At the end of December, Salem hosted the New Year party for our friends at the social club for people with disabilities. After months of being locked down as perceived vulnerable people, it was a massive event for them to be able to get together and celebrate the forthcoming new year.
However, knowing their history, this was also a landmark in other ways. These wonderful individuals and their patient persevering parents and carers have to constantly fight hard: to get around the city, to be accepted in society, and to be recognised as real people with real lives. [The normal work for someone with a disability here is still based on the word 'invalid', or not valid, and that mindset still too often prevails.] They are used to being on the receiving end, which means that they can easily take the view that someone else should be doing everything for them.
Over the years, we have been able to arrange for a programme of entertainment to be put on for their New Year event, and more recently they themselves have found groups willing to come and put on a show for them.
But this year marked the first time they have organised and hosted an event for themselves, running their own games, having people from among their number dressing up in the key role of Santa, and not simply watching someone else's performance. This is another big step forward towards independence, demonstrating the changing mindset that enables taking initiative rather than always being the victim.
Their joy was evident as they were treated with a varied program of songs, games and competitions, entertainment and food.
And, as we reflected on the journey this represents, we fully shared the joy too.
All those present for the party