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!”

Durban Dignity Day – Christmas Party

On the cloudy day of 7 December 2014 in town the winds of change where blowing in the streets around Dr Goonam Street, unsettling the rubbish left over from the night before’s party.
The volunteers from Nkosinati Project, We Are Durban and the GTI group were arriving!

There was a flurry of activity from the start. This will be the best Christmas party these guys have seen yet! (was the mindset for most), mixed with a hint of nerves for the outcome. Cool heads prevailed and everyone pulled together in the most glorious fashion. What a day, what an event, what a great bunch of human beings, to God be the glory!

The main objective of the day was have it titled as a Dignity Day for the homeless and destitute of the surrounding area in town. We hoped to achieve this by the most simple method of loving and serving the people as they came in.

A slow and steady stream trickled in and were soon served with a warm drink or juice and a biscuit. Next the men were treated to a shave and a wash and were offered the use of deodorant and body lotion to freshen up. This exercise brought about great relief and many smiles.

Once the ablutions were done, the people moved upstairs where the men & women were sent to separate rooms to pick out three items of clothing each.
This seemed like a simple idea at the time and due to the excellent prepping by the upstairs volunteers it went along smoothly.

For the grand finale, the good people were sent up to the next floor where they entered into a giant hall fitted with Christmas decorations and dozens of tables all done up as if a passing dignitary was due for lunch.
The 2 to 300 strong army of people were led to their seats where they were greeted by a table set with rolls and fruit for starters, before being served the main course by one of  many volunteer waiters running around ensuring that all had received their fair share of food and drink. All this while Christmas carols were playing in the background.

After much merriment at the tables with a few contented belches, the desserts were then served. Once everyone had received dessert they were lined up at the front of the hall to receive their gift hampers consisting of soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, vaseline and a face cloth. The bunch then sauntered off with full bellies, new outfits and refreshed appearances.

But the dignity in the day was not just found in the shaving, food and clothes. It was found in the serving and love of each volunteer who lent a hand in making the day such a success. The way that everything was prepared and the way that everything was served brought about the feeling that these people who came off the streets weren’t just a number in a line, but someone valued and special and that they had potential.

Well done to all involved.

Another Day Walking Durban

So another day to use my ten toes to walk the streets and pavements of Durban. It still has the effect of feeling as if I am more in contact with the city when I walk rather than driving. So with no specific destination in mind, but wanting to either move towards the city or beach area, I went down Argyle Road toward the beach. It being a sunny, blazing hot day, it was a slow walk.

On Argyle Road, by the bridge, I saw a security officer from the company which I believed to be in charge of chasing the beggars away from the robots. I also saw a guy (who I’ve seen at church and begging at the robots) go to a bin, lift it up and grab his hidden “I’m hungry, No Job, No shelter, Please give me some money” sign. He took his sign and headed towards Stamford Hill Road. I asked the security guard if he was going to go chase him away, but the guard said that’s not in their jurisdiction.

So where this security company patrols there will be no beggars, and where they do not patrol there will be beggars. They basically just chase the beggars from one area into another.

So I continued my walk towards the beach along Argyle Road, and just at the next robot I saw a guy named B. He looked like he was in discomfort and when I greeted him he just grunted and replied with a disinterested “hi”. He seemed sick and tired and weak. He said he begs so he can get shelter fee. He told me he does not do drugs, although I could see his lips where dark and cracked as drug smokers lips generally look. He was absent-mindedly nibbling on a sandwich (he didn’t look like he was enjoying it). I shared a bit of my story in the hope that it would make him feel a little at ease, but he replied with “so what do you actually want?” I said I just want to talk. He said he does not want to talk and added “in fact I was doing pretty well without you here… I don’t need to talk”. I got the message and slowly walked off after he got up and headed towards a pole where he had more food.

I’ve noticed a lot of the guys begging near the street robots always have a bag nearby, either by a pole or by a bin. There is generally food inside that they keep for later, and they still hold a board which says “Please help, no food, I’m hungry”. I’ve also noticed that they have a feel sorry for me facial expression when begging, but when you talk to them their face is generally fine or even better; they are actually slightly happy. Knowing that their need (Whoonga) has been met keeps them on the happy side, mostly due to the fact that food is not the problem. The main reason they are begging is because they need a daily fix and they want to sleep at the shelter. If they don’t make enough for shelter they just need enough for drugs. One guy told me “the more I make, the more I smoke”

So as I continued towards the beach in search of a more willing and open, homeless person, just by the robots near Sun Coast Casino and George Campbell, I met D. He was down in mood, spoke with a soft voice and lowly natured. He was basically crying without the tears. He told me how he doesn’t know how he landed up there, how he used to be a taxi driver and had a license. He also told me he just recently was able to get a temporary license but then he just lost it and how hard for him that was. He is from Port Shepstone, is an only child and his family home is non-existent, although he still has relatives that side. He would love to go back to Port Shepstone because he believes there at least he will not suffer like he does here in Durban. He said back home people always use to ask him to drive for them, and that what would probably happen again. He sleeps by the grassy open space near George Campbell and he pointed to the garden area in front of us and said “I sometimes sleep there”, and every now and then would exclaim “ey this is hard”. This guy needed help.

