BY ANNA COX
Thirteen networks around the world hosted 27 Christmas Parties in December with support from Viva.
The events brought children of different backgrounds, churches and organisations together for a day to celebrate God’s love and care where they were able to hear the Christmas story and learn valuable lessons to improve their understanding of good care and respect for children.
Local churches reached out to the most vulnerable children in their communities to ensure that as many as possible were given the opportunity to attend. The network in Patna, India for example, made a particular effort to identify and invite girls from marginalised communities including ‘Dalits’ and those living in slums. Read more about individual lives’ changed by clicking here.
The parties involved 152 partner churches and organisations, reaching 4,230 children. These parties have the potential to transform the lives of children who attend, and it all starts with a fun-filled event!
Feeling valued and cared for
The parties usually include a hot lunch, fun activities (games, music, performances, songs, dancing, storytelling, puppets) and a gift to take home to make the children feel loved and valued.
Food and safe water is particularly important for children who do not have regular access to these at home. In Zimbabwe for example, “some of the children did not have adequate food in their homes and having a decent meal at the party was a great thing for them.”
When parents are struggling to provide for their child’s basic needs, entertainment sadly cannot be a priority. So many of the children really enjoy this element of the parties. A boy who attended the party in Ranchi, India for the first time was so thankful saying, “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.”
This year, as well as giving children a gift, the network in Colombia focused on the idea that whilst gifts are lovely, there is nothing more special than the gift of God’s love. They distributed ‘divine pocket cards’ to each child who attended to remind them of this.
As many who attend the parties do not go to school, or are not taught valuable life lessons at their schools, organisers take the opportunity to teach them in a fun and interactive way.
The themes this year were broad:
- 4 networks (Colombia, Delhi, Dehradun and the Philippines) focused on good treatment, either by promoting the Good Treatment Campaign or laying foundations to launch the campaign in the future.
- 4 networks focused on ways to care for children by highlighting child protection (Patna), raising children well (Cambodia), caring for children in a Christian way (Ranchi and El Salvador).
- 3 networks were more focussed on the empowerment of children highlighting child leaders (Paraguay), the importance of education (Uganda) and Good Touch Bad Touch (Bangalore).
- The network in Zimbabwe used the party as a means for gathering data on the number of children out of school.
To share these messages in an interesting way, the network in Dehradun, India chose to put on a puppet shows on their theme of’ ‘good treatment towards children’. The puppeteer demonstrated ways to include marginalised children and responsibility to promote the equal rights of girls. This can help to change attitudes that see girls as inferior to boys so that when these values are taught from a young age, it can help to promote equality of girls, improving their opportunities and development.
In Paraguay, the focus was on encouraging children to know that they are loved by God, and to be empowered to follow their dreams. Jonathan, a teenager aged 13, said, “I felt very comfortable with everything that was done, but above all I learned about the difficulties I face, and what [support, skills and character traits] I have that I can use to overcome the difficulties I have, and begin to fulfill my dreams”.
All the parties include an opportunity for children to learn about the love of God and the Christmas story. For some children and their families this was the first time they had heard the Jesus story. For example, a 12-year-old girl in Zimbabwe dropped out of school because her parents favoured boys over girls. She said: “I do not go to school like other girls but I am happy that I am God’s child and he has plans for me”.
Perhaps the most important aspect of these parties is the follow-up, enabling children with no previous contact with Viva or the network, to now be connected with local programmes, churches and ongoing support with potentially life-changing impacts. Through connecting to the churches, they will gain a new support network and opportunities to develop their learning and increase in confidence.
These parties are also instrumental in building the capacity of the networks and the individual members as they increase the visibility of the network and provide a good opportunity to encourage new network members to join for example, new churches that for the first time engaged in the organisation of the party in Patna, India have now joined the network. Similarly across different countries, churches involved have been made aware of Viva training in Child Protection, Understanding God’s Heart for Children, Quality Improvement System and Child Friendly Church, which will improve churches’ capacity to care for children.
The growth in capacity of networks and their members are vital to increase ability to respond effectively to the needs of vulnerable children and to increase the number of children reached.
Parties self-funded by networks
We were delighted that this year three networks were able to host Christmas Parties without the need for funding support from Viva. This was achieved by the networks in Colombia, Argentina and Tanzania. In total, 20,452 children attended a Christmas party in these three places which brings the number of children who attended a Christmas Party up to more than 24,000!
The fact that these networks have taken the initiative to hold the parties and raise the funds themselves is a testament to the value they place on the parties, and the networks’ stability in order to find their own funding for the events.
However, as you have read, 13 networks still currently rely on financial support from Viva to run a party. The average cost for a child to attend a party is $6.30. This is not just a party, but a gateway to building and sustaining life-changing support for children.
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’.