My favorite thing about Liberia is the kids. You can see kids everywhere you go. Playing in the street, working, taking care of their younger siblings, etc. Some of them have a hard look in their eyes, as if they had to grow up faster and between the cooking, cleaning and working they forgot how to be kids.
All the kids I’ve seen react the same when they see me or the other interns: surprised, curious, and reluctant but the encounter always ends with a smile after I wave to them.
My birthday was on Monday, and it definitely was a different one. I was away from my family and my friends. In a country that I have not finished to figure out yet. I also wanted to celebrate in a different way. I wanted to make my birthday not just about me and that is why I’ve decided to have a “More Than Me” birthday.
On Sunday we went down to West Point with a bag full of toys. We gathered the kids in the neighborhood. All the girls from the “More than Me “Foundation, and also some boys who live in West Point.Less than an hour after we arrived we were surrounded by more than 100 kids between the ages of one and 14. We were sitting on the side while Mackintosh, the Liberian coordinator for the foundation organized the kids. They formed a line and were asked to spell a word. If they did it correctly everyone would clap and the kid would come to us to get a toy. In the over 100 toys we gave away that day there were many particular stories.
There was the girl that kept trading her toy every 20 minutes just to see what else was in the bag. This other girl, who chose a boy’s toy to give it to her brother. There was Rose, the five year old in the picture below, who was one of the first to get her doll and was playing with it as if the rest of the world has vanished.
There was the boy who came for a toy five times saying that he did not get one the first time or this other boy who I though was a baby under three years old but was actually able to spell apple.
Every kid reacted in a different way when getting a toy. Some of them would smile and say thank you, others would not even look at us. Other would open their eyes and mouth out of excitement and other would ask if they can trade a toy for something like shampoo or a tooth brush, reminding me how in Liberia some kids have to stop being kids much earlier.
My favorite part of the day was at the end. After almost three hours we were running out of toys and the kids went crazy. They came to us asking for the toy they wanted, wanting to trade the one they got or not wanting to accept the toy we were offering because they wanted something else we ran out of.
In the middle of that chaos a little girl sat down next to me and pulled my arm. I looked at her impatient expecting her to complain about her toy or wanting another one, but she just smiled and said: I just wanted to say Thank you! Those words and her smile were my favorite part of the day, the week and maybe the whole summer.