One of the nurses’ and kids’ favorite part of the week is Kid’s Day. There is an Aqua Park right outside of Kitwe that has large open areas of grass, three pools and a pavilion. It is strange to find this lovely area with pools less than ten minutes away from Malenga. The kids are brought from Malenga via a bus to the Aqua Park.
There are 120 kids that come for the day. The Care Workers told the team that the children have been so excited about returning to the pool that they have been preparing for the trip for weeks. They have been bathing, washing their clothes and finding swim wear. Last year, they loved the pool so we are sure that this year will be successful as well.
When all the children arrive, everyone gathers at one end of the park to play games like “Duck, Duck, Goose”, a snake game that the Zambian kids like and for showing off their acrobatic agility! They are doing cart wheels, flips and somersaults – they are SO excited. Finally, its time to go into the pools! The kids get into their bathing suits and run, jump, skip into the pool! They laugh, yell and splash around! It is so wonderful to see them experience such happiness. This is one day that they do not have to work, be afraid of someone or worry about when or if they would get a meal. It is pure, unadulterated joy for every single one of them!!!
The water is cold and many of the kids are shivering, but that doesn’t stop them from playing in the water. Several of the smaller kids get out and perch on a wooden fence. They are cold, but laughing and talking. Several of the nurses join the children in the water too – which the kids LOVE. Some of the kids cling to the nurses while the others stay as close as they can get. We throw in some beach balls and they are grabbed up immediately by the older kids. It is amazing to see these kids laughing, swimming, throwing the balls and just playing!
The nurses set up several small white plastic tables a little way from the pool. We have brought face paints and temporary tattoos for the kids. The line starts out slowly, but before long, the word has spread and the nurses are surrounded by kids wanting their faces painted. They ask for all sorts of things to be painted ont their cheeks – flowers, the Zambian flag, “Love”, “Jesus Loves” etc. Some of the older kids start to do their own face painting – while the younger ones wait for the nurses to help. Everyone loves the face painting and before too long, nearly every child has a painted face, chest or arms.
Lunch is “chicken and chips” from a restaurant called “The Hungry Lion”. Each child gets two pieces of chicken, fries or chips, a small cup of slaw and a bottle of Coca Cola or Fanta Orange soda. The park quiets down while everyone eats their lunch. Nearly every child eats a portion of their food, but saves some to take home to their parents, grannies or siblings. It is amazing and heart wrenching to watch.
Next, the nurses set up assessment stations under a pavilion near one of the pools. We set up four stations with a nurse and a Care Worker at each station. We also set up two tables with the pillowcase dresses and Britches for Boys that have been donated to us. After each child is examined, the girls each receive a new dress and each boy receives a pair of shorts, a shirt or a ball cap. It is so exciting to have each child come to the tables and “shop” for their new clothes. It is so cute to see the girls and boys look through the clothing and choose the items they want. They leave the pavilion with huge smiles on their face. The pillow case dresses are made from pillowcases and are adorable. Most of the dresses have a pair of panties and two bracelets attached to the dress. The girls and boys don’t smile very much at the tables, but as soon as they leave the area, they get together and look over their new clothes, with smiles and giggles! Can you imagine how it feels to receive brand new clothes for the first time in your life?
We have one more thing to hand out – a goodie bag full of fun toys – silly animal print sunglasses, candy, Mardi-gras beads, whistles, crayons, notebooks, etc. The kids immediately pop the suckers into their mouths as they examine all the other items in their bag. Most of them put on their sunglasses, some of the lenses fall out, but they leave them on, uncaring if there are lenses or not!
All too soon its time for the kids to return to Malenga. The kids pile into the bus, waving and telling us goodbye. Its hard to see their smiles and clean faces leaving the park to head back to the dusty, poor slum where they live.
On Saturday, after we have said our goodbyes to the kids of Malenga the previous day, we board the bus and head to Aqua Park again. Today we are going to be having fun with the Care Workers. The Care Workers live in the communities that they serve and are not paid for their service. They visit the ill, vulnerable children and orphans and other families that need assistance. They also were by our sides the entire time we have been in Malenga – serving as interpreters, assistants and guides. They never tired and were always ready and willing to help us! We could not have accomplished all that we did without the care workers. We gather under the trees in the park and thank them for everything they have helped the team with. Then the fun begins!!
We play a game called “Fruit Salad” – something like Musical Chairs. It involves finding a chair when there is one less than the number of people! We fill the park with laughs and cheers as we play.
Next is Bingo!! Emmanuel has been asking us all week if we are going to play to Bingo and if we would have Bibles as prizes. He helped us last year and tried to win a Bible with no luck. We begin playing Bingo and Emmanuel wins a Bible!! He is so excited, he kisses the Bible over and over ! We play until all the prizes are gone – everyone gets at least one prize, if not two or three. What a wonderful time we had!!
Lunch is “Chicken and Chips” from the Hungry Lion. The Care Workers also save part of their food to take home for their families. After lunch, the care workers want to show us some of their games! Most of their games include a song or dance. Before long, the nurses are singing along and having a great time. To show their appreciation to us and to God, they ask us to dance! And dance, we did!!! It may not have been as beautiful as theirs, but it was fun and happy! It was wonderful to be able to provide some relief and relaxation for them. We gathered in a circle to talk about the week, one last time, and then prayed for Malenga, the careworkers, the kids and for safe travels for the nursing team.
At the end of the day, as the sun set behind us, we gathered in a circle and prayed. It had been another wonderful day with the people of Malenga…..