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:
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
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.
The countdown continues to our winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2015.
We’ve already announced third and it was Judith Howe’s ‘Cup of Water’. Hopefully you’ve already read and enjoyed Judith’s entry. Now we announce second place. The quality of entries was very high and again we’d like to thank our judges Deborah Lawrence, teacher and literacy consultant (and also the sponsor of our trophy) and Shanyn Limpus, communications officer for Umoja Orphanage Kenya. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to judge our entries.
Another drum roll please (African drums), ta da da!
Second place: WINTER by Denise Krklec.
A big congratulations to Denise from Rochedale, Queensland. Here is her entry:
The fireman shut down their hoses and trudged through the whiteness to stow their equipment. The snow was already masking their trucks, blanketing the scene quickly as if to cover the horrors of what sizzled and spat behind them. There were no words between the men as they went about their duties, just as there would be no more sounds from the bodies found in the smoking ruins of the house. There was nothing left – just irregular hisses and crackles as the house succumbed, groaning its last words.
There remained one fireman in the snow, rolling the last hose, numb with cold and sorrow. It was a small community and he knew the house, the driveway, the letterbox, and the family. As he turned in salute a final time toward what now ceased to exist, he heard a noise that didn’t match the destruction before him. He went to investigate.
His torch penetrated the darkness, searching under beams, exploring the ruins, casting light on devastation. He moved toward the sound, unsure of its location or origin. An animal? Perhaps a kitten? It was a boy. A boy with melted skin and frozen limbs and no words.
Six weeks later the boy still had no words. All he had was loss – a mother, a father, sisters, toes, fingers, muscles, eyebrows, ears, lips, hair, and all his vitality. Body parts not burnt by the fire were frostbitten from lying in the snow. He wanted to be held, with arms outstretched and tears snaking down damaged skin but there were too many wounds, too many bandages, and dressings, and tubes. And the wrong people. His eyes continued searching for the right people even after the professionals explained his loss in three-year old language. He was stuck in memories of winter, under the window, in the snow, a burning house behind him, and dad rushing away from the window towards screams.
He entered my domain unannounced, in the arms of an aunty. She had confused the appointment time and arrived as I was switching off lights, ready to return to my world of no words. A world thousands of kilometres away from heartbreak and emotional torment that still fitted like a glove. At least I could escape to a new world of new friends, new activities, and a new job, but one look at the boy and I knew he couldn’t escape anything. Even surrounded by the love of his extended family his eyes remained disinterested. I, to him, represented more pain, more trouble, more work and no compensation for his loss at all. We were both far from home – I, travelling the world on a working holiday, and him, with only the hospital to call home – and yet our paths had crossed.
We set a recurring appointment. Twice a week the boy taught me things I was not prepared or willing to learn. He forced me to examine my cloak of issues and to decide what was worth fighting for – what things were worth keeping wrapped around me, and what could be discarded and should be discarded forever. I taught him how to move again despite his scars and fears and pain. Together we found our words.
A three-year old taught me that despite losing everything, you could still smile. Sometimes the smile was through tears as his skin stretched and his muscles fatigued, but it was still a smile shining through the scars. I discovered it sometimes really hurts to be stretched and you want to kick and scream and yell ‘no’ to the things that make your life hard, but if you have someone you trust with you through the stretching there are opportunities for smiles.
He taught me that even though your arm won’t bend and you don’t have all your fingers, you can still give high fives. It was just a matter of adjusting thoughts and patterns. While the losses were still present and keenly felt, there were times when a high-five was required. No question asked. An accomplishment, something to be proud of, something deserving a kind word, or a victory dance with what did still work. Followed by a high-five.
The boy showed me that even if you trip over your swollen feet, you could still run to find the prize. The prize wasn’t big or even valuable but to someone who had lost so much the prize was worth every ache, every tear, and every effort in the fight to gain the prize. Even better if the prize was something the boy had chosen – a goal to work toward, something again to live for and strive for, damning those losses to a place only examined at the appropriate times.
I learnt from the boy a hug still means ‘I love you,’ even if you can’t squeeze tight, or lift your arms high enough, or maintain your balance while reaching out. A hug meant that we were in it together even through the pain and the tears and the yelling. A hug meant all was forgiven. A hug meant despite the losses there was still the capacity to love, to experience, to communicate, and to receive.
