I just realized that communication between children and adults is the most essential part of our work with young children. We cannot discover the child unless we get in touch with him or her—it is this communication that forms the bridge across the river, which divides the grown ups from the un-grown.
In short, children speak with the essence of truth, with a natural openness. If we, as adults, can learn to talk to children with the same inherent skill, something magical occurs! Here is a short story I have listened to from Damulira Rahif, a young child of five and half years, who comes to the Clover center daily.
One afternoon, after we finished school activities at the Clover Foundation, we walked to Rahif’s house, which is 35 minutes away on foot. The road was very muddy since it had rained the entire day.
Along the way we talked about several seemingly small things, starting with his favorite dish, which he said is rice and beef; he was quick to add that he first tasted spaghetti at the Clover center. Rahif added that the color he liked best is red and that he really enjoys bicycle racing. I asked him what he wanted to do when he grows up. Rahif was quick to add that he wanted very much to be a doctor. He also asked me, what it took for someone to become a doctor.
As adults, we are generally so busy with our own problems that we do not have time or space to see how sad, lonely, or vulnerable other people are.
Curious to know why Rahif wanted to become a doctor, we decided to sit down on the veranda of a small house on the road to finish our talk. The words and thoughts that flowed from this young boy’s small mouth were humbling. Rahif told me how one night, while in his bed in their one room apartment, he over heard his father telling his mother that he was going to leave the family because he was HIV positive and felt that he could not look after the family with his limited income. He also told her that with the burden of this disease, he could only afford to look after himself, and no longer take care of her or the two children.
Rahif said he was pained what he heard and wondered how his father could abandon them. But he also knew that if his father was well, he would probably not have left. This, he said, is why he wants to become a doctor. He wants to be able to treat children and their parents who are sick and are in urgent need of medical attention. At the end of our talk, I gave a nice, warm hug and told him everything will be all right.
Rahif is now living at with his mother and brother at his grandmother’s home, and enjoys the bedtime stories they share with him.
--Esther Mukambi, Program Coordinator, Clover Foundation, Busega, Kampala District, Uganda