To love a heroin addict

I have been meeting with a person who is homeless and a heroin addict for the past 3 months, twice a week, every week.  The man is my cousin.  He is 28 years old and either sleeps on the streets or in a shelter when he can afford it.  My purpose in meeting with him is to write his story to try to find some real solutions to this problem our beautiful city is facing.

This is a real problem.  We only have about 34 people injecting heroin in Central Durban, but a large percentage of our homeless community are smoking it – either as heroin or woonga.  It is a problem.  The problem affects us deeply.  Even if we choose to ignore it, it will continue to be there.  Ignoring these people is so much of the problem.  They need love, and lots of it.  I asked my cousin to describe what it feels like to be high.  His answer shocked me.  I was expecting that it made him forget his problems, that it probably gave him some visions, took away the pain.  I never expected his true answer.  He said; “it feels like someone has placed a warm coal inside of you and you feel loved and accepted”. You see my cousin comes from a broken home, parents divorced when he was 5, mom battled cancer and died when he was 11, dad was not a factor and he was dumped from one family to the next.  I am not excusing his choices, but if this is a way he can feel loved, can we as society really blame him? Haven’t we all done crazy things just to feel loved?

Sadly, that sensation does not last.  Sadly, as you build a tolerance to the drug you reach a point where you no longer get that sensation and all you are doing is self-medicating to prevent withdrawal. Oh, and withdrawal is bad! Imagine the worst possible stomach bug but lasting three weeks with intense muscular pain.  Literally bile pouring out of you. And you feel abandoned and lonely and unloved.  And the drug is whispering to you, “all you need is a little shot and you will feel so much better, nobody will know.” I spoke to a guy yesterday who has been clean for 18 years and he said he still hears that voice every now and then.  Then you get the other side where they push the envelope a bit far and overdose.  We lost a 23 year old mom this last week, on Mahatma Gandhi Rd. Apparently they know when it has happened the minute they inject.  There is no high, just intense pain, heat and blackness.  If there is too much they don’t wake up.  A real waste of a life.

Many of these addicts are really functional.  You have probably been served by one at a restaurant and never even realised it. Inevitably they get greedy.  They need more drug and they will do anything to get it. So they end up stealing, and they lose their jobs.  This is where life becomes dangerous for them and society, this is where we need to engage and not disengage.

On the streets they have three choices to earn money to pay for their drugs.  The first is the hustle.  This usually goes on the line of “I am not a drug addict. I have landed on the streets due to some misfortune and need shelter money or money for food.” “Or I am selling this object to raise shelter money or support my baby”.  We have all heard the story. Sometimes we give to get rid of the person, sometimes out of guilt, sometimes out of religious obligation, and sometimes because we believe their story and genuinely want to help them. But the hustle works.  They earn between R100 and R1500 a day doing this, depending on the day and the season.  The second is the route many of the girl’s land up taking, prostitution.  Either online sales, manning a street corner or working a strip.  Almost all of them land up being used by the drug lords.  Handing over every cent made so that they can get their next fix or keep a roof over their head. The third option is crime. Muggings, shoplifting, and theft out of motor vehicles are the most common, but it lands them up in a cycle of going in and out of prison and mixing with worse and worse people.

What is the solution?  To be honest, I do not know.  What I do know is that these people are hugely vulnerable.  They need love and to be shown that people care. Not by giving them stuff, those things are likely to be sold to buy more drugs, but by engaging the individuals. Until they choose to make the decision for themselves that they no longer want that lifestyle there is no point in offering them a way out. If the choice is not theirs, they will return to the lifestyle the first opportunity they have.  If the choice is not truly theirs they will resent you for “helping”.  Only they can answer the question if they are ready to change.  They may have told you they are, but it really was another hustle, and they will return the minute the pain strikes.  On the streets they need just enough money to self-medicate.  They are okay to not sleep in a shelter, to go without food as long as they do not go into withdrawal.  But that is the base. If no one ever gives we are going to land up with a crime situation. It is such a precarious space.  You do not want to give because you are fuelling an addiction, but if you do not give where will they find the money for the heroin?  They will make sure they have it.  The beauty of the don’t give campaigns is that it has been effective.  The addicts have been forced to take less, but the minute they “hit a luck” they are at risk of overdosing.

Once the addict decides that he wants to give up he has a major problem.  If he doesn’t have a wealthy family that can pay for a fancy rehabilitation facility that offers detoxing there are not many options. Most addicts have burnt that bridge long ago. The government hospitals will not take them.  These people need constant support and attention in this space – they cannot do it on the street.  This situation is creating another barrier to them being healed.  I applaud the efforts of the Denis Hurley Centre and Hope 4 All in investigating and initiating efforts to start free facilities.  Please people, get behind them.  Our City needs these services.