Our words taught me the value of friendship – despite the differences in age and life experiences, and despite what the future might hold. Our words right then meant the world.
Come back to see who takes out FIRST place.
The countdown begins to our winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2015.
This year we’ll announce third and upload the entry for you to read. We’ll then post second and, finally, first place. The quality of entries was very high and I’d like to thank our judges Deborah Lawrence, teacher and literacy consultant (and also the sponsor of our trophy) and Shanyn Limpus, communications officer for Umoja Orphanage Kenya. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to judge our entries.
Drum roll please (African drums), ta da da!
Third place: A CUP OF WATER by Judith Howe.
A big congratulations to Judith from Coombabah, Queensland. Here is her entry:
A Cup of Water
by Judith Howe
The small being crouched in terror as horrifying scenes of war unfolded around her. She heard terrible noises and explosions the smoke and found smells choked her. Terrible screams penetrated the blackness. She was alone. The turmoil stopped while darkness engulfed her.
People shadows moved quickly rescuing survivors. This helpless being was just one of thousands caught up in the destructive mess left behind by man and his war. Small forms merged with hers as they gathered and jostled along.
The frightened child heard voices and sounds she didn’t understand. Waiting and squatting in the dirt with the others ‘little one’ was mesmerised by the patches of filtered gold sunlight which flicked in and out of the rubble near her feet. Eventually her treasure was blotted out and the magic disappeared.
Moments later she was lifted, squashed and pushed in among other helpless, not, wriggling and smelly beings like herself. Some were crying. She wasn’t. She felt sick and her arm was sore. There were loud noises again, movement, then rocking and bumping and a roaring mechanical sound that went on and on as did the distress of the mass of humanity she was contained in. Their bodies fused as they endured the long rough journey to freedom.
There was a jolt and a screeching of metal. The movement and bumping stopped. The casualties of war cried out fearing the unknown. ‘Little one’ couldn’t her throat was aching and dry.
Humanity moved and slowly and gently she was lifted up then set down on the sweet-smelling grass with the others and positioned in line. Her legs moved automatically along the path. Then there was a halt. Fearfully she looked around. Other eyes mirrored her own. The faces all looked the same. Frightened, bewildered, sad, strained and dirty.
People shadows came near her, one crouched beside her and clasped her hand. A soft voice spoke in sounds she had heard before. She slowly raised her head and with heavy-lidded watery eyes she saw a smiling mouth. Kind eyes nodded at her. She tried to move her tongue to say something but words couldn’t form.
The warm hand guided her to a large room where other beings like herself were bathed and showered. Stood motionless. These shadows were people with kind eyes and soft smiles, some wore white coats and uniforms, they were helping everyone. To ‘little one’ this was a ‘happy place’.
Her feet were cleaned and the cut toes bandaged. The arm examined and now wrapped in a big firm white bandage. A lady person with smiling eyes helped her to dress. The dress was cean and had bright yellow flowers all over it. The under-things were of the same material. She rarely wore under-things because her family were poor. Though she still hung her head she could see piles of dirty rags and clothing in the far corner of the room.
‘Little one’ had never owned a brush or a ribbon. Another smiling lady person tied the ribbon and chuckled as she saw the delighted response. The child remembered her mother from the other time and stroked her dress with affection. The cloth felt clean and nice.
After the bathing, dressing and medical treatment the group of children stood together in a long hall-way. Several younger grown-up people appeared and led them to another large room bathed in sunshine and brightness. There were rows and tables and benches where many small beings or children we can call them now, were already eating and drinking.
‘Little one’ sat down at one of the tables, the bench seemed smoother than the one she used in her village home. Her own had splinters. Her father had made it long ago before the blackness and horror.
The smells were different here. There was a familiar fresh bush smell, a smell of cleanliness or disinfectant as we know it and above all the smell of food. The smell of death and destruction was erased. The shock of past happenings, the violent separations had left this small child exhausted and numb yet she still responded to help and love. Fragments of her previous life were with her. She existed.
