Dream big – by Anna Gilleard 

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One core message at STEKA is that here, we believe in you. Here, we believe in your unique abilities and see your strengths. We will support you to cultivate these strengths. We believe you have a right to education, to live an independent life, to pursue meaningful goals, and will fight for these rights alongside you. In STEKA, children find a home and also a champion. 

Godknows and Helen instill a self-belief in the children through this consistent championing. Particularly in respects to their education. All STEKA children attend school irrespective of background, age or ability and it is always made a priority. This in a sense equalises the children, who all come from very different backgrounds and family structures. Some have never been to school at all and would otherwise miss years of catching up with their peers.  

There is a general ethos of hard work at STEKA and children take great pride in their learning. Every evening, they will spend two hours on homework no matter what they day has been like. They love to share their favourite subjects, what they are learning at school and what their personal ambitions are. Many want to open their own businesses, become lawyers, nurses and engineers. At the end of each day, after prayers, recent successes are celebrated by the whole family. Those who have recently been awarded at school and have achieved good grades are encouraged to stand up and share these achievements with their brothers and sisters. The message is clear: Your work is something to be proud of and your efforts deserve praise. Let us rejoice in your hard work together. 

The consistent investment in schoolwork supports individual learning goals, and the routine of which contributes to the broader security the home provides. Children need the safety of routine and structure to provide a secure base from which they can go out to explore and pursue their personal goals. 

The regularity of school days, phala porridge in the morning and nsima in the evening, the weekly household chores, the nightly homework, and the shared celebration of achievements all foster a culture of hard work, self-belief and empowerment. 

What makes me happy? 

Some of the children kindly agreed to share their feelings about STEKA and their hopes for the future. Here is what they had to say. 

Happiness (17 yrs, Standard 6) 

Since being at STEKA… I have had “good food, good parents, and somewhere nice to sleep” 

My dreams are… “to be a lawyer” 

I am happy when… laughing, singing a song, washing clothes or plates, and mopping 

Patrick (14 yrs, Standard 7) 

Since being at STEKA… “I started going to school, they gave me legs [prostheses]. At STEKA I gained many more brothers and sisters.” 

My dreams are… “someone assisting me to become a good drawer” 

To any new children coming to STEKA, I would like to tell them: “to like school, devotions, to be obedient, and that God will help you”. 

Davie (11 yrs, Standard 5) 

Since being at STEKA… “we learn that: don’t fight, love one another”  

I am happy when… “when I pass my exams, and when I play with my friends, I feel happy” 

My dreams are… “I dream about me passing my exams and uncle giving me money. I would buy maize for the house, and shoes and socks” 

Maggie (9 yrs, Standard 3) 

Since being at STEKA… I have “finished my school”  

I am happy when… “eating beans, and meat” 

My dreams are… “that the teachers love me” 

Desmond (12 yrs, Standard 5) 

Since being at STEKA… “I have been behaving better, no more being naughty, I was always naughty before”  

I am happy when… “listening to music, playing games with Joshua, my best friend, playing basketball and football” 

My dreams are… “to be a pilot and go to Brazil” 

Serena (23 yrs, Technical College) 

Since being at STEKA… “once I came here to STEKA I found things easier because I’m able to go to school, I’m able to stay with my brothers and sisters together with our parents. Because before here, I found it very difficult to be with a lot of people” 

I am happy when… “most of the time I like to sing, chatting with my friends, praying, cooking, not forgetting about nsima – I like eating nsima so much!” 

My dreams are… “I am studying metal engineering, so what I want after my school is to have my own materials so I can open my own shop… or at the Vocational Skills Centre, I want to be a teacher there to teach some people in the village so that we can achieve one thing in life” 

Saujati (14 yrs, Standard 6) 

Since being at STEKA I… “I have many brothers and sisters, I thank God” 

My dreams are… “I want to be a nurse” 

What makes me happy… “I’m happy to play football, cooking nsima”