While many South Africans are anxiously awaiting the December holidays, and look forward to festive feasts, presents and general merriment, there are millions who won’t be as fortunate this holiday. Children are especially vulnerable at this time and will spend their days wondering where their next meal is going to come from, and sadly end up going to bed hungry every night.

“This is the reality for many children in Alexandra Township who rely on the meals and snacks they receive at school and learning centres for their daily sustenance, since many come from homes where parents struggle to put food on the table,” says Muziwethu Zwane, CEO of non-profit, Rays of Hope. “The problem is exacerbated during the December holidays when schools close. So not only are they deprived of a festive and special Christmas that we all get to have, but they are also deprived of the basic human necessity of a nourishing meal each day.”

While this is not news and has been a reality for people living in under-resourced, low-income communities across the country for some time now, all South Africans have a part to play and can make a difference for the children in Alex and across the country.

The role of parents 

“Parents have an important role to play in both teaching children about the value of giving back, especially as we approach a time of year that is focused on consumerism. While one child may have a Christmas wish list filled with toys and other items for parents to purchase for them, others can only dream of what it’s like to receive a gift on Christmas day,” adds Zwane.

Teaching children about giving back can start with something as simple as a conversation, he says, with parents reminding children that not all young people are as fortunate as them, and to remember to be grateful for every bit of food, every gift and every luxury and privilege they have been afforded.

Parents can also encourage their children to help make the holidays more special for underprivileged children by spending time together making meals and distributing to the homeless, people living in shelters and local orphanages. Search through old clothes, blankets and toys and donate items not in use but in good condition to children and families need, which can also instil a sense of gratitude and mindfulness in children about helping others.

Sponsor a Child

“This year has been tough for all South Africans, and I am sure most of us have felt the pinch caused by an ailing economy and the rising prices of everyday goods and services. People in Alexandra Township are not exempt from this and could use the help and support of their fellow South Africans this December,” says Zwane.

He adds that, as families sit down to think about the presents they’ll need to budget for, and making the holidays an exceptionally special time for loved ones, why not consider including a sponsorship for a child in Alex on the list?

Sponsor a Child is a programme created and facilitated by Rays of Hope, allowing businesses and individuals to sponsor a child in need from as little as R1,000 a month. This will take care of a child’s basic needs – their nutritional, educational, physical, emotional and psycho-social requirements – for an entire month, helping them not only get through each day with dignity, but to work towards more fulfilling and successful futures for themselves.

“Whether you choose to sponsor a child on behalf of someone as a special and heart-warming gift that keeps on giving or decide as a family to forgo one or two items this holiday in the name of making this a more special time for someone else, there are plenty of ways that families can help,” adds Muzi.

To find out more about Rays of Hope and the Sponsor a Child programme, visit www.raysofhope.co.za.