by Adam Huska

Nurture our future leaders

Every child deserves a few early years of innocence

The youth need better guidance
Protect our future leaders

Every child deserves a few early years of innocence because it does not take long to realise what an ugly place the world can really be. It is a well-known fact that our children are also our future leaders.

Unfortunately, the welfare of children is often disregarded and overshadowed by things such as war, politics, the media – and, yes, even by adults. The future of our environment, legal system and social policies means nothing unless we consider our children and how they will be affected once they become leaders and lawmakers. 

For the past three weeks, I have spent my time in Cape Town, working with babies and infants at an orphanage in Khayelitsha township. I want to reiterate that my time spent here was to learn, and if help was a part of my experience in any way, it was simply an added bonus. It did not take long to realise that the cultural differences extended beyond mere race and language.

The ways in which South Africans nurture, empower and protect their children are vastly different than what I have seen, but nonetheless their children flourish and thrive. These children are often exposed to violence, lack of resources and repercussions of apartheid, yet they act no differently than the children at home in the United States.

What I have learnt is that the people on my trip were not just volunteers and caregivers – they were safe havens for these children. We are the guardians of their boundlessness and guarantors of their purity.

The precise moment when I realised that most children seriously lack a romanticised childhood, was the moment I realised that we should all maximise the little they do have. That despite the lack of toys and space, these children thrived off the simplest things: affection, innocence and freedom. What I have learnt is that we romanticise childhood as a universal experience with endless toys, everlasting support and inevitable love. This is not the case, and we have to stop pretending that it is.

The truth of the matter is that nearly 6 000 children died from gun-related incidents and 34 000 suffered non-fatal gun injuries between 2008 and 2009. Truth is, 17 000 child deaths per year are due to lack of sufficient healthcare.

It is time to take responsibility for our actions, whether they directly or indirectly affect our youth. If we simply take the time to reconsider our actions, whom they affect and how they do so, then maybe we will not have to bear the burden of putting our children in harm’s way.

Steven Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, states: “You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.” This is very much what children do. Regardless if they express it, they are active observers, learners and mimes. The examples we set, the experiences we have and the ideas we portray are very much recognised and embraced by them. We can never be too careful because one day our children will stop being wallflowers, and they will become participants.

Regardless of where in the world you are, the youth are the future leaders. They will learn, they will grow and they will prosper all the same. They will need our protection and our guidance just as we once did. If we want to secure our children’s futures and their children’s futures, it is time to stop the greed and share the innocence and freedom that once existed in our youth. 

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