As we were talking a taxi driver drove past and made a comment to him, and he replied “hey you, you don’t even talk to me anymore but back then….” They knew each other and it confirmed for me that he really was a taxi driver. He said he was hungry, so I offered to go to Pick ‘n Pay and buy him something to eat. I got him a pie, chips and juice. When I came back he was stoked and said “wow you kept your word, thanks”. So while he was eating I started to share about myself being an ex-drug addict and having been homeless for 2 months. I told him this because it always seems that people open up more when you have been open. All this time he had not told me he smokes Whoonga, but I could see it. After I shared my story he was touched and said “to be honest I also smoke”. He told me that he eventually had no money to renew his professional driving permit (PDP) and the police kept arresting him and he would pay them off. Then his boss would ask for money and he would not tell him he paid the officer for not having PDP, as well as smoked portions of the day’s takings. So he ended up with no job and on the streets. He mentioned that he had a place to stay and when he lost his job as a taxi driver the guy he stayed with basically said they can’t stay together any more.

He told me a story of how he got arrested for a crime he had not committed. After 9 months in Westville Prison, one day he attended a court case where the judge was a white lady. The officers were speaking in Zulu about the judge, thinking she couldn’t hear them. To their surprise the white lady judge replied in Zulu “I can hear you, and you think I can’t release the prisoner?” The next day he was back in court and he was released.

He also told me how he sometimes wishes he can get arrested again just for two weeks so he can get past this painful withdrawal (Arrosta) process of not smoking. He mentioned how he has tried but if he goes two days without smoking Whoonga the pain is hectic. He told me once he got this medicine from the chemist which was supposed to help but it didn’t. He took this medicine for four days and on the fourth day was sweating and drank the whole bottle and the pain was too much to bear, so he came to the same robot at midnight and a lady gave him R20. He went straight to the dealer, smoked and the pain was gone. So he has tried and really wishes he can just be locked up somewhere until he is fine.

He also occasionally helps out at the booth market, and he mentioned that when he does he feels like a “real person” because when he goes there he has a bath and tries to make sure his clothes are on the clean-ish side. It makes him feel like a productive member of society. I encouraged him to continue working there on Sundays.

He was very grateful for our conversation and took in a lot I said, because when I had left he said he hopes to see me again and he prays he can also be helped like I was. I told him about the Methodist feeding scheme and Salvation Army and how he must try getting his temporary drivers again. He said he will and he will try find out more about this Methadone, which is apparently helping some get off Whoonga. We spoke about a few other things but his energy when I left him was up and he definitely had hope, which is something I like seeing.

With a sense of D’s story being very informative, and the sun’s scorching heat getting to me, I headed back to the office. On my way back I saw B sitting down by another set of robots and not in a good state; my heart cried out for him. He is probably going through withdrawal pains (Arosta).

On my way I bumped into a guy who I’ve briefly spoken to before. He begs at the robots and I had previously told him he must go to Salvation Army if he needs food, but I was in my car that day so I didn’t get to have a thorough conversation with him. I greeted him and asked him if he remembered me. He said “yes, you are the guy who drove past in your car and said I should go to Salvation Army”. So I asked “so did you?” He replied, “well, I’ve actually just come from there and they gave me a loaf of bread, and have told me to come back at specific times when they have the feeding scheme”

I was so glad that he had gone, and we spoke about a lot of stuff related to NGOs and ensuring people on the streets get help. He didn’t have the limp which he normally acts out when begging. He told me that he is not standing at his spot today because there is a “this fat policeman” who is on duty and if he finds him (a white young man) at the robots, he takes him and drops him off at Umlazi or Kwamashu and doesn’t care if they don’t have bus fare. He said this with a “sick and tired of it” attitude. He showed me some onions, tomatoes and potatoes he had just bought, and said that he is taking them back to his girlfriend/wife so she can cook them and feed their child. When he had previously told me about his wife and kid I did not believe him, although now I do. I could feel that he is worried about them, especially if he gets dropped off in Umlazi or Kwamashu.

Then he told me how he will come back and hustle for shelter fee later. He told me he smokes Whoonga, but his priority is his wife and kid, although he does smoke every day. Just like the other, he smokes to get rid of the pain. He really seemed as though he would like to stop Whoonga, but I didn’t get to ask him. I just saw a young father addicted to Whoonga wanting to provide for his family. I went from thinking of him as a big con-artist, because he acts like he is disabled so he can get food and shelter for his family and Whoonga for himself, but now I see him as someone who wants help but only knows this lifestyle as a means to survive. It was a brief interaction with him, and I would love to see him again and actually get more of his story.

That is something important: that is they (homeless people) all have stories and histories worth being heard or told, and I kind of wish I could start a reality show where they could come and share their stories and let us into their world. Hopefully with the intention of assisting them through a rehabilitation process; at least those who are earnestly wanting help.

