The month of November marks the beginning of summer in southern Africa. Schools end in October and it is therefore holiday time. It is particularly awaited by the children who the Community of Sant’Egidio welcomes at the Center “O País do Arco Íris” (The Country of the Rainbow), which for more than six years has become an important reference point for many families and for the younger ones who live in the bairro of Matola C.
The Center “O País do Arco Íris” was opened in 2005 and is coordinated and animated by the work of the activists of the DREAM program who have specialized in child nutrition and education.
Funded through the Long Distance Adoption Program of the Community of Sant’Egidio, in these last seven years the center has involved over 1.200 children and is currently attended by more than 820 who receive their main meal daily, which for the majority of them is also the only one of the day. But “O País do Arco Íris” is also attended by the older boys, aged between 14 and 20 years, who carry out a volunteer service for the benefit of the younger children by serving at the table and providing for the cleaning of the palhota where the lunch is served. In addition, every Saturday they organize the School of Peace, aided also by a group of young teenagers of the DREAM Program and some classmates.
For everyone this austral summer was particularly rich of new commitments and new perspectives to serve the younger ones. For the first time they have been called to organize by themselves the excursions with the children who attend the Center and the School of Peace. In fact in the past years these excursions were implemented with the help of a group of young Romans who came to Maputo during their summer holidays, which coincides with winter in southern Africa. The proposal to organize the usual “passeio” by themselves was accepted with great enthusiasm even if with some initial and fleeting fear.
The “Passeios” to Moamba
The organization of the holidays with the children took place during the first weeks of November and the boys split the tasks among themselves because there were many things to do: warn families, prepare the activities, take care of the games, evening parties, the kitchen, organize the cleaning shifts, buy gifts for the children, prepare the teams and decorate the rooms of the holiday residence.
The preparation of the stay was a moment full of ideas, work and discussion that revealed the importance of the School of Peace for the children of the Center: “The children – said a young man – need to be helped to develop good feelings, to learn beautiful and right things, and unless we tell them, outside in the bairro, they only learn violence”. Everyone has understood that each of them should be an example to follow for the children, both in everyday life as well as in school. For this reason, some of the elder ones said to be among the best in their classes, as an example to show the small ones that school is important and that it is important to attend it regularly, just as it is important to be able to follow a balanced and varied diet from an early age, rich in vitamins and proteins, which can contribute to an harmonic development of their cognitive system.
The two “Passeios” involved a total of ninety children of the Center aged between 7 and 11 years and took place in the Vila de Moamba, a village located 70 kilometers from Maputo, hosted by the Salesian Fathers. The children occupied two dormitories with single beds and bathrooms with sinks, showers and running water. When the children saw the two dormitories they were amazed that each of them had their own bed to sleep alone and not with siblings or parents.
Furthermore, the possibility to wash freely with running water unleashed their joy, as well as the opportunity to drink the potable water straight from the tap without having to go and pick it up from the well with buckets or cans. These were beautiful days for all children because they had plenty of attention that usually no one has for them: starting from the lunches and dinners cooked for them memorably and plentifully by the cooks, to the games organized for them, the gifts, the evening party, the possibility to wash themselves with running warm water, the serene atmosphere…
Older kids have proved adept leaders and have committed to make a success of the trip and to make it a moment of tranquility and happiness for all children with affection and preparation, expressed very concretely also through the gifts prepared for each child: in fact, each boy received a T-shirt and a pair of pants while the girls received a dress.
The fact that the children attended the center and the School of Peace during the year was evident during the excursions which did not register episodes of quarrel among the children, a constant situation in their everyday lives, both at home as well as in their street games. This was noticed by the children and the young kids themselves not as a coincidence but as a result of the daily work for peace and the gift of the larger one, donated 20 years ago to the whole country, with the end of the war and the signature in Rome of the peace agreement, through the mediation of the Community of Sant’Egidio.