I am filled with gratitude and absolute profound contentment! The Empowered Noah Child Conference was a brilliant success!! Over 350 Child Care Activity Coordinators and Ark Managers sang, danced, painted, chanted, played games, worked- out, took part in break away sessions, and ate until their hearts and bellies were content beyond belief.The participant’s excitement and enthusiasm was the heart beat behind the success of the weekend. Their hard working bodies and hands needed a good fun weekend to connect to their own child spirits! They came from all over South Africa by busses, taxis and trains. Some traveled over night to get there, others came from their townships close by. We were fortunate to book Mangosutho University and even though the professors and staff were on strike, we all entered with ease and grace. For many of the women and men this was the very first time they have ever been to a big city before.
This conference was a 5 star experience for the women and men who attended! We had floral arrangements on the table, conference bags equipped with t-shirts, books and great gifts, crafts, gospel singers, child dancing troupes, DJ music throughout, a Sharon and Bram sing-a-long, a trip to the beach, a braai and the list goes on and on and on! I had some of my Canadian friends there: Vivian Saffer, Kristi Herold, Nicky Potter, Damarise Ste. Marie, Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison. My Swazi brothers came: Nicholas Mamba, Andrew Moyo and Sandile Ndzimandze. And my South Africa Team Joy shone ever so brightly: Sussie, Innocent Sabee Shozi, Sipho Mdletshe, Busi and Mr. Fish. The biggest joy was watching a hundred women run into the ocean for the first time in their lives! It was a humbling and beautiful experience. What a blessed time in my life.
My facilitation team for the conference were between the ages of 23 and 70 years; 50% were Zulu and 50 % were Canadian; 50% were men and 50% were women. This created a brilliant message for the delegates. Simply, any age, stage or nation can connect to the child spirit!
Below is my opening speech. I dressed as a Zulu princess and I spoke in Zulu too.The crowd loved it; actually they went mad with spirited cheers! Thanks to all my supporters, kind hearts and my guardian angels. But most of all thanks to Rachel Compaan who pulled this entire weekend together! Without her dedication and devotion to the cause this journey would not have even started.
Sarina’s Opening Speech
July 1st, 2011
Before I begin the the day I would love to begin with an affirmation for the unfolding of this day: "May today there be peace within all of us throughout the day. May we all trust that we are exactly where we are meant to be. May we use the gifts that we receive during this weekend, and pass on the love and learnings and insights that has been given to us to all the children of our care. Let this new, inspired information and knowledge settle into our bones, and allow our souls the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. Let us remain in deep profound gratitude for all that work and energy that has been put forth so that we may enrich not only our lives but the lives of all of Noahʼs children. "Blessed be and amen!”
Thank you one and all! How beautiful you all are tonight!
You are taking part of an historic event. Never before in South African history, actually in African history, have so many child activity coordinators and Ark Managers have come together for one cause only-- to celebrate and honour child spirit. This event is designed for you so that you can be empowered as well! You are all here: 352 bright hearted individuals! You all touch the lives of 19,422 orphaned and vulnerable children. Imagine that! The benefits of this conference is staggering; almost 20,000 individuals will benefit from this sharing of new information and a new approach that will empower thousands of vulnerable and orphaned children and hundreds of child activity coordinators and child care workers. Are you happy to be here? Yes, are you happy to be here? I am so happy too!
Without the tireless work and support of many individuals this event could not and would not have happened. Firstly I want to thank US AID and PEPFAR for their financial support of this inspired event. With out their support we could not have gathered all of you together. I also want to thank my assistant Damarise Ste. Marie who has been part of this journey for a while. Her assistance has been a huge help to me. I also want to thank Friends of Noah Canada and Nicky Potter for letting my join there forces. It has been through this partnership that I has given me an easier route to all of you and Noah’s children. I want to thank my Team Joy in Swaziland and my Team Joy South Africa for helping me lay down the bricks of possibility for creative programming that touches the true essence of child spirit.
This vision could not have been executed without the tireless work of the Noah South African team. Thank you Karen Krakowitzer for seeing the importance and relevance of this material for Noah’s children. Also a big thanks to Dr. Greg Ash for creating this organization and supporting South African’s most vulnerable and sweet. A big hug to Daisy, Cno, Shku, Bongiwe and Numusa for your work and support too during this time. But the biggest thankyou goest to the biggest force behind this conference and that has been Rachel Compaan! She has single handedly held this vision and has executed all aspects to this conference with hard work, vision and dedication. You have an angel in this woman and I thank her. More gratitude will follow for many more.
I have been working and collaborating with Noah for the since 2005. So far I have trained 30 child activity coordinators, 20 artists and I have integrated my arts based program with The Big Little Caravan of Joy in 7 Arks. Working in the field I discovered that the staff of each Ark delighted in the activities I did with the children. And the children loved it ..So much that it moved me to doing something much bigger. I wanted to create a gathering that brought all of you together.
I wanted to see and touch each and everyone of you. I also wanted the opportunity to say to you that you deserve a big applause and a big thank you for taking the time to replenish, enrich, enlighten and renew your resources to do the most important work on this planet. All of you have been entrusted with the most influential role known to humanity. And there are no accidents. You are here for this relationship that you have with children is put in place to evolve your hearts and souls.
Like you, I’m an early childhood educator, and I never take this simple but profound truth for granted. We, as teachers of children, help create the fabric of who we are and, more importantly, who we will be as communities in the future.
Children are our most precious natural resource - and by “our”, I mean the world’s. Whether here in South Africa or in Canada, where I come from, or anywhere else on this beautiful planet, I truly believe that every positive interaction, thought and feeling that we facilitate for children contributes to a better world - for all of us. The art of teaching children affects eternity.
This conference is titled The Empowered Noah Child. As we move through the weekend we must understand what empowerment means. For the sake of this conference empowerment of a child means: to enable a child to become stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and makingFreedom comes with the liberty of creating and expressing one self. I comes have purpose. The only thing that can really trap the radiant heart, mind and spirit of a child, and a nation are the thoughts that are held in the mind. Unethical behavior, negative thinking, lack of expression, disconnection from community, culture, lack of self.
This of course should be given with love and respect. Deep profound love. The meal that is given to a hungry child alleviates hunger but given in love, the meal fills more than the hunger itself.
The love of the teacher, NGO, artist educator, child care worker equips the child to pass along this gain to others. That is how it works. This kindness and creative opportunity that you give to a child will create a chain reaction. One that many will feel in the future.
Bottom line for me: giving a loving, creative program that meets the needs of the young child is wisdom. For this kind of giving is subject to cause and effect.
But here lies the secret for all the educators in the trenches, wise and loving education comes from wise self love. Or in others words, wise giving comes from wise living.
If we are giving of ourselves we are giving to ourselves. And so this experience is completely for you! I love you all and will remain devoted to your cause for the next five years. Enjoy, celebrate and connect to your playful spirit this weekend. Learn new things and try your best to give them back to the children when you return home!
You are all so beautiful to me. Thank you!