17 Jun International Day of the African Child
This is a guest blog post written by Abraham Kiboki, our Director of Operations in Kenya.
Every year on June 13th, the Children’s Department is in charge of championing and organizing several ‘International Day of the African Child’ events in different parts of the country. This day is meant to celebrate our children and spread awareness about the issues that are affecting the health and wellbeing of our future generations.
In previous years, the event was held in a stadium or in a town-hall where stakeholders from all over the country were able to gather and attend. This year, the event was organized a bit differently as the Children’s department decided to have it at sub-county level (smaller units). With the reorganization, we were honored to be the home asked to host the event in our region.
Uncles, Aunties and the children in our Kitalale home spent three days prior to the event cleaning up, mowing the grass on the compound and scrubbing the walls to prepare for the big celebration. On the day of the event, the kitchen staff and our older children Grace, James and Alex (who were on a short school break) woke up at 2:00am to prepare the meal to feed the guests attending the event. Within an hour of preparation, they had rolled and cooked about 400 chapati. Food for the event was ready by 10:00am for the event to start at 11:00am.
The day started warm with the morning sun shining through the early morning clouds. The energy at the home was full of excitement as the kids dressed up in their favorite red T-shirts with the Children of Hope logo on them. The event attracted participants from five children’s homes in our region (Zoe Tribe, Talented Hands, AIC Tumaini, Kenya Church of Christ and us, the host). In addition, there were two primary schools from the neighborhood and one community dance group who led the entertainment bit of the event. Among the stakeholders in attendance were the Catholic Relief Services, the Humanity Inclusion Group (formerly known as Handicap International) as well as government officials from the Children’s Office and our local county.
The event kicked off with a 1-kilometer walk with all of the children from the participating homes. Throughout the walk, the kids were chanting songs of victory and carrying this year’s banner for the International Day of the African Child celebration. Each of the kids were wearing the colors from their respective homes, which made the event very colorful and vibrant. The kids made their triumphant entry into our Kitalale home’s gathering area, where three huge tents and chairs set up for them. They were then received with more songs and the whole crowd broke out in dance. It was a scene to behold as smiles and laughter filled up the air.
There were several speakers lined to the event in addition to wonderful performances ranging from songs, music, poems and dances from each of the children’s homes and the schools in attendance. The Director of the Children’s Services gave his keynote speech where he presented some startling statistics of child abuse cases reported and other general figures on matters affecting or infringing on the rights of the children. It was sad to hear from him that there were 11,979 cases of child pregnancies this year alone, with some of the affected being as young as 10 years old. With that said, he also mentioned that the Kenya government is looking to support approximately 20,000 children in the region who are in need of basic needs like food and education.
The Director of the Children’s Services also reported that in this county alone, there are 29 registered children’s homes. He noted that despite the government’s efforts, the need for support from institutions like the children’s homes is critical in helping the government reach out to as many as possible children. The region currently has only 10 children’s offices and despite a 10% reduction in the children negligence cases from last year’s 2033 to 1445 this year; this number is still huge and hence the need for collaboration from all partners. He praised efforts done by the children institutions in providing some of the affected children with a safe home environment and investing in their talents and gifts just like children from normal families.
The best part of the event was a closing speech from a child chosen by the Children’s Department. We were so privileged to have Grace from our home chosen to deliver the speech. Grace did an excellent job delivering her speech which captured the attention of the audience. People were shocked to hear how she articulated the issues in an orderly manner and ending her speech with the importance of the theme of the event. It was simply amazing. We are so proud of her.
We are grateful that the Children’s Department deemed our home fit to host the first regional event. People enjoyed the sumptuous meal prepared by our cooks and the kids from the community and visiting homes all got a chance to enjoy our playground equipment. The event came to an end with rainfall, which is considered a blessing in the African culture especially at the end of an occasion.