Umoja Writing Competition in Hiatus for 2017
Due to extensive commitments in 2017 the Umoja Writing Competition will be in Hiatus for 2017. We will be back in 2018 so practice your writing and be ready to enter from February 2018.
Thank you to everyone who contributed since our beginning in 2014. You can read about why the competition was started at ABOUT. The main reason being; raising funds for the Umoja Orphanage Project Kenya.
We will still be posting writing tips and posts so please keep coming back.
You can still help the orphanage by donating:
Our 2016 winner Disha Raval received her trophy this week and this is what she had to say about it:
When I cut the packet open, I was absolutely stunned! I took a long look at it and the first thing that I said was, “WOW!” I felt, for a second, that I was dreaming! I felt (and I still am) extremely elated and quite thrilled to finally have my trophy!
I would like to thank ‘ Sunrise Rotary Club Bundaberg for sponsoring this amazing Project and Ms. Cathy Booth of Umoja Orphanage for doing such a wonderful thing for a wonderful cause.
I would also like to thank my Mum and Dad for supporting me through anything and everything that I do and lastly, I would like to thank all my teachers and everyone else that has supported me through anything I do.
I hope to continue writing as a passion and one day inspire someone else.
Thanks a Million.
Disha with her trophy for winning Umoja Writing Competition 2016.
If you would like more information about the Umoja Orphanage Project Kenya please click on this link.
Peace was our best theme yet. Probably because the world doesn’t have enough of it, but most of us want it. Read our winner Disha’s Peace Essay, second and third place Kirsten’s Stirring and Left Behind; all thoughtful, relevant examples of peace.
Let us all strive to be more peaceful daily, not just at times like Christmas – always. Peace is not just about preventing wars, it’s about creating a harmonious world. That world may just start with your household, your neighbourhood, your state or your country. While we are in hiatus we wish you all peace and happiness.
And if you are trying to think of a gift that keeps on giving this Christmas there are lots of ideas at the Umoja Products Page, including Christmas Cards and Child Sponsorship.
First place goes to ‘Peace Essay’ by Disha P Raval who is a Kenyan Citizen who is an Australian resident.
Disha is only 11 years old and turns 12 at the end of the month. We are super excited to announce Disha’s entry ‘Peace Essay’ as our winner. Congratulations Disha on your entry.
Here is what the judges had to say about it:
“I think the author really captured the elements of ‘peace’ and what it means to humanity. Some well-supported ideas that kept me engaged when reading.”
“The author has contemplated what peace means. The writer obviously has researched our theme and produced a well structured piece of writing. I believe this writer feels passionately about peace.”
With no further ado, here is Disha’s entry:
Both in the world and every community, we need to have peace. All human beings share the same needs and there are many ways that we can make peace in our community and spread it around the world. We don’t always need a large group to make this difference. Even the smallest groups can start making a change and spread it to everyone just like Mahatma Gandhi Ji of India, also known as the advocate of peace, who says; “ There is no way to peace; peace is the only way”.
Peace building, conflict resolution, conflict prevention, whichever term you use, sits uneasily within one particular field, discipline, or government department for that matter. Is it development, foreign policy, diplomacy, defence and security, justice and human rights, any or all of the above?
It seems like the more a society advances, the less peace there seems to be. Gone are the days of just sitting under a tree and thinking about life. There’s Twitter feeds to read, Facebook statuses to update, videos to take and upload on YouTube, drama to indulge in, gossip to listen to and spread, advertising bombarding us everywhere. It seems like we’re soaked in figurative and literal noise all the time. Peace seems to have gone by the wayside but it’s very important we have it in our lives because how many great decisions do you make when you’re not at peace?
The issue of war and peace has always been a focal issue in all periods of history and at all levels relations among nations. The concern of the humankind for peace can be assessed by taking into account the fact that all religions, all religious scriptures and several religious ceremonies are committed to the cause of peace and all these advocate an elimination of war.
Peace is very important in our lives and it is essential to our overall well-being. However, this is something that has, regrettably, eluded us for years and years in this world. This world been hindered by war, conflicts and disagreements throughout human history, which has left our world and the many people in it in a deplorable emotional and physical state. This should not be the case.
Even in the places where the guns are silent, there is still a form of conflict going on in many places which is obviously going to have negative effects on the future society and spark more wars and conflicts in this world. The result of not having peace is very common and near to us. There is almost one or two instances of terrorism, destruction, violence, disease and refugee crisis reported on television, newspapers and social media. Despite peace being such a clear concept in one’s mind, it seems to be drifting away and becoming more and more challenging to achieve as individuals, communities, societies and nations. To prevent continued cycles of violence, education must be promoted for peace, tolerance and understanding to help create a better society for all.
There has always been an emphasis on the undesirable effects of not having peace. Nations and alliances continue to shamelessly spend resources to research on new technologies and warfare. They continue arming themselves with unnecessary ammunition without adequate soul searching as to how conflict can be resolved and peace achieved in the long term.
