John Samson, a twelve-year-old student in Standard 6 at the Jacaranda School, was the top prize winner in the junior category of the 2012 Royal Commonwealth Society Essay Competition. John’s winning essay, entitled ‘The day I wore my best clothes’, was chosen from amongst 8,000 entries by a distinguished panel of judges.
In recognition of the achievement, John attended a celebration at the Royal Commonwealth Society in London to present to Her Majesty the Queen, the Jubilee Time Capsule containing his story along with the 60 best stories from across the Commonwealth.
Below is his winning essay:
“The day I wore my best clothes”, by John Samson
My father and mother died when I was very young. I do not remember. I went to live with my relatives in a village very far from town. And then one day, my relatives brought me to a village near a school. They could not look after me, so I was moved from one relative to another. Then I lived with my uncle. We lived both of us in a small house.
I was eight years old. One day my uncle left me and never returned. He left me alone.
I did not know what to do. So I started begging on the streets. People gave me money and I bought food. Before my uncle left, he took me to the hospital because I was getting sick a lot. So the hospital gave me medicine that I had to take every month. They told me at the hospital that if I did not take this medicine I would die. After I started taking this medicine, I was not getting sick very much.
The hospital where I took my medicine was very far, so I had to walk each month to get my medicines. I never forgot because I did not want to die. They showed me how to take the medicine. Four pills each day. But now I take one each day.
I continued to beg on the streets and sometimes people in the village gave me food. There was a lady in the village who used to give food to children some days in the week. Her name was Mrs. Limbani.
I did not have any clothes or shoes. I wore my old tore clothes that I had for many years. I wanted to go to school but I never had a uniform. We are not allowed to start school unless we have a uniform and some copies of books. I did not have that so I just spent my days begging on the streets and my nights I went home to sleep alone in my house. My uncle never came back and when I went to my other relatives, they said they did not have money to feed me.
One day I heard that there was a school nearby that was only for orphans and that everything was free there. We did not have to pay school fees or buy books or buy a uniform. The school provided all this. So I went to ask the school if I could go there. The school allowed me to start. I was very happy. I really wanted to go school. Then the day came when they gave me a new school uniform. It was the happiest day because I had new clothes. Now I looked like all the other children. I did not look poor like a beggar and no one could tell I had HIV. I looked just like any everyone else. This day was very special to me. I felt good about myself and I think I looked good in my new school uniform.
I am now at the same school. It is called The Jacaranda School for Orphans. We are 400 orphans at the school. It is primary and secondary and then they send us to college. I love my school and I do sports, and love to dance modem dance called house dancing. We do this all at school. I love art too.
Now I live with an aunt. The school gives her money every month to buy food for me and things like soap.
I do not have to beg on the streets and wear torn clothes. I still go to hospital to get my medicine by myself, but I now take a minibus.
I love my uniform, it is a purple shirt and grey trousers. And I wear shoes and socks too.