Have you listened to the song “Dream of a Goose (거위의 꿈)” by the legendary Korean singer Insooni (인순이)? I bet most of you have.
“….Yes, I do have a dream. I believe in that dream. Wait and watch me….”
A song of catchy melody, heartfelt lyrics, and powerful performance. But I personally would say that the charm of the song lies in its lyrics. It’s a monologue of a goose that is determined to soar up to the sky someday – despite all the callous ridicule of the world saying geese can never fly. The goose says it will achieve that dream of flying someday somehow. It’s such heart-wrenching lyrics.
And what’s more impressive, this Korean song is being sung by children in a far, far, far away country – Kenya.
Children of “Korogocho,” Kenya’s Largest Slum Town
In the region called Korogocho, one of the largest slum neighborhoods of Nairobi, Kenya, some 150,000 to 200,000 people live pressed shoulder to shoulder. The town is polluted beyond imagination – its sky is black with smoke coming from burning garbage and its ground wet with atrocious residual liquid.
In this seediest of the seediest towns on earth, people live on less than two dollars a day. Children scavenge through garbage for food and clothing – practically live amidst piles of trash – and going to school is a luxury only enjoyed by a mere one-third of the Korogocho children. The illiteracy rate and the seriousness of their ignorance is of such grave state that the kids won’t understand if they are told to “line up.” But what’s harder for them to bear than the hunger and the lack of education itself is the despair – the complete absence of hope and dream.
And in this most dire and glum situation, Good Neighbors – an international humanitarian and development organization from Seoul that originated as a non-profit NGO in 1991 – has been running the Jirani (meaning “good neighbor” in Swahili) school, vocational training center, and medical center since 1996.
A Song of Hope Budding out of Despair
Artistic activities offered to children in Kenya are almost non-existent. The only substantial one will be the choir run by the Good Neighbors Kenya, giving them a glimmer of hope and dream.
Under the instruction of a Korean music director, children started practicing the song “Dream of a Goose.”
<30 children selected as members of the Jirani education center choir after rigorous auditions>
Director spared no time and energy in explaining the meaning of the song’s lyrics over and over to the children. For the second verse, they even composed their own version of lyrics in Swahili describing their sufferings and also their will to overcome them. The children sang with all of their hearts, hundreds of times, and soon they memorized all the melodies and lyrics.
And they were given the opportunity to participate in the music competition hosted by the Kenyan government on June 18. And miraculously, they came in 3rd place. The video of their performance was uploaded on YouTube and drew applause and encouragement from audiences worldwide. It moved numerous Korean web users as well as the Korean singer Juck Lee who is none other than the composer of the very song “Dream of a Goose.”
<Singer Juck Lee’s Twitter>
Children’s Voice and a Dream Come True
The story of Korogocho children and their choir eventually gave birth to the “Jirani Children’s Choir,” sponsored by Good Neighbors. Around 100 children were selected after extensive auditions, and they started to sing hope and dream to the world.
Children who have to dig though mountains of garbage to survive now spread something beautiful, something hopeful, to the world with their collaborative voice. It is, indeed, a dream come true.
After a series of performances in a number of countries including Korea, they were able to collect enough finance to support the children’s education.
<The Jirani Children’s Choir>
It’s a real story that sounds so dramatic and touching it might as well be turned into a film. Tae-Jong Rim, one of the five board members of Good Neighbors and the president of the Jirani Cultural Project Foundation, commented, “The Jirani Children’s Choir wouldn’t have been possible without Koreans’ strength in culture. We should continue to expand these kinds of activities.” International exchange and support will keep expanding as well as the government ODA.
It’s impossible to help everyone in the world who is poor and is in need of help. But it’s possible to give them a glimpse of hope, just as the Kenyan children’s “Dream of a Goose” did.