CLAW delivers a dream in Johannesburg

"I want to be an astronaut", whispered Doris quietly when I asked her about her dreams for the future. It is a big dream for a young woman who lives in an old garage with her mom who suffers from polio and her dad who is almost blind. They have no running water or electricity and scrape by on a tragically tiny amount of money each month. Despite all of these challenges, Doris is an exemplary student and always beaming, always kind and always thankful. 

CLAW has known Doris and her family for a few years, helping them when we can with food parcels and the care of their family cat. Recently, we were able to assist Doris with sponsored tuition at a private school, and she is thriving. She's top of her class in a few subjects and so hopeful for her future. It's magical to see and be a part of it all.

When Felix Goshe, the founder of The Children's Flight, gave us the opportunity to bring 20 of our local community children to his event, we couldn't think of a better candidate than Doris. First, we had to get permission from the school to take her out for the day, so it was kept under wraps until the very last minute. Once permission had been granted, happy days! I couldn't contain my excitement and raced off to Doris' home to get her mom to sign all of the indemnity forms and let her know what we had in store for Doris. 

Monica couldn't believe her daughter was going to see an aeroplane up close, never mind be given the opportunity to fly in one. No-one in their family had ever flown; they'd only ever seen aeroplanes as distant little images passing across the blue Highveld sky overhead. It was unbelievably touching to see Monica's delight; her face lit up like the sun and she couldn't hold back her tears. Her daughter's dream of being an astronaut suddenly seemed that much more real and possible.

Friday, 1st September 2017 began really early; we had a lot of children to gather and a fair distance to travel. When I stopped to pick up Doris, the sun was just peeking over the horizon. Her smile was brilliant and radiant as always, but she hadn't slept at all from all the excitement. Doris still could not believe she was going to fly, one step closer to getting to the Moon!

At Grand Central Airport, just south of Johannesburg the air hummed with the sound of excited voices and aeroplanes - lots of planes! The Children’s Flight is a Mandela Day initiative, and more than 30 aeroplanes and helicopters of every variety were on hand to give the kids the ride of their lives.

Some 450 children, from all over South Africa, gathered on the apron of the runway to experience a day like no other: people parachuting from the sky, acrobatic displays, super jets breaking the sound barrier overhead, sweets, treats, face painting, singing, pantsula dancers and the magic of flight. 

Standing next to Doris before she went on board, I noticed her head was bowed. I asked her if she was nervous; with a small smile, she acknowledged that she was, but more than anything, she was praying and giving thanks for the experience ahead. Watching Doris climb the steps for her flight, I couldn't even begin to comprehend what she must be feeling. It must have been quite surreal and intensely overwhelming – so very far removed from her everyday circumstances. 

Touchdown! All I could see was Doris' brilliant smile, she couldn't talk for emotion. I too, felt the prickle of tears at the back of my throat. Doris' eyes burned bright; it didn't matter that she has a dream that is out of reach for most people, today showed her that anything is possible if you believe in it and want it badly enough. 

The Children's Flight has a slogan: "Fly, Feed, Love, Inspire". I hope to read of Doris, a few years from now, excelling in her chosen field, a bright and inspiring flame lit one day at an airport, when dreams came true. 

--TW

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