It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!!!
When you saw the title of this blog, I’ll bet you thought I was referring to Christmas… You were wrong. This blog has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas.
The first of June is the most wonderful day of the year for children in Mozambique. June 1st is Children’s Day.
In a country where…
52% of the population is children. That equates to 12 million children!
One third of children do not begin grade 1 at the age of 6.
Half of children who start primary school will not complete it.
72% of primary children will not pass their grade.
1 in 5 children do not live with their biological parents.
Only 30% of births are declared in the public registry (meaning the other 70% of children do not exist).
One third of all children work.
1 in 2 girls are married as minors before the age of 18.
43% of children under 5 suffer from chronic under-nutrition.
1.47 million children are orphans.
According to Humanium.org, “Every child is a survivor in this country, where the most basic rights are violated over and over again.”
Yet in this country… a national day of celebration is set aside to honor their children.
The days and weeks leading up to Children’s Day can only be compared to the days and weeks that lead up to Christmas for children in the United States. Many plans are laid in homes, schools, and projects across the country. Stores increase their supply of toys and candy and cakes. Parents save up and purchase at least some small gift for their children…even if it is a balloon. A typical family will have a present and cake for their children. They may not be able to afford to put icing on the cake, but the children are thrilled none the less. As the day draws closer, the anticipation of the day and the excitement of the children rises exponentially.
Children’s Day has a whole different feel to it than the other 364 days of the year. There is a lightness in the air and a joy in every man, woman, and child’s heart. People drive around in their cars and motorcycles with balloons tied onto them. Through the windows of the transport vehicles for private schools, one can see brightly colored streamers hanging above the heads of the passengers. Children wearing party hats and masks and carrying a balloon walk along hand in hand with their parents. Everyone is happy.
For us, the days leading up to Children’s Day are very busy as we prepared to honor the children in our projects and in the communities in which they live.
We purchased and prepared…
-45 present bags for boys and girls in our two projects
-45 Bibles to send to each family of a child in our projects
-60 chicken and rice dinners for the children and workers in our projects
-60 drinks to go with those meals
-3 large cakes for the project children to enjoy
-lots of streamers and balloons blown and hung up for decoration
-lots of capulanas (beautifully patterned and colored fabric usually worn by Mozambican women as a skirt) were purchased for the project workers to wear and to be presented to special guests ...
-More capulanas purchased and made into skirts for our dancers...
-grass skirts for the young Xingomana dancers
-invitations issued to the local chefes (village leaders) to attend our big celebrations
-local young men invited to bring their big stereo speakers to provide the music for the dancing
-400 lollipops and balloons to pass out to children in the communities where our projects are located
-cakes and drinks for the children at two local orphanages
-wrapped presents for the children who live in our two Sunshine Houses
Meanwhile, the children were also busy learning songs and dances to perform on Children’s Day. It was a common occurrence to arrive at the projects and hear them singing or dancing to the beat of the drums.
June 1st began early for us as we loaded up the car and headed out. We did not stop moving until dinner time. It was so much work, but soooo much fun as we went from location to location passing out balloons and lollipops on our way.
Everyone came wearing their best of clothing.
We opened our time at each project in prayer. It is always humbling to me to hear our children pray. They ask for God's blessing on our project, on their leaders, on Papa Don and Mama Terri, and on "those who do not have". To hear these dear sweet voices, coming from children who "do not have", asking God to bless those "who do not have" is impactful to someone like me, who does "have".
We presented a Bible lesson to the children at each project about Saul, who became Paul. We colored paper glasses to remind us to always keep our eyes on God.
We encouraged the children to be like Paul and spread God's Word wherever they go. To help them with this, we gave each child a Bible to take home to their families so they could share the Good News with their families.
The children worked up their appetites for their meals with lots of dancing.
I loved seeing the boys join in as well. They concentrated sooooo hard, as you can tell by their faces...
Then came the feast! The children were spoiled with chicken dinners...
And Frozy drinks...
(Are you starting to see the effect the sugar had on them?)
Finally, each child was gifted with a present bag as they left.
By the end of day, our cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing. And everyone...big and small...left happy.