist on being photographed over and over.  Printed copies of the photos delivered the following year elicited squeals and dancing.  Like children everywhere, a little fun takes precedence over serious conversation.

The scar on this young lady's cheek tells a bit about her life.  Their environment includes open fires in the outdoor kitchen, uneven pathways, simple home construction, roadways without separate sidewalks, and a lack of construction safety standards for pretty much anything.

The photo here is of the cooking area at their elementary school.  It's in a corner of the playground next to the classrooms and unprotected from the 400+ kids who use the area.  Lunch most days is rice from USAID.  Upgraded by an assistance project the year after this photo was taken, it's now walled in to keep the kids away from harm.

Like most African countries, theirs is working hard to improve life for citizens.  It's an uphill road, though.  A former colony, their independence was hindered by Soviet influence until democratic reform emerged in the 90's.  Unemployment hovers around 50% despite a strong work ethic and healthy Catholic culture.  A lack of skilled labor is part of the problem, and education is a big part of the focus for development efforts.

Parents and teachers are tough, practical folks.  They work hard, long days, every day.  Apart from the children, life offers few reasons to smile.  Change is slow.  Hope is hard to come by.   Feel free to join in and lend a hand.  Mom and dad will thank God for you.

(Poppa, in back, chuckled and commented that he was glad he'd worn his nice shirt for the photo.  These shots were taken in Sao Tome & Principe, one of the nicer places in Africa where we work.)