And so it dawned – the day of our refuge trip to Butterfly Creek. A trip that everyone was looking forward to, with great excitement, and that many of you made possible with your generous donations.
I arrived at the refuge at about 9am. And everyone was up and ready to go. We weren’t leaving till 10 so there was a lot of anticipation obviously. Women who live in the other refuge arrived, kids and the correct number of carseats were gathered, and off we went. Some of the women in their own cars, some in the refuge van.
When we arrived at Butterfly Creek, I was going to take a photo of all the kids – 16 of them – in front of the dinosaur at the entrance, but they were all moving far too fast! They really were so excited. One of the boys said to me: I’ve never been here before? Are there real dinosaurs? And baby J wasn’t too sure about that dinosaur, anyway, so I thought better of it. When we got inside, the kids were ready to race off, but a head count had to be done, and the money paid. That all took a little while.
And then. And then. We really WERE off. Through the fish, into the butterfly room. One landed on Z, and such a sweet gentle boy he is, he said to me: Aunty J, look! Look! It loves me!
There was a peremptory stop to look at the crocodiles, and all of the children wanted to know if they were real. S said to me – If it’s real, can it climb the walls? I assured her it wasn’t climbing any walls, it was just basking, and waiting for food.
The bugs? Anyone interested in the bugs? The cockroaches were popular, and the women laughed that they had bigger ones in their own homes….and the axolotl held fascination for many of the kids, and adults alike. “Look, I’m taking a selfie with the spider” said K.
It was the dinosaurs who were the biggest drawcard, really. D (4) had told me at the refuge that he was going to be a dinosaur today but he wasn’t sure which one, he’d see how he felt. Fair enough too. Once again – “Are they real, Jackie?” Well I don’t think so, but I hope not! They were very large, with horrid big teeth…..
Two of the girls and I found ourselves in a mask making workshop. We sat down and the girls got going on butterfly masks. One of them said to me that she wants to be an artist when she grows up, her cousin said “I think I probably do too”. So I told them about all of you, and how some of you were artists, and that if you found out they needed art supplies, that you would send some to them. “ARE YOU LYING?” S said. “No.” said her cousin. “Jackie doesn’t lie”. And with that vote of confidence I took down a list of art supplies the girls said they’d like. “It calms me down when I’m frustrated, or when there’s yelling at home” they told me. Art as therapy? I think we can do that.
We had booked the train especially because there were so many of us, and it was waiting for us all at 11.30. The younger children’s faces lit up, as the train driver TOOT TOOTed for us to hop on. D held his little sister’s hand and said – you mustn’t go on the train tracks, M.
Everyone was VERY hungry after that – and agreed that we should retire inside and settle down. Piles of chips, fish, hot dogs, steak, burgers….yes, we were all very hungry. And then, as if they knew we were going soon, a dinosaur came wandering, found us, and let the children pat it, and Z said to me – I told you they were real. Indeed.
I wanted you all to be there, but you couldn’t be. I want you all to see the photos I took of the kids faces, but you can’t. What I can share with you is just this: when you put $20 in our account for this trip, you would have maybe hoped it helped to give some kids some joy. So I want you to know that it gave 16 kids the time of their lives. They didn’t stop talking, they didn’t stop smiling, and they were very happy – all cares forgotten – for 3 hours. That’s something to hold on to. Thank you. From all of our hearts, to all of yours .