Waking time at 6am. After tooth- brushing, a child picks up her broom and sweeps the grounds. Another group of children heads to the gardens, to cut the grass, water the plants, plant something. Seven thirty, the kitchen announces that breakfast is ready. Children and parents excitedly walk to the dining hall.
Breakfast is alive with chats and giggles. A child knows what comes after breakfast. There is shower and doing laundry. There is time for school. Time to help in the kitchen. Time for meals, time to play.
And when the day is over, all of the Batang Pinangga residents gather to say words of gratitude and prayers, for work done, for a completed school project, for the donations being shared, for being happy, for good health for one and all. The evenings are not done yet, as the children huddled at the activityhall for movie time. No matter if the movie has been on repeat, the excitement and mystery remain.
For two years in the pandemic, life of the children in Batang Pinangga has been inside the compound rolling by in a smooth, predictable rhythm of day and night, disturbed only by the screeching wheels of vehicles passing by, but there are the birds singing, and the flowers bloom, and shade changes like the season of sun and rain. Everything is steady as is.
But Batang Pinangga children have two things to long for.
Physically going to school is one, to see their classmates and teachers. Who’s taller, who’s bigger. With a deep voice, 12-year old twins Joshua and Jerome were showing the little pimples on their faces, and wondered about their classmates’.
And the Youth Ambassadors. The YAs. When are they coming back?
They look at the 2019 poster of the faces of the Youth Ambassadors that hang at the dining hall, faces who accompany them throughout the confusion of staying at home. Around the compound are traces of the Youth Ambassadors: they are on the wall paintings, they are at the carpentry workshop. They are planting peanuts and bananas. They are dancing at the activity hall. They are blowing water balloons. With the Youth Ambassadors moving about, Batang Pinangga is loud, busy and crazy beautiful. Precious said that they could hear some voices at the guest house at night. Niño and Gino swear that they heard it too.
When easing up of restrictions was announced, the children’s tone of prayers changed too.
They prayed that all about COVID shall go away.
That classes can start safely. That they can go back to school.
That they remain healthy, and all the Mama and Papa remain healthy.
That donations continue to come in. That visitors come to see them.
That the YAs can come again.
Like a mantra, they keep repeating the prayers.
And therefore Batang Pinangga is hoping that the wind carries the children’s wishes across 10, 000 miles, across mountains and the vast oceans, to bring the message. That despite all the need of the other children in the conflict areas, there is a house in the valley, in a far -away land, across mountains and oceans, where children are also in need. Until then, the prayers and the longing shall not end.