Soweto kids take to the skies

Lebogang Tsele

Lebogang Tsele

Children from the Orlando Children's Home in Soweto had a sunny start to the new year as they took to the skies in a microlight aircraft.

The event was organised by tow truck business owners in and around Soweto. The aim was to show support to abandoned and abused children.

Phillip Tsoaela, event organiser and spokesman for the Bambanani Towing Association, said yesterday: "The reason we're doing this is that we realise that these kids need our support."

He said they wanted to make the children understand that the key to success is education.

"We must encourage them and make them aware that education is something no one will ever take from them," he said.

The day began early for the children as they drove to the Johannesburg Microlight Academy in Alberton in a convoy of fancy tow trucks.

The lucky kids, ranging in age from six to 18, were treated to breathtaking flights in a microlight aircraft by well-known instructor, Marc Gregson.

Although many of the kids were initially scared as they had never been in or even seen a microlight aircraft close-up before, they could not contain their excitement and exhilaration.

Still trembling with excitement, Mpho Tshabalala admitted to being petrified before taking to the skies, but said she had enjoyed the experience and would do it again if she could.

She said: "I was scared but it was worth it."

Bongani Motlounyane's pre-flight jitters remained until the aircraft took off. He also said the experience was worth it.

A worker at the home, Thandeka Hlakula, was equally impressed. "The kids are very happy because many have never been on anything of this sort.

"I wish that what has been done for these children can be done for others as well."

Hlakula said they were happy because the kids had realised that there are people who love them.

"It's not that because they are in a place of safety they have been abandoned.

"They hope that one day they will be taken in by society and become ordinary members of their community," Hlakula said.

Mofolo Central tow truck owner, Charlie, said: "I'm very proud of what is happening today. I am happy that I could contribute to making their dreams come true."

Tsoaela, the brains behind the innovative project, said he was looking to expand the initiative to bring other kids and vulnerable groups in the community some sunshine and happiness.

He said: "We're looking at taking this initiative further by bringing another group of kids to the academy to experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We will also visit some old age homes and take the grandmothers and grandfathers to the zoo for picnics," he said.

"When I came up with the idea, others couldn't believe it. Now they are all happy. The kids were happy, the [business owners] were happy, I'm very happy too." - Sowetan Online