Monday, September 5, 2011

Convictions of starting kindergarten

I am sure you didn't miss the memo because I have hung it like a banner... my son started kindergarten a couple of weeks ago. He is in love. Three recesses a day! Oh my :) Rules teaching him how to be respectful of himself, others and property. Art class, library time, and parent volunteers. Reading new stories that hes never heard before or seen and illustrating his very own book (with an amazingly drawn American Flag. Backwards but awesome effort!). Looking like a tiny boy with his over sized bag on his back but proving that he is anything but a small boy when he comes home each day and tells me about his day. Community, friends, fun, learning. This is what kids in the United States do at age 5. Nervous parents usher their children out the door to school everyday with the promise and hope that they will learn the things they need to know to be successful, informed adults.

In other parts of the world though, things are not at all like this. Parents are trying to figure out how to survive and get enough food for their family. They need their kids to stay home and help them make money or they just live too far from school and can't get their children there. Unfortunately in some areas of the world, these families are exploited because of their struggles. This is the case in the Volta Region of Ghana. Tricky masters come in and convince parents that if they sell their children to them and allow them to work for them that they will make sure their child is educated and learns job skills to help them be successful. The money isn't great by our standards... about $20/year for the service of a child. But the promise that their child will be fed and educated and the fact that they can use this money to feed their other child is, unfortunately, a pretty promising offer. And so children are sold.
Children, the same age as my sweet son, are sent to work on Lake Volta for 14+ hours a day. They are made to dive deep into the lake and face drowning, eels, crocodiles and various other dangers of life in the fishing industry. These 5 year olds are the size of 3 year olds from malnutrition. They are beaten for making mistakes. And often the very young boys do not know how to swim but are forced to learn or never again rise to the surface of the lake. Refusal to do these things yield boat oar beatings or sometimes beatings entangled in embarrassment at the hands of other trafficked children. There is no hope. Their families don't have the money or resources to get them back or visit them. And they genuinely think that they are helping their child by giving them an opportunity for schooling. It is a lie and manipulation but desperate times make parents choose what they think is best for their kids using the resources they have.

And then the days start blurring together. Children on the lake don't remember what village they come from after a while or their birthdays. Little sleep, little food, work that adults find excruciating and difficult, no time for being a child. My heart breaks.

No, I can't change the world alone. But I believe that God calls each of us to use our lives and experiences to serve Him wherever we are and however we can. I am being led to Africa this November and my heart has already fallen in love with the children on the lake and with the kids at The Village of Life. I keep telling their story so more people fall in love with them. So that ignorance is no longer an excuse. The burden is now on all of our shoulders. We KNOW the horror of child trafficking and we all have to figure out what to do with that. I would ask for your prayers both for the trip and for how you can be involved in loving on OUR children.

The truth is, that since my son has been riding up on kindergarten and then beginning, the more I have thought about and mourned the fact that there are so many children who do not have access to the same things our children have. That has rocked my world. Absolutely to the core. And I can't just leave it at thinking because that feels so wrong. And that is the conviction of kindergarten for me.

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