A few years ago, my husband Jason King worked in the SOS orphan villages of Africa. As a filmmaker, he was asked to document the work the charity was doing. He also ran workshops, teaching the children of the orphanages how to film and edit their own personal stories. In one SOS village Jason met “Dog Boy“, a seven year old boy with terribly scarred face and hands. Jason was told, the boy had been found living on the rooftops of the local market. He had been abandoned as a baby and was raised by a pack of street dogs, fighting over scraps of food to survive. Over the years, some of the local people had tried to help the Dog Boy, but each time they got close, he would bit, scratch and his pack would attack the person. Finally, the charity workers of the local SOS village managed to re-home the boy into their care. When he first arrived in the orphanage he was four years old, covered in bites and had no vocabulary, apart from a set of whimpers and growls.
You may wonder, how the workers at the orphanage helped rehabilitate this boy who thought he was a dog. Firstly, it is important to know that all the SOS orphan villages are run by local people, trained and supported by the charity. There are no White people in the villages; Jason and his colleagues were sometimes the first “White man” some of the children had ever seen. Healing someone in Africa, is very different from how we often heal people here in the West. The boy was not taken to a therapist to be analysed, in fact he was not given any regular therapy, but instead he was given the best treatment offered in Africa, to be with other children. The boy, lived with other children from the time he came to the orphanage. There are usual around ten to fifteen children living together in one big house inside the SOS villages. Each house has a “House Mother” and many helpers, but mostly the children all help and take care of each other. In his book “Filming In Africa” Jason writes, “It just doesn’t seem real or possible, yet I sit and watch this badly scarred boy smiling, as he plays with his new brothers and sisters“.
In Africa, you do not pay strangers with degrees to heal you, your community heals you. For Africans, this is a natural thing, the way things have always been. Yes, some people may still go to the local “Witch Doctor” and they may pay, but this practise is dying out due to access to modern medicine. What, is not dying is the African belief that the best way to heal a soul is to be with your community and especially be around the Healing Power of Children.