Yesterday I regretted not agreeing to stay longer in Zimbabwe. How could I not? After seeing the happy faces of the children dancing, singing, and playing together, some who had never been outside their living area, some who had never been to a party.
Party in the park © Ann Sellberg
Everything was exciting to them; the park we were in, the face painting, the games, and especially the prizes. I had received a donation from friends and family consisting of some really nice watches. Since we didn’t have enough to give to all of them, we decided to hold a talent show and give them as prizes. The acts they put up! I guess when kids are that age it is really important to impress each other and they spend a lot of time developing their talents. One little girl, not more than half my height, scrawny and dressed in rags, stood on the dance floor and did some really impressive (and quite sexy) hip movements. Another guy did a rap song about HIV that he had written himself. A third sat down on the floor.
“Breaking news,” he said, “HIV has unlawfully entered the body of a human being.” And so forth. At the end the winners were called up on “the stage”, shook my hand, shook Alik’s hand (the psychologist in the project) and Alik placed the watch on their wrists. Most of them insisted on having the watch on the right wrist. I guess they just weren’t used to watches and how to wear them. But their eyes were shining as they received it.
It was a big event, a party for almost a hundred kids. Alik and I had spent weeks planning, organising and preparing for it. I was really happy that the counsellors had been so active, both in the preparation and in the execution of the party. They could have made excuses not to come, like saying that they were going to a wedding or a funeral as it was on a Saturday, but they showed up. And not only that; they were preparing the food, the games and they were being the judges at the talent show. We couldn’t have done it without them. But they’re saying that it is for their kids. I guess it’s not so much about them helping me, but me helping them.
Alik is quite impressive. He is tall, thin, close to fifty, with deep eyes and a friendly smile. He cares for the relationship with each and every person he meets and he meets everyone with respect. Before the party there were some hiccups: we only got one tent although we’d asked for two, I forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer for thawing, and so on, but he never accused anyone, he just took it with calm. And I can see how respected and liked he is, both by co-workers and by the kids.
But the kids like me too. I think it started with Chido – the little girl who had problems at home with her stepfather. Whenever she sees me she cries: “Dr Ann!” and hugs me. But it doesn’t stop there - wherever I am, she wants to be next to me. I guess through her the other kids have seen that I’m approachable and yesterday, at the party, I was surrounded by a bunch of kids to the extent that it was difficult for me to move around. But I like it. I like walking around with a hand in each hand, I like sitting down with two arms around a bunch of them. I like it because I can feel how much it means to them, but it also means a lot to me. I’ve always liked kids, I don’t know why. Maybe because I still have so much of a kid inside of me. And to be honest, I would have loved to stand up on that stage too. Maybe I will, next time.
“We should hold parties for them more often,” Alik was saying. “Maybe once every quarter, if the budget were to allow it.”
I hope it will. The entire party cost 400 dollars, and that was money well spent.