Feb 3 was one of our team member’s 21st birthday. Sibusiso, we call him Snowy, was so surprised when forty people shouted so loud from the cafeteria that he could hear us in his dorm room. “We want Snowy! We want Snowy!” All of us made a human tunnel for him to walk through as we congratulated him and shouted happy birthday!
We let him walk into the dining hall first to see all the tables covered with balloons and party hats. His chair had a balloon taped to it with “Happy 21st Snowy” written on it. His gold party hat was made special with red and white garland around the bottom. The whole group chanted “Speech, speech, speech!” Everyone got quiet but Snowy couldn’t speak; his eyes were red with tears. He pulled his shirt collar up over his face so we couldn’t see but we all knew. We all cheered for him again. Once we quieted down, he finally spoke. “I want to thank you all so much. I never had a birthday in my whole life.” His voice choked up again. We cheered once again and let him get in line for his supper first.
We had a chocolate cake with ice cream for dessert. Snowy got to blow out birthday candles for the first time. He is such a sweet kid and from the way he looks, I did not expect him to be as kind as he is. He cares for the team like a family and if there is any discomfort in the group, he senses it and wants to make sure everything will be okay in the end. He totally deserved this surprise and all the love that came with it. My heart is slowly wrapping around each of the young people here, and I’m trying not to think about when this time together will end.