They sang “Viva o dia das crianças!” at the top of their voices, out of tune and not really on any beat, but they sang and sang and sang as if their life depended on it.
1st June is “o dia das crianças” or Children’s Day in Mozambique. Endorsed by the UN and celebrated worldwide this day provides awareness of the issues that children face in many societies. It recognises the need to protect all children from exploitation and abuse, whilst promoting universal education and encouraging loving home environments where adequate food and healthcare are provided. As Christians we believe that childhood and life begins before we are even born and every child’s life, especially the most vulnerable, needs to be protected. AMAC provides legal education seminars on children’s rights and, sadly, in this ministry we hear stories of children who have been horrifically used and abused. But on this Children’s Day we want to share some good news!
We have spent time recently with three sets of children’s groups in Maputo. Their situations are different but we have seen in each great joy and enthusiasm from children who are being allowed to be children when their life situation means that this is not always possible.
Street kids have possibly the toughest of lives. Often running away from huge problems at home these boys form bonds with likeminded others, living for the moment in close knit hierarchical groups. Masana is an organisation that seeks to come alongside the boys, and work with their families to move them back into their home. It was here that we joined about forty boys singing “viva” full pelt this week. Masana are successful in their vision of reintegration, but it is not easy. As they support the boys they provide a daily safe refuge of food, medicine, showers, education and teach about God’s restorative love. AMAC provides a monthly teaching session on the law and supports Masana and the children when there are legal issues to address. Spending some time with a small group just playing Dobble and Uno, whilst learning Portuguese, was a joy. Why? Because we saw them being children, as they are meant to be, laughing and helping one another to play the games.
Learning to Lindy Hop has become a real joy for us in recent years, and about the only way we properly exercise! So we were pleased to find that we could continue this in Maputo. Our dance teacher told us about a kids group that happens here in a less privileged area, that is making a difference in children’s lives. We spent a morning with them as they practiced for a show later that day in their own neighbourhood. The space was cramped, and the hot sun kept away by a strung up tarpaulin, but watching these amazing dancers in action was brilliant fun. Seeing the passion they had to learn and perform well was infectious. These children were enjoying life in circumstances that are far from ideal but does not defeat them.
New Life Youth
Growing up cross-culturally as a child is not easy too. Our daughter must negotiate and manage a myriad of expectations from different peer groups, in different locations and in many different settings. International schools, local church, friends and family “back home” all have differing views, cultural or otherwise, on how as a child you should behave and live. We have been so grateful to an international church youth group that has welcomed us with open arms, allowing us to join in, even when we are committed to a different local church, enabling us to relax as we consider from a Christian perspective how we should live as our creator intends us to live. Spending time with the youth exploring the theme of “obedience” gave us some insight into what the pressures are on the lives of children in this country, and how they are successfully negotiating them.
So we want to say thank you for the children we know and love and celebrate all children everywhere today: “Viva o dia das crianças!”