Night fell early on 6 October, 2018 in the slums in Badowita, Mount Lavinia. What had been a week filled with pleasant weather took a dramatic turn when torrents of rain poured down and gusts of wind howled throughout the day. However, the only change in plans was a slight delay to begin the scheduled programme. Even though their roofs leaked and the lanes in that meandered through the slum were inundated, nothing could dampen the spirits of the little ones who had taken so much troubled to rehearse, decorate and prepare for their special World Children’s Day programme with the Alliance Development Trust (ADT).

The programme began with a time of religious observances and followed by performances presented by the little participants. The very first item was a dance performed by the youngest of the children which was followed by a lovely duet, a speech on the importance of World Children’s Day and another dance performed by a group of girls.

The children also received a valuable message from the Chief Guest – a representative of the ADT’s Children’s Sector – who had previously conducted two child protection programmes for this group of children. In her speech, she taught them of the history of the World Children’s Day, helping them to understand their worth and the importance of child rights. The children were also encouraged to pursue their dreams and to strive for excellence in all they do. They were guided to appreciate their own abilities and understand their uniqueness.

The day’s proceedings concluded with an encore performance from the little ones who performed the first item for the evening. Thereafter, the children were treated to a special dinner following which they all set off home.

The programme, though a simple one, was very special for one unique reason; it was organised by the children for the children. From training the little ones in their dances, songs and speeches to decorating the little hall, every aspect of the programme was handled by the children of this community, with a few parents helping only in preparing dinner. Among those who greatly contributed towards organising the programme was Melanie who was one of the comperes of the evening. As a student of Grade 9, Melanie hopes to take up media studies as a subject next year and wants to be an announcer when she grows up. Without a moment’s practice nor notes to guide her, she quite eloquently introduced each item and thanked the performers. Melanie was also grateful for the child protection programmes conducted in Badowita. “To be honest, there is a great need for child protection in this neighbourhood as it is quite unsafe” she expressed. “At these programmes we learnt how special children are and how we can stay safe.” Understanding the importance of the lessons learnt, Melanie has also taken it upon herself to share them with her friends at school. “I always thought that I was not special, but I found great encouragement today during the Chief Guest’s speech to develop my talents and to move forward in life.”