Conversations with my daughters (4)

My youngest daughter is completing her HSC.

She is currently writing an assignment on ‘History and Memory’ and reading The Fiftieth Gate. It is a mixture of memoir and recount about the Holocaust. One of her self-selected supplementary texts is the film Hotel Rwanda, about the brave Paul Rusesabagina, the man who saved all of those people who fled to his hotel from the genocide in Kigali.

Paul Rusesabagina said of the film that it couldn’t possibly show the horrors of those days:  the rapes, the killing.

On the ABC tonight I heard about Bosco Ntaganda, who is currently operating in The Congo as one of the ‘most wanted’ warlords. More ‘unrivaled’ violence.

And there was a boy who died this week from a random king hit in Kings Cross…

Each of our visits to Africa: to Zimbabwe in the 1990s when we lived and worked in Harare, or more recently to Tanzania visiting the Katoke Trust schools and work, has been to communities that are vibrant and dynamic, to hospitable people.

Holly is just like anyone else who has had a personal experience, or who seeks to be empathetic. She does not see the people who die as film extras, or as distant shadows. She sees them as our neighbours.

How do we do more on a consistent basis in schools to close the space between us and the people who live in such circumstances? The students want to do the best possible thing to assist – and not out of post-colonial guilt. They hope for safety and significance for other people. And parents, rightly, want their own young adults to be safe and to undertake any such connection wisely.

I am grateful to my predecessor at PLC Sydney that we have links with orphanages in Vietnam and schools in Timor-Leste. We are now connecting to work in Kolkata where children are being freed from sex-slavery and to the Mizoram province in India where we have much to learn. And we have links with Katoke where wonderful things are happening.

Of course schools can’t connect with the dangerous places. And we need to focus on a few projects rather than cast the net too widely. And with each project there needs to be parameters and clear expectations as to the nature of the relationship.

Perhaps I say to my daughter ‘Thank God for the Salvos’, and for World Vision, and for The Katoke Trust…

There are whole communities addressing these needs. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

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