It Takes A Village to Raise A Child: Universal Children’s Day

Today is Universal Children’s Day, a “day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children” and to serve as “a day of activity devoted to promoting the ideals and objectives of the Charter and the welfare of the children of the world”.  

Now we’re a little skeptical when it comes to these UN-issued days. They seem to have a day for everything. We do, however, also realize that the focus of these shouldn’t be on ceremony. It is an opportunity to reflect. So, when Justine, our wonderful Communications Director, asked us to write this piece (perhaps because of our already immature and child-like mind), we began to reflect about childhood: our own childhood.

We don’t think of ourselves as particularly special; we come from fairly humble beginnings. Taha was born in Karachi, Pakistan and spent the first six years of his life in Singapore before his family settled in Scarborough, a suburb near Toronto, Canada. Michelle was raised in a small town in south eastern Ontario, the middle child of three girls. As children, we remember running around, making movies, reading books, getting into trouble, questioning things, living, learning, laughing, and developing into the adult we would eventually become.

A lot of this stems from the innate curiosity and fascination that comes with being a child. However, a significant portion of our childhood experience is a result of our access to various resources (access to school, access to technology, access to creative outlets). So, when we talk about spreading “fraternity” and working towards “the welfare of the children of the world”, ensuring access to means and opportunity become paramount.

An organization that does just this – one that OG has had the pleasure of working with for the past five years – is Horizons Children’s Centre (HCC) in Sandema, Upper East Region, Ghana. Since 2006, OG has been returning to Sandema to continue the relationship between OG participants, trip leaders, and the HCC family. It isn’t about ‘what we can do for them’ or ‘what they can do for us’, it’s about the mutual relationship between individuals. As founder of HCC Heather Menezes says, “it’s about sharing love with children”.

Among other things – this is exactly what HCC does. It acts as a catalyst of support, not only for the 24 boys living at the centre, but also for the 16 girls receiving educational scholarship programs and the community at large. HCC and similar organizations have transformed their passion to help foster the quality of life for children.

Michelle Newlands with the HCC Boys

Organizations like HCC are made up of individuals who, once upon a time, were children too. They were children who like us liked to run around, make movies, read books, get into trouble, question things, live, learn, laugh.

Adults like HCC founder Heather Menezes, who started this organization as a means for children to gain access to shelter, food, education, health care and support. Adults like HCC Executive Director Joseph Abobtey, who dedicates each and every day to leadership and the caregiving of those living within the centre and beyond.

Adults like Mark Awonbisa, one of the original members of the HCC family, who aspires to be a doctor and ten years after joining HCC is a student at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology.

Adults like Jeremy Fuller and Sky McEwen who, after visiting HCC on the OG West Africa Discovery program, organized a Holiday Giving Campaign in recognition of their partners in Sandema. Or Brigitte Bilodeau who has organized a Winter Prom in honour of her friends overseas.

There is a lot of wisdom in African proverbs. In reflection of Universal Children’s Day, let us reflect: it takes a village to raise a child.

Taha and Michelle

Heather Menezes and Mark Awonbisa of HCC