Road to freedom

Among the South African youth we know, few complain to us about their social or economic situations. When they do, their comments tend to be consistent with the following examples.

22 year-old college student spending the night at our home 2 years ago: “you see my people laughing, and dancing, but on the inside we are hurting. What we want are jobs”.

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youth in Kwanokuthula township (20 minutes from Knysna)

A few days ago, a 15 year-old we have known for 3 years conveyed the following to Jim on whatsapp:

“I wonder why people are so cruel…They say we (blacks) have been given freedom, that we are now free from the suffering, from the apartheid, but we are not, and we were never free, our people are still being treated like trash, the ones in power are still taking advantage of them, and the weak are powerless to fight back, as they are in need….I wish I had all the power to fight for our people and give them the freedom they were promised.

And the name “kaffer” (sic) that was used to discriminate blacks during the apartheid era is still being used….because I think the cruel, the powerful make the things they make because of they feel like they have everything they need and they don’t need other people, or because of they have never felt the pain us blacks felt back then and the pain we feel now.”

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teen boy in Kwanokuthula township

The current population of South Africa is: Black 80%, White 8.5%, Coloured 8.5%, Indian or Asian 2.5%, Other 0.5

Cape Town Food Safari…watch this 2 minute video and try to convince us you can’t wait to experience beautiful South Africa!

Cape Town Food Safari video 

Packing Our Bags

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Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Almost 3 billion people live on less than $2.00 a day. Over 1 billion live on less than $1.00 per day. Eight hundred million don’t have enough to eat. 

Until we travelled to South Africa for the first time 6 years ago, we did not know any of these individuals. We did not personally know anyone who lacked sufficient food. What does this says about us, or the world in which we live?

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L to R: Willard, Takudzwa (TK), Junior, Janet

We now know too many of the 3 billion and 800 million. We have many examples, but one is Takudzwa (TK). We met TK 2 years ago when he was 15 years old and starting grade 9. While the full story is long, TK will complete grade 10 this December, but now lives alone and survives on the 150 Rand ($15.00) he earns working each Saturday.

The cost of food in South Africa is similar to North America or Europe, but the annual inflation rate is 8%-10%. It is not possible to eat properly, or even alleviate hunger, on less than $60.00 / R600 per month, not to mention purchase toiletries and other necessities.

Thanks to your donations, we now provide funding to TK every 2 weeks, such that he may eat properly and complete his education. Thank you.

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Mike, Linda, and their 4 Shelties

Sandwich People: Two people who continue to help us address hunger and advance education are Linda and Mike DeVerno. For the third consecutive year, they sponsor the expenses associated with the 1,100-1,200 sandwiches Janet makes for the boys.

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The Sandwich Lady

At Janet’s tutoring groups and Jim’s mentorship programs, each boy is provided a polony (similar to bologna) or peanut butter sandwich on freshly sliced whole wheat bread. By the time school ends at 2:30pm, the boys are very hungry and we don’t want them distracted by this during their time with us. Thank you Linda and Mike for your continued support.

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Simbulele

William Easterly, author of The White Man’s Burden, makes the argument that the question isn’t “how can the world end poverty”. This question has been asked for decades and the big plans and spending of aid agencies/governments has not alleviated poverty.

Easterly suggests we instead ask “what can aid do for the poor?”

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Township in Plettenberg Bay, 20 minutes from where we stay in Knysna

When we use your donations to buy school shoes or uniforms, a boy who would otherwise be absent from school is able to further his education. Providing school lunch or food at home allows a boy to concentrate at school, and not be distracted by the pain of hunger or constant worry of how he and his family will eat that night.

When we used part of Annie & Dick’s donations to purchase white overalls for a 16 year-old boy who could not read or write, he was able to start a full-time job as a house painter and support his mother and siblings. The boy, Acona, continues to do well and the painting contractor who employs him is thrilled with his performance.

Other examples include the numerous high school and 10 college and university students who are no longer hungry, or now have a much-needed calculator, reconditioned laptop / tablet, or textbook, because of donations from kind people like V & T, Bev, Judy & Brian, Coreen & Nick, Larry, Christine & Mike, Dorothy, Steve & Laura,  S & L, Pam & Bruce, Gayle & Garry, Teresa & Kurt, Karen & Mike, Rob, Elizabeth, Susan & Eric, Joan & Bill, Monica, Shirley & Andy, Christine, Kyle, Anne, Maya, Judy, Rick, Kathie & Colin…

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Zambezi River, Zimbabwe

“The assumption that youth-at-risk are incapable of learning and/or do not care about anything is a fallacy. They long for adults who are willing to make the effort to understand them and who will provide them the acceptance and guidance they need. ‘Don’t give up on me’.” Janis Kay Dobizl.

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Victoria Falls

I’m Privileged and Underprivileged                                                                             (By Mfundo Radebe, grade 12 student – published in The Mail & Guardian newspaper)

So, here’s the thing: I’m privileged; I’m under-privileged. As a grade 12 student at one of those affluent private schools which people complain reflect “privilege”, I believe I have had an incredible vantage point towards the social dynamics of our country. I’m not privileged economically per se; I’m just a township boy from Umlazi who has been given the chance to attend a “good school” thanks to being academically gifted. It has allowed me the privilege of being able to interact with people from completely juxtaposed environments.

While I have friends who are conflicted in choosing between London and New York for their June holidays, I come home to neighbours who will knock at our door just to get some sugar or rice. I haven’t really considered this a conflict of identity as much as I have been able to use this predicament to understand the different societies. I have seen that there are fulfilling aspects to living in or interacting with both societies. While being a child that can drive a Porsche to school (there aren’t that many) may seem like ultimate satisfaction and affords you many opportunities (I certainly respect my friends who use their privilege to the benefit of the world, however you interpret that), the kid who can barely afford bus or taxi fare to go to school may actually have a strong spirit of hard work that will help him to realise his dreams.

You see, my state of transition that occurs every afternoon when I travel from Umhlanga to Umlazi is one of reflection not on the perceived lack of privilege I truly face, but of how privileged I am that I am able to control where my future takes me. Our educational system does not reflect one that is really up to changing South Africa’s future and affording many young people with that option.

Not many people have the advantage of receiving a world-class education as I do, with teachers who care. Not many children go to schools where teachers ask if “you’ll be safe” when there is a taxi strike. I would like to know for how long that will be the case. For how long will other children be deprived of the opportunity to break the bonds of poverty? Nelson Mandela clearly articulated the power that an education affords one and so I stumble when I realise why there is no emphasis on the uplifting of schools, especially in townships. I shouldn’t have to travel more than 40km to receive a world-class education.

Let us work towards creating schools conducive to learning and growing capable youth. The future of the country depends on it.

On a side note, this is to my teachers: Thank you for constantly inspiring me, challenging my views, and for believing that I’m the next president of the country. I hope that one day every South African child can be exposed to encouraging environments, and believe that the future truly lies in their hands. (Mfundo Radebe is a grade 12 student at Crawford College La Lucia in Durban.)

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Janet & Jim return to South Africa in October