Friday, 6 December 2013

Nelson Mandela - forever a beacon of hope

To children in the impoverished world, Nelson Mandela is a character in a storybook, writes Elizabeth Gomm.
In our own library at the Happy House, we have two easy-to-read books telling his story.
They are borrowed frequently, which indicates that the older ones among our family of 78 children do have a simple understanding of what he did to change the world. Their world.
These are young people who will shape the future of their country, who are being raised to stand up for truth, justice and right.
Thanks to the vision of our founder Sue Hayward, who created the Happy House, our children, rescued from the scrapheap of life, are being encouraged to speak out without fear, knowing at the Happy House, their voice will always be heard. Their opinions valued.
“We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society – a life free from violence and fear.” 
― Nelson Mandela
On a continent where there is so much poverty, so much injustice and so much corruption, it is the children of Africa today who are its legacy of hope.
Mandela's extraordinary life, his defiance in the face of injustice, his extraordinary ability to forgive, is an inspiration to our family.
Our Mama Sue was insistent that we have television at the Happy House, we were lucky enough to have one donated by a supporter in the UK. It may seem a luxury in an area where most local people gather in bars or cafe to catch the news on TV because, in their meagre homes,they will not have TV, radio and most people can't afford to buy a newspaper even once a week.
Sue wanted a television so our children could watch the news unfold and understand the world beyond the village of Watamu.
They sit down with our social worker, Billy , every evening to watch the national and regional news. He will explain to them anything they do not understand.
They will over coming days  watch with interest the unfolding tributes to one of the most incredible, influential and inspirational men of modern times.
Through television, they will understand how one man, with determination,courage and love, can change the world.
Uncle Billy will talk to them, in a context they can understand, about Nelson Mandela, the greatest peacemaker of modern times, and of the enormous sacrifice he made  to make the world a much better place.
Our Happy House children come to us from unimaginable backgrounds of tragedy as frightened, defeated, poorly little beings, who have experienced little, if any, love in their lives.  At the Happy House they are learning what it is to be loved and to love, to have respect and understanding. As they learn to receive love, they learn to give it. They also learn to trust.
Ours is a family bound by love, not blood. Hate has no place in our vocabulary.
As much as he was a force for peace, justice and hope - Mandela was a force for love.
In the closing pages of his memoir, Mandela writes: . “I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity.
 “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.
" People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
These words will need no explanation to our children.