Our school is the Chrysalis School for Social Entrepreneurs, so while we believe enterprise is important, we believe that the social bit is what will create the change for a fairer and more dynamic Africa. Where we live, poverty is endemic. No one has any money and most eke out a living. What money people have is often spent on school fees, so what little is left is rarely spent on children. Neglect, children’s rights, starvation, abuse are all things the children who visit the Chrysalis Centre speak to us about and we delight in offering something in the way of nurture to our members, not “aid” per se, but things like attention, care, first aid, plus the range of activities we offer, like art, music, dance and drama, sports and much more.
Although they have never known it, our cats are another of our important activities. To me they represent nurture. Most cats near us represent nature. They are big – often equal to dogs in size, but with much more firepower. They are employees of their owners, who use them as ratcatchers. The rats are eaten and are the principal diet of the cats that hunt them. Approach one of these cats at your peril – they may look like pleasant house cats, but you are more than likely to be struck by their poison claws, which contain the ingredients of Uganda’s notorious and dangerous red dust.
Ticket, Biscuit (or Kitgum some of the kids called him) and our latest cat, Colin, on the other hand, eat (cheap) cat food twice a day. The kids pick them up and cuddle them. They have been always been friendly and playful and delighted the kids with their natures.
So where does this lead us? The cats are a demonstration that care and attention produce more sociable results, cats people like and who love us back. Children who learn this, even if neglected themselves, may learn that nurturing their own children produces better results than neglecting those same children of their future. And nurturing children is one of the most selfless things most do in their lifetime.
So, back to the first issue. How do we teach young people to realise the benefits of social enterprise, caring for others and altruism? Well Biscuit and our other cats have been one simple way and our cats have been the teachers!