The concept of peace is unique for every individual however, the formula of peace remains steadfastly in the universal teachings of humanity, which have been prescribed in almost all the religions of this world. It is common practice for such teachings to be interpreted differently and negatively to suit different situations. On an individual level, we see more and more instances of people suffering from diseases as a result of not being peaceful.
One thing that is critically needed to create more peace in the world would be seeking love and not trying to control other people. Trying to control people for one’s own benefit will solely cause conflicts with others. Reducing control by listening to everyone’s opinions and hearing what they have to say is going to broaden the approach of love to others; be it a peer or another country. Another thing that is also critically needed to help restore peace is placing peace before power because having peace is very crucial. There are other ways like respecting opinions and beliefs that contrasts the idea to “control” people using threatening behaviour.
In addition, in today’s world, everyone needs to be tolerant. Tolerance in all that we think and do is going to make a difference in our lives and the lives around us. Tolerance towards others is appreciating the diversity and the beliefs of different people. When we fail to tolerate others’ beliefs, ways of being and opinions, the ending results can be ultimately violent.
Lastly, the last point that is very important is seeking forgiveness and not revenge. Where does an eye for an eye lead? Usually, too many eyes are missing! No matter where we live, what religion we practice or what culture we cultivate, at the heart of it all, we are humans with the same ambitions and aspirations to raise our families and wanting to live our lives to the fullest. Our cultural, religious or political differences should not be the reason to bring conflicts, grief and destruction to our world.
There are many things that could be done to make peace throughout the world that haven’t been addressed yet. I think that we should all start on making a difference and making our communities peaceful all around the world. We should start making our world peaceful and non-violent. The little changes that could be made would make a very big and a very positive change to today’s world and could change numerous lives. If we try to make a difference now, then we can change communities for the better in the future. This will lead to a better and brighter future for our younger generation and peace throughout the world.
Winner of Umoja Writing Competition announced
It’s with great delight we announce the winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2016 is Disha Pankaj Raval with her essay entry ‘Peace Essay’. This entry took us by surprise with its maturity, especially after judging when we realized how young Disha was (she was born in 2004) in Nairobi Kenya. We think it’s a wonderful unexpected bonus that our winner was born in Kenya. She is proof what a good education, particularly literacy, can do for young children.
Here’s a little bit about our winner Disha.
Disha started school in kindergarten at Braeburn Imani International School, Thika, Kenya (a small place north of Nairobi) in September 2007. She finished her Kenyan schooling at Braeburn Imani International School in August 2015.
She has some interesting hobbies including:
- Poetry (reading and writing poetry)
- Playing the Piano
- Learning new Languages
- Working with tools and wires
- Exploring Technology
And her achievements so far are impressive:
- SATS award 2012
- SATS award 2014
- National Level Swimming 2014
- School Math Champ Title Holder 2014
- School Math Quiz Finalist 2014
- Highest SATS results in the School 2014
- Dance award 2015
- 56 Certificates since 2007
Disha’s Dream Career:
Flying Service Doctor
Mathematics (and we thought it was English)
How did Disha come to Australia?
(As told by Disha)
In 2010, my family decided that Migrating to Australia will prove to be a better and brighter future for me. After a couple months of extreme thinking, we decided to apply for Immigration through my dad’s educational skills. We were granted the Immigration Visa in around late 2011 and this was a very exciting time for me. We came to Australia for the very first time and I really liked it. Finally, in 2015, we decided that that was the time to move and in February 2016 we came to Australia, to stay for good. The move was pretty hectic because we had to pack up the whole of our house in Thika into boxes and travel about 20 hours to a brand new and developed place with a time difference of 7 hours! It took almost 4 months to get everything packed and ready to go but I am really enjoying it here.
My biggest inspiration is my paternal grandfather. I never got to see him as he passed when my father was 16 years old but I have heard lots of stories about him from my grandmother and I am fully inspired by the way he thought and the way he lived his life.
Disha’s favourite place to write
My favorite place to relax and write my pieces of writing are in the park and on my brown couch.
What an inspirational young woman. Congratulations Disha. Disha’s entry with be posted to the next post. Please read it and comment. We hope this inspires people of all backgrounds and ages to write.
Please note that judges do not know who wrote what entry. All entries are judged on merit alone. Thank you to all entrants for taking part and helping us to raise much needed funds for Umoja Orphanage Kenya.
Second Place Umoja Writing Competition 2016 – Stirring by Kirsten Leggett of Tasmania.
This is the first year we’ve included poetry and the first time a poem has been shortlisted. Of course you’ve heard of Kirsten before because she is last year’s winner. Congratulations to Kirsten for another wonderful entry. It looks like she will have a bright future in writing of all genres. Here is what the judges thought:
“Fabulous use of visual imagery, nouns, groups and figurative language. A fantastic poem, well written. Poems of this quality are difficult to write.”
“Poems, like all art, are subjective. I enjoyed the flow and wording and found it quite beautiful.”
