"Good news!"... we no longer hear that phrase as often as we would want to. I have switched off my TV set and have been avoiding the news because of the disgust I feel for the events around me in my world. Nations are threatening others with nuclear weapons, while others are too greedy to admit that the reason they send men to fight is for their own interests. A man murdered his wife, another killed his two sons but failed to kill himself. Families are breaking apart, the government system is tainted with arrogance and corruption. I hear relatives are given senior positions in government and the governments of the day have continuous in-house party power struggles.
Depression is the order of the day now. The pain is acute. At night, terror grips us and during the day the arrows of death follow us.
Even in the dark, there is still good news, but we have been given more than that. Forgiveness of our sins. Mine and your sins all forgotten. Remember that day when you sinned and wished you could turn back the hand of time, the scar you received because of the wrong decision you made. Those enemies that surround you because of your own dishonesty? Imagine all that being erased. What ease and comfort that brings. A comfort that goes beyond this world.
You see such is the news that is here and available to all who will turn off the noise of this world and frequently tune in to the heavens. Yes, there are many other speakers who claim they have the solutions. Never-ending televised talk shows seem to dissect the problems of man as if to sort them out while counselors come up with cleverly designed words on how to easily solve problems but all this is in vain.
Here is milk that you can buy without money. Here, is life that you can attain without working for it. Here’s grace that calls you to just come the way you are. Here’s a burden which is light. There is hope in this decaying world. Though the media paints negativity and desperation as if they were no God I will be encouraged that there is one who cares for me. One who knows my name and not an identity by a computer number. One who feels my pain and hunger unlike today’s politicians. One who carries away my shame and anguish.
Mine is hope that cannot be corrupted. It is secure because the foundation is Christ my Lord. I still want to believe that God listens to the cry of that widow in Missisi compound- the slam and dump of Lusaka city. That young boy, sleeping close to a fire this night. That girl who tonight just got defiled by her own uncle. That girl living under guilt because she aborted her child, unready to bear the ridicule of her family, church and community. What about that wife who has just been infected by HIV/AIDS this evening, by her unfaithful husband? What about that young girl right now who is preparing to sell her body to support her family back home?
There is hope, Jehovah is in control and not even the gates of Hades can prevail.
“I sing because am happy I sing because am free, his eyes on the sparrow and he is watching over me.. tell me why should I worry? Why should I worry? Cause he watches over me."
By Henry Chibutu, Zambia YMCA
The South African YMCA shares their understanding of how arts can be used to creatively engage youth.
1. Creativity – Being able to think on your feet, approach tasks from different perspectives and think ‘outside of the box’ will distinguish your child from others. In an arts program, participants will be asked to recite a monologue in 6 different ways, create a painting that represents a memory, or compose a new rhythm to enhance a piece of music. If children have practice thinking creatively, it will come naturally to them now and in their future career.
2. Confidence – The skills developed through theatre, not only train you how to convincingly deliver a message, but also build the confidence you need to take command of the stage. Theater training gives children practice stepping out of their comfort zone and allows them to make mistakes and learn from them in rehearsal. This process gives children the confidence to perform in front of large audiences.
3. Problem Solving – Artistic creations are born through the solving of problems. How do I turn this clay into a sculpture? How do I portray a particular emotion through dance? How will my character react in this situation? Without even realizing it kids that participate in the arts are consistently being challenged to solve problems. All this practice problem solving develops children’s skills in reasoning and understanding. This will help develop important problem-solving skills necessary for success in any career.
4. Perseverance – When a child picks up a musical instrument for the first time, she/he knows that playing Bach right away is not an option; however, when that child practices, learns the skills and techniques and doesn’t give up, that Bach concerto is that much closer. In an increasingly competitive world, where people are being asked to continually develop new skills, perseverance is essential to achieving success.
5. Focus – The ability to focus is a key skill developed through group work. Keeping a balance between listening and contributing involves a great deal of concentration and focus. It requires each participant to not only think about their role, but how their role contributes to the big picture of what is being created. Recent research has shown that participation in the arts improves children’s abilities to concentrate and focus in other aspects of their lives.