I am busy writing my cousin’s full story and we hope that it will help pre-teens, teens, young adults and families make wise choices around drugs.  We hope that it could prevent even one person landing up in the same situation.  These are people who are filling a need to be loved with something that ends up destroying their potential to be loved.

Mandela Day Market

On Saturday, 16 July 2016, we at our offices in Windermere to celebrate Mandela Day.  We asked the community to get involved by either donating their good quality second hand clothes, or books, bake something delicious and donate that, volunteer time to sort, set up or sell on the day.  Huge piles of clothes were donated.  We had plenty of baked goods and fudge for those with a sweet tooth. There was coffee, bacon and egg rolls and homemade lemonade to keep people happy and full.  Twelve other regular market stalls were booked to sell their own wares on the day, and there was even a fun photobooth.  A raffle was held where there was a night stay in an executive suite at the Suncoast Towers, including breakfast and a R500 voucher for dinner sponsored by Tsogo Sun, which Bruce Jackson won, much to his delight.  The money raised from the day will be going towards a project we are working on with the municipality to supply a new pre-primary school facility for the children in the Dalton Heights area.  Just under R15,000.00 was raised.  A big thank you goes out to all who supported us on the day.

SACSC give back

On Thursday 2 June 2016, the KZN chapter of the South African Council of Shopping Centres met for their annual networking evening.  As they have done in the past they have asked their members to give something back to charity.  This year they chose to give stationery.  This stationery is currently being distributed to underprivileged schools and pre-primaries in and around Durban.  Thank you for your support and getting involved in making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Below is a list of what was collected.

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Stationary donation
186 Large stationary packs
21 Small packs
78 college Excercise Books
15 A4 Exam pads
13 A4 counter books
22 A5 Notebooks
6 Reams of A4 paper
19 Small Notebooks
17 Boxes of crayons
18 Boxes of coloured pencils
5 Jumbo colouring-in books
20 Pritt glue sticks
72 Erazers
37 Pencil sharpeners
105 Rulers
277 Pencils
3 A5 exam pads
25 Hilighters
16 Permanent Markers
12 Packs Post-it flags
1 Pack fibre tipped pens
2 Boxes giant gem clips
4 Calculators
3 Boxes paper clips
3 Post it notes
4 Correction tape
1 Maths drawing insturments
2 A5 Flip files
1 A4 Flip file
15 A5 Excercise Books
13 A4 Manuscript Books
6 Scissors
1 Pack A4 Kraft covers
549 Pens
4 Boxes of staples

Night Shelter visitation

Last night (25 February 2016), we joined the Isinkwa SeTheku team in going out to the night shelters to visit with the residents.

Isinkwa SeTheku is a not-for-profit that operates to bring hope to the homeless of our city.  Every Thursday night they meet and divide into teams that go to various shelters and visit the guys on the streets.  They visit the best and the worst of shelters to take food and a listening ear to those in need.  They also do a potjie day once a month to feed the people living on the street.

I had the privilege of going to a very new shelter in Durban called Haven of Hope.  It has only been operating for about 5/6 months but has put some really good things in place that will make it a safe place for people in need to stay.  They have 2 stories – one for males and one for females. Everything is very clean and neat and they have very strict rules around hygiene of  the residents and cleanliness of the building.  Well done to the Family trust that has seen the need and done something about it!

If you are ever at a loss for something to do on a Thursday night, i would recommend joining the Isinkwa SeTheku team in visiting the less fortunate of our city.  They meet at the St Paul’s Anglican Church on Monty Naiker Street at 6:45pm.

Business Breakfast

6 November 2015 saw 70 business people from the Durban area come together in the Luthuli Hall (City Hall) to challenge mindsets around business and giving to the needy of our society.  A collaboration between Nation Builder, Grace aid and ourselves resulted in this business altering breakfast. Francios van Niekerk of the Mertech group was our main speaker. Francios story of how God helped him turn a bankrupt business in to a multimillion rand group of businesses is inspiring to say the least. We also had a panel of local business people, including Nick Nzama, Brad Wills and Leigh-Anne Aitken who added so much value as their stories are based in Durban.  Abonga Nkwelo was our brilliant MC and managed to keep things flowing incredibly well.  Breakfast was yummy and plentiful, thanks to Highway Function Hire.  A BIG thank you to eThekwini Municipality for the use of the Luthuli Hall.  It was a perfect venue and was a beautiful representation of Business, Government and the Social sector working together to see Durban reach its potential.

