Do you think the Olympics are just about sport? Well you are wrong! They are about so much more than that. And last night I had the pleasure of attending my first Cultural Olympiad event of the Games. I will admit, I too was getting a little caught up in the sport (it's easy to do). But last night was a real eye-opener. I got to see another culture, and learn the ways of other parts of the world, and that's what the Games are really all about; learning new things, creating world peace, and experiencing new cultures.
This show "Spirit of Uganda" was a group of 22 kids and teens from Uganda who were amazing dancers, drummers and singers. The performers ranged from ages 9-20, and you would not believe what they were doing, especially for their young ages. The strength and core that these dancers must have had was tremendous. And memorizing every move, and every step of a 1 and a half hour show is incredible. But even more spectacular then the dancing itself was the stories behind each and every child.
At the beginning of the show, we were told that every child in Uganda has access to a primary education, and 85% of primary school aged children actually attend school. That's very good for a developing countries like Uganda. But then they told us that to get a secondary education in Uganda it would cost $300-$1500 per year. Now you're probably thinking that is really cheep, and it is to us here in North America. But now consider that the average yearly income for a family in Uganda is $300, suddenly it's not such a good deal. We were also told that a bunch of the kids in this show were orphans of parents who suffered HIV or were captured by the rebels. Can you imagine?
It just touched my heart to see all the youth smiling up on stage, doing something they love to do. This must just be the greatest experience for them, to be able to tour the world, and escape the wars and injustices going on in their country. I could see it in their smiles that they were loving what they were doing and were so happy to be here.
The part that probably touched me the most was at the very end when each of the 22 dancers told us their name and the grade level they were in. Some of them spoke English well, and some barely at all, but each and every one of them were so proud to be saying their names. The ones who spoke English well enough even said "Thank you for coming." or "I enjoyed performing for you." But at the point where they were saying their grade level was the most brilliant to me. They ranged anywhere from grade 3 to grade 12, but there were a few who you could tell were much older than the grade level they said, which means they probably could not afford a secondary education. Some of the money made from this "Spirit of Uganda" tour is going towards building a secondary school in Uganda for those who can not afford to go to school.
What inspired me the most was after the show, when I was looking through the program. I saw the page with the bios of each of the 22 performers, it was so amazing to see that every child, orphan or not, has a dream of what they want to be when they grow up. If a child with no parents, and no education can still have big dreams then we can too. We have the access to a great education system, so let's not take for granted what we have. If there is ever a day you wake up and think 'I really don't want to go to school today' remember that there are so many children out there who would die to be in your place!