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Christmas parties for impoverished townships in Johannesburg

Natalie Emery

I live in an amazing city: modernity and wealth mix together with extreme poverty, sickness and injustice on a daily basis. Welcome to Johannesburg, South Africa.

Just around the corner from where I live there are three informal townships that are in such a terrible state: no sewerage, running water, or electricity. Once you enter these townships you feel like you are in another world with different laws, attitudes, behaviors and moral standards! Rape, violence, and killings thrive and people have accepted it as a normal part of life. Children growing up in these places do not know the difference between what’s right or wrong –they only know what needs to get done in order to survive. Robberies, deceit and violence are praised. These children do not get to experience the fun and love Christmas time brings and that’s why we atChange the World Trust decided to organize various parties during this season. This year we were able to host 3 exciting events for children from different townships.

The first party was organized together with the staff of the Public Library of Primrose for 35 children. All the kids were mesmerized with the story of the first Christmas told in the DVD “Cherub Wings: The Angel Song”. Next came the games and an entertaining performance by Lollie the Clown, and of course, we had several Zulu dances. After that, Father Christmas came in to give hugs and gifts to all! Each child received an Activated Kids Christmas magazine, a Grandpa Jake’s Storybook with good morals, as well as little gifts and toys. Then we all had delicious hot dogs and lots of cake (it’s amazing how much their little tummies can fit!)!! The library also received a big donation of books and DVD’s sponsored by Activated Ministries, which will be available for any of the children.

The second party was in a crèche which was right in the middle of one of the settlements mentioned before. There were 52 children jumping for joy when they saw us arrive. We had lots fun with face painting, cake, drinks, hot dogs (again, they managed to eat everything and were ready for seconds!), and of course the awesome storybooks and Activated Kids Christmas magazine were given to each child along with a party pack full of little toys!

The third party was in Hillbrow, one of the worst areas of Johannesburg. This is the place where drugs, gangs, and prostitutes are common and everywhere - this is their land! We have been working with a shelter for orphans, teenage mothers and street children called Malaika. It’s an orphanage as well as a place where kids without proper homes can come and do their homework and receive counseling and help. Since the shelter has limited space we decided to have the party in the nearby park. With a few friends volunteering for the day, we set up a jumping castle, the barbecue area for roasting the hot dogs, and the puppet show. Over 85 children and teenagers arrived! Some came eagerly, while others looked at us rather suspiciously. It was really astonishing to find out how even the younger children were so street and life savvy. They were quite reserved at first but as we started playing games and interacting with them they started talking and telling us about themselves and their lives.

After the hotdogs and cake had been devoured, we had a fun puppet show with meaningful stories, followed by a little drama where we showed how money, sweets, play stations, etc. doesn’t bring real happiness - it’s found in Jesus’ love and friendship. Then we all prayed to ask Jesus into our hearts and to be our friend forever. The director of the shelter who is Muslim also prayed along with us.

Altogether, hundreds of wonderful materials were donated to the needy institutions: DVD’s, storybooks, coloring books, learn-to-read sets and much more! These materials will have a lasting impact in the lives of everyone involved as they portray important values in life which are forgotten or nonexistent in the townships. A big thank you goes out to Activated Ministries who made it possible to give the message of love and kindness to the children and teenagers, and most of all the message that Jesus is their best friend!