Sunday, September 23, 2012

New Life Graduation

Yesterday was the New Life graduation for Form Four students. Graduating from Form Four is the equivalent to graduating from high school here in the states. The graduation was a full day event starting at 9 in the morning and going until 7 in the evening. The main thing I took away from it was a beginning to an understanding of how these children all love God so much. This understanding came to me in two-fold.

To start, there was an exhibition area that was something like a science fair extended. My favorite exhibition was the young politicians station. At this station there were three young men and a young lady who had written a proposal for amending the Tanzanian constitution (a project particularly relevant to the times because the constitution is being amended from its 1977 copy this year). I spent quite some time at this station asking the students to elaborate on their proposal and asking how they may face probable challenges in the process. For example one of their proposals was automatic termination of presidential contracts after a president steps out of office (aimed to uplift the immunity granted to privatized firms who have struck long-lasting contracts with past presidents but are generally harmful to the Tanzanian people or economy). I asked how they would plan to raise awareness to campaign against powerhouse corporations and decrease presidential power in one swoop and in the face of a corrupt government that would go to extreme ends to silence them. The students responded with conviction, faith, and evidently extensive knowledge on the topic. I was impressed and surprised by their passion and intelligence and enjoyed the ability to challenge them and watch them push back like true campaigners would. Before closing the discussion, I asked the kids what they wanted to be when they grow up. One pointed to the Tanzanian flag and said, "the leader of this country". Wow, I thought. Okay.

The next factor in the materialization of my understanding of New Life faith was a speech given by Mama Josephine during the graduation ceremony. In this speech she called up specific students to share incredible stories of how much they had grown. One of my favorite stories starred a girl named Dukas who was deaf and had been turned down by all other schools in the area due to her disability. New Life took her in, but did not have the funding for the strong hearing aids that she needed, so instead they sat her at the front of each class so she could read the lips of the teacher. Yesterday, she graduated as one of the top seven students in all of Form Four. This was an incredible feat. 

During the telling of that story I realized all these children and their accomplishments were incredible feats. The whole school represents a level of success that goes against the odds. A series of children who were abandoned at birth, struggled with epilepsy, were born HIV positive have not only been given homes at New Life, but also opportunities to be successful. As a child being brought into an organization such as New Life – an organization that that thanks God, praises God, credits God for everything that it has accomplished – how could you not be bursting with faith in Him?

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