By Diana James
While many CCR fellows spent their summer advocating in the court room to improve the lives of children, one fellow took her fight to remote villages abroad.
CCR fellow Camille Boudreau traveled with Children’s Hopechest, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of orphans worldwide, to the far reaching corners of southern Africa.
The United Nations estimates there are over one million orphans in this area alone, caused by war, poverty, and AIDS.
Camille’s first journey was to Swaziland, a small kingdom only slightly bigger than the State of Connecticut, where nearly 600,000 orphans live. She says, “Most of these children live without the benefit of strong, protective family members, and they are routinely abused by predators.”
During her stay, Camille was one of sixteen people who fed and cared for over 600 orphans living at two “carepoints” (areas adopted by Hopechest), from sun up to sun down. In their “spare” time, the group built a playground, complete with swings, monkey bars, and slides. While the children were ecstatic to receive such a gift, Camille found them grateful for even smaller things. “They never complain and rarely cry. They love each other so much and appreciate hugs in a way I had never seen before.”
From there, she traveled to South Africa, the southernmost country on the continent, where nearly 420,000 children are orphaned by AIDS alone. In addition to feeding and caring for children at a South African carepoint, her group built a home for two orphans who lost their mother to AIDS and were subsequently abused by their uncle. Such abuse is not uncommon in the region where over half the population lives in poverty and some children are forced into sexual slavery to survive.
I asked Camille if she could recall her most memorable moment. “Rather than a specific moment,” she replied, “the most memorable lesson is these children were the most joyful children I have ever met. They are amongst a crisis, living on practically nothing, and yet they sing, dance, play, and smile.”
While changing lives through litigation is essential, the energy, time, and sacrifice involved in implementing world change in a practical manner is equally commendable. This trip is an example of how to embody social justice goals and share a face of compassion to children in need. When asked if she would return, Camille responded emphatically, “Absolutely!”