Despite the temptation of the beach on a summer day, I’ve been revising teaching notes and handouts for a writing workshop I will give in Kisumu, Kenya, in August. Kisumu is a port city of 400,000 on a bay of Lake Victoria, which lies between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It was the center of violence following the disputed December 2007 elections. The city’s center was burned, the economy devastated. Nearly 1000 people died and 600,000 were displaced across the country. The international community brokered a power-sharing deal in March 2008, but there are rumors of arms entering the country in preparation for the planned elections in 2012.
What does all this have to do with writing for children? Kenyan children suffered from the violence. Even those who did not live in Kisumu, Nairobi, or other cities with major rioting, watched their country fall apart on TV. Their world no longer felt secure. In April 2008 with the city still tense around us, I taught a writing workshop in Nairobi. We focused on writing for children affected by the violence. It was one of the most satisfying workshops I have taught, although as far as I know none of the stories produced has been published.
At Litt-World last year I talked with Morrice Ogam of Life Ministries in Kisumu. “Why did you go to Nairobi?” he wanted to know. “We are the ones who experienced the most violence. Our children are hurting. Come to Kisumu and I will gather writers who work with those children.” He wouldn’t take no for an answer.
I’m not sure what to expect. The Nairobi workshop included returnees from a previous workshop, avid readers and writers. The participants were from a variety of tribal groups, including those who were killing each other, but each one was committed to unity and peaceful solutions. Will I find that commitment in Kisumu? Or will participants still be bitter about the election results and what “those people” did to them? Stay tuned…
In the meantime, I organize my notes, put together handouts, and prepare devotions on the BIG STORY we are all a part of. Those may be the most important sessions of the week.
(For information on the elections and their aftermath see Wikipedia’s article on Kenya and scroll down to the politics section.)
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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