BY ANNA COX
Thanaa is a ten-year-old girl who lives in a slum on the bank of river Ganges. Her father is a daily wage earner and mother a domestic maid. She had never been given the opportunity to join in at any celebrations until she came to a Christmas Party organised by Viva’s partner network in Patna, India.
Her parents do not have enough money to buy toys and other items for entertainment so she loved joining in with all the games at the Christmas Party. She enjoyed learning about Jesus, and that he loves children. The food was great too. Her main regret was that she would have liked her sister and friends to have been able to share the experience too. She said, “People there were very kind. We are not treated this way normally as we are poor. I would like to go again.”
In India, although the caste system is now illegal, the poorer communities sometimes known as ‘untouchables’ or ‘Dalits’ are marginalised. It is heart-breaking to read Thanaa’s words, that they are not normally treated kindly because of their economic status. That is why the network in Patna made a particular effort to invite children from marginalised communities to their party. By bringing children from different communities together, they are raising awareness that they are no different – all children want to play, learn and celebrate together.
The parties are a huge encouragement to all children who attend, whether this is their first experience of Viva’s work, or they have been involved for a number of years. One girl, Helka, performed a Christmas drama as part of the programme with other children in her team. She was delighted to have the opportunity to perform with her group on a stage in front of hundreds of people. Experiences such as this are instrumental in building the confidence of young girls, especially in India where girls are often marginalised and therefore have less of a platform.
Helka shared her own thoughts on the party, “I am happy that I could participate in the drama. I always wanted to act on the stage so this party gave me the opportunity. I feel very happy for this. I also learned the story about the birth of Jesus Christ. I enjoyed the programme, the refreshments and the gift that I received.”
As over 1,000 children attended a Christmas Party in India, we have a number of inspiring stories of children who have really valued the experience. You can read more about our Christmas Parties across the world here but what follows are a few more stories from children who attended parties in India:
Abi is a 12 year-old girl from a migrant labourer family. She attends a literacy centre run by a local church, who invited her to the Christmas Party. She said, “Since I am attending the literacy classes I have been listening about Christ. It is for the first time that I was able to attend something where so many children were together. Every child including me enjoyed it. I liked the magic show most. I also made some new friends. Many uncles and aunties who were there spoke very kindly to us. They presented us beautiful woollen cap. I didn’t had one so it was a very good gift for me. I would like to thank those who invited us.”
Raaji is a seven year-old boy with a single mother. Members of their society and family have side lined them so Raaji has not experienced love and care from other adults and for a long time has not eaten good food. This Christmas party was a very warm experience for him and he was then connected to one of the projects working in his local area. They will follow up to help bring about lasting change for him.
Moira, a 14 year-old girl also attended the Christmas party for the first time and she really enjoyed it. This was the first Christian event that she had attended. She was connected to a Sunday school teacher, who also gives her tutorial help.
Aayu also attended this Christmas party for the first time. He said, “I am so happy that I could attend the children’s Christmas party. I learned why people are celebrating Christmas, I enjoyed the different type of songs. dances and action songs. I got Christmas cake and good refreshment. I thank the people who organised this party.”
Thank you for your support that has allowed the networks to host the Christmas Parties of 2016 and please do continue that support to enable further Parties in the coming year by giving here and choosing to designate your gift to ‘Christmas Parties’.