When my daughter became an educator, her goal was to save the children of the world. How does one go about such a Herculean task? One child at a time, I told her. My children grew up listening to the music and playful yet thoughtful lyrics of Raffi. Raffi Cavoukian, known simply as Raffi, was born 1948 in Egypt. He came with his parents to Canada when he was ten years old. He stumbled unintentionally in the mid 1970s into entertaining children and thankfully, the career stuck. Raffi poses the question – how do we save the world? His answer is familiar – one child at a time.
It is fair to say that humankind has gone off the rails or at least those segments of society which media choose to report on. I have no doubt there are good things happening in communities all over the world, where people are striving to keep each other safe and fed and nurtured but those stories seldom reach us. Instead, we are left with the feeling that nothing is going right, that greed and violence are winning, that we have lost the ability to think of others ahead of ourselves.
I have been engaged in child-watching as of late. I watch these wee souls who look at their surroundings with eyes of innocence and pureness. They are born perfect, without prejudice. I think of my own children, and the awe I felt at gazing at the wonder of them, when they came equipped with the knowledge of how to seek out the breast, how they trained themselves to hold up their head, how to move their arms to first roll over. “All children,” Raffi writes on his website, “are created whole, endowed with innate intelligence, with dignity and wonder, worthy of respect.”
Raffi had plans for a career playing folk guitar to adults and he had no idea his career would take the turn it did. Now he devotes his music talent and personal energy to “Child Honouring”, with the intention of helping to create a “humane and sustainable world”. Raffi is convinced the only way to accomplish such a goal is to look to the needs of children, to protect their sense of wonder and to feed their curiosity while ensuring their safety. If children are our primary focus, Raffi says, we can’t go wrong, and indeed we can save the world.
Raffi came from a background of trauma, where his grandparents lived in peril during the Armenian massacres by Turkish authorities. He addressed the trauma that was passed down to him, doing the work to become emotionally healthy, to bring wholeness to his life, to battle that sense of not being enough. I recently listened to him in an interview with Gabor Mate. Gabor Mate is a Hungarian-Canadian psychologist with a special interest in childhood development and trauma. He says we spend too much effort trying to feed a child’s intellect when we should be feeding a child’s sense of wonder. Mate sees trauma as the “invisible force that shapes our lives” and believes that childhood trauma is closely linked to developing addictions. He has written extensively on the subject of recovery. Mate says Raffi sings “to” children; he doesn’t sing down to them or over them, but his melodies and messages are a powerful voice for children, crediting Raffi with being a real force in creating a world with compassion for young children’s needs. All of society benefits when children are nurtured and loved and respected.
The Raffi Foundation follows nine principles in its role of honouring children – respectful love, diversity, caring community, conscious parenting, emotional intelligence, nonviolence, safe environments, sustainability, and ethical commerce. The single principle that jumps out at me first is a caring community. I have no recall of hearing a political platform, no matter what level of government, that addresses what must be done to help children in need, to ensure their safety in the home and access to nurture. If we provide support and service to those children born in poverty, we change the outcome that poverty begets poverty. Children who grow up with a sense of belonging don’t turn to gangs to find a “home”. We need to be a voice for our most vulnerable. It is the only way forward to create meaningful change. If children are treated with respect, they learn to respect others. and to ensure the next generation thrives.
Visit Raffi’s website – www.raffifoundation.org