Our time to reconnect with friends and family in Canada, and be reminded of what makes our home country special, is winding down.
It’s time to pack our bags and soon return to South Africa; another country we consider special, albeit for different reasons. We’re ready to return, eager to resume our mentorship initiatives, and looking forward to seeing our many good friends.
Living in a country with considerable poverty and income inequality creates many challenges, for both the rich and poor. There are only a few countries with higher gini coefficients than South Africa.
According to August 2017 data from Stats SA, 55% of South Africans live in poverty, with the highest incidence amongst children aged 0–17. South Africa is a country of first-world urban areas and suburbs, adjacent to third-world residential settlements.
Sadly, we know too many children, youth, and adults who wage a daily battle with poverty and food insecurity.
The primary reason we continue to return to South Africa is the prospect of making a difference. There is also what the French call Mal D’Afrique; an expression describing the feeling experienced by so many who have travelled to Africa.
There are numerous ways to impact disadvantaged individuals residing in the townships and racially segregated settlements established during apartheid. While there is plenty for the well-intentioned to learn, and the risk of toxic-charity, worthy opportunities abound.
Dr. Mamphele Ramphele, anti-apartheid activist and former partner of Steve Biko (anti-apartheid activist killed in 1977 by 5 members of the SA security forces) has this to say:
“South Africans…are deeply wounded by the legacy of racism, sexism, and engineered inequality over the three centuries which the last 20 years of ANC rule failed to reform.”
“The humiliation of being told in more ways than one that one is inferior is deeply wounding and infuriating. But the lack of self-respect engendered leads to inward directed anger – domestic violence, community vigilantism, public violence, and other self-sabotaging behaviour…”.
We are returning to a town of 77,000 residents which experienced devastating fires on June 7th. The official tally is 1,533 homes impacted, of which 973 were completely destroyed. Only 76.7% were fully insured and 14.1% had no insurance.
Of the 134 impacted businesses, 58.5% had no content insurance and 41.9% no property insurance. It is estimated that 2500 jobs were lost.
We continue to be humbled by what we experience in South Africa. The prevalence of teenage boys and young men seeking emotional support and guidance in their lives is heartbreaking. Unicef reports 64% of children in South Africa grow up without a father in the home. In our experience, this figure is understated.
While the problem is huge, some solutions are not complex. So many youth are hungry for validation, a person in whom they may confide, and a better understanding of the education, training, and employment opportunities available. They need a mentor.
Sometimes the boys require financial help. It might be for school or university fees, education-related shoes or clothing, transportation fees, toiletry items, or food.
We greatly appreciate each of our supporters. Thank you for helping, and contributing to what we do.
Janet & Jim