The Christmas holiday period can be a lonely time of the year for our kids since only some of them get to go home to their families. But for the few staying behind, their lives soon took on a whole new meaning thanks to a very special group of touring Americans from Vero Beach.

They instantly warmed hearts and the effect they had on our children was obvious to see from the moment they set foot at Abraham Kriel Children’s Home. It soon developed into a very special relationship and for anyone looking in from the outside, it was pure magic.

With only a week available to experience South Africa, the touring group – consisting of the First Presbyterian Church’s Youth Orchestra, accompanied by their entourage – touched down at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Saturday, 23 November. They were whisked away to the Mount Amanzi Resort in Hartebeespoort where they got to enjoy the outdoors as well as traditional cuisine. This included an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experience in a hot air balloon early Sunday morning which included a spectacular breakfast rewarding everyone’s bravery!

The rest of the day allowed them to explore their wild sides with a visit to the Lion & Safari Park. Here they got to interact with lion cubs as well as feed giraffes and go on a three-hour safari. For most of them, it was their first African safari experience so plenty of pictures were taken and souvenirs bought to mark this special occasion. Their Mount Amanzi journey was brought to a fitting end with a traditional African drumming lesson, buffet and breakfast the following morning before arriving at Abraham Kriel.

Here, they got to mingle and play with the kids and the rest is history! Always armed with smiles and plenty of hugs, played rugby with the boys, cooled down with them in the pool to try and get relief from the brutal African sun, played games and relished truly South African meals with the children. The Vero Beach Youth Orchestra also performed for the children who proved to be a very appreciative crowd – little captivated faces wherever you looked! They also got to enjoy the Liggiefees@Potch 2019 first-hand and took a walk down memory lane at the amusement park which provided plenty of thrills (and screams).

While driving around with the touring group, they’d always ask: “When will we be able to interact with the children again?” They put their personal needs aside in order to spend as much quality time with the kids as possible.

Their week was capped off with a memorable performance during the gala evening of the annual light festival at the children’s home. The orchestra dazzled the crowds with their talent and even joined local music star Juanita du Plessis for a song much to the delight of everyone present.

Although brief, the impact they made on our kids was huge and will last a lifetime. Friendships have been made, memories captured and bonds formed. We can only hope they return soon again and twinkles in eyes can shine bright once more.

“First Presbyterian Church Vero Beach spent quality time with our children and showed true interest in them.”

“Our children enjoyed teaching our guests how to play South African games like rotten egg and wheelbarrow run.”

“Special bonds formed during this week that FPC  Vero Beach spent time in South Africa. We truly believe that our relationship will continue to bloom in the future.”

“The students reached out to our kids, teaching them about instruments, telling stories about America… This was a week that we will cherish forever.”

Photos: Facebook

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