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Potjie Competition 2015

This Heritage Day on 24 September 2015, the annual We are Durban Potjie Competition was held in association with the Buyisithemba GD Community Development Organisation in KwaMashu, Section D.  The Competition was organized by We are Durban and participants were all volunteers, who graciously gave up their Public Holiday to join us in celebrating our Heritage together.  It was a beautiful sunny day and an incredible success, which we look forward to repeating each year!

 

We had 19 volunteer teams sign up to cook their favourite potjie recipes – even Buyisithemba entered a team and cooked a delicious range of traditional food.  Everyone brought their own ingredients and equipment, and had approximately 3 hours to cook their potjies.  A team of judges, including We are Durban board members and the local Ward Councillors, tasted a portion from each team and decided on the top 3 winning teams.  Teams were given extra points if they catered to the heritage theme – and we had beautiful dishes being served up!

 

Once all our potjies were cooked, the food was shared out with members of the local community who are part of Buyisithemba’s feeding scheme. We fed about 250 people on the day, with plenty food left over for second helpings.  We had plenty of extra pap and rice, as well as extra chicken curry, thanks to generous donations given to We are Durban specifically for the event.

 

Prizes were given to teams in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place for the best potjies, and we were privileged to be able to give out such beautiful prizes – engraved wooden spoons, brand new cookbooks donated by Bargain Books in Westwood, lovely embroidered aprons donated by one of our amazing volunteers, and a variety of lovely donated goodies.

 

Buyisithemba were such incredible hosts on the day, treating all of us to entertainment, tea and snacks while we cooked, and a wonderful programme including an introduction to Buyisithemba and the work that they do in the community.  We were honoured to have the local Ward Councilors joined us for the day, as well as UKZN and some of the local youth who entertained us with a traditional dance. Buyisithemba also organized a mobile clinic to be present on the day for any elderly members of the community who required medical care.

 

Thank you so much to our amazing volunteers, sponsors and to Buyisithemba for joining together to make this event a huge success!  It was a truly fantastic way to build relationships with a Non-Profit that are doing phenomenal work in their community.

Loving the Lost Daughters

We are Durban marked Women’s Month this August by partnering with Red Light Anti-Human Trafficking and their Night Lights team.  This event was exclusively a Christian event, due to Red Light being a Christian organization.

 

On 27 August 2015, a group of about 30 volunteers from local churches spent the evening ministering to the women at risk in Windermere, Durban, with the Night Lights team providing training and guidance as to what to expect and how to minister to these women.

 

We went out into the streets in small groups, each with a trained Red Light team leader, and simply spent time chatting to the local women at risk, sharing a hot chocolate, and also lovely pamper goodies that were kindly donated by Unilever.   As the Night Lights team regularly minister to these women, they know many of them and have established relationships in an incredible way.  We were able to have in-depth conversations with many of the women, often getting an opportunity to pray for them.  Mostly, we just enjoyed each other’s company – it was amazing to see how naturally conversation flowed and how eager the ladies were to chat and enjoy the break in their evening.

 

Our volunteers shared how they were amazed by how much joy they experienced, but of course how sad these ladies’ stories are and how so many of them feel they have no other option for supporting themselves and their families financially.  Our event ended off with many volunteers signing up to partner with Red Light in their ongoing ministry.

 

We would like to extend a huge thank you to our volunteers and to Red Light for making this event possible, and for giving up their time to love those who are so often forgotten.

Mandela Day: Warrior Race 2015

This year we had 34 participants join us for the 2015 Warrior Race at Sugar Rush Ballito.  What an awesome event!  Perfect weather, plenty of mud, challenging obstacles, and excellent comradery from mates racing together for a good cause.

We had warriors racing in each of the race categories: Rookie, Commando and Black Ops Elite.  Warriors used the opportunity to raise sponsorships for We are Durban: approximately R11 700 was raised!

We were blessed to be able to give out energy powder sachets and water bottles to our racers, which were kindly donated by NATIVA. Beautifully branded shirts and vests were also donated by Jam Clothing for each of our participants making sure we all looked like a team. We sent everyone home with a tube of face wash donated by Unilever, to help them feel human again after the race.

We’d like to say a huge THANK YOU to all of our sponsors and participants who contributed to this event being a huge success!

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Response to Xenophobic attacks

With the world watching Durban, it was wonderful to be a part of the positive outpouring of love and care for those displaced due to the xenophobic violence in our city.  Thank you to everyone who contributed. In the end we were able to take a large portion of goods to 3 different sets of people.

