Marcel Pagnol the French novelist describes childhood in France as the unimaginable horror of the first world warm looms, an ever present shadow in his mesmeric books, writes “Such is the life of a man. Moments of joy, obliterated by unforgettable sorrow. There is no need to tell the children.” His sorrowful thoughts are shaped by the loss of loved ones that was soon to follow the premature end of childhood. I agree with Pagnol that childhood can be a time of joy. Here in Mozambique despite the poverty for some their form them is a brief moment of joy as they are touched by the power of love. As we see this picture it is all to easy to quntify the needs of many but people experience hunger one by one.
There are still many many children in this world for whom childhood is not idyllic and the shadow of war and hunger looms far too closely over their young lives. Many of us campaigned hard for the UN Millennium Development Goals. There are arguments over whether progress has been fast enough but the latest UN summary makes grim reading for those of us who see the most pressing global priority is still to “make poverty history” http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/2015_MDG_Report/pdf/MDG%202015%20PC%20final.pdf
Here in Mozambique, like many other countries around the world International Children’s day (June 1st) is taken very seriously. It is as significant to most children here as Thanksgiving or Christmas. Schools, church’s, mosques and NGOs all organise events.
Here on the base that I am staying we have 6300 children from the surrounding town and villages queuing for lunch. They are led in small groups by volunteers from Mozambique and across the world to play games for a couple of hours and receive a small gift of a bag containing a few sweets.
The games are led by enthusiastic Pastors from the churches here. The children’s excitement grows as the morning continues. Today will prove to be a brief moment of joy.
Chicken and rice with a bottle of pop is a normal everyday meal in the west. Here the camp farm has been raided to provide chicken for 6300 children. A team of cooks had been working from 4am in the morning, in an outdoor kitchen to cook, the tiny little pieces of chicken. Our proud chefs remained full of joy despite such a long shift. Chicken and rice is unusual in Mozambique, many only see it once a year.
The children leave the games in small groups to que for lunch and the excitement grows and with it the noise which is now deafening across most of the camp.
I had one of the best jobs that day as a photographer so I got to roam the whole camp. I also got to help the team plate up food in the kitchen which we did on an industrial scale one meal every five seconds or so.
We enjoyed ourselves so much that none of the volunteers took breaks they simply wanted the children to have their brief moment of love and joy. I got to eat late afternoon. The remains of my “finished” chicken were snatched from my hands to be gnawed by hungry children. Others filled tiny plastic bags with the scraps from the tables to take home to family. Washing up was just as speedy and good humoured to turn the plates round.
Sometimes you can get past the big numbers of the MDGs and numbers fed here to see the families and the indeed the one. Heidi Baker the founder of IRIS, missionaries teaches that “love looks like sosmething” and that we only ever learn to love when we develop the capacity to stop what we are doing “for the one” “the one in front of us.” So here are a few pictures of the little ones in their brief moment of joy. Poverty is ended one by one too.
Jesus loved children, He taught that when we serve the least in the world then we serve Him too. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Try stopping for the one it could get contagious.