african orphanage

Umoja Writing Competition in Hiatus for 2017

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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.

Duncan, Cathy (founder of Umoja Orphanage) and Kaingu at the orphanage in Ukunda, Kenya.
Duncan, Cathy (founder of Umoja Orphanage) and Kaingu at the orphanage in Ukunda, Kenya.

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:

DONATE NOW

Sponsor an Umoja Staff Member for Christmas

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Umoja Orphanage Project Kenya are setting a target of 100 Sponsorship pledges before Christmas. To find out how to be involved see the latest Newletter.http://us5.campaign-archive1.com/?u=27451c8c3723a00be8f99956a&id=a8530045fe&e=d69a26e1c7

Umoja Orphanage Project Kenya sponsored by Rotary Australia

The winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2016: Peace Essay

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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:

PEACE ESSAY

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.

Disha, this year's winner of Umoja Writing Competition was born in Kenya and now lives in Australia.
Disha, this year’s winner of Umoja Writing Competition was born in Kenya and now lives in Australia.

 

 

Entries have now closed for Umoja Writing Competition 2016

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Entries have now closed for this year’s competition. Thank you to the wonderful writers who have entered. Though the entry fee is small your money goes a long way helping the Umoja Orphanage Kenya Project. Winners will be announced in October. Good luck to those who have entered. Keep coming back so you can read the winning story.

Of Nice and Mean by Nancy Lindah Ilamwenya

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Highly Commended goes to African entrant Nancy Lindah Ilamwenya.

Nancy is a Kenyan living in Ethopia and is just 26 years old. Here is Nancy’s entry: Of Nice and Mean

“Do you think George and Lennie’s friendship was genuine or was it based on convenience?”

Uncomfortable silence, occasionally interrupted by officious rustling of John Steinbeck’s, “Of Mice and Men” novels in oblivious fingers, searching for what is not only an elusive answer, but more so, a fantastical idea, especially for our teenage minds….true companionship.

“I would like one of you to please justify this relationship.”Miss Amweno begins again, determination in her voice.

“George is a strikingly witty fellow whose charisma casts spells wherever he goes. He is self –driven and agreeable.” My mind wanders off to the movie version; Channing Tatum should have played George. I wouldn’t have any problems answering Miss Amweno.…his eyes…Channing’s eyes…

“Lennie on the other hand, well juxtaposed to his best friend George. At 6 feet and change, his gargantuan mass dwarfs most average men.” Miss Amweno continues with unadulterated vigor, clearly unconscious of the fact that most of her words are too big for us.

“His thunderous voice emerges to clearly proclaim his mental handicap…an epitome of awkwardness. So boys and girls…How can these two contradictory personages be best of pals?” She pants as if never to speak again.

Painful silence lingers. We notice her left eye begin to twitch. Signs of frustration.  She mumbles to herself, anger slowly sneaking to her face. She bites her lower lip and we gear up to receive outbursts of why we are better off on the streets and our places taken by those unfortunate street children, how we should be banished to rural Pokot where we can learn to appreciate some paltry beans accompanied with yellow ugali, listening to the omniscient voice of the Almighty self-contained teacher, seated on parched ground, under an ancient teak. But like most of what she says, gets in through one ear and leaves through the other. Hers is a tough job.

Thing is, Miss Amweno is a great teacher. Admittedly, I have had the unfortunate opportunity to eavesdrop on my other teachers’ out-spoken frustrations about their meager stipend and how on the first chance to leave the profession, they would. I have to say, nothing kills learning than the knowledge that you, the student, are but a bridge, not a destination. But Miss Amweno loves us. We know it and that is why we readily forgive her outbursts. We love that she screeches birthday songs to all of us at random times of the year. We love that she walks around with a tear-stained blouse after mediating teenage scuffles. We love that she would know if we had a rough night. We love that she knows our pets by name. We love that she scribbles proverbs at the corner of the board every morning. We even learnt to embrace the Feelings Jar. Miss Amweno makes school, home.

You see, my parents split up as soon as I turned seven. A few months later, my mother was arrested for fraud and all her assets frozen. Predictably, my father immediately re-married and promptly forgot about us. As fate had it, I was left in the young but capable hands of Bwire, my eighteen year old genius of a brother. “Genius” is not to be used lightly, as he went on to win a scholarship to an Ivy League university in the USA after innovating something I regrettably don’t have the capacity to describe. Worth mentioning( to emphasize his brilliance) he made a living concocting some hallucinogen in our house which he peddled to supplement the little allowance collected from reluctant  relatives.

On my brother’s departure, I went to live with my aunt, who only accepted to host me in the hope that Bwire’s pursuit of prosperity would thrive and she would have a legitimate claim, on my account.

