Connecting local responses around the world
“My daughter is quite rebellious. Maybe you can speak to her.” This mother then called out to her daughter who was in the room to meet us. We were in the neighbourhood persuading residents to help out with programmes for children who lived in the area. Upon gaining an understanding of Beyond’s work, she thought that her daughter could benefit from our programmes too. “Aiyah mom, I know these Beyond people!” the 18 year old blurted when she came out of the room. We could not recognise her but she told us that she was in the Beautiful People Programme and she still remembers her “big sister” fondly. She then went back to her room and took out a folder and she proudly showed us the certificates and photos she received from Beyond. Her mother was not aware that her daughter had met us when she was institutionalised but was quietly relieved that her daughter had been participating in healthy social and education activities.
This 18 year spoke to us warmly and even teased several of us by commenting that we were much slimmer when she first met us. It was really heartening to meet someone who appreciated her time with us. When we invited her to help us speak to the other residents, she agreed enthusiastically explaining that she wanted others to receive some of the programmes she had gotten from us. With her assistance we covered ground very quickly and perhaps the most helpful thing she did was to gather her friends around us at the lift landing and speaking to us like old friends. Residents who stepped out of their flat to see what was going on felt assured that their neighbours were familiar with us. Hence, they too warmly welcomed us when we approached them.
After covering the whole block, this 18 year old shared that she was planning to get married next year. We were surprised but she confidently added that she was ready. Her confidence unnerved us somewhat and we did not quite know how to respond in a respectful and helpful way. Our colleagues who were around her at that point were all single and so in jest, they wondered aloud if she should give herself a little more time to have fun as a single. When I heard about this, I asked if we are aware of the reasons why she wanted to get married but I learnt that at that point, the best we could do was to highlight the option of remaining single a little longer.
The regular response to news of marriage would be “Congratulations!” But, why was it that we were unable to say it? By not congratulating her, what would we have communicated to this 18 year old? Maybe despite our efforts at reaching out, we are not quite prepared to accept and appreciate what we would find. And when we don’t, will these people still believe us when we say that we value them? Or do we? Guess, we have lots to think about and this is an example where the challenges that impede good work are found within ourselves.
Enjoy your weekend.
The first and the best victory is to conquer self - Plato