Children put their mark on Friendship Festival in San Rafael
The Friendship Festival organized by children who attend Baha’i-initiated spiritual education classes in San Rafael, California, was not only fun but a capacity builder for the young people.
Learning how to plan is part of their class curriculum, and the children used their knowledge to delegate tasks such as organizing prayers, providing music and bringing food to the adults lending support.
“The festival was fun,” says one of the kids, Tairy Mendez. “My favorite part was that I spoke in front of people. I felt happy and joyful.”
Luna Zacarias agrees: “I enjoyed the festival because I felt happy sharing with all. I liked when we sing our songs, and I felt like I was helping when we were hanging the balloons in the wall.”
The children also took charge of inviting their friends and families. More than 160 people showed up.
The festival was held Feb. 24 on the eve of Ayyam-i-Ha, a time of year Baha’is devote to celebration and service.
San Rafael’s Baha’i governing body, the Local Spiritual Assembly, had had a long consultation about the name for the party, says corresponding secretary Sherna Deamer.
There was concern that “Ayyam-i-Ha is a bit difficult to explain to people who are encountering the Faith for the first time,” relates Bahareh Adami-Ardestani, a children’s class teacher and Assembly member.
The name selected was fortuitous in a way the Assembly didn’t realize until later. In Latin America, Valentine’s Day is called Friendship Day or the Day of Love and Friendship.
The event was held at the Al Boro Community Center in a majority-Latino San Rafael neighborhood called The Canal, where Baha’is have focused efforts to initiate activities that build community.
The children’s classes have been held in the center for about four years. Over time, says Deamer, close relationships have been formed between the Baha’i teachers and the families who attend.
It is not uncommon, she says, to see parents and grandparents participate in the songs and art projects that support class themes of kindness, truthfulness, generosity, and so on.
During the festival, the children sang five songs they had learned in class. And two children gave short talks: one on the unity of humankind and one on service to the community.
Other music was provided by a group called the Freedom Singers, who are friends of Baha’is, while the whole event was supported by an interfaith group called Love Lives in Marin.
The impact on guests was strong, say the children.
“I saw people helping each other, being nice, sharing with others,” says Mendez. “Kids were smiling, saying hi, bye, please and thank you.”
Sums up one of the mothers, Alida Calderon: “It was a very beautiful festival because we could share with our community and demonstrate that we are all equal and that we have the same values.
“And I think that all together we can make a stronger community full of values to teach our children because they are the future for this beautiful world that God has created for all.”