One of the activities we do with the kids towards the end of their stay at Daktari is to brainstorm ways in which they can make South Africa a better place. At this point, they’ve already self-identified problems like crime, poverty, lack of education, abuse, HIV/AIDS, prostitution, drugs, alcoholism, rape, and the list, dishearteningly, continues long and long, so our goal now, after almost a week of new classes, is to find ways to counter the tough points proactively.
And, it’s meant to give them agency, empowering them to find ways of imagining new futures for them, of turning roadblocks into opportunities for growth.
The burden of conceptualizing, nurturing, and implementing new ideas, of circumventing, overlooking, counteracting the seemingly fateful, guaranteed misfortune destined to be their futures falls squarely on these kiddos’ shoulders.
They aren’t even in high school yet, and these Daktari youths have seen enough heartache and malaise to melt the Wicked Witch of the West. They are disadvantaged, comparatively uneducated, and caught in a wretched cycle of destitution.
Despite all of this, their minds still grow bright, optimistic, hopeful, and they’re still able to pull themselves together in one kick-ass outfit after another. They connect the dots between animal and environmental welfare, job opportunities, and more optimistic tomorrows, and if they continue along this line of thinking, they might just find themselves on the happier side of the coin.
Somehow, even with the mightiest of odds stacked against them, you know what they say can make the most difference in their lives, big and small problem alike?
These traits, more than a defined skill set, make a difference. Nurturing individuals to love and trust and share and respect means that at the end of the day, fewer and fewer people act out against negligence, abuse, poor self-esteem–all bottomless pits of anguish and despair, unrequited frustration.
So, maybe, just maybe, John Lennon was right.
Maybe all we need is love to create a brotherhood of man.