Wednesday, 6 December 2017

DR Congo: Christmas and presents

Advent is a time of preparation – putting our lives in order and thinking about what is important in life. Of course, giving presents at Christmas can be fun, too!

A lot has happened in the last month. I visited a school for orphans run by Mama Martha and her volunteers. Martha and her husband do their best to raise money by keeping sheep and hybrid chickens. I’d given a contribution to the school and so they had decided to buy an exercise book and a pen for each child with it. What struck me was, not only how full of life these orphans were – a stark contrast to the listless, sad children at my centre for malnutrition - but that they were all over the moon with their gift. In each classroom they greeted me with rote learned greetings in French. Then they lined up in front of the tiny school building and sang and sang and sang. They cheered and clapped. They were so happy with their gifts.

These children would never even think of receiving a computer or a new bike at Christmas – but to have their very own exercise book and pen, and to be able to go to school, is like the best Christmas ever!

Meanwhile, at my centre for malnourished children, a thank-you is more difficult to come by. Parents are anxious, depressed. The children have got used to being hungry and forget to cry.
“Tata Francis,” one mother called to me, “it is easy for you to give our children food because you are rich.” I told her that it wasn’t my money that was saving her daughter’s life, but gifts from kind people in England. “But they don’t know us,” she said. “Why would they send money to help the children of strangers?”

I didn’t really know the answer. Perhaps some people think about how fortunate they are in life. Perhaps people are happy that their own children were born into comfortable lives and they feel sorry for others.

To give presents at Christmas in the UK is an expensive business. But to give ten percent of your present buying budget to those less fortunate would be great. It would easily be worth more than the presents that the other ninety percent could buy!

So, enjoy your Advent. Let’s put our lives in order and think about what is important in life.

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