By Ronel Jooste
I was invited to the birthday party of Nicky Coleman, founder of The Gift of Joy (www.tgoj.org), a non-profit organisation. It was a birthday party with a difference though – Nicky decided to donate her birthday party to a group of eight kids living in the township Alexandra. I immediately accepted the invite and started looking for kind-hearted people to donate some cupcakes for the party.
Nicky and I embarked on our township journey armed with cupcakes, sweets, balloons, banners, party packs and gifts for 8 kids known as Thandi’s kids. Thandi takes care of these 8 kids; all of them between the ages of 8 and 18 years. These kids are from Thandi’s extended family and have lost both their parents. They live in a small house with one bedroom, a lounge area and a kitchen. There are only three beds which some of the children share while the others sleep on the floor in the lounge. There aren’t any toilet or bathroom facilities in the house, exacerbating living conditions in the already congested house. However the house is spotlessly clean considering 9 people are living in it.
The first thing I noticed was how peaceful the neighbourhood is. You don’t feel scared or threatened – everybody is friendly, greeting you and treating you with respect. The second thing I noticed was how late these kids came back from school. It was already after 3pm when they arrived back from school and that speaks of their commitment to their education.
The kids were pleasantly surprised when they arrive home and their lounge was decorated with balloons and banners and the floor was packed with birthday hats, party packs, party food and cold drinks. At first they were a bit shy but they quickly settled in. Before we knew it the party vibe kicked in and the room was filled with laughter, babbling and singing. The kids really enjoyed the party food and they complemented us on how good the cupcakes tasted.
The third thing I noticed was how well behaved and well educated these kids are. They are intelligent, treat everybody with respect, speak properly, say thank you, don’t waste with the food and when we finished eating they all got up and started cleaning the lounge. No arguing about it and no sign of laziness. They know what needs to be done and they work together as a team getting it done.
After we have finished eating, it was time to hand them their gifts. It was so special witnessing them opening their gifts and seeing how their faces lighted up and their smiles got even bigger. The girls immediately put on their make-up, jewellery and lip-gloss and posed for us. The older boy demonstrated to us that he can make a tie and he bragged with his new watch and sunglasses. The cute 8-year old boy proudly showed us his colouring book and toy cars. Their joy and happiness receiving those gifts engraved priceless memories into our souls.
While experiencing this I once again realised why social wellbeing is such an integral part of your overall wellbeing. There is so much need in this world and each one of us can contribute to make a positive difference in this world regardless of the size. It also taught me that all my achievements and qualifications are worthless if not used to make a positive difference in our country and giving back to those in need. Even though you give your time and money, you receive so much more in return. You don’t receive something in monetary terms but the sense of achievement, gratitude and fulfilment is priceless. Money cannot buy that feeling. At the end of the experience I was a wealthier human being.