One group was a Congolese community that went into hiding shortly after the attacks began. The second group was housed a Durban Christian Centre, and were women and children who out of fear left all they had and ran to the church for help.  The third was the refugee camps set up by the Red Cross that have been caring for about 6500 displaced people in 5 different camps across eThekwini.

R 16 500.00 was donated into our bank account with the reference of “Xeno”.  We called Red Cross to find out what was needed in the camps and we also paid a camp a visit and found out from the moms what they needed for their babies. Here is the list of things that went out and what was bought with the money that was donated into our bank account;

 

DETAILS AMOUNT RECEIVED FROM DONATED TO
34 x Nestum 250g R 576,30 Bought from Dischem Toti Isipingo Shelter
10 x Future Life for kids 500g R 307,50 Bought from Dischem Toti Isipingo Shelter
1 x Baby wipes R 57,50 Bought from Dischem Toti Isipingo Shelter
12 x plastic spoons R 25,90 Bought from Dischem Toti Isipingo Shelter
2 x Lactogen 1.8kg R 350,00 Bought from Dischem Toti Isipingo Shelter
10 x Nappies R 1 040,00 Bought from Dischem Toti Isipingo Shelter
7 x baby bottles R 222,65 Bought from Dischem Toti Isipingo Shelter
13 x Infacare 108kg R 2 339,35 Bought from Dischem Toti Isipingo Shelter
366 x toothbrushes R 4 507,90 Bought from Dischem La Luica Red Cross
260 x Bars of 100g soap R 1 299,35 Bought from Pick ‘n Pay Red Cross
326 x Toothpaste R 2 389,93 Bought from Pick ‘n Pay Red Cross
92 x Tooth brushes R 367,54 Bought from Pick ‘n Pay Red Cross
88 x Sanitary pads (10s) R 787,60 Bought from Pick ‘n Pay Red Cross
21 x nappies R 2 184,00 Bought from Dischem La Lucia Red Cross
125 x Family disaster relief buckets City Hope Congolese community
5 x 25kg soya mince Tekwini Foods DCC & Congolese community
5 x 25kg soup Tekwini Foods DCC & Congolese community
5 x 25kg juice mix Tekwini Foods DCC & Congolese community
Groceries (R1 100.00) ZaPOP (Pty) Ltd Isipingo Shelter
Groceries (R2 000.00) Khanyisa Special needs School Red Cross
Clothes and soft toys (R6 000.00) Sarah and Martin Cordner Red Cross
500 x blankets SA Homeloans DCC
416 x Soap (Ponds and Geisha) Unilever Red Cross
72 x Vaseline Unilever Red Cross
768 x Shampoo Unilever Red Cross
50 x Glen tea Unilever Red Cross
36 x Toothpaste Unilever Red Cross
30x Razors Unilever Red Cross

 

THANK YOU!

Bucket Drive Distribution

Each year we assist Olive Tree Church with their annual Bucket Drive to distribute groceries to various organisations and people in need.  This year we made sure that we were uplifting communities in need and not reinforcing dependence and entitlement by focusing on the elderly and child headed households.

We were able to distribute 350 grocery buckets to the following organisations: Inchanga, Bothas Hill, Wangu, Burlington and Umgeni View.  We were also able to fill 100 buckets with invaluable stationary for 4 creches in the Wangu community.

Below is an extract from one of the gentleman who joined us for the distribution, showing that often it’s not about what we give but the relationship of giving that changes our hearts.

 

“I was very moved with this time spent in distributing the buckets to the identified poor households. It was my first time,and I wanted to try and make a small difference to seeing the joy that these buckets would bring to poor households. I knew it would be an emotionally tough experience,and asked God to try and prepare me.

Well,

The first bucket we delivered in Inchanga,it was to a man who was 40 years old,and had been alienated and outcast by his family,as he had AIDS,no access to antiretrivirals. When he opened the door,he stood lifeless having very little or no hope left to live for in his life,and when he realised the people at his door were messengers of GOD to bring joy and care to his life,his lifeless eyes were suddenly awoken,and he was so ALIVE,having HOPE for a joyous Christmas,and honestly,he was so thin,I don’t honestly knew when he last ate,or where his next meal would come from………..seeing this was too much for me emotionally,and I walked away with tears in my eyes,and looked up and asked God why must people suffer so,and counted how rich and blessed my life was

The experience taught me to appreciate that my life is so blessed with what God has so kindly provided for me,and that when I feel life is not treating me fairly,I must appreciate that there are people out in the world with much bigger worse problems.we take for granted our beautiful homes we come home to everyday of our lives,the provisions God has for us with the daily food we are so blessed to receive,and our families who love and care for each other.With God in our lives,we honestly want for nothing!”