The Little Lilies Educare Centre in Manenberg hosted its annual debutante ball at the Athlone Civic Centre on Saturday. More than 300 residents flocked to the hall to support the excited toddlers set to perform on stage on the day. “We introduced this pageant in 2003 as a fundraiser and to create a better atmosphere for the people of this community by coming out of Manenberg and bringing them here to a lavish event to have fun,” says director Rev Winston Fouten.“Our team at the Little Lilies decided to go with something more exciting this year and chose the ’80s theme. We wanted to take our moms and dads down memory lane, bringing back memories of their younger days. With this we created that moment by having their children perform and dress to the ’80s, impersonating artists like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, the Bee Gees, Madonna and many others. The guests loved it and parents were on their feet cheering all the way,” explains Fouten. The educare, established in early 2002 by Fouten and his wife, Pastor Margaret Fouten, caters for more than 115 children daily. “When we started this centre, we had fewer than 30 children and it has increased ever since. Many of the parents have previously wanted to take their children out of crèche because they are not able to afford a crèche fee. But we begged them to rather keep their kids safe in our care than to have them out on the streets where gangsters roam daily,” he says. “We advised: ‘Even if you don’t have money, give whatever you have just to protect your child from wandering in this gang-ridden community’. Our area is situated in the heart of where it all takes place and we need to create a safe space for our children by making it our duty to protect them. This centre is safer for kids than the streets as we have bulletproof windows and kids can’t hear anything when gun shots are being fired.”Fouten says there are many challenges for both the crèche and Manenberg community. He calls on government to come to their suburb to create a better and safer environment for the children. “A lot of people are scared to enter our community because they fear being killed. Even if you don’t want to come in personally to assist us, you can at least send in your money that will benefit these kids through various projects. We aim to show them that they can be whoever they want in life despite their poor conditions.“We are not going to surrender and we are going to continue doing what we do for the sake of the community and children. I call on anyone who is able to assist us in making the lives of these children better to come forward and join us. We need your help and the children need it more,” he adds.V The Little Lilies Educare Centre is currently in need of more sleeping mattresses, feeding bowls and utensils. For more information contact Rev Winston Fouren on 021 6910 351 or email@example.com.