Christmas in Thembelihle

Just read this news from Anna in S. Africa –


It’s a tradition of the Thembelihle volunteers to spend Christmas with the children, and I can see why. Erin and I have had the best Christmas we have ever had, and It was an honour to know that our efforts were what made Christmas this year so good for the children too. It’s been a magical, wonderful time – the memory of which I will cherish forever.
I can’t express how well Christmas has gone to be honest. I understand that It can sometimes be a sad time for the children, away from their families and with many of their friends having left to spend the holidays with relatives, but this year it was nothing of the sort. On Christmas Eve at bedtime we went in to the sitting room and sat the children down to read them “The Night Before Christmas”. This gave us the perfect opportunity to pause at points in the story to ask them questions and hype up the Christmas excitement that they may hear the reindeer on the roof that night or if they were very lucky even get to see Father Christmas!
Christmas morning we went out and wished them a Merry Christmas, and got them together in the classroom. “Inconveniently” Erin’s Mum then called to wish her a happy Christmas leaving myself with the children sitting round in a circle talking about reindeer and Santa – it was then that the children heard Santa’s bell! The 17 excited children all ran out to meet the suspiciously Erin-sized Father Christmas, with the younger ones star struck and the older ones in stitches at the plump Erin with a pillow under her costume. Everyone was given a present each which had been donated by the municipality and also a new pair of shoes courtesy of the home. As they played with their presents, Erin then returned from her phone call, gutted to have missed meeting Father Christmas..
Christmas Day was one big celebration, we used money which we had fundraised for the home whilst back in the UK to buy things for the party. We had biscuits, punch, party games like pass the parcel and plenty of extra prizes for musical bumps etc. We didn’t want Christmas to die down once the children had finished opening their few presents, and it certainly didn’t.
At the end of the day, when the children thought all the fun was over, we called them in to the classroom to talk to them. We asked them if they’d had a good day “YEAAAAASS”. We asked them if they liked their presents “YEAAAASS”. We asked them if they thought the presents were over “YEAA…”. We asked them if they’d like one more, since we’d just found a box of presents hidden in our room which may or may not have their names on… It was so nice to surprise them with what we had prepared, as they each got a goodie bag full of simple little things like sweets, bouncy balls, stickers and balloons but they’re exactly the sort of things which make the children happy. It’s amazing to see how happy you can make a child with so little and it was touching when, off their own backs, they decided to thank us. So often here we get no thank you as they don’t appreciate how much effort we put in for them, but on the occasions that they do it really makes you smile deep down inside yourself.
We’ve now left Thembelihle for a two week holiday travelling down the coast. Saying goodbye to the children- even knowing it was just for a short time was so difficult. They wouldn’t let us go in fear that we wouldn’t be coming back. It’s now becoming clear that leaving for good in August is going to be one of the toughest things we’ve probably ever had to do- far tougher than leaving the UK to come here- the children truly are like our own and we love them like they’re our own flesh and blood. It is not at all always happy and easy at Thembelihle, the children aren’t always good- are often rude and ungrateful as children sometimes are- but that doesn’t change the fact that I well and truly, completely and utterly adore them.

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