Who is your child's hero? In this world of mass-marketed super-heroes, it may seem that there is a different answer each day. But the truth is, sometimes you are the hero. Even when you are exhausted, and out of patience, and covered with crumbs, you get to be the hero. You somewhat miraculously deliver food when the troops are hungry and comfort when a toe is stubbed. And that makes you a hero for a moment.
This is Mapendo with her 2 sons. Cooking what seems to be an enormous pot of beans. I'm not sure what I love about this picture. But I think it is the way Joashe and Jonathan are looking at their mama. They are literally looking to her for nourishment, with the little one trying to steal a sip of milk and the older one's eyes glued to her face as she cooks. And look at the smile on Mapendo's face, as she provides for them.
Because that is where the key lies. The ability to provide.
Mapendo is disabled. Her childhood home was destroyed by the ongoing war. Shortly after her older son was born she had to flee to a refugee camp.
If you were taking a poll of women who were likely to have to "relinquish" their children to an orphanage, she would surely rank fairly high. All the SHONA Congo women would. And yet they are such proud mamas.
For the SHONA Congo women their sewing has made all the difference. It has empowered them to provide for their children. It has empowered them to be their children's heroes.
It is an experience that perhaps I have taken for granted. Every time my daughter asks for a snack, and I can give it to her. Everytime I tuck her into a snuggly blanket and she says "thank you mama"...in her 3 year old world I am her hero. I have what she needs.
And that's what I love about this photo. Look at those little boys' faces. They are looking at their mama like she is a hero. It is no wonder she is smiling.
That should be a right of every parent. To be their children's hero. Oh I know, children grow and become teenagers and you can't stay a hero forever...or even for an hour. But for a moment, when they are little, we are.
Sometimes I think we lose sight of this privilege. We love children. And in our rush to help other children, especially those in countries torn by poverty and war, we rush in and become the heroes. We donate clothing, or make a doll, or pay school fees, or visit an oprhanage.
And I don't mean to dismiss those endeavors. Perhaps sometimes that is the only way to help a child. But often it is not. Most children have adults in their lives, families that we can empower. That is true even of a surprising number of children in orphanages in Congo. Sure, it is difficult. But I think there are actually a lot of organizations out there doing this work.
There are products we can buy that empower adult by creating real jobs in Congo with real dignity.
www.shonacongo.com (that's us!)
There are micro-finance loans that you can give small vendors in Congo. By empowering a woman selling beans in the market to buy more inventory you help her to build a business which will sustain her family.
There are programs that help educate and empower families and communities to support grieving children
There are programs working to empower families to welcome home their children.
There are programs that hire local women, train them and empower them to support each other in the face of sexual violence.
And I am sure this is only the beginning of the list. Feel free and add more, because I am sure together we can come up with a great list of ways to empower adults in Congo. And for every time that we talk about children in Congo we should talk about adults. Because it takes only a second of glancing at Congo to realize that most adults in Congo have children that they care for, in one way or another. Let's be honest, most adults have many children that they care for.
So let's make some new heroes today. Being a child's hero is an experience that should belong to us all!