6. Non-Verbal Communication – Through experiences in theatre and dance education, children learn to breakdown the mechanics of body language. They experience different ways of moving and how those movements communicate different emotions. They are then coached in performance skills to ensure they are portraying their character effectively to the audience.
7. Receiving Constructive Feedback – Receiving constructive feedback about a performance or visual art piece is a regular part of any arts instruction. Children learn that feedback is part of learning and it is not something to be offended by or to be taken personally. It is something helpful. The goal is the improvement of skills and evaluation is incorporated at every step of the process. Each arts discipline has built in parameters to ensure that critique is a valuable experience and greatly contributes to the success of the final piece.
8. Collaboration – Most arts disciplines are collaborative in nature. Through the arts, children practice working together, sharing responsibility, and compromising with others to accomplish a common goal. When a child has a part to play in a music ensemble, or a theater or dance production, they begin to understand that their contribution is necessary for the success of the group. Through these experiences children gain confidence and start to learn that their contributions have value even if they don’t have the biggest role.
9. Dedication – When kids get to practice following through with artistic endeavours that result in a finished product or performance, they learn to associate dedication with a feeling of accomplishment. They practice developing healthy work habits of being on time for rehearsals and performances, respecting the contributions of others, and putting effort into the success of the final piece. In the performing arts, the reward for dedication is the warm feeling of an audience’s applause that comes rushing over you, making all your efforts worthwhile.
10. Accountability –When children practice creating something collaboratively they get used to the idea that their actions affect other people. They learn that when they are not prepared or on-time, that other people suffer. Through the arts, children also learn that it is important to admit that you made a mistake and take responsibility for it. Because mistakes are a regular part of the process of learning in the arts, children begin to see that mistakes happen. We acknowledge them, learn from them and move on.
My journey as a Young Peace Performer has been full of stories that range from friendship, identity change, culture shock and many other good experience. It is a year of my life that I really value and thank God for. Life always gives us what we deserve and indeed this year equipped me with the tools I truly need to change my life and my world. I now believe more in global citizenship than before my involvement in the programme. I have a feeling of equality, and justice for all - not only my friends, family or fellow citizens. The programme also gave me a chance to visit both religious and cultural sites in the host countries and this makes the exchange full of stories and beautiful things to remember.
Days before Christmas, the horizon rises in the North Pole and Northern lights splash with numerous beautiful colours filling the sky as they were pointed out by Erick, a fellow participant on our drive to visit his home town in Tromsa. As he drives us around in his mother’s small car through the ice, snow and deep tunnels, he shows us around with full joy of being home again after a long time. It was not only Erick feeling that he is back home, but me as well... I felt the warmth and security of having parents around. Aside from it being my first home stay in the programme, it was also one of my most refreshing moments in the program. Numerous home stays occured but all my curiosity and anxiety of a Norwegian family was cleared in Tromso. When we came back to meet other participants who were in other places visiting other families, the story was the same, all felt welcome. During that period I realised all of us were missing home and that home stays gave us a sense of what we were missing.
One may wonder what we learn from living together throughout the tour. I learnt to live with all kinds of people, personalities, cultures and religious beliefs among others. This equipped me with very positive, well-rounded, leadership skills. No one knows the future, but after working with the Young Peace Performers for a year there can never be a workplace, a group or project without even one trait from my experience in the programme. The programme came as a blessing and motivator towards working for peace in the world.
After all, I learned these leadership skills not from books but from people and it will be my own fault if I forget or ignore even one of them. I believe as the programme ends, with most of us returning to our home countries, 20 lives have been changed to work for justice and to take youth leadership to the next level. Most of us, if not all of us, are empowered and we are now capable of reasoning, more confident and courageous than before the program.
Nelson Mandela said, “a course that is supported by the youth cannot fail” and as Fredrik Glad Gjernes, the International Director of YMCA-YWCA always sings “we shall not be moved just like a tree standing by the water side,” this programme taught me how to stand firm no matter the force that is against my leadership experience.
By Samwel Odiwuor Ojijo, Young Peace Performer
Source: Kenya YMCA