So as I watch the all too familiar transformation of Miss Amweno’s furrowed face to her sympathetic look, I am reminded of Mama.  Not in a way that compares. No! In a way that conjures up feelings of foul rejection, constant absenteeism, and numbing loneliness. I have to say that her incarceration was of no consequence to our relationship, because we didn’t have any.

Miss Amweno is it! I don’t think she knows it but most of us count on her presence for our daily dose of affection. Miss Amweno is it! The semblance of a mother we all wish we had.

“Hallo? Akisa! Are you with us?” I hear her say. Suddenly, an epiphany so real, a divine intervention through I, a humble medium.

“Yes, Akisa… Kindly enlighten us.” She responds with apparent pride.

“Well Miss…it indeed is tempting…in fact natural, to choose the negative aspect, seeing that we live in a skeptical world.” I begin. “Skeptical, meaning doubtful of each other’s inherent goodness,” I look around, silence of a church.

“Why is it difficult for us to conclude that one can love without expecting something in return? Lennie is mentally challenged.  He is a child in a man’s body. He can barely make sense to save his life. He cannot remember who he is, let alone what he is supposed to do. He has irrational tendencies further exacerbating his isolation.” I pause and look around. Everyone is listening.

“Why is it difficult to believe that George could find a true friend in Lennie? Couldn’t have George searched and found Lennie’s soul? An ability that few humans possess.”

I look around again. Eyes opening up to my truth. Minds consuming my revelation.

With the confidence of a pundit and humility of a priest, I rested my case, “Miss Amweno, there is no better example than our relationship, you Miss Amweno with us. You symbolize George, us Lennie. You love us, in spite… It is like questioning your fondness for us.”

Miss Amweno smiles, eyes gleam behind a curtain of joyful tears, and then she clinches my point so accurately, “Only one who can dig beyond physical differences will to justify the relationship.

Thank you Nancy for a story reflecting the wonderful roles of teachers. We hope your placing will encourage other African writers to craft their writing skills. Readers please comment below.

 

Shortlist Announced

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The shortlist for Umoja Orphanage Writing Competition 2015 has been announced.

Congratulations to these entries and thank you to all participants. Your entry fee goes a long way in helping Umoja Orphanage Kenya.

Cathy with baby

Our shortlist (in no particular order) with comments from our judges:

‘A Cup of Water’ by Judith Howe.

“It had a great use of descriptive language and a good use of vocabulary.”

“I liked the use of viewpoint. Engaging.”

‘The Tiny Teacher’ by Kirsten Leggettt.

“The beginning of the story engaged me as a reader. The vocabulary used created visual images and was highly descriptive. Tension was tightened as the main character entered the house. I loved the twist at the end. Very cleverly written.”

“Well-written and descriptive.”

 ‘Winter’ by Denise Krklec.

“I loved the simplicity of this story. I was connected to the moral of the story. The vocabulary again was descriptive and painted visual images in my mind.”

“Sad but poignant story with wonderful language.”

 ‘How do different cultures express their values and beliefs through children’s stories (essay)’ by Siena Hemra.

“I enjoyed reading this writers perspective on children’s literature.”

“A well-researched, well-written essay of merit.”

Hit our FOLLOW button to make sure you don’t miss the big announcement. Our winner will be announced in the coming weeks.

Umoja Writing Competition Logo 2015 copy

Shortlisted stories announced today

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We are close to announcing the winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2014. Thank you to all entries for your participation. We hope you decide to enter again next year and pass the information on to all your writing friends. We’d like to make it bigger and better next year and be able to help Umoja Orphanage Kenya.

After much deliberation our shortlist is:

Tumani (hope) by Denise Cummins

Simply Ubuntu by Lauren Dionysius

Congratulations to you both!

Tuman (hope)

Is a fictional, first person story. This is a well-written entry with smooth narrative. It describes the plight of volunteers in West Kenya who struggle with their faith and hope; while observing the everyday struggles for survival of the Africans they are trying to help.

It’s a dark but powerful story with a unique voice. I’m sure you’ll think about it long after the last word.

Simply Ubuntu

Is an essay entry worthy of journalist publication. This is not just an eyewitness account of Malawi, but a heartfelt analysis of Ubuntu and humanity. You’ll wonder where the human race is heading and if we should indeed be leading simpler lives. There is a good use of figurative language and the essay is beautifully written.

The winner will be announced soon.

Once again, thank you to all the entries that have made the inaugural Umoja Writing Competition a success.

I’d like to share with you a video from volunteer, James, from Umoja Orphanage Project Kenya: