We so often refer to children as the future, but actually they are very much the present too. Unless we enrich their experience now, how can they become the agents of change we expect them to be? A neighbourhood-level project that draws children from varied backgrounds together in a spirit of unity is perhaps one way of doing this – and it has already achieved success right on our doorstep in St Paul’s Bay. The project? Children’s parties with a difference!
A group of individuals committed to a vision of unity, community-building and the moral education of children is bringing a very different style of ‘kids’ party’ to some localities. Starting to sound dull? Not quite, gauging from the parents’ involvement and more importantly the glowing faces of the kids in St Paul’s Bay.
Qualities such as unity, generosity, love, truthfulness – they are all too often grouped under ‘being good’ (the polar opposite of ‘being naughty’) when raising our children. But if these qualities are an essential part of what it means to be human, if they are indeed spiritual qualities, shouldn’t we learn a bit more about each one? What does unity look like in the eyes of a child? How do we practice it?
And so…the series of neighbourhood children’s parties was born. These ‘parties’ are a chance for local children to learn about a particular virtue with new friends through games, singing, drama and art – new concepts, new faces, in a popular format. Free of charge and open to all, the parties quite naturally bring together a diversity of nationalities within one neighbourhood– the first party attracted Maltese, German, English, and African families, all resident in Malta. They shared at least one thing in common: a desire to offer their children a more meaningful social experience.
A handful of volunteers made heart-shaped invitations with children they already knew, to give out to their friends and local families. Introductory name games and songs, along with a lot of laughter, soon bonded the children and chased away any shyness. ‘Unity’ was the first theme, and the kids (ranging from 3-9) were encouraged to share their understanding of this – revealing lots of ‘gems’ in the process! Creative activities soon helped to make the concept even clearer and more relevant to their young but busy lives. After the must-have party snacks and drinks, each child left smiling and eager to return the following week.
Several weeks later, the parties were still going strong but were naturally evolving into a more sustainable programme of weekly classes. What is perhaps most surprising is the unifying effect of such a small step. Strangers are brought together in a multitude of ways in our fast-paced culture, but rarely do they form lasting ties of friendship based on the concept of service. Malta is a perfect setting for just such a step – an island of cultural diversity but one that still places value on traditional family life and ties. We all talk about improving the world, but the world is simply a web of neighbourhoods and if we look at the potential of our own, the process of betterment can begin right away!
If you are interested in finding out more about these new-style of children’s ‘parties’ (groups), contact: Genevieve Burnett. The idea for these parties was born in Italy, and has quickly spread and been taken up now in Malta. Another group is soon to start in Mosta, and the organisers are looking for people willing to help develop the groups in more localities in Malta.
Photo: Rachel Caiano