Smiling Faces and Happy Hearts

Children at Rerotlhe Day Care CentreNiki Basel is a short-term missionary from New Zealand who had the opportunity to visit one of Flying Missions’ partner projects; the Rerotlhe Day Care. Read on to find out what she experienced and learnt during her time at the centre …

Along a dusty, bumpy, dirt road lies Rerotlhe in the settlement of Seherelela.  We arrived to a huddle of blank faces and silent stares; all of the children seemed too frightened to even greet these tall pale-skinned strangers.  Even the greeting of ‘dumelang’ got no response, so I got down on my knees, looked them in their big dark eyes, smiled and said it again. This time, a few of them cracked a smile.  My attempt at communicating with them with simple English words and many hand motions was failing and I realise they knew very little English.  So I quickly learnt a few Setswana phrases – “Ke bidiwa Niki, wena o mang?”, “I am called Niki, and you are?”  This seemed to do the trick and their shyness slowly disappeared as they took turns telling me their names. The real ice-breaker though was when I got my camera out – then all the smiles, poses and excited chatter came out.  Before I rose to leave I held my hand up to high-five, a gesture that would have been met with a round of hand slaps from children in New Zealand, but these precious faces just stared at me blankly once again.  All it took though was a demonstration with one child and then they were all clambering to give me a high-five.

Niki meets children at Rerotlhe Day Care CentreRerotlhe was opened up in 2007 as a day care centre for children aged 2-6.  It has quickly grown and now there are more than 100 kids. 100 children all desperate for a safe place to play, learn and eat, but only two rooms and two teachers (one trained and one untrained) to accommodate them all.  Because of this, the kids have to take turns coming to day care, alternating the days that they come so that the most they ever have at one time is 40.  The children attend the centre for the morning – singing songs, playing games, learning their letters and numbers, and learning some English words and phrases.  At lunch time, they all walk over to the neighbouring primary school who have allowed them use of a small kitchen to prepare their lunch.  Every child walks about 700 metres with rumbling tummies to get what could be their only meal of the day.  The day that we were there, fat cakes and rooibos tea were on the menu. Fat cakes are deep fried balls of bread dough – kinda like a donut but without a hole in the middle.  They are cheap to make and don’t require any ingredients that need to be kept in a fridge or freezer, perfect for out here in the settlement.  After lunch the kids scatter homewards, all walking home by themselves.

Rerotlhe Day Care CentreThe purpose of our visit to Rerotlhe was to give out some underwear that a primary school in Gabs, the Believer’s Destiny Academy, had donated.  Graham, from the FM office, had some toy cars to give out too.  The kids all lined up and received a pack of underwear, their toy car, and an orange.  They gathered in groups to compare their gifts, chattering away in Setswana with words I couldn’t understand, but facial expressions and laughs that told me all I needed to know – they were happy, very happy!  This is not the first time Flying Mission Care has been involved with facilitating a friendship between Rerotlhe and people who have something to give; last year a wonderful jungle gym was gifted to Rerotlhe by United Free Church of Scotland, a long time supporter of Flying Mission.  Sadly, when we visited this time, the wind had broken the supporting beams and torn the shade cloth protecting the jungle gym making it unusable.  It is my hope and prayer that funds will be provided to make the required maintenance repairs so that the children can play on this fantastic gift!

Children at play at RerotlheChildren with their gifts at RerotlheJesus said to love our neighbours as ourselves, and to love one another with the love that he has loved us; we know that he loves us with the greatest love all (John 15:13)! Centuries later, Mother Theresa reiterated this command with her well known piece of advice – “Do small things with great love”.  At Rerotlhe I was witness to those commands in action and the outcome is a beautiful thing – smiling faces and happy hearts!

Niki Basel