The mountain looked beautiful this morning as the first rays of the sun bounced off its snowy face, its blushing cheeks turned skyward in the presence of peace.
I thought of you nestled in the gentle folds of its rocky slopes, on the leeward side tucked up in the warmth of blankets, dreams forming into memory.
Did you stir as the Currawong opened its eyes to a new day?
Perched in the forest that nudges your door.
Its feathers ruffled by frost bitten breath.
Did you sense the stealth of the winter air rolling over the mountain?
Overwhelming tree tops to seep under doors and slide between the crack that wedges dawn.
Did you pull the blanket a little closer to grasp another minute,
two or three, and linger in the gentle rhythm of the rising sun and the falling moon?
On this perfect day.
Did you feel as though you were held, just there, in that moment in time against the heaving heart of Mother Earth? If only for a second, with nothing but bricks and mortar between you.
We are proud to announce third place in the Umoja Writing Competition 2016.
Comments from our judges:
“This narrative really captured my attention and pulled at the hear strings. This is the job of a narrative. Well-structured and flowed well.”
“This was probably my top pick. I like the descriptive language and, yes, I did shed a tear or two. I felt like I was in the room with them. I also think the theme ‘peace’ was used perfectly.”
Now it’s your turn to read our third placed entry. Please let us know what you think in the comments below. You could also congratulate Kirsten on her writing.
Left Behind by Kirsten Leggett from Tasmania
I sat beside her bed with her hand in mine; hers wrinkled with age and with lines of wisdom etched into the folds. Her skin was thin these days, speckled with the countless hours in the sun, the time spent tending gardens, pegging washing on the line, holding the hands of her children, her grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I was here to say goodbye, to my grandmother but I could not seem to find the words. We had never had this problem in the past. Talking was never hard, like the heaviness of this moment, as though my heart was being dragged along the bottom of the ocean floor dredging up memories. Now, I felt the weight of this moment above me, bearing down on the inevitable.
She motioned with her free hand towards the drawer beside her bed, her eyes barely open and fixed on mine.
“Everyone must leave something behind,” she whispered. “My journal is yours darling; my last gift to you. You will know what to do with it when the time is right.”
I reached into the drawer and my fingers found the familiar feel of the black leather, smooth and worn from the years of my grandmother’s touch. I had run my hand over its surface so many times over the years, as I sat with her in her living area where she would write in the morning sun that streamed through her window. The past few years she had been documenting so much of her life, and the pages were brimming with memories, the ones too precious to abandon. I brought it out of its resting place and under the low light opened the cover. The scent of my grandmother rose from the pages, a blend of talcum powder and French lavender clinging to the animal hide that formed the bookends to her past. Each page was meticulously marked with a date, a memory, a reminder of a life lived. She no longer battled against the ailing this and failing that. That war was over. She had arrived at this place of surrender, and willingly so it seemed from the outside. She was done.
I can still hear the phantom words of the nursing staff; a gentle touch on my shoulder. “She will be at peace soon.”
Peace? A word so often associated with conflict and resolution I thought.
My grandmother’s words echoed in my conscience, “Life is not meant to be a battle. It is a joy, hardships and all. Embrace them as you would a new born child. We are the product of our life experience”.
I turned the page to see a photograph of my grandmother in her twenties, perched on the hood of a car, smiling into the sun as though she had just discovered the meaning of life, shards of light dancing around her, captured through the lens. It was the same photo that sat on top of her piano, nestled deep inside the confines of a mahogany frame, the one that lights up with the morning rays, and then fades back to a lingering memory as the sun passes over rooftops to settle in the west.
I wondered what I would leave behind, when it was time for me to leave this earth. How long would I linger in the memories of those I love? I know for a fact that I will always live on in the hearts of my children, and their children should I be lucky enough to see them born into this world. I wonder if I too will marvel at how advanced children are these days and how much has changed with the passing of time. With emerging wisdom will I see how precious each moment is, and treasure each milestone as they first smile, grow their first tooth and stumble and totter as they find their feet in this world? Their children may not remember me for I will be just a name, another story of a loved mother and grandmother like an ancient legend read from the pages of a story book. I would be no more than words left on pages, the source of genetic markers and colloquial sayings, my sentiments passed like a baton through generations.
Yet somehow, amongst this wondering I know my essence will remain, in the walls of the house I loved, the saplings that grew tall under my nurturing, and on the mountain trails I walked. Here I will linger, where the flowers burst forth under the mounting pressure of spring, where others too will pass, stop and stoop low to rest a paper thin petal on the tip of their finger and say, “My, look how beautiful you are.” I wonder, on the day that my spirit returns home, will the forest dance and sway in the mountain mist and whisper on the wind “Yes, she found it, all that she had been longing for.”
As I turn another page, a flattened sprig of lavender falls to my lap and my grandmother closes her eyes. I kiss her gently on the forehead. “I see you found it too,” and we sat in the presence of peace, together, just one more time.