How Musical Chairs and Face Painting Break Barriers

I loved musical chairs as a kid. Usually it involved winning a cake, so what's not to love about that! Although watching children play musical chairs can be an adventure, especially when it's their first time learning the game. You always have the shy kid afraid to be aggressive and usually mopy when they get out (that was me), and you have a few of those over excited kids who can't stand that the circle moves so slow, then when the music ends they bump and push until they get a chair. There's also the sly kid who slithers underneath you at the last second, and of course the one who thinks they can outsmart the game by taking strategic steps to where they are always in front of a chair. But the best part about watching musical chairs is how it brings everyone together. The shy kids, the aggressive kids, the sly kids, and the I don't really want to play kids. For one short instance they dance around in a circle laughing and hoping they get a seat. 

A couple weeks ago I went along with a group of ex-pats as they led a carnival at a local school. This school was started by a Canadian-Somali lady who has returned to the Horn of Africa to help out in any way she can. The school specifically targets children who live in tents on the street and do not hold the proper papers required by the government to attend the local schools. With the help of local ex-pats, military personnel, and NGO's she has been able to provide a building, teachers, desks, chairs, education, and so much more to these well-deserving little ones. Some of them were even abandoned by their own parents and she has graciously taken them in as her own. Listening to her describe the children to me was like hearing a grandma brag about her grandkids. Except she wasn't bragging, she was confirming a harsh reality, that many of these children live a harsh life in an already harsh environment, but for one afternoon they got the chance to escape. 

A group of children from the ex-pat community here got together and helped put on a carnival, complete with musical chairs, face painting, water balloon toss, and a fishing game. There were prizes, candy, and more given out to all the kids and everyone seem to go home a winner. And as any humanitarian aid worker knows, when you give to other it's usually you who gets blessed. These kids, many ages 5 and older, experienced for one of the first times what it was like to serve others. They felt the joy that so many of their parents feel when they go to work each day and serve the community around them.