It’s weird but there is something remarkable about the daily activities of homeless people. To a certain extent they are less worried then most “normal people”; they live off nothing basically while “normal people” live off abundance. With each of those who have been willing to share about themselves, as much as they are broken in certain areas they are also at peace with certain issues or circumstances.  Being homeless in Durban is not that bad. Stand by the robots and you’ll surely get fed. Otherwise there are lots of feeding schemes all around the city on different days. The real downfall is shelter fee and clean shelters. Those that I have spoken to complain that the shelters so are filthy that they would rather sleep on the streets (e.g. a park or outside some business steps or front door or some corner somewhere). Nonetheless, if you have no big dreams for yourself, being homeless in Durban is not that bad; it’s not the end of the world. Although if you do have dreams then it will be hard and a painful experience. Just my thoughts, who am I? After all I’m not homeless. Even though I was on the streets for 2 months, I was never really and truly homeless; my mom would have taken me back without even thinking about it. I chose to run away because of my own shame and guilt; I chose to use drugs over being obedient to my parents. Drugs never chose me, I chose them. So I landed up where I did, because of the choices I made. We are all faced with daily choices, and the choices we make daily shape our days and futures. Until next time, stay blessed.

Homeless People

I really wonder if this term “homeless” is fair to the “homeless”.

The reason I say that is because most of them seem to actually have homes but have left them for some justifiable reason according to the individual. So I sometimes harshly feel like calling them Street People rather, because they love the streets.  When walking around Durban I’ve realised that driving in a car is like living in a different city, there is this “them” and “us” feeling from both sides of the spectrum; walkers and drivers. Walking gives a more real impression of the happenings of the city and feels more in tune with what’s actually happening on the ground. Being in a car feels pretty superior and is a self and ego booster, like I’m a better person then he/she that walks. I have friends who have unintentionally given off this impression when I never had a license.

Well this is not an article about drivers and walkers, but about the Street People. On the streets it’s a daily hustle, “kuyaphantwa”. This basically means to find, make and plan how you can get food, something to drink (alcohol preferably) and of course something to smoke, whether its cigarettes, marijuana , glue, Sugars (whoonga) or even pure heroin to spike (inject). Daily and sufficient use of these above mentioned things will ensure an individual has a better sleep, whether it’s on the side of the pavement, unattended building, shelter, park, or home.

Walking the streets I got to meet some individuals. W, a 32 year old white male who begs at the robots, says he has been doing heroin since the age of 14. He stays in Malvern/ Queensburgh side of Durban, with his mom and dad. His dad apparently earns a salary of over R20 000, but just gambles it all. His mom drinks because he mentioned that when he got given a R200 note he bought a few beers for his mom and R150 worth of heroin. W has experience in ship repairs and welding. He has a girlfriend and daughter, who both stay a few houses away from him. His wife also has a son from her ex-husband, and when he turns 26 he will get an inheritance because her ex-husband has passed away.

W says he just wants to get off drugs and get a job to take care of his daughter. He seems like such a decent guy, who is just stuck in a drug addiction problem. His brother is also on heroin but chooses to sleep at the shelters. But he says the shelters are terrible because they are filled with flees and are dirty. The more money he makes the more he smokes, and he seemed on the happy side of life and didn’t smell; he looked like he had a bath very recently. He has had many jobs but they never last long. His wife unfortunately has breast cancer, so he keeps speaking about the chance of his wife passing away and he would have to take full responsibility of his daughter. He took down my email address and said he will attempt to ask his dad to email me his CV. He knows he has the ability to take care of his kid and family, he just currently is stuck in addiction, and he knows that methadone can get him through the tough heroin withdrawals but he says as soon as he makes money he goes and buys heroin to use. He spikes heroin and mentioned that the previous night he had missed the vein.

W commented that whites are stingy, and Muslims and Indians are much more generous, although he said that when whites give they give R50/R100 etc., unlike the R1, R2 from the norm. He also stated that when he looks dirty people give him more than when he is clean. He notices that a lot of his colleagues who do the same (beg on the streets and robots) even pull a sad face or kneel down on the floor or limp and act disabled because then people feel sorry for them more than when they don’t do those expressions. He confidently stated that they all do it for drugs “we all do it for drugs, all of us”. There was so much I could learn from W; he was so willing to share about his life and experiences.

On the walk I came across another guy begging by the robots. He had a rubbish packet around his neck, he was very joyous and had lots of energy, and was enthusiastically asking people for money and motioning his hand as if asking for food as well. His approach had me stand there and just watch him for a few minutes, but while doing this a security van stopped and a security officer got out running towards the boy and said “heyi Woza la” and the boy just bolted! I was shocked and curious as to where this man came from; the security van that dropped him off soon drove off and the man went and stood nearby where the boy was. So I went to the man, introduced myself and asked him “is this your job?” He said “yes” and started explaining how they go around picking these boys up and they ask them various questