Friday, July 16, 2010

The Kids Are Alright

There are a lot of beautiful and great things here in Botswana, but my favorite so far has to be the kids. There is another volunteer here who works on a project with a resource center that does after school programs for OVC's (Orphans and Vulnerable Children), and I go over there to help out occasionally. The resource center is a project of the Catholic Church and they provide a space for kids to play and be after school. They also have a partnership with the local Rotary club to hold a feeding for the kids every Saturday. They feed anywhere between 150-250 kids each time.

I go there to help out and to play with the kids. It is hard not to feel like a celebrity when I walk into the center. Several of the kids will run over to talk to me, pet my arms and head (they are fascinated by how different my hair is), or press all of the buttons on my watch.

A common conversation goes like this:

Boy: I like your watch.
Me: Thank you. I like it too.
Boy: Borrow me your watch (they use borrow instead of the word give)
Me: But then how will be able to tell time?
Boy: You can buy another one. Borrow it to me.
Me: Ah, but I have no money. How will I buy a new watch?
Boy: (A blank look and a brief pause)... Borrow me your watch.

I do all sorts of activities with the kids. Many of the children who come to the center do not have shoes, but they all have big smiles and seemingly boundless energy. I play ball with some of them (soccer is very popular), I push them on a swing, or we might color pictures. I can't even remember how long it has been since I colored a picture with crayons. Another favorite is to be swung around while I hold their arms. They laugh and giggle the whole time and then everyone wants a turn. I swing them around until I am so dizzy I can't stand up.

The kids just crave any kind of attention, and just being picked up makes their day (One little boy came over and held his hands up, asking to be held. As soon as I had picked him up and held him, I had a line of about 5 kids wanting to be picked up as well. Everyone got a turn and then they asked for another). The minute I take out my camera, the kids fight to get in for a picture and then immediately want to see the picture on the screen. I imagine many of the children have never seen a picture of themselves and they have very interesting (and oftentimes humorous) reactions to seeing themselves on the small screen.

I get home covered in mud and all sorts of filth but have a big smile on my face. The feeling is best summed up by one of the Rotary members. "You know why I love coming out here? I love coming out here because these kids remind you that you aren't such a big shot after all. It doesn't matter who you are or what you have done. Its not all about you."