Sunday finally dawned and all our preparations were in place. Excitement had been mounting all through the week with all the surprises we were preparing for the children. There was some apprehension about how it will all come together, but finally the day was here.
As expected traffic took longer than anticipated and we arrived just a few minutes later than scheduled. We were surprised to find the children already there. We wanted to get there first to prepare the nursery with the decorations and surprise them with the pictures and balloons. But we improvised. We got the children to help with the setup, blowing up the balloons and helping with the decorations.
As the walls were a dark green, we had brought with us a large white sheet to tack to the wall instead of a screen, to project the slides showing the story to be told.
Straight away we started the first part of their entertainment. We started painting their faces into those of animals.
Some were cats, others dogs, but one at least was a panda. While this was happening, the decorations were put up, the projector tried out and the food was being distributed to the plates and wrapped up.
The giveaways had already been packed previously, then were unpacked and set up in a small corridor for final distribution before leaving.
Excitement rose another notch when little boys and girls were transformed into lions, elephants, tigers, kangaroos, cats, foxes and dogs. They were then given colouring papers with all kinds of animals drawn and were given crayons and sat happily colouring these animals.
Finally they were settled to listen to a story. Rania, the author, and a child psychologist mesmerised them with her story about a little girl visiting a zoo. They were quite engrossed and were flatteringly interactive.
The story showed a little girl who felt badly about the animals being caged up and smuggled a monkey to try to return him to his forest. Caught by her parents the monkey was returned to the zoo where he was reunited with his mother.
The excitement of the children was quite contagious. When Rania started asking them questions about the animals depicted in the story, we were all surprised by the amount of knowledge they showed. After the story was done, Rania sang with them a couple of songs then lunch was distributed.
The lunch package consisted of a colourful paper plate on which each got two pieces of chicken nuggets, a sausage, a small sandwich, a slice of pizza, a pack of potato chips, a milk chocolate drink and a red apple. We had place mats put in front of each child then distributed the food packages.
They were such beautifully behaved children, they would not eat till their teachers gave them permission.
I went about taking candid shots of them enjoying their snack when I came on a tiny girl with a cat painted on her face who was not eating.
I asked her why and she said she was going to take it home to eat with her family. It broke my heart.
After the meal, we distributed the cup cakes which again had animal faces as well.
Then came the excitement of distributing the giveaways. Their little faces lit up and they could hardly contain themselves.
While this was going on, the animal pictures they had coloured were put up on the wall covered in the white sheet so that this would remain, along with the other animal pictures, as a reminder of that day of fun and what they learned about animals.
They were finally given permission to go to the garden where another surprise was waiting for them. The puppy Captain was there.
They started petting him, but the poor pup was overwhelmed and really looked scared. After a bit we had to rescue him.
Then the children had a session on the swings after which we bade them goodbye.
Before leaving we were asked if we could give another session to another group but older children and we were very happy to agree as initially there was some resistance to this session.
On the whole the visit was quite a success. Both the children and their teachers enjoyed a day of fun and surprises.
We as a team also learned a great deal. Now we know what type of food to bring, that we should keep in mind that the children might have siblings at home they would like to share with. We have to be more prepared with the decorations and should have our own ready for setting up. We should also have our own screen for any future displays of information. The number of children we were given was not quite accurate, so next time we should get extras of everything, just in case.
We need to look into the educational material as well, especially for older age groups. But on the whole we left feeling exhausted but elated and very satisfied that we are now starting one of the most important aspects of spreading awareness about animal welfare.