Face painting at the Red Balloon Revolution launch

Red Balloons celebrate the lives of children in Imizamo Yethu

iKhaya le themba– “Home of Hope”, a non-profit for orphaned and vulnerable children in Imizamo Yethu, was inundated with Red Balloons on Friday 31st May as The Red Balloon Revolution launched it’s first project. There was laughter and much joy throughout the day as children played rugby, had their faces painted and photographs taken, received their journals and scarves and cupcakes, wrote their wishes and dreams for their lives, planted them with seeds to see them grow and saw their wishes for a better future fly off with Red Balloons.

Initiated by Jitra Janssonius-Sinselmeijer and Sophie Vos-Kooistra, The Red Balloon Revolution believes “every life is worth celebrating” and chose the 90 children of iKhaya le themba as their first recipients. iKhaya’s vision has always been for children affected by HIV/AIDS – children who have lost parents and loved ones, suffered the various effects of living with the virus and who need the support of those around them to change their futures.

From small beginnings of a handful of children and various volunteers, iKhaya focuses on being a safe place for children from grade 1-6 where they can come after school to receive a warm meal, educational support and emotional and social care.  They now have 9 staff members and function from leased premises in Imizamo Yethu with 6 fantastic buildings including a kitchen, library, computer room and classrooms.

Not only do these children need love, but they need to be told regularly that they are special and their lives are worth being celebrated. Regular therapeutic groups and one-on-one sessions go a long way to undo the trauma many of these young lives have experienced, but often families are simply not able to support them, let alone celebrate the thing that so many take for granted… our birthday!

The Red Balloon Revolution sells beautiful, African-made products online, and in so doing they have created employment opportunities and the proceeds go towards the celebration of the lives of underprivileged children. June will see the first children at iKhaya receive gifts (for some of them the only gift they will receive) , as well as balloons, crowns, cake and special posters & journals for each child where their teachers and classmates write encouraging and affirming messages for them to keep.

Yes, it is about the gift, but primarily the Red Balloon Revolution longs for each child to know their own worth and that their dreams for a better future are possible and are worth working towards. Let’s remember the words of Michelle Obama, “You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once, but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own”.

For more information or to find out how to get involved look at their websites: www.redbaloonrevolution.com or www.ikhayalethemba.org.za. You can also contact Jitra: jitra@redballooonrevolution.com or Nicky Lloyd: ikhayalethemba@gmail.com