Editor’s Note: Today Comox Mom and UN Aid Worker Kelly Flynn is here to help us learn more about Universal Children’s Day and why people across the globe are working to care for children everywhere coping with war torn conditions and other threatening situations. Kelly’s personal perspective is one that moves me to action every time. I hope you find her as provocative.
A week ago I was sitting in my twin sister’s backyard watching our children play together. My three year old ping ponged back and forth between her 2 year old cousin kicking a soccer ball in the far corner near the fence and her older cousin of 5 who was busy playing “fix the bike” on the walking path from the garage. In the cooling late afternoon, I gently supervised this buzzing-hive of outside activities, while my 15 month old watched on from her place in my lap, half heartedly, showing more interest in the zipper of my fleece than towards the busy brood in front of us. As I sat there, I thought to myself “these children have won the lottery being born in Canada and they do not know it yet because they are children – allowed to be children in these early and fundamental years of their lives”. And thank goodness for that.
As I write this I am now in Dili, Timor Leste. I can confirm the thoughts that I had on that sunny Fall day in Calgary after arriving in Dili and being introduced to urban poverty in this far off place. My drive in from the airport was telling – children playing in the dusty streets in rags for clothing; a young boy no more then 5 years old taking care of a group of more than seven other small children/infants in a small farming plot, a sizable natural pool of rotting green water with garbage floating in it their playground for the afternoon; and my driver, Yusuf, working in the city as his family lives in another part of the country, his oldest son of 8 taking up his role of patriarch and running the family farm and not going to school because he is the fill-in Dad. All of this in the span of a mere 30 minutes after my plane arrived.
For me, the lens that I see and understand the state of children in the world tipped over like a glass of milk too full for a toddle to drink at the dinner table when I became a mother. From the moment that I had my first daughter I was transformed – and my role in the world was transformed along with it.
Now when away on a mission, I thirstily seek out information about the state of children in the place I am working; I connect with mothers and fathers who are trying to make a better life for their families on a level that is almost indescribable; and I make a point of looking into the eyes of the children that I meet – to confront their hardships, while connecting with the child inside who deserves the best that his/her community and family can give. I have grown to realize that their life is often a life of inequity and inequality knowing full well that some children never have the chance to even buy a ticket to win the lottery let alone win it like my children and nephews in Canada have.
Globally, children (including youth) have unique vulnerabilities, as do women and the elderly. I am reminded of this with every trip I take, every field visit I make, every house I am invited into given my job in humanitarian action. Now as a mother, these experiences and realizations all mean more to me than ever before. It is extremely hard to see children suffering, to see parents unable to right the wrongs associated with their lack of livelihood, security and services to support healthy families and communities, and harder even to see children look at you as if to say “take me away from here, to a better place” like only eyes of a child can.
In the hardship there is always hope – there has to be. I have experienced first-hand, the power and affection of family and community care and love towards children and it is an awesome thing. The resilience of children should never be under estimated, for small people have amazing fortitude, huge spirits, abundance of love to share and playfulness that should be a lesson to all adults.
So as I embark on my two and a half weeks in Timor Leste, I am going to turn what I see and hear around. I am going to embrace the reliance of children here – embrace their cultural pride, their giddy playfulness packaged in hyper friendliness and radiate the optimism that I can sense in the air given what this country has been through in the past decade.
I will openly and repeatedly remind my government colleagues here of children’s rights and their legal and constitutional obligations to up hold these rights for this I see as my duty – as a humanitarian, as a global citizen, and as a mother of two back in Canada.
We can all win the lottery. Let’s remember that.
Hug a child today in honor of Universal Children’s Day. It will make you feel beyond wonderful and that child will feel your love, support and protection. It is their right.
By resolution 836 (IX) of 14 December 1954, the UN General Assembly recommended that all countries institute a Universal Children’s Day, to be observed as a Day of worldwide fraternity and understanding towards children. It recommended that this Day be observed also as a day of activity devoted to promoting the ideals and objectives of the UN Charter and the welfare of the children around the world. The UN Assembly suggested to governments that the Day be observed on the date and in the way which each considers appropriate. The date 20 November, marks the day on which the UN Assembly adopted two monumental achievements for children – the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in 1989.
In 2000, world leaders outlined the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which range from halving extreme global poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015. Though the Goals are for all humankind, they are primarily about and dedicated to children. UNICEF notes that six of the eight goals relate directly to children and meeting the last two (environmental sustainability and global partnerships) will also make critical improvements in children’s lives.