Author: Cynthia Chitongo
Stella is an enthusiastic and passionate grade one teacher who loves her work. She knows all the kids' personalities and characters in her class and makes an extra effort to meet their parents and guardians at the start of each year. This is good for both her and the children, as it creates a special relationship for her to deal with the challenges that she faces as a teacher.
After one of the school term's short holidays, Stella noticed that one of her pupils, Samantha, had suddenly changed from a once bubbly little girl to a very confused unhappy tearful child. She was now coming to school dirty, hungry and without stationery. Her uniform was unwashed, and her diary unsigned every single day. Stella was very concerned and on that Friday afternoon decided to find out what was going on.
She called Samantha and asked her to please deliver a letter to her mum. At the mention of her mother, Samantha burst into tears and and got very emotional. Stella could only hold her in her arms and comfort her until she calmed down then she told her story. Her mummy was not at home, she had just left without saying goodbye. Samantha did not know where and if she would be coming back but all she knew was that a lot of people had gathered at her house and singing songs and praying while she was at one of the neighbours until they left one by one. Now it was just her and her dad. Her dad was very busy and came home every night drunk or too tired to do anything, sometimes he couldn't even cook dinner.
Stella could not understand all this because she had met Samantha's mother and everything had seemed to be okay. She decided that she was going to do the best that she could. Everyday she began to pack an extra lunch for Samantha, organised with the school aftercare to assist with homework, and with other teachers for extra curriculum activities that she knew Samantha would love. She organised for Samantha to bring a change of clothes every Friday and all her dirty uniforms to take them for laundry until they could speak to the father to find out if relatives could help with Samantha's welfare. Stella later learned that Samantha's mom had died in a car accident and no one had bothered to explain or get counselling for poor Samantha. It was very painful and confusing for the five and a half year old girl.
Most children find themselves in very depressing and confusing situations that they have no idea how to deal with. Children are the least heard and they suffer silently. It's sad that whatever these children go through, impacts what the children grow up to be. Someone once said that “Children are living messages that we send into the future.” Children adapt and they are what they live and this can be observed in their body language, personal expressions or the way they play with other children. At Childline, counselors pick up a sexually/physically abused child from the way they play with dolls in the playroom. Even with counselling, it is difficult for a child to fully recover into adulthood.
Just by playing with dolls or with other children at a creche, you can immediately tell how a child lives at home. Some children are made to grow up fast because they are given adult responsibilities by parents who have failed to play that role because of substance/alcohol abuse or a situation that they use as an excuse for their pathetic failures. Single mothers who choose to have too many 'fatherless' children will not be able to cope leaving the older children with the difficult responsibility of helping to parent their siblings. In the case of death in the family the grieving time and process is dictated to them without people realising if they have fully dealt with their loss or not. It is easier for adults to brush off/dismiss children by labelling them without even trying to comprehend why they are behaving in a certain way.
Without filling in any fostering/adoption forms, too much commitment or any financial obligation, adults can influence the lives of children in their communities. It can be anything but a child will cherish it for the rest of their life and will take it into their adult life. A friend of mine, Anne drives around with a packet of apples in her car and gives them out when she feels the need to do so. It makes a very healthy difference to a hungry child. Another mom, Sharon, takes her daughter's friend who lives next door to school every morning, provides for her lunch and spends afternoon with her where she supervises her homework and bathes her before sending her to her raging drug addicted mom who has no idea or couldn't care less for the child. A Pastor at one of the churches was known for teaching teenagers about good moral values as well as personal hygiene sometimes going as far as providing what they needed. The list is endless for these teachers, neighbours or friend's parent who become heroes to emotional heavily burdened children. They make a difference in these children's lives by stretching their hands and helping them realize that there is hope for their different unbearable circumstances.
It does not really matter how a person helps a child but it will go a lot to what adult they become. It could be toiletries, underwear, advice a lunch of what you left over or are eating in your house, a lift to school, a shoulder to cry on, a small weekend chore that they get paid for. It will take off their mind from their situation and boost self esteem. It we could all open our eyes to see and stretch our hands, then we would create better future leaders. It is better to build children than to repair men.