Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I have nothing. Do you remember me?

Been a tough, but interesting week so far - and we are only at Tuesday! Yesterday, I saw a man with a poster at the stop street close, to the local McDonalds: "I have nothing. Please help me". I knew he REALLY had nothing. We have learned to tell from someone's eyes because we work in communities where there are people with 'some things' and those that truly have "no things". He was such man. Vulnerable, defeated, beyond poor, rejected from within and lost in the public, entirely reliant on the mercy of any passing stranger.

And then today, a few minutes ago, I received a copy of this via our company mail:
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***** Uthango Website Enquiry *****
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Date: 19 October, 2010


"....it's me Anthony*...I just hope you still remember me, I've trying to find you with regarding what you were about to help us with. I don't know if you can meet with me regarding that please I really need you more than ever just call me when you had this messege".
Anthony* and his friend approached us three years ago - wanting to open a butchery in a local township. There were many health regulations that concerned our agency, Uthango Social Investments, but they were adamant that 'as youth' they had the advantage of "getting support from government" and the local councillor. With meat being so popular in South African communities, I imagine they had something in mind like Skhoma in Gugulethu - eventually. However, they would start out with some 'rock chickens' (indeed as big as rocks) that they would drive on the back seat of a car from the other side of town and keep in the back yard until... well... (Needless to say, the health regulations were a welcome excuse to advise the young men at the time to "work on their business concept" a bit and get back to us).



So here we are again: Later this week, we shall call Anthony* and ask what their plans are and what progress they have made. Coincidently, there are several other organisations in this particular community, and we have not been directly involved with the men for quite some time. It seems that they have fallen through the cracks like so many enthusiastic young people here in South Africa - leading to an unacceptable high unemployment figure and more than 1 million people not being economically active.

I think when someone has something and not nothing, we should probably assist them to make more of it. As for the man on the corner, with the poster pleading directly for help, I believe that social justice and humanity failed him to date. I wonder what will happen if he has an opportunity to work and earn a living. Just that: an opportunity.  Someone that trusted him to deliver to his abilities and paid him fairly.

Ps: I am angy at myself when our organisation cannot do more, when my own weaknesses cannot be overcome, and when our resources are so stretched - when we cannot answer his plea for help when he need it most.  In some ways we all stand with posters or drive around for chickens, don't we?

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