On day one of my month without sugar, why is it that all I seemed to think about were biscuits, and usually I am very particular about them? By bedtime I was seriously wondering if I could stay strong enough to make it through the full 4 weeks. But on day two I find that giving up sugar is the least I can possibly do when faced with the daily reality of the children I am thinking about as I do, and is being able to resist the lure of Cadbury’s Pebbles really a major problem to deal with?
I have been working with street-connected children for four and half years. I have heard their stories, witnessed their marginalisation and cried a thousand tears behind closed doors at the end of the day. I try not to do it in front of them, I don’t want to reconfirm the idea that their lives are tough, and their problems are difficult to overcome. But it can be hard, and occasionally you are faced with a situation in which the walls are broken down much faster than you would like, and you chastise yourself for the weakness. In many ways though it is not a weakness! If we didn’t cry so readily would we be striving so hard to advocate for these children. This morning I was reading Nelly Ali’s blog and the tears are flowing again. In one of her posts she notes that she does not like to write about the girls she is getting to know in a shelter for young mothers in Egypt because:
“I want to protect the children I have grown to love and their stories from reducing them to words. No matter how skilled you are, no matter how much excellence you have in the craft of writing, you can never do justice in portraying the injustice of life and humans towards these children.”
But sometimes she feels she must. In respect of her words I do not want to reduce them further here. I also do not want to sensationalise these stories by retelling them, but Nelly’s posts have reawakened my own determination, which had wavered slightly amidst the immensity of completing my PhD. Reading about the life stories she shares I understand how lucky I am to have been born to my family and how important it is that we advocate for these and future generations of street-connected children.
I have been selected as a volunteer to go to Rio for the Street Child World Cup. No it is not a holiday. I am not headed to Brazil to lie on a beach and get a tan. Rather over 120 of us are giving up two weeks of our time, as volunteers, to bring 25 teams (10 girls’ and 15 boys’ teams) together for a tournament that aims to showcase the situation of street-connected children across the world. The 10 days include the football matches as well as arts activities, cultural exchange and a conference. Historically street-connected children have been mostly male and so initiatives have been developed that focus on one specifically gendered definition of street boy (in some languages the word for street boy and street child are the same). Therefore, one of the aims at the conference is to listen to the girls share their experiences to develop programmes that focus specifically on their needs.
On the 25th March I will board a plane from Heathrow to Rio to take up one of the designated roles. The volunteers will all be pulling together to be first aiders, facilitators, costume designers, pitch management, transport and logistics officers, communications teams cameramen, translators, evaluation officers etc etc etc. To make it work the human resources and recruitment needs to be effective. This is an international team and there were 100 of us at Gilwell Park in Chingford last weekend, getting to know one other, deciding where our skills best fit and getting familiar with all the rules and procedures we need to follow. If anything the weekend made it all seem very real.
This video says it so much better than I can, but in short it’s more than a game.
Each volunteer must raise a minimum £1600 towards the day as a commitment to the cause. To do this I have set myself a goal – to complete a six month fitness challenge. In this time I hope to lose weight and be able to walk the six flights of stairs to the EENET office, where I work without being out of breath. A sugarless February is my way of making up for a lax December. It feels very small when compared to the challenges the children on the streets face daily and I hope that you can help keep me motivated. As I do it I have all the boys and young men I have worked with in Kenya in my mind and the Egyptian baby Nelly Ali speaks about here. Both countries will be represented in Rio.
If you want to help me do my bit for the Street Child World Cup (#SCWC2014):
Donations can be made at:
or by texting KFHV57 and an amount (for example KFHV57 £10) to 70070.