Quick link: They Want to Be Here

The kids in my neighborhood prompted to write about sexual harassment and rage.

My daughter and I have both been inappropriately and aggressively touched, mere steps from our front door. I’ve been called every name imaginable, in several languages, and I understand them all. I’ve heard comments about all my body parts and I’ve seen people mimic how I move or what they would like to do to/with those body parts.

Several things help me move beyond the anger but some of the most powerful things are when I see local people countering these negative experiences.

When a teenage boy tells his friends to knock it off.

When an older man apologies to me on behalf of something someone he doesn’t even know said.

When a truck full of young men stop, tell me and my kids to move on, and tell me that they will handle things with the group that was harassing us.

When women loudly shame the people who have shamed us by reminding them we are all made in the image of God.

And, when I see people striving to live a different way, to teach kids about a different way to interact with people.

This last thing is what I found when I went to visit a school around the corner from where I lived. The kids in this school were incredibly well behaved, polite, and engaged in their education. The women working here were pouring out their lives, time, money, and energy to invest in kids many other people might have ignored or shunned.

(I also wrote about this school, and one of their unique students, for the Sahan Journal)

the least of these

Almost fifty children ages four to twelve are crammed into a single classroom in Djibouti City. The windows are open and a couple of ceiling fans swirl the steamy air and cause papers to crinkle and fall to the bare cement floor. A young woman who recently graduated from the University of Djibouti stands in front of a blackboard. She has written the days of the week and the months of the year in chalk, in French, and the students are copying down the words.

Some of the kids hunch over their notebooks with their pens gripped in their fists. Others lean back, done with the assignment already while the youngest nibble on their pens and glance around the room, not sure what, exactly, they are supposed to be doing. One little girl, tired of struggling to copy down the words, tears open a bag of potato chips. The chips fall to the floor and she carefully picks up each and every crumb. Iā€™m surprised. This is a country where plastic bags and candy wrappers fly out car windows, where no one thinks twice about dropping a soda can or an egg carton on the side of the road. But this classroom is spotless. It is also nearly silent…

Click here to read more about this school that provides education, food, and healthcare to low income kids and their families, They Want to Be Here, at EthnoTraveler.