Food was served on a plate before her. Another lady person with smiling eyes helped the food to her mouth. It was good. Around her other small beings ate, talked and laughed. She wasn’t sure if she could talk because her throat was too sore from screaming and crying during the horror.
Another helper placed a mug of water near her plate. ‘Little one’ nodded and managed a weak smile. The water held her interest. It was almost invisible. She could see the bottom of the cup. She put her fingers in it and to her delight the surface rippled. She had never see water like this. It wasn’t brown and dirty. There was no rubbish, twigs or goat droppings floating about like her village water. The smell was different. She glanced up and down the long table, other faces had their mugs up to their mouths enjoying the taste of real unpolluted water.
She did the same. Smiling eyes came closer to her face. Her own lips moved and her eyes responded. She felt life. The fact that she was alone in the world would come later. She was blessed and pure like the water, innocent yet a product of the evil carnage man had brought to her world. Her life had been saved but could her soul be healed, would she recover, only time would tell.
Come back to see who takes out second place.
by Guest Blogger – Lauren Dionysius
Things I have learned:
- jamming people into the back of a ute is an acceptable means of transportation
- the average cactus makes for a perfectly functional clothesline
- red dirt turns to red mud in the rain
- car maintenance is overrated: 8 breakdowns in 3 days between 4 Land Cruisers is a lot, even for Africa!
- urgency does not exist: no-one is in a hurry and nothing happens quickly
- and the quicker you can adjust to (and accept!) the previous point, the easier life will be!
- don’t be fooled: ‘pap’, ‘maizemeal’ and ‘sadsa’ are all the same stuff, but different countries use different names. And while it might look like chocolate pudding, it will never, EVER taste like it, regardless of how much sugar you add!
- the ticks in Africa enjoy the taste of humans and the resulting ‘tick bite fever’ is cruel, especially in the remote African bush
- every tree in Africa has a thorn of some description
- electricity is overrated, however hot showers are NOT!
- do not visit the Tanzanian coast during Ramadan – food is scarce!
- 25 children died unnecessarily in Malawi because the hospital ran out of anti-malarial and they weren’t restocked for a month
- bean stew actually looks and tastes worse than it sounds
- the ‘toilets’ in this part of the world are on a whole new level of stink! You are better off learning to squat in the bush – just look out for thorns &, um, local kids!
- when the entire mobile and internet networks are down, Africa just keeps on going. What would Australia do?
- ‘nibblies’ in Kenya are called ‘bitings’
- sleeping out under a starry Namibian sky is a magical experience
- 1000s of seals in the one place = one giant stink (though still smells better than a Tanzanian toilet!)
- the city of Cape Town is just as beautiful the third time round as the first
- seatbelts are optional in Africa
- dust gets everywhere into EVERYTHING
- don’t underestimate the off-road capabilities of the humble mini-van – those things can go up, over and through things at speed, if given the chance!
- it is possible to survive without phone reception for two weeks. I am living proof.
- a sossusvlei is a lake in the desert between sand dunes
- a deadvlei is a dried up sossusvlei
- don’t eat tuna at the beach – you will attract lots of seagulls
- it is possible to survive (many days even!) without the internet
- I am not cut out to be a makoro poler (those little dug out canoe things in Botswana)
- Namibia is the most stunning country in Africa, that I have been to so far
- every place in Namibia starts with an ‘O’ or an ‘S’ which is very confusing!
- trekking through wild Ugandan jungle in search of gorillas is no easy feat
- there’s very little in Africa that cannot be fixed with a screwdriver and duct tape.
Why not enter today and see where it takes you?
We are pleased to announce you now have longer to get your entries in.
The Umoja Writing Competition has been extended to 16th July. As you know this is a serious writing competition that is relatively new to the writing competition scene. It was formed as a fundraiser to volunteering at Umoja Orphanage Kenya. In hindsight the deadline was too soon for a new competition to garner publicity and gain enough entries. To be successful you want to cover all prize cost and still fund raise. Every entry helps us so please, if you’ve been reading this site and considering entering, please do so now.
Thank you to those entries already in. Be assure your entries are still in the running and we apologise to you for any inconvenience. The winner will now be announce 24th July 2014.
Entries Close 16th July 2014
Winner Announced 24th July 2014