I don’t spend a lot of time around small children. Very few of my friends have kids and there aren’t many children living in Melville. When I am thrown into a situation with a lot of little kids, I’m always taken aback by how tiny they are.

Interacting with a big hoard of tiny people like this is a novel experience for me. It makes me feel like I’m in the land of Oz. 

You may remember Lebo, the camp counselor from Soweto who I wrote about a couple of months back. Ever since we met, Lebo has been asking me to come visit his after-school program, Lebo’s Indigenous Games Project (LIGP), where he and his staff work to provide kids with a good start in life. For one reason or another I still haven’t made it to visit LIGP in Soweto, but Lebo is a persistent young man. He kept calling and calling, and finally convinced me to attend a “Children’s Day” event that he helped organize at the South African Airlines (SAA) Crèche near O.R. Tambo Airport. (“Crèche” is the South African term for a daycare center or nursery school.)

The event brought together a few hundred kids from Soweto crèches, who mingled and played with the kids who attend the SAA crèche. The purpose of the event was to give the kids a fun day out, and to raise awareness of the need for quality early childhood development programs in South Africa. The kids played games, got a nice meal, and even went to visit the airport. I played with the kids, met Lebo’s colleagues, and took photos.

It was a really fun day — I’m glad Lebo wore me down and got me to come. But boy, was I tired afterward. Tiny people are exhausting. (Two hours in Friday afternoon traffic on the way back to Joburg didn’t help.)

Here are my favorite photos.

Tiny people from the Funda crèche play on the playground. I love their tiny matching track suits. The back of the jackets say: “We don’t keep children. We educate them.”

Handsome tiny chaps.

Most African playgrounds are made from recycled materials. Rubber tires and pipes become swing sets. Old metal drums become tunnels. 

I love this tiny girl’s hair.

A tiny boy prepares to ride down the slide. I chatted for quite a while to this boy’s mother and father. Ntombi: If you’re out there and reading this, please email me! I have pictures for you.

At the end of the afternoon, Lebo gathered all the tiny people together for some singing and dancing. Are you surprised that this was my favorite part of the day?

Lebo rallies his tiny troops.

Tiny boy singing.

Tiny people dancing.

Tiny person jumping around with his tongue out, as tiny people like to do.

I spent a lot of time talking to one of Lebo’s staff members, a lovely young woman who was excited to visit the airport for the first time. Her name was — you guessed it — Tiny! Unfortunately I did not get a good photo of her. Sorry, Tiny. I promise to catch you on my next visit. I think I need to spend more time around tiny people.

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