Children in Bari, Italy, enjoy meaningful activities at “Happy Week”

Posted on September 19, 2011 by VMMissions Staff

What occupies the long summer days for children who live in high-rise apartment buildings in densely-populated Italian cities? Many parents ask this same question! In the South, parks are usually few, crowded, and poorly equipped. Apartments have limited space for active play. Recognizing this opportunity to meet a felt need, the Mennonite churches in Italy developed a week-long program designed to provide meaningful, wholesome activities, and biblical teaching for children called “Settimana Felice” (“happy week”). With little curriculum available in Italian, organizers must create their own program and lesson plans.

Music, puppets, Bible lessons, creative crafts, active games and sports, Christian films, and snack time readily fill the 4 hours each morning in an atmosphere of acceptance, friendship, and love. At Centro Koinonia (Bari), the owner of the church facility offers his private pool one morning for the children to enjoy a swim—a highlight of the week! At the concluding event, children and staff present a program for parents to see and enter into what their children have experienced. Afterward a party in the church garden provides occasion for further fellowship.

This year was not only the largest “Happy Week” ever, but believers at Centro Koinonia for the first time organized and directed it, rather than missionaries or a team—an encouraging sign of maturity! A couple from Switzerland and a young adult from Termoli, Italy assisted them! Most of the 27 children who “maxed out” our tiny church center, came from un-churched families. Often the children beg for more, “Why can’t we have a ‘happy month?’” they say.

Is it too big a dream to hope and pray for a Christian scouts program in the future or even envision a larger church facility or camp where children can freely run and play?

Note: Gifts from Children’s Dept., Weavers Mennonite Church and funds from Penny Power 2010 helped finance children’s ministries in Italy.

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Craft time at Happy Week.

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Happy Week participants enjoyed each others' company. Photos courtesy of Eva Eberly

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