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Friday, March 16, 2012

Kamakwie, written by Kathleen Martin. Red Deer Press, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2011. $19.95 ages 10 and up

"Resplendent in an emerald green tunic and a shimmering golden kufi cap, Pa Sorie moves to a chair outside. Children circle around him as he talks, joking with us and with him. Old people are honored in Kamakwie. Living long is something to celebrate. It does not happen often enough."

This book sits on my coffee table and the two faces on its front cover are a constant reminder to me to count my blessings, and teach a lesson every day in love and family. Life in Sierra Leone is not easy, but it showed Kathleen Martin what love and hope means to so many who live there.

She was invited to visit Kamakwie with a Canadian medical team to converse with the village people and to learn about their daily life. Luckily for her readers, she carried a camera with her. Her ability to give authentic voice and beautiful life to the people she met there makes this book a welcome addition to any library. It is a poignant reminder  that 'it is not anger that will fix injustice. It is love.'

If you do not feel that love for the inhabitants of this West African country while reading this book, I will be very surprised. It is so easy to be oblivious to the hurts and atrocities that happen far away from us...books like these remind us that the people of the world must care for the people of the world.

Kathleen Martin shares many stories...stories that are filled with hope and love; others that speak to the violence and horror that many Kamakwie inhabitants deal with in their too short lives. While there, she was housed on hospital grounds which allowed her access to many visits and conversations with village inhabitants. What happened during these encounters was an eye-opening discovery for her. The civil war was the focus and she wanted to know about their memories, their hopes for the future and the repercussions for each of them.

 She was most amazed to learn about the children...what they loved despite what had happened to them, their enthusiasm for each new day, their love of soccer and laughter. They sang together and played competitive games, all the while enticing the photographer to join them and to become one of them. Through her own eyes, and the camera's focus, we see their world. As we watch, we need to keep in mind that we are far removed from what the people of Sierra Leone deal with each and every day.

The reality is heartbreaking and uplifting. We, who are so blessed and indulged and too often want more; they, who have little and are happy with what they have.  Is there a message for each of us? Did we have knowledge of their civil war while it was happening? Did we do anything to help? I know what my answers are, and I am not proud of them.

Each short chapter is about the people. They share joy and despair. They are sad, and they are recovering with little revenge in their hearts. While this book could be depressing, it is not. It is a testament to Kathleen Martin's ability to see and share their joys and their belief in a future that makes it so worth reading! Please do will not be sorry that you got the chance to meet these truly beautiful children.

It might just be the impetus needed to follow your heart and make your own difference in this world.

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