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August 28 2008

Youth for Peace in Mozambique: A summer marked by friendship

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Youth for Peace, and Mozambique: a friendship that balks at neither time nor distance. Indeed, this year too – for the third in a row – a group of Youth for Peace from Rome has spent the month of August in Mozambique’s DREAM centers.

And awaiting them were friends old and new: above all the children of the Matola nutritional centre, where some continent-spanning friendships have been formed. The nutritional centre guarantees healthy growth to the children and it brings joy to find old friends who have grown in the meantime, who are in good health and … ready for a party!

The young Romans busied themselves with other children too: such as those being followed by Machava’s DREAM Centre; with residents of the family house and with orphan children of the MUMEMO Institute, where weekend breaks were organized for more than 170 children, joined by children in the care of the Institute’s Franciscan nuns.

Back in Rome, talk was of these special days:

"From Monday to Friday we had the chance to work alongside the DREAM centre activists, helping in the food stores and accompanying healthcare workers on their home visits. We were all deeply struck by the steadfastness these workers demonstrated in tracking down every last one of their patient charges, sometimes walking for hours to seek out a vaguely-given address. A large part of the work was carried through at the Matola Nutritional Center: enlivening the children’s days with games, parties and activities; again at the Nutritional Centre, a group of us were engaged in helping at the “scuolinha” or little school, where around 15 pre-school-aged children attend a nursery. The spirit of DREAM truly came home to us at prayers with the activists as well as at prayer services held at Machava high-security prison. Weekends – from Friday through Sunday – were an opportunity to spend a day or two on holiday, with around 170 children divided into two shifts: 150 from Matola, around fifteen sick children from Machava and the residents of our family home.

We were able to introduce them to the Country of the Rainbow, carrying out activities such as building a Noah’s Ark with the masks of all the animals, teaching movement songs and making drawings. These activities were done in an almost solemn way, with the children concentrating intently on drawing, coloring, and mask-making. Everyone got involved in making “Rainbow” necklaces and bracelets out of colored straws and string, which they were still wearing on the day of our departure; some were even wearing their masks in bed. For many it was an opportunity really to live like a child, with games, more than enough to eat and a comfortable bed.

When it came to their leave-taking, many of the children hugged and kissed the beds they had been sleeping on …

The holidays are spent in an orphanage institute run by Franciscan sisters: the residents joined in with our activities and parties. These are very sad children, often with drooping heads, who only want to be cuddled. When we left, one of them, 14-year-old J., said that the end of the holiday meant the return to sadness.

On the last day of our wonderful adventure, we organized a big party at the Nutritional Centre where a group of children in traditional costume performed some traditional dances to bid us farewell. Many asked when we would be coming back to holiday together again.

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