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23 April 2008

You Can't Stop My Love

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They lived in the poorest neighborhood of their city. It was the kind of place you'd avoid if you could. But these children had no choice. They were born into misery and would probably die there. Then, one day, things changed. A group of people seemed to care. They came out of nowhere and they showed up every weekend. Unfailingly, their cars would appear on the horizon by 8:30 am. They'd park on the dirt road, next to the cadavers and burned tires. They'd come and spend a few hours with the children. They'd play games with them, exercise them, sing songs, read stories and help with school work, arts and crafts. Nobody really knew why they did what they did. But it didn't matter, because life was never the same again. It was colorful, happy and hopeful. For those few hours, every weekend, the children felt loved and not forgotten. They dared to articulate dreams and they began to take care of themselves and their desolate environment. Things were good. But then again, maybe things were too good. Because one fateful day, those people didn't show up again. Had they stopped caring? Had they found other children? No. They had been arrested. They had been imprisoned for coming to see these very children every week. For this, the court had said, constituted "an offense relating to state security"...



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What you plant in your heart
Added: Monday, 3 March 2008

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My first two children's classes with the kids down the road have been awesome, amazing and challenging at the same time. Our first lesson revolved around "unity" – we defined it, learned what it is in Zulu (si hlangene!) and talked about some of its implications. We also sang a song about unity, played a game around it and drew pictures depicting what unity can be like in a family setting.

When they came in the next week singing "we are drops of one ocean, leaves one tree..." I thought I had made some real progress. So I was all the more shocked when I asked them if they loved all the people in the world and they replied "Yes, except for Maria!"

I realized in that moment how much I still have to learn about children and their young, tender hearts and minds. So I took a deep breath, sent a telegram to God asking for assistance and for patience and began the next lesson, talking about "how do we create unity?" We looked at what it means to look for the good in people, no matter how hard it may seem. They explained that Maria is a jealous girl who is arrogant and makes fun of them at school. I asked them whether they had ever asked her to be their friend? Did she have friends at all? Maybe she was alone? We thought long and hard to search for the one good quality that she might have. And the kids agreed it would have to be her talent for mathematics. That was a start. So I suggested we don't try to combat darkness with darkness, but rather with light. Let's try and shed some light on her heart, no matter how nasty and mean she can be and see if we can't slowly help her be a more pleasant person? They got excited by that. We made a drawing to the quote: "O Friend, In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love", and wrote Maria little letters expressing what we thought was great about her. To further deepen on the quote, we planted a sapling in some earth to see if it grows. We realized we would need to feed it water and love over a long period of time to see results. And that's what it's like to plant the rose of love in your heart. It takes time and patience.

We ended the lesson with a jump in the pool and while the girls were having fun, I thought of the weighty task that child-rearing is. I teach them about loving, forgiving and being selfless, but at the same time they are children, young girls at that. And so I also need to teach them about justice, about confidence and standing their grounds. About knowing their worth, their boundaries and protecting them. People could take advantage of them. What a balancing act!

If we spent the money that goes into wars and armaments on the education our children, both morally, spiritually and "secularly" – we would see results within two generations, and probably solve most of the problems we're trying to solve with guns right now. It's just about what you plant in their fertile young hearts that will eventually flourish and rule: guns or roses?

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14 January 2008

The Prayer

A girl goes out to the forest to prepare herself for a prayer session.

CREDITS:
Written, Directed & Photographed by Karlos Alastruey
Music & Sound: Javier El Busto

CAST:
Girl: Aintzane Alastruey
Woman: Maria Marchena
Boy: Unai Alastruey
Director's Assistant: Maria Marchena



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Women weep and have babies
Added: Friday, 5 October 2007

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I chose this provocative title for my blog this week, because of what I've been witnessing in the media lately. There are a growing number of advocacy and psychology shows that give people life skills and tips about how to manage their life. One of the shows I've been watching is in fact a Persian show. Callers call in and tell their stories and the TV psychologist analyzes their concerns and gives his view on the situation.

Of the 6 shows I watched in 2 weeks, I'd say over 90% of the callers were female. And all their stories revolved around marriage problems or abuse by a male member of the family.

One lady was beaten by her father, deserted by her mother, wondered the streets of Tehran and finally found her way overseas where her life of misery continued, albeit with more economic possibilities. Her number one need was someone who would love her. Several ladies called in because their husbands were addicted to drugs. They had "tried" to leave their husbands, they had "tried" to call it quits. But for various reasons remained in the relationship either "for the sake of the kids" or worse, if they didn't have kids, they started making them in order to "save" their relationship. "I thought things would get better if I had children", was their rationale. Often struck with economic problems, these marriages were really only a poor excuse for being too weak or too dependent to call it quits.

Now, I'm not an anti-make-up, anti-cooking, anti-raising kids feminist, the likes of which we see so often on the other side of the sad spectrum, but this scenario is very alarming. Every time the psychologist boiled it down, the cause of inertia for women was their fear of standing on their own two feet. They could not see themselves being economically independent. They had many other excuses such as lack of support and understanding from family member:

"what will people say?"
"it will hurt the kids if I get divorced"
"but he's trying to stay clean/ faithful..."

The psychologist was almost always furious to hear that women had had children in order to save their marriages. He made it very clear that children should be wished into a stable, happy family. And the only real piece of advice that the psychologist was able to give was "educate your girls, your daughters, so that they don't have to lead a life like yours!"

And that is my little message for today. Women must be educated. They are the first educators of the next generation, they spread their knowledge and they are empowered by education. Education will give them confidence, security, independence and the right to say yes or no. The education of women will ease the process of bringing about the equality of women and men, it will have a significant impact on ills such as HIV/AIDS, human trafficking and all the other sad realities that women around the world face because their life is not in their own hands.

This blog is especially dedicated to one of my closest friends. Today I got news that she fell pregnant. She is married, she and her husband share deep bonds in their Catholic faith, they both have jobs, and she is one year away from getting her PHD. I'm proud of every decision she has made in her life, even if her childhood was not always easy.

My last thought of the day is: When as women we do stand our ground, we must be careful to have mercy and compassion towards men who are themselves learning, slowly learning, what it means to be a real man.

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7 July 2007

Monte Carmelo

Monte Carmelo is a social project in Brazil dedicated to the education of underpriviledged children.

CREDITS:
A film by Flavio Rassekh



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