The third day at Manenberg was the Dell Christmas party! There were presents to open from Santa, face painting, a cotton candy machine, and lunch was provided. It was a hectic but rewarding day. It was clear that the kids had a lot of fun and were excited about their personalized presents. While a normal day with the SHAWCO Little Star has roughly 40-60 kids, this party had 200 kids attend.
While the party was a good time, there were a few alarming observations. First, I was put at the face painting station. Now if you know me at all, you know that Pictionary is a struggle and my most artistic pieces include stick figures. Due to this, I was only drawing hearts and stars. This was going well at first and people were excited about their colorful faces decorated with paint. One young boy came up and asked for a red star with 3 horizontal lines on his other cheek. It was a strange request so I asked Sharnay what that meant. The lines were a gang sign.
My face painting station career continued. A large group of girls then came up and asked for stars on their hands in red rather than the template of yellow. I fulfilled this request because I did not draw anything else on them. Little did I know that they were then going to Sharnay with the blue paint to put blue stars or stripes on their opposite hand. This was to complete the American gang symbol, our American flag. There were kids from ages 5-13 asking for this gang symbol. They are modeling what they see in their community and they want to be a part of a gang. My heart hurt all day thinking about these children wanting a life of crime and violence. I wanted to take them out of their environment to show them that there is other ways of living. Alas, I cannot.
During the served lunch, I was in charge of handing out the Coke (also a sponsor) and juice. This went well for some time, but when the children realized that they could get seconds of their drink of choice, things went awry quickly. I have never been so overwhelmed. Cups were being shoved in my face and kids were beginning to stand on the tables surrounding me. At one point there was at least 50 kinds around me BEGGING for more drinks. I have never been that thirsty in my life that I was crying with a cup in my hand begging for more beverages. The degree of thirst these kids had is beyond my comprehension. There was no ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ that came out of their mouths, just GIVE ME. After a half an hour of this, a helpful mother finally took the remaining juice and stated it was all gone. By this time, children were on their third or fourth cup.