The Disney film, Queen of Katwe, starring Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo is scheduled to be released in just a few weeks. Based on the book of the same title by Tim Crothers, it's the true story of a Phiona Mutesi, a young girl who defies the odds of growing up in one of the toughest slums in Uganda to become an international chess champion.
The story itself seems a little unbelievable from an abstract perspective. What are the odds that this young girl who is struggling to survive, would happen upon a mentor, who grew up much like herself, and he could arm her with the skills to discover a talent that would enable her to change her circumstances? The unlikelihood of it all is perhaps why it will make a great movie.
The thing is, it's not that unbelievable. In fact, I know a lot of Phionas--children who have defied the odds and found their passions in music, art, dancing, and academics.
This past week I invited five of these young people to join me in reading the Queen of Katwe as part of a small book club. We met after they read the first half and they have already identified so many parallels between their own lives, and the lives of the two main characters, Robert and Phiona.
As a visitor in their lives for only a few weeks a year, I have struggled with finding a balance between being a role model, and encouraging the children at SMK to find the role models that surround them everyday. This book, and the conversations that have arisen from discussing it, has helped strike that balance. We have been able to talk openly about the challenges they have--and continue to--face, and the pride they should feel in working to achieve their goals. Despite the fact that Change the Truth has been there to help along the way, their accomplishments are a result of their own hard work. Nothing our volunteers can provide can do the work for them, and what they dare to achieve is a result of their own dedication to their dreams.