At Rays

It was on a rainy evening, on Tuesday, October 26, that Julie Ilondo Nguini went to the community center “Ray Community Center” to talk to the children about the book “Meeting the Okapi”. The center is a small shed located at the back of a house on 6th Avenue.

Julie’s Story

I was shaking when I knocked on the door. I could hear voices coming from inside. I’m shivering, it’s very cold. I can’t wait to enter the room. It must certainly be nice inside.

A lady kindly opened the door for me. I quickly introduced myself: I am Julie, the co-author of the book “Meeting the Okapi”. I have an appointment with the children for a reading session.

The face of the young lady lighted up: “Oh, okay, we were expecting you.”

I quickly entered the room and sat down. There was a young man who must be in his twenties. He was sorting cards. He briefly introduced himself and kept sorting his cards.

I was intimidated, I didn’t really know how to behave in front of children, or how to hold their attention.

Will they like the book? I kept asking myself this question. The young lady must have sensed my nervousness.

“Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll be up to it,” she told me.

I smiled. She asked me about the book and the conversation began. Gradually, my fears fade away. The two young volunteers seemed very interested and kept bombarding me with questions.

I answered with joy. A few minutes later, the children made their entrance, a dozen children. They were between 6 and 10 years old. They stared at me and sat around me after they introduced themselves and started to talk to each other.

I cleared my throat and opened my little book, positioned it so the kids could see the pictures.

They were calm, attentive, and seemed very interested.

At the end of the reading session, the young volunteer asked them if they have any questions for me.

I saw little hands go up.

“So the okapis like you very much because of your work for awareness and their protection?”

“So you are going to bring all the okapis back to Congo?”

“So if we don’t do anything, the Okapis will disappear like the dinosaurs?” The little boy who asks this question looks quite horrified.

We really should do something to protect the okapi, I don’t want them to disappear.

I answered my young audience. At the end of the session, I gave them stickers and activity books.

You could read about the joy and curiosity of the children.

As I was about to leave, a little girl of about 10 years old holds my hand.

“You said Congo is in Central Africa, do you know where Guinea is?”

I was pleasantly surprised that she asked me this question.

“Yes, Guinea is in West Africa. But there are three Guineas, you know?”

“No, I didn’t know that, I only know Guinea Conakry, my grandparents are from Guinea Conakry.”

“I am very proud of you! It is very important to know your origins!” I replied.

The little girl smiled and asked me if I could speak French. I taught her a few words in French and she was thrilled. She had something to impress her mother tonight.

I absolutely had to leave. I only had 45 minutes but I had spent a little more time with the children who had to engage in another activity.

The local elections were approaching so the volunteers wanted to explain the whole process to them.

It was, therefore, an hour and fifteen minutes of pure happiness that I spent in the company of the children, who thanked me in chorus “Thank you Miss Julie for telling us about the Okapi today!”