Sixty seven minutes

Friday was Madiba day in South Africa.
As all South Africans know Madiba day is the late Nelson Mandela’s birthday. A great man who taught the world a great deal about tolerance and love. I think for most of us he is something of a modern day Jesus. Not that we think of him as a god, but because he changed things, in a good way, for all of us, at his own expense.
Now in the last four years it has become traditional for South African’s to pledge 67 minutes to doing some kind of charity work on Nelson Mandela’s birthday. It can be anything at all, as long as it is for someone or something less fortunate than yourself. It’s a charity day and although it is not a public holiday many South African businesses are starting to recognise the day and give their staff that little bit of extra time out of their work day to do something in their community. Some business even get on board and do something as a group.
I am lucky enough to work for just such a business.
We decided that this year, because Madiba had such a soft spot for children, we would do something for the local children’s home. We convinced our bosses to let us buy enough hot chocolate, milk and mini marshmallows to make all fifty children a mug of hot chocolate. Not something they get to enjoy very often, if ever. It’s been a pretty cold winter and we though they would like that.
That wasn’t the big thing, though. The big thing we did was donate them a computer. Complete with monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers. We got hold of some (legal) free software and loaded it on there. Our 67 minutes were spent setting it up for them and showing them how to use it.
The heroic ladies who run this establishment were over the moon! They were so excited to have access to a computer. Even though they don’t seem to keep any of their records digitally yet, I am sure that they will. What made my day though, was not the ladies. The really great thing was the excitement of the older children.
There was one little boy in particular who must be around 12 years old, who watched the entire set–up process from start to finish. We quickly realised that this little guy was going to be the new computer kid on the block. We gave up giving instructions to the kind aunties and instead showed him how to run the thing. Needless to say he got it immediately. His excitement at the games pack that we loaded on there was the most beautiful and pure type of happy that I have seen in while. He was in his element!
I know that I should be pleased that these ladies will have a computer to keep records on now, and that the kids will be able to use the educational tools to become more computer literate, but what makes me happiest of all is knowing that these kids will have the chance to play computer games. They will have computer time. They might have their daily access increased or reduced according to their behaviour, exactly like most kids do. Anyway we all know that you learn fastest while you’re having fun! What better way for a kid to get up to date with a data orientated society than by becoming an ace gamer?
They were just so happy!
It made such a difference to them, and such a difference to me. I managed to avoid the terrible sadness of their circumstances and be happy that they will have something that is fun, normal, in their lives. I couldn’t help but get caught up in their joy in that moment.
I was also pretty amazed by the remarkable women who run the place. They call themselves the children’s aunties, but really they are the mommies. You can easily see that they love these kids.
Strong, amazing women, and so grateful for every little thing that they have to work with.
I strongly recommend that anyone looking for something to give their lives a little bit of reason, or wanting to get involved in their community in some way, try reaching out to these establishments.
We visited the Dorothy Broster children’s home in Hornlee, but there are so many other similar places in Knysna and all over place.
You don’t have to wait until you hit the big time or get rich to be able to make a difference to these children’s lives. We were lucky enough to have our works behind us, but another friend of mine visited them on the same day and told me how excited these 50 kids were over a single ball that she dropped off along with the toiletries she was bringing them.
A ball costs R16 at the Spar!
Children’s homes should not be sad places. If anything children’s homes should be filled with the most privileged and well looked after children of all, because these are not children with one or two parents to provide for them, these are everyone’s kids. They belong to the entire community.
It made me feel well, happy and privileged to bring happiness to that one little boy. Even if only he is made happy, that’s enough.

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