By Wafaama Somda

We human beings are so busy feeding our bodies to make them look healthy that we do forget that the brain or our mind is to be fed.

I was born in Ivory Coast, some years before the political crisis of 2000, to a family that had immigrated from Burkina Faso. San-Pedro was a bleak place. All the children, who like me, were in their 4, 5, or 6 years were wanting what we didn’t have: “good education”. We’re not given a lullaby before going to bed, no teddy bears, no velvet cloak to feel as the other kids, but rather guns and fright.

Orphans, war victims, targets in view,  frightened by a doubtful tomorrow. Instead of good education, we learnt survival, already our basic rights denied. We were living like kid soldiers and our toys and games sounded like a mirror of this reality. Struggles, robbery, death, blood… these are words from our dictionary, victims of a tragedy we did not ask for. Our minds were wanting for nourishment, change…

After our clandestine return home to Burkina Faso, I was hungry for healing. I had to change and enrich my brain to get rid of this barbarism before it came to a fatal turn. Everything that looked positive was a reference. Philosophy, newspapers, novels, dramas, science, I read it all. Then at school, I joined a group of young men, known as “the boy scouts”.

Scouting has been a real mind-making school. I went from bad boy to do-gooder. How was that possible?  I liked loneliness, because my experiences had taught me not to trust people. But scouting requires collaboration. Everything had to be planned and organized with others (goodbye loneliness). I was very shy and reserved, but at the camps and through the activities I found my voice. I was much more self-confident and positive. Mutuality, sharing all, taught me that “the world is like a bike, we lead it to where we want”. I was part of those who thought that the role of the woman is to cook and their place, under the male. But scouting made us do any work, regardless of what sex we were, I saw women braving successfully those tough tasks and training we are submitting to.On the camps men cook, go to the well, clean and do every thing women are said to be doing. We were not given a choice, trepassers were severely punished or dimissed. Now I am a feminist.

Our mission is to serve others, to make courageous men and women, obey, teach the real sense of unity, and devotion to work, raise the awareness, learn how to be responsible  through conferences or team leading. Only the best are given recognition grades or certificates.

 

Grades after grades I was to become scout leader, and it was my turn to give virtue, good behavior, leadership, self control and a good state of mind to the newly-converted scout boys and girls. My mum told me once that “good fruits are from good trees”. Consequently I had to be “good” to teach “goodness” and this inspired me into being a teacher. I went from impurity to maturity, cause nobody is bound to their past. We can be what we want to be.

This is how I fed my mind, to be a great guy today, with a well-prepared mind. Because I tasted all: war and peace, poverty and wealth, meanness and kindness…what more to be well prepared. plan your lives. “He who fails to plan, plans to fail”.

                                                   

SOMDA Wafaama is an educator living in Burkina Faso. He is a former volunteer with International Citizen Service, cohort 23 ASK