India. The air is heavy, smoggy and fragrant. The noises are strange to my ears: the language is fast-paced and energetic; car horns sound constantly; I hear fire crackers to celebrate the Diwali light festival. Brightly coloured clothes and flowers stand out in contrast to the grey sky. The food is amazing: rich, scented, intricate. India.
I’ve been in India for only one full day, and yet, I feel like I’ve experienced so much already. In truth, I feel a little overwhelmed. It’s hard to know what to write, as I have so much to tell, so much to say, and I don’t have time to write it all. So, in the time I have this morning, I will tell you about some of the children I met.
“My name is Shivani, and I’m a child journalist.”
The pride and confidence behind the introduction made me smile.
I sat on the floor in a small room. At a guess, it was probably about 4 metres by 3 metres in size. One by one, the children introduced themselves. There was about 20 of them in front of me, and together they made up different children clubs according to age group, the child journalists being one of those groups.
I don’t think I have ever met such an engaged bunch of children before. Ever. They were intelligent, insightful, passionate, vibrant. They shared stories of change. One boy said he was caught up in gambling and stealing, before joining the club. A girl said how she used to be shy, and hardly ever spoke. Another little girl, stood up, and with a tissue in her hand and tears in her eyes, she spoke of her sponsor from the United States, and how the medicine provided for her epilepsy changed her life and answered her prayers.
They asked questions of the team. Hard, interesting questions that made me think. Like what my own children do for their community back home and how women are valued in Australia. They loved hearing that my husband cooks!
Outside the small room, this is their neighbourhood.
These children face so many challenges, and yet what I saw, was children empowered with confidence and the belief that change is possible. The light in their eyes was one of the, most beautiful things I have ever seen! It was hope, and as I recall it, tears well in my eyes.
Hope. The child journalists are taught video and camera skills (watch one of their videos, based on a true story here), they write their own scripts, they do drama, they write, they do extensive surveys, collecting data from hundreds of children…and they do it all on their own, without input from adults. These children have been given a voice and a means to express it. For example, one of the skits, written and performed for us by the children was in relation to rubbish, like that of the picture above. They performed with incredible confidence and conviction, and the message was strong, true and clear.
One the way back to the World Vision office in New Dehli, I chatted to Sam, one of the Indian World Vision staff, about this 14 month old project.
“I wish you could have seen these children before, and how far they have come.” I saw the same light in his eyes as I saw in the children’s earlier. Hope.
I said, “Tell me.”
Perhaps that will be a story for another time.
I’ll leave this post with this picture. Shivani, one of the child journalists, sat close to me, and she leaned over and asked if I would write my name on her hand. I wrote Kelly on her hand, and she wrote a message on my own hand. The words on my hand represent the faces of these children imprinted on my heart.