“Expect nothing, just to love”

It’s day 3 of our IKEA Foundation IWitness trip to Myanmar, and this morning we found ourselves in a Buddhist monastery. We have been greeted in a way I had never imagined nor prepared myself for. Traditional music on drums accompanied by a martial arts dance met us along with beautiful strings of jasmine flowers presented to us around our necks.

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We had come to meet with child-protection group members. The children and adults told us of the many challenges they face around raising awareness of the group and gaining trust from local authorities to enable influence.

Children barely older than primary school age tell of how they encourage others to stand up for their rights and to seek help from the child-protection group if they are harmed or are in any danger. One 12-year-old girl talks of how she teaches others about sexual abuse assaults and advises girls not to wash after this happens and to keep their clothes as evidence. This girl smiles while she is recalling the story because she knows she is changing attitudes and behaviour while empowering others. Some speak of how they doubt themselves and their abilities, yet constantly strive to promote confidence. It’s hard to fight back the emotion when a 14-year-old boy talks about standing up to a neighbour who was violently abusive to his child. If I had half their confidence and pride, I would bottle and sell it!

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A reduction in domestic violence and corporal punishment, the participation of parents in the group, and being able to reunite parents with lost children are some of the achievements this group is proudest of. When asked what she does for fun, one girl replies by saying, “I teach the younger children about child protection and the lessons learned at the child-protection group.”
A lot of children in the community don’t have the opportunity to attend school; they have jobs as brick layers, rubbish collectors or beggars. The child-protection group children say, “I could be them. I’m sad and sympathetic.” The children we speak with aspire to be teachers, doctors, lawyers, social workers or child-protection workers. These dreams aren’t so they can leave Myanmar; they’re so they can stay and continue to develop the communities they love.
The morning finishes shortly after one boy whose aspiration is to be a singer is persuaded to sing. He does so beautifully and again with confidence. After I ask for a rough translation, I am told this is a love song that conveys the message to expect nothing, just to love.

English
    Moira Saunders