party cheer for kids

IT WILL be a bleak Christmas for some of South Africa's children this year as they may not get new toys or even feel the warmth of a loving family.

Children rights activist and social worker Hester Green is also worried about the increasing number of children who are being neglected.

Green, the director of Women Against Women Abuse (Wawa), said the situation was getting worse.

"The normal trend of children being abandoned or neglected, especially over weekends during the festive season, has started and seems worse this year," says Green, whose organisation has offices in Mohlakeng and Toekomsrus, both in Randfontein.

She deals with many disadvantaged children who are aged between one and 12 years.

There is also an "increase in bullying among the younger children and emotional abuse from both adults and peers".

"In many cases children lack parental care. People drop their children at the shelters over weekends and come back a few days later to collect them.

"Sometimes I feel like charging a daycare fee. Teenagers also get involved in sexual relationships with older men at an earlier age (often to get material things for Christmas)," said Green.

With more financial help, Wawa would be able to help more vulnerable children, she said.

On Friday, Green and representatives of other local NGOs gathered at Green Hill Stadium, where Randfontein mayor Zeph Mhlongo hosted a party for about 30 children. They were expecting more children but the bad weather had prevented many of them.

The children danced, sang and played on indoor jumping castles as the weather was bad outside.

They all lined up eagerly for their gifts, probably the only ones they will get this festive season.

"I felt it was important that this party goes ahead because it may be the only Christmas celebration they will enjoy, this year," said Mhlongo.

"They come from destitute families. It is good for them to see that there are people who care.

"We would have loved to help more families but the recession has cut into our revenues. The indigent register has also grown, putting pressure on our funds," added Mhlongo.