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Last week we teamed up with our friends Maryke and Sanne from The Sprout Foundation and headed to an area southwest of Johannesburg called Doornkop which, when directly translated means “thorn hill”.  The locals refer to parts of Doornkop as Snake Park, but we have not been able to ascertain why – maybe it is best we don’t know?   The last time we visited this area was for Mandela Day a few years ago.   Our destination this time was the “Big Smile, Little Faces” Day Care and Pre School … and we found it most aptly named!!

Miriam, the remarkable lady who heads up this little school, looks after 70 children in two “classrooms” made out of corrugated iron sheeting.  The outdoor play area for the children is very small, but secured behind a barbed wire fence.  Her smiling and able helper is Faith … as we have said before, these marvellous women are the backbone and unsung heroines of South African society because of the way they take on the huge responsibility of providing structure, warmth, basic teaching, food and hope to large numbers of children for no other reason than love!!

Although these were taken as we were leaving, the photos give you a good idea of the facilities at the school

The children were so excited about our visit that we could hear them shrieking and laughing happily as we approached the school in the colourful G4S KASvan.  The noise levels were raised to deafening levels as we started to unload the bags of warm blanket packs and toys.  It is true to say there was a frenzy of joy to greet us … and that atmosphere was sustained throughout our visit.  How we wish we could “share” these children with you all – they are so friendly and affectionate, always keen to crowd around and “snap thumbs” with visitors, crying out “sharp, sharp” which seems to be some sort of an expression of welcome. 

As we walk in, we are almost instantly surrounded by little ones with their hands raised, thumbs forward, shouting what sounds like “shup, shup” – it’s just adorable, and such fun to respond in like manner.  What blessings … we find our faces are still wreathed in smiles for literally HOURS after a distribution because of these sweet kids!

Because it is hot in South Africa at this time of the year, we are making up blanket pack gifts for the children so that there is no need for them to be draped in further warmth!  Inside each blanket we place a beanie, a warm top and a pair of socks (the contents of the packs will vary depending on our stock levels!).  This is then rolled up and tied with a festive ribbon – just like a wrapped up gift!

Can you spot one of the items you made?

The children chanted “Christmas, Christmas” as we handed them the rolled blanket packs and a cuddly toy each.  We distributed to the older children first and explained to them what the parcels contained and that they would be kept at the school for the children until the cooler weather arrived.  They agreed that this was a good idea and then continued to play happily with all their wonderful new soft toys.  We must continue to distribute items during the summer to ensure that we are able to reach as many children as we possibly can before our bitter winters set in!


Some of the older children with their blanket packs and toys.

We then moved to the class full of little ones – they are completely EDIBLE!!!!  We did not hand the rolled blanket packs out here (their packs were safely stored for winter) as most of them couldn’t even hold the parcels, but we handed out the soft toys and spent time playing with the children.  They love to have their photographs taken and then immediately be able to view it on the digital camera.  Once we start this, there is no going back and everyone wants to pose – the laughter that comes from deep inside their tummies when they see the photos of themselves is music to our ears.


The little ones with their toys.

Miriam was so grateful for your generous contributions and the love and laughter we were able to share with these children.  It never ceases to amaze me how unspoiled the children are and how a small gesture literally means the world to them!   We look forward to teaming up with Maryke and Sanne in the future again.    

Bye, bye from Big Smile, Little Faces!