Mike Van Heerden
What an uplifting experience!! From the time we arrived many of the kids seemed more hungry for our attention than for the meal on offer. Some of the kids assisted with the preparation of the meal while one of the kids proudly gave us a guided tour of the facility. The kids are split by age but the surfing culture among a lot of them transcends that. Surfing is an integral part of their life to the extent that the “fix” they get from surfing has replaced anything that they were on before that. The meal of hotdogs seemed to be enjoyed by all and the ice cream dessert was a real hit. This was followed by some games in the communal area which was a real giggle as they had to blow a ball around attempting to score while having their hands tied behind their backs. One of our Life Group members had her class make some cards up to distribute together with a small toy. For me, this was the most special part of the evening as each card had affirmation messages like “I love the way you surf”, “God loves you”, “I am your friend” and so on. The joy shown by the kids as these cards were shared with them and, in some cases, read to them was tangible. These kids have almost nothing and it’s a very humbling experience being in their company and witnessing their joy at the little things that we often take for granted. As our time with the kids drew to a close, the excitement spilled over into some impromptu dancing with each of them trying to outdo the others moves.God bless these children and may they continue to grow as individuals.
(Reference http://www.oceandrivenmedia.com/recent/umthombo/ )
Thank God for Children, honestly children can communicate with other children so easily; no matter what the age, gender, race, even language! All they know what to is how to play with each other, so simple. I need to take a feather out of their cap, to understand and communication better. Firstly my son walked into the boys dormitory and yelled out “it smells in here!” (How do you tell a four year old not to say that and explain its rude!?) Secondly he said to me and said “Come look mom there’s a mouse!” Obviously in my mind, I’m thinking Micky Mouse pillow case, oh no I was abruptly corrected when an actual mouse ran across the room. To Lawson this was amazing, a “pet” to follow around. The evening was entertaining and so much fun. I especially enjoyed watching my children play with the Umthombo boys and girls, they cried the whole way home, asking to go back and play with (in their words) all the “umtommy children”
People like Tom Hewitt and the big African man and Volunteers who help run Umthombo are heroes. It was intimidating walking into a building that you are unfamiliar with especially one that is occupied by people that are publically known as unstable and outcasts. We arrived our friend’s children, Lawson and Layla, who were highly spirited – a lesson already learnt. There was some ice that needed to be broken and with the love that we brought through the doors, it quickly melted that. There was a lot to talk about at the end of the evening…..A child teaching us to play the bongo drum, letting us explore through their upcycled surfboard quiver, showing us there proudly home grown veggie garden, meeting Boy Boy the garden security guard, the local lightning speed rat. Teaching us all that we need to change our perspective sometimes and just love a little more.
When I heard we were going to Umthombo I was excited, I love kids, I was keen to play around and have some fun! However when I got there I realised these were the same street children I turn away at the robots, some dressed in just an oversized t-shirt, I was nervous at how they would respond to us. I couldn’t have anticipated a warmer welcome! Some came running to introduce themselves while others ran straight to my friend’s kids (2 and 4 years) who we had brought with us – they picked them up and swung them around, wanting desperately to play with their new friends. We were taken on a tour by one boy who showed us his bed and their impressive collection of second hand surfboards. They had wetsuits which were donated to them by O’Neill, which they kept in immaculate condition! You could tell the “surf room” was fulled with their prize possessions. After a few games of pool and dancing to the music on the TV we ate hotdogs and ice-cream which went down in a flash!
There was absolutely no hostility towards us only welcoming smiles, laughs and conversation, like any other 10-14 year old child, they were curious of us, wanted to play around and have a good time! When time came to go home, there were heartfelt hugs all round, they were sad to see us leave but with tummies full it was time for a well deserved, good night sleep. It as a humbling experience and I felt I had made a small difference, given those kids hope in some way. Hats off to the staff of Umthombo and Tom Hewitt, what a fantastic establishment taking children off the street into a home, with a lounge, kitchen and beds to sleep. Our prayers and support are with Umthombo, as they continue to make such a difference in those kids lives.