It’s been a great week for dance4life. With the news that ambassador and supermodel Doutzen Kroes will be jetting into space, AND that dance4life will be the lucky recipients of one golden space flight ticket to auction off, we spent most of this week in orbit! Money raised form this fantastic ticket will be able to put thousands more young people through the dance4life schools programme! But, coming back down to earth, there is also a lot to tell…let’s start off with a return visit to my colleagues visiting Kenya and Malawi. We already heard last week about their fantastic welcome in Kenya. Let’s now follow them to Malawi…
“Imagine this: pitch dark night in rural Malawi, no electricity. Only the moon and thousands and thousands of stars and some torches to bring some light, the sound of crickets, and eleven white people spending the night there alone in two classrooms with two guards to watch over us. We are surrounded by 23,000 of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. I feel completely safe and extremely grateful to be here.
Wednesday, we arrived in Consol Home Orphan Care (CHOC) which by the way Madonna is supporting (she actually adopted her two Malawian children from one of the CHOC projects). So the dance4life crew is already working on ideas of how to get Madonna involved as an international ambassador and sponsor!
When we arrived at CHOC we were welcomed by a huge group of kids and youngsters from neighboring villages. In no time we were all dancing, clapping and gesturing together. Most of these kids lost one or both parents of AIDS. They live with one parent or with extended families. Because most of the families cannot provide for these orphans (more mouths to feed, more kids that have to go to school) these consol homes were founded to provide for these youngsters, aged between 2 and 20, during the day. Here, they offer life skills programmes, pre school care for the youngest and classes for the older kids. They provide for one meal at the end of the day. They facilitate so called sharing groups for somewhat older girls and boys (from age 10 onwards): ‘girls voices’ and ‘boys actions’. During these sessions they share all kinds of personal stories with the group. For girls, it’s mainly focused on empowerment and coping with personal trauma (rape for instance). For boys, the main focus is on behavioural change. It is hard to talk directly about how these youngsters are affected by HIV and AIDS. Because of fear of stigma, kids are told at the funeral of a parent that they died of diarrhea, pneumonia or an accident. They do know a lot about HIV and AIDS though, and feel safe enough to talk in the group. But together with some strange white ‘azungus’, that’s a little bit too much. Pretty extreme also to hear a four year old commenting on HIV and AIDS related issues.
One other focus point of CHOC is to support for so called ‘Granny’s’, widows and/or grandmothers that have to care for lots of these orphaned children. In most cases this is very hard. So they provide groups for these granny’s too. They work in the CHOC garden, where they grow vegetables which their ‘kids’ can eat in CHOC (so less mouths to feed). CHOC believes in creating self supporting networks so they invest in involving the local community in setting up these consol homes.
Thursday, we visited a community were such a consol home is being built. We actually helped a little bit together with all youngsters present by passing through bricks which the men subsequently were building the walls with. Very special moments there, singing , humming and working together: we felt really connected and hated the fact that we had to go after a couple of hours.
There’s lots more to share, but my battery is almost finished and everybody is already sound asleep! So I will go to sleep too. Zikomo (thank you)! Till soon, Anouk ”
Thank you Anouk, for sharing these special moments. Next stop for the blog will be Zambia, where two other colleagues are looking into re start possibilities…keep tuned in…