Australian Baha'i Sites

‘We learn together’: Locals in Waiben neighbourhood take charge of children’s festivals 

Families in the neighbourhood of Waiben, Thursday Island are taking ownership of the facilitation of local children’s festivals, leading to a more “related and adaptable” experience.  

According to local children’s class teacher and study circle tutor Josh Toloui-Wallace, the children’s festivals are helping to expand the reach of the Baha’i moral education activities while also empowering more individuals to take charge of their own transformation and that of the society around them.  

“We have about 10 children regularly attending the weekly classes, but this number roughly doubles during festivals as more children come but also a few families come from other areas of the island too,” Josh says.  

“The festivals are strengthening the ownership of the local population of the children’s class and therefore the institute. There is an understanding now that we have a festival every school holidays and everyone is thinking about this in advance.”  

The most recent children’s festival was held in April, with more than 40 people attending including the mayor and her family. The theme of the festival was joyfulness, with the day featuring weaving, pot-planting, language learning and colouring activities.  

Josh says it was heartening to see more interest from the broader community. He also says it was particularly encouraging to observe how one of the new teachers, a mother of some of the children, took more ownership of the festival this time around.  

“This was the fourth festival we have held, each one slightly different but increasing ownership from the local families more and more each time,” Josh says.  

“When this local ownership was there, then the activities that were organised for the children at the stations engaged more local families to support and run a station, and also the activities were more related and adaptable to their reality and culture, such as weaving and pot planting.  

“We are finding that while the festivals focus on one of the spiritual qualities from Grade 1 (of the Ruhi institute curriculum), we are not too concerned that each station be one of the elements of the Grade 1 class but allow for a range of activities that families are interested in and can run themselves.”  

Thursday Island has a population of about 3,000 with Waiben (population of about 80 people) one of several pockets on the island.  

The Baha’i moral education process underway in Waiben is just one example of how neighbourhoods and villages all around the world are establishing “an expanding, sustainable system for child education that will keep pace with both the growing concern among parents for their youngsters to develop sound moral structures”1 in the community.

Mindful of the words of the Universal House of Justice that community building institutes “ought to take care, lest they begin to perceive their work as training in techniques, losing sight of the conception of capacity building”, Josh says a major area of focus would now be on raising new children’s class teachers in the neighbourhood to sustain the Waiben class and start new classes in other pockets. 

“Families who are seeing the Waiben class and festivals are now asking for the same process in their own pockets, so raising resources is a critical requirement for the next few cycles,” he says.  

A cycle is comprised of three months of activity which acts as a “rhythmic pulse of the programme of growth” in a community and is complemented by “distinct stages of a process of education for children, for junior youth, and for youth and adults.”2

Footnotes

  1. The Universal House of Justice, Message to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 12 December, 2011[]
  2. The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2013[]

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Waiben

Waiben is a pocket of households located on Thursday Island. With a population of about 80 people, its residents are passionate about drawing on the Baha’i moral education process to address the spiritual, physical and material needs of the community.

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Published in May, 2024, in Community Stories > Community Building

Available online at: horizons.bahai.org.au/community-stories/we-learn-together-locals-in-waiben-neighbourhood-take-charge-of-childrens-festivals/

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