My Christmas Reflection
Barbara and Gus de Souza – Brazil
This has been a stressful year, as you know, but then there are moments when you know it is all worth it, that you are making a difference with the help of so many supporters.
On Thursday, we had our Christmas party for the children in our program “Desenho e Arte, crescendo e transformando”, Drawing and Art, growing and transforming. The symbol of this group is the butterfly who, from and ugly cocoon, working hard in spite of the obstacles, transforms itself into a beautiful butterfly. The significance you can understand for these children are often undisciplined, rowdy, neglected, lacking parental support or social graces of any kind, and unable to grasp what it means to work in a group for the benefit of everyone, and to know what citizenship means.
I have written of this program for it is your financial support with others that makes it possible for it is not a city program, but our association’s forty children (that is all we have room for, twenty in the morning and twenty in the afternoon) come to the clinic and on the 3rd floor of our newest building we have a room designed for them to work in. The children range from seven to twelve years of age and we choose the problem children, those whose parents work all day leaving these children to fend for themselves, or children who have no father, problems in school or relational problems. Not an easy group and over the year there have been many problems but many victories.
The health educators all participate on different days. We have volunteers for games, for school study help, story tellers, art work, and the most enjoyed theater. They create their own plays, make the costumes and perform for each other. They learn to work in a group with objectives that are common and to be shared. They learn how to start a project and finish it, each one contributing as best she or he can.
On Wednesday of this week they invited their parents (few came) and presented their play. It was wonderful, loud, often undisciplined, but theirs. It was their interpretation of life in the shanty town. Then to end it they gave a play on how to prevent dengue, which is upon us. As you remember, it is a disease caused by the mosquito and can be fatal. The current rainy season we are in is when we have our epidemics.
I was so moved by all their work, the children and the health educators, plus volunteers that my eyes were misty most of the time, especially when they called the leader of the shantytown association to the stage and sang to him! Santa Claus (one of the larger health educators) was to come at the end of the play and distribute the gifts which had been donated by a very wealthy woman, wrapped and decorated by the health educators. However, since there were so many children watching the play who do not participate in the program, the health educators felt that it would not be fair to distribute them while the other children were there so there was to be a party the next day at the clinic for distributing the gifts which were the same for all; a wonderful pack for school including crayons and all sorts of art and school supplies – a gorgeous box of useful items, plus candy.
Santa Claus arrived and though the children all recognized who she was, they played the game. The children were told to sit down and they would be called, one by one, to come to Santa and receive their gift, but not to open it till everyone had theirs. They were very good, each one had a picture taken being hugged by Santa and then sat down with the huge colored package.
After everyone had received their gift they were told they could open them. I was already feeling emotionally affected by what was happening, the children’s cooperation, their transformation into a solid group, all the work done by the health educators and volunteers, that tears filled my eyes.
But, the moment was yet to come that would make me want to drop to my knees and thank the God who is love and all of you, everyone who made this day possible. The God of love was present and I would feel this presence even more.
For amid the tearing of paper and squealing of happy and surprised children, Lena and I noticed one boy sitting in a chair clutching his large gift to his chest. He was watching the others and his broad white smile in this dark face was a joy to see, but why wasn’t he opening his gift? I went over to him and asked him, “Eric, aren’t you going to open your gift?”
“No,” he said smiling broadly, “I’m going to save it for Christmas day because in our house we don’t have presents.”
I hugged him, turned my head and bursting into tears, hugged the health agents in gratitude. My heart is full and we want to express now to all if you at Global Ministries of our gratitude for the support you give, the help you so freely give to make this all possible. What a fabulous Christmas this is!
Barbara and Gus de Souza
Barb de Souza is a volunteer with the Institute of Religious Studies (ISER). She serves as an advisor for popular education and training in the areas of health and sexuality.