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maltatoday, SUNDAY, 8 MAY 2016 16 News 'Give children the space, and they will flourish' Inside the President's Secret Garden, children invited to play here are learning new hobbies and crafts, and speak to diplomats and ambassadors about their jobs. Martina Borg is invited to take a look WALKING through the colourful doorway into the President's pri- vate garden at San Anton Palace on a typical Saturday morning, it's with a sense of intrusion that I enter a world seemingly entirely governed by children. The green grass is littered with small groups of children engaged in some exciting activity, under the watchful but unintimidating eyes of adults who have volun- teered to share stories with the children about what they do in life, all against a dream-like back- drop of colourful flowers and the occasional peacock from the San Anton gardens strolling casually by. "Give children the space, and they will undoubtedly flourish," an organiser of events at the President's Secret Garden, An- gela Caruana, says as she shows people around the gardens to give us a peak into the different activi- ties that are taking place here two hours every Saturday from 10am. And flourish they do. It is im- pressive meeting gifted and promising young children who participate in the activities, shar- ing their experiences in a confi- dent and inspiring way. President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca first opened the doors of her private garden at San Anton Palace to children last year, allow- ing them to use the space to play and learn through play. A number of activities, including weaving, reading and storytelling activities among others were introduced after the success of the 2015 edi- tion, and one of the most antici- pated additions was a little activ- ity called "Fuq is-Sufan, Ma'…" ('On the sofa, with…'), Here, children between the age of six and 12 are given the oppor- tunity to interview an ambassador or diplomat, about anything they can think of, making for an alto- gether new experience for those being interviewed… although perhaps, the questions make for the same kind of inquisitiveness they may be used to during other interviews. Sitting in a circle around a white sofa, last Saturday the children quizzed the second secretary at the embassy of the state of Qatar, Ibraheim Nasser El-Nesf, about his favourite colours, pastimes and other such trivia. But as they eased into the interview, the chil- dren became less aware of the of- ficial role of the person sitting in front of them, and started inter- acting and reacting unreservedly to the things they heard. "The children got particular- ly animated once I mentioned that Qatar would be hosting the World Cup in 2020," he told us at the end of the interview session. "It was a lovely experience and it reminded me of my own curiosity and musings as a child," he said, adding that he was very willing to participate in similar events again. El-Nesf explained that he felt such activities were important to give children the opportunity to learn about different cultures and countries. "Meeting new people in high positions in this context can also help to encourage children to dream big and make plans for their own future and their coun- tries," he added. Speaking to the children, I learn that they had been particularly touched by the way El-Nesf made them feel at ease and important. "Stripping these important fig- ures of the formal setting that usually characterizes them, shows children that we are all essentially Seven-year-old Shanielee Ciappara and eight-year-old Elisa Cutajar discovered a new hobby through activities at the President's Secret garden

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