Little Toy Guns

Cast of Characters:

WPI Flamingo Team- John, Kim, Mike, Maggie

Community Members- Cathy, Children


Flamingo Heights

Walking through the community, we saw several kids playing in the street next to the playground. They were rolling around on the ground playing or hitting each other, without any supervision from grownups, and not in the crèche or school. As Kim and Maggie were walking down Eagle Lane, a young boy around the age of 6 came around the corner with a small black handgun, which he pointed towards everyone. Kim stood still unsure of what to do in this situation while Maggie’s mind raced with the possibility of real bullets inside the gun. While only a moment, this pause felt like it lasted much longer before the child moved on, pretending to shoot at the children playing. We watched the child disassemble the gun and, to our relief, there was nothing inside. Questions still raced through our minds, and we were unaware unsure of how the child got a hold of this weapon, who it belonged to, and who was supposed to be looking out for this child or all of them.

The next morning we were faced told of another gun-related incident. After playing with the children in the crèche, Cathy came to us very frazzled and urgently asked to sit down and talk. She explained that about half an hour before we arrived there was a shooting outside the crèche. A man was shooting bullets in the air. She explained to us that the man lives a few houses down from the crèche and had done several things that were harmful to the safety of the children and teachers of the crèche. For example, one day during nap time the man burned a tire outside the crèche. The smoke from this fire entered the crèche, requiring Brenda and Cathy to send the children home for fear of suffocation. Cathy confronted this man, telling him to stop and that his actions were harmful to the children. Rather than stopping, the man threatened Cathy with a knife. Cathy has gone to the police before to complain, but they have only issued a warning to the man and no further action was taken.



These two days hit us in different ways. For Kim, it was scary being in a situation involving a gun and not knowing what will happen. The possibility of there actually being a bullet in the child’s gun and the child accidentally shooting someone terrified her. It was also scary to know that we could have been there during the shooting outside of the crèche. These instances exposed harsh realities of life in a township and vulnerability of the community members. John wanted to understand why the man was doing this. He also wanted to know what the community’s perception is of us to understand if there are any feelings of resentment towards us. For Mike, it was very eye opening to realize that there really is a lot of violence happening in the settlement. He hopes that by providing early learning opportunities, the crèche will help to diminish the violence over time. For Maggie, it reminded her a lot of the favela in Brazil where she grew up. It was something that her community was used to and took her a long time to realize that wasn’t or shouldn’t be a normal.

As a result of these events it was determined that our team wouldn’t be entering Flamingo Heights as frequently and not without a guide. We took the approach of bringing the governing body members to the CECD to work together and advance the success of the crèche.