A community manger
By: Taline Ladayan, Community Development Program Coordinator Lebanon
For four years the Jinishian Memorial Program (JMP) staff and volunteers have been preparing a Christmas manger in the Nabaa Bourj Hammoud region, an underprivileged multiethnic urban area where JMP has implemented its community development project. This past year the neighborhood committee wanted to have a unique and special manger, not only in its appearance, but also in the way of its preparation.
School students in the area were approached to participate in the preparation of the manger, with the intention of raising the students’ awareness concerning community work, community belongingness and communal life.
The JMP’s community development team met the students at school and explained to them the importance of their participation in the community life and the development projects being carried out in their area. They highlighted that this year’s manger could be special with their participation. The team explained that a handicraft from one school and another decoration from another school could give a special meaning to the manger, and it would become the “Community’s Manger”, or everyone’s manger.
The students decorated the site of the manger with handicrafts representing decorative stars, a Christmas tree, Santa Claus, and posters with verses from the Bible.
For the first time the community members, encouraged by this atmosphere, asked the families residing in the area to contribute financially to buy new decorations for the manger. Those who weren’t able to participate with a financial contribution were at the site helping the group decorate the manger.
Many families visiting the manger were from neighboring communities. They took photos and explained to their children the true meaning of Christmas and the Nativity. As for the teenagers of the neighborhood, they took the responsibility of guarding the site from vandalism.
When the Christmas season was over and the decorations were being removed, everyone was surprised to see someone had covered the baby Jesus with a small blanket; another had placed a rose near the manger. Some people had placed candles and dropped coins.
The community participation and joint efforts enriched the modest manger, which became the Community’s Manger. The community members took pride in their accomplishment. The activity was reported in the Armenian newspapers and on a local TV station as an activity that brought the community together.