Oh but there is!
My challenge today. To impress on a large audience of 15 – 16 year old girls the immensity of the AIDS orphan issue in South Africa without losing them to despair. To compel them to understand, to feel compassion, to want to act.
To want to do something to make a difference.
It was a large Catholic Girls’ school hall, filled with the noisy hub-bub of chatting girls, about 150 of them. Teachers and the women from the local Catholic Country Womens’ Association dotted the room and herded the girls into position.
The meaning of the morning’s activities were succinctly and beautifully proposed to the girls before hand, preparing the way for my presentation.
It is a fine balance when you are describing immense pain and suffering and the scale of the issue, to not make the problem seem totally irresolvable. But the girls listened intently.
I asked them to imagine what being an orphan was like – a confronting request. And explained that in Africa, it was not just being an orphan, but most likely having lost your entire family and support network as well.
I explained the numbers. What does 1.4 million really mean. 23,333 buses full. How many is 500 children being orphaned a day? Four times the girls in the room at the time.
And then I asked them if they could make a difference.
I told them they were already making a difference by being there and listening. I asked them to tell their friends and family, as they now knew more then most people know.
Consider yourself part of a growing global community who want this to change, I suggested. Join the voices.
And learn to knit. All the while, a row of volunteer CWA women sat and clicked their needles. A gentle sound in the background to accompany my words.
Finally, I told them the story of the three month old baby girl, in the creche in Soweto, who had tried so bravely to smile when I stroked her hand. And I said it was for her that we needed to act. Her and the millions like her.
As my presentation ended, the girls were rearranged into groups. Knitting needles, wool and kindly older women were everywhere and learning to knit began in earnest. After a short while, the sound of “miss, miss I don’t know what I have done? or, can you help me? or, what do I do next?” died away and was replaced by the click clacking of needles and the laughter of young girls.
Afterwards, the school had prepared a litany in which a map of Africa and all of it’s countries was placed on the ground. They held a role play in which 35 squares were collected from 35 children and a prepared blanket was placed on a lone figure in the middle. Then the girls were asked to place flags on the countries of Africa, praying for justice and peace in all.
All the while, the girls sat and knitted. And connected. And made a difference.