To celebrate AIDS Day 2005 Blue Continent Products and the Lobster & Squid divisions hosted a party for children affected in some way by HIV/AIDS and made a generous donation of R20 000 towards their well-being.

Little Angels in Kenilworth and Golden Girls in Langa were invited to bring along children from their respective homes. These children are all touched by HIV/AIDS in some way, either infected themselves or affected by the fact that they have been orphaned by the death of parents.

True to form, Andries Bester sprung this on his staff at the last moment, his reasoning being that we function better under pressure.

This resulted in 1 December being preceded by days of frenetic activity as we decided that each child would be given an outfit of clothing and a toy. Frantic phone calls were made to Pat (Little Angels) and Doreen (Golden Girls) to make sure we had the names and ages of every child. Cathy was sent shopping, returning many hours later laden with bags of beautiful clothes and toys for the kids. It didn’t take much persuasion from Mariam Peters for Jane Mackrill of Oceana Brands to send along beautiful red backpacks for each child into which we packed all their goodies.

The big day dawned and the old local platform was transformed into a party venue complete with Christmas tree, lots of balloons and colorful streamers. Several big tables groaned under the weight of cold drinks, cakes and enough sweets to have everyone scurrying around the ceiling on a sugar high.

The children arrived and it was party time! Father Xmas (Shane Welby-Solomon masquerading as…) made his appearance to much laughter and delighted shouts, and he lost no time in handing out the red backpacks labeled with each child’s name. Within the space of a half an hour we had scores of bunny rabbits, batmen and an assorted number of funny faces running around, courtesy of Mariam and her merry band of “face painters”

The BCP and Lobster & Squid staff all participated in playing with the children, getting involved with the feeding of some of the more disabled youngsters. There were a lot of moist eyes amongst the ladies and a few of the guys suddenly decided that maybe dark glasses were needed under the not-so-bright lights. I had the honor of being singled out by a dark eyed little girl of five who, with sticky fingers, held on to me for dear life and at one stage informed me in a loud voice that she needed to ‘go potty’. I whisked her up the stairs only to be abandoned when she saw Pearl walking down the passage!

For many of us this was an experience we will not forget in a hurry. Few of us really know or realise the enormity and scope of the pandemic that faces our country and especially our children… whole generations lost or growing up without parents or family members to look after them, dependant on the generosity of others. Fortunately there are those people out there who are willing to do just that.

It was an absolute eye-opener to see the dedication from the staff of both Little Angels, and especially the ladies from Golden Girls who told me that it could take as long as forty-five minutes to feed some of the severely disabled children in their care. These ladies are truly dedicated and I take my hat off to them. They are saints, every last one of them.

Little Angels is run by Pat and Philip van Rensburg who, five years ago, opened their home for a few abandoned “AIDS” babies. To date they have had 111 babies pass through their loving care. There are currently 12 babies being taken care of but the numbers fluctuate almost day to day with social services bringing in abandoned babies and toddlers at all hours.

Golden Girls, located in Langa, opened its doors in 1993. It began with Doreen Nabe taking in a single neglected and mentally disabled little boy. It grew and the home now offers shelter to 65 children of all ages. Many of these children are mentally and/or physically disabled, with about one third affected by HIV/AIDS in some way.

During a lull in the festivities, Andries made a speech welcoming all the children and staff. Reiterating the Group’s commitment to the national HIV/AIDS campaign, he handed the representatives of the centers cheques of R10,000.00 to help in their ongoing struggle to alleviate the suffering of our children.

Already making plans for next year we said goodbye to our little guests and, with a lot to think about and be grateful for, we went back to our neglected desks and work stations knowing that, for a short while, we had brought some laughter and smiles into the lives of a few of the thousands of children in our country who are not so fortunate to have someone care for them.