It’s official: the Cupcake Revolution has spread to Worcester. Landy Steenkamp, a local children’s party planner, read about what Magriet Smit and the Cupcake Team were doing in Cape Town and contacted Magriet about organising parties in the Worcester area.
On Saturday, our Worcester Sisters threw a soccer-themed bash for 130 kids at the New Hope Centre for the Hearing Impaired. The venue was the dining-hall at the school’s junior hostel and the special guests were the kids who didn’t usually go home over weekends. ‘They’re always here,’ said Mr Hilton van der Westhuizen, the hostel father, adding that most of the children came from very poor families.
One of the housemothers introduced me to Beaulah, a thirteen-year-old girl with metallic pink hearing aids who agreed to be my sign language interpreter. Soon a group had gathered around us on the playground wanting to know my name, and where I was from, and what I was writing in my notebook. I told them about church and that I was writing about the party for our website, while Beaulah translated for us. We briefly talked soccer, since that was the theme for the day, and Beaulah said that the girls sometimes played against the boys. I asked who her favourite soccer player was and she said it was her friend Rosenthea.
When the dinner bell – an ear-piercing siren – signalled that the party was starting, everyone rushed to form orderly lines at the door. Inside, the long dining tables had been set with festive orange and green table cloths and brightly-coloured plates and cups. Bunches of balloons garlanded pillars, walls and doorways, and a corner table groaned beneath the weight of over three hundred rainbow-coloured cupcakes.
Mr Van der Westhuizen welcomed everyone and said that the kids had been asking him if it was Christmas. (He added that once we left they’d be asking him when we were coming back again.) When it was time to say grace, the children folded their hands in front of them but kept their eyes on Mr Van der Westhuizen, who acted as sign language interpreter while the hostel superintendent Mr Selvin Timm prayed.
Landy Steenkamp had arranged for a group of children from their local church (the Dutch Reformed Church in Worcester) to perform two dance numbers before they too joined the party. The tables where the visiting kids sat were noisy, while the other tables were strikingly quiet, even though the school children were equally lively and animated. The difference was that they were conversing in sign language.
Perhaps the most touching thing was how keen the kids were to engage and to make themselves understood. At one table, a group of little girls eagerly pointed out the one little girl among them who wasn’t completely deaf, but wore a hearing aid and could tell me what they were saying. Another group of girls carefully wrote their names and ages for me in my notebook. Then one of them, a 7-year-old called Juakema, took me by the hand and urgently dragged me off to find her friend Celine, so that Celine could also write her name in my book.
‘These kids are special,’ Mrs Caroline Claasen, one of the housemothers, told me in Afrikaans. ‘They come from far away and they’re often abandoned by their parents. Your heart goes out to them. They make your day. They’re so cheerful.’ Mrs Claasen has been working there for thirty years and says that her own two children sometimes complain that she spends more time with her hostel charges.
In the car on the way to Worcester I’d gotten impatient because we’d struggled to find the venue and had been slowed down by road works and detours. But after about five minutes at the party I felt completely humbled (and repentant).
This was the Worcester team’s second cupcake party. Last year they held a birthday celebration for a 12-year-old local boy who’d lost both his arms in an accident. They’re planning one more party before the end of the year. ‘It warms my heart when I see a child smile,’ Landy said. ‘It’s important to me that the kids are happy and that they enjoy themselves.’
(Hillsong Cape Town Sisterhood)
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