The children and I sat under a tree and I showed them the books created by the DrawBridge children. Then they created messages, in response to the books, for me to bring back to California.
Patience, age 16, was the first to finish and she called me over to show me what she had made:
“I am Patience,16 years old and I love you all. I was very grateful to see your nice messages and drawings. Take care and keep well. You a cute and precious. I like cracking jokes and sharing ideas and problems. Have you seen my smiling face? The sun is always shining for you, so no need for worries.”
I admired her work and sat with her while the others were still drawing. She pointed to the part where she had written, “I like sharing ideas and problems” and she said to me in a soft voice, “I have many problems.” As it turned out, she really needed to share her problems, and yes, they were too many. She is an orphan and she is also a child head of household…quite common in sub-Saharan Africa. She cared for both parents as they were dying (fed, bathed and held them) and now she cares for three younger siblings. The youngest is four years old and stays with their grandmother during the day. Grandmother is sick, there is no food, and Patience doesn’t think that she will be able to stay in school. My heart was breaking. I wanted to wrap her up in a cozy soft blanket and take her with me. Instead, I gave her an orange, which was all that I had.
Other children shared:
Rodney, age 19:
“What’s up guys? Here Africa is good. Be good, nice and humble. Take good care of yourself. I was so pleased by the articles you make. I just say, guys, keep doing that. I hope one day we will be united as one family.”
Cryty, age 15:
I love you all. Feel free, don’t be feared by anything.”
Chrisptopher, age 17:
I feel sad being an orphan, but I know that we people in Africa and those in America and other countries of the world are one family, one people, one world. I feel great about the friendship between Americans and Zimbabweans.”
Colettor, age 15 (the very gorgeous one who thinks that English is easy like cutting margarine) included in her message:
“I love some kisses, more than 50 per day or night.”
Later that afternoon we worked on a quilt project. Each child, or group of two or three, is given a 6 inch square piece of white fabric and they are asked to share (with California teenagers) the challenges and difficult situations that they face as African teenagers.
Patience and Lindah:
“Hi! We are facing different problems especially the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Problems are part of life so please don’t lose hope. Take care and fight against these problems. You can do it.”
Tonderai and Canaan:
“Here in Zimbabwe we youths we face some problems such as:
1. Child abuse.
3. HIV/AIDS pandemic.
4. Lack of education.
5. Lack of resources.
6. Lack of computers in schools.
Be proud of what you are and SAY NO TO RACISM.”
(They included a drawing of crying children, saying, “Uniting against child abuse.”)
Angella, Colletor and Cryty:
“Young people, especially orphans are facing problems like abuse. They are sometimes abused by their guardian. There is shortage of food and young people are starving due to hunger.”
"Childrens of 14 years old were abusing by their parents by being no give them food and shelter.” (Drawing of crying child appears here.) “Others they suffered from HIV/AIDS. At our school there is no few books for reading. Love and Peace.”
Lawrence, Godfrey and Nyasha:
“From Zimbabwe to U.S.A. and the world. To you all children we would like and love to say be proud of what u are whether you are black, white or even an albino. Don’t wish to be someone else. Thank you all for sending us your pictures we appreciate that. Be satisfied of what you have. Thank you.”
Rodney, Chris, Welsh:
Hi guys. Here in Zim we are facing problems like:
1. Educational facilities.
2. AIDS pandemic.
3. Racial discrimination.
4. No support in education.
Being optimistic will solve our problems and we can have a newly born world.”
“We are facing problems like child abuse. Many children are suffering from HIV and AIDS. We have many orphans who are homeless and end up being street kids. Many children are suffering from malnutrition (kwashioker) because of the lack of balanced diet. We love you all.”
“The problems which are actually faced here in Zimbabwe by children are:
1. Some are being raped with their stepfathers and some are being abused with their parents.
2. Lastly, some are being attacked with AIDS especially us youth.”
Patience and Moreblessing:
“We best friends. We know we are children. Our problems is abusing at our homes. We don’t have money to pay school feez. We have shortage of computers in our school. We have a problems of books.”
I was sad to leave the children (not sad to leave rigid Head Master) and one of them yelled to me as the car drove away, “Don’t forget my name.” On the drive home, Never, who can light up the entire universe with his smile, told me about the deaths of 2 of his 5 children. Every person in this country has a story to tell…a bad one.