It's amazing just how much joy a relatively small amount of money can give to a small group of children. A simple trip to a bird park, with lunch and an ice-cream thrown in, produced so many smiles, so much fun, joy and laughter - and lots of memories for us all to treasure.
As some of you know, I volunteer once a week at a local girls' home. The girls there all have troubled backgrounds of one sort or another - some of their stories are absolutely heart-wrenching. But the home offers them stability, love and caring, as well as encouraging them with their education and teaching them useful life skills.
We usually teach a small handful of girls for an hour or so each Monday morning, and then play games with them and do some crafting or cooking. They love it - and so do we.
This week it is Malaysian school holidays, and so we decided to treat all the girls, including the ones who are usually at school when we are at the home, to a trip to Kuala Lumpur Bird Park.
I wish I could share some of the photos with you so you could see their faces. They were so excited from the moment we got there. One of the older girls insisted on writing down all the birds' names so she could remember what they were called. The youngest decided she was chief navigator, using the map on the leaflets we were handed to show me regularly where we were, where we had been and where we were going. Another was fiercely focussed on seeing the flamingoes, as flamingoes feature in our weekly ABC phonics song. Much fuss was made of the brilliantly coloured plumage, and the big owls and eagles were admired with awe. Feeding the emus was a little scary because they snatched with their big beaks, and close their third eyelid, making them look very spooky - but still good fun, especially laughing at everyone's reactions.
Ice-creams were readily devoured - Cornettos were the clear choice of the day. The playground was a hoot (pun intended!) - lots of slides and swings to play with, and a sharing of playground games such as rock paper scissors and hand-clapping songs. Plus lots more laughter.
Even lunch, which was a very simple fried rice and chicken wing, was seen as a huge treat, with every morsel wolfed down.
To finish on a high (not that we needed to, I think the whole morning had been one big high) we gave the girls ten ringgits each to spend in the gift shop. What to buy - splurge the whole lot on a set of plastic binoculars, or eke it out with careful purchase of two or three cheaper items? Both options proved popular.
It really was a fantastic day out. The girls are so polite and well-behaved, and also so friendly and affectionate. I barely had my hands free all the way round - they were being held tightly :) They had such fun, and yet even though they had enjoyed themselves so much there was not so much as a whimper when it was time to go back - just goodbye hugs, and more smiles.
Definitely, without doubt, the best £25 I have ever spent :)
PS - We're holding a charity coffee morning a week on Friday to raise funds for the home (they run on a very limited budget, and rely largely on one-off donations at Christmas and Chinese New Year to see them through the year). I have been making greetings cards on an almost industrial scale, and hope to sell them all. Plus we have a lady selling hand-made mini albums (all decorated, just add photos!) and another hand-made jewellery. If any of my KL friends would like to come, let me know and I'll send you the details.