Children of the wall

On entering the small farming towns we are always met with curious smiles and hidden questions? Who are they? Where do they come from? What are they doing?

Some kids run from us, others just stand and stare. In the dusty paths the little ones play, grubby happy little faces deeply engrossed in their own little make-believe worlds. Their older brothers and sisters are attending the local school. As we meander through the village, only too happy for the little bit of shade from the harsh desert sun, we are met with the friendly villagers offering us the most beautiful sweet watermelon. As you bite into the firm red flesh the cold juice runs down your parched throat, your blistered lips are soothed with the coolness of the fruit .It seems to provide instant sustenance to your body. What I love is the absolute sincerity that these gifts are given to us, you just want to go up and hug the person. A genuine gift from the heart and you can see, cultivated with pride and love in these harsh conditions.

Pia our interpreter is waiting for us at the school. These simple building s are always the neatest in town. Well kept little gardens and each path is swept clean. You are met by a massive imposing gate almost as big as the school with the red flags flapping lazily in the warm breeze. At the gate we are met by the teacher who invites us into the classroom. Neat rows of small wooden desks are lined with smiling inquisitive faces, some amazed, some tentative and others just bursting with excitement at what has just happened to their day. There is always an orderly air around the children and an amazing respect for adults amongst the youth (we can do with a bit of this in some of our western ways) we head off to the black board and begin our presentation. There is a gasp of disbelief as we write the first word on the blackboard, Hieroglyphics to all, then the spontaneous guttural laughter erupts, that only a child can do. As we begin to speak, the teacher lifts his hand slowly and the chatter subsides. Braam carries on drawing the map of the world to giggles and chatter. Pia comes to my rescue and helps me explain the trip and the reasons for it. Then motioning to his lip Pia starts to tell them about Operation Smile, this is met my murmurs of recognition and the nodding of heads, they had heard about a boy in a neighbouring village that had been for surgery. This made our talk even more meaningful.

With the map done, our scribbling on the board underwritten with Chinese, we bid the kids farewell, as we walked to the door the kids could not maintain their order, the child inside just came bubbling out, they came running to us, some embraced us with a hug, others just wanted to touch and basically bid us a joyous farewell. We headed to the gate, I was really touched by the warmth from the children. How similar all our children are, loving, trusting and untouched by race creed or colour, love them, nurture them, our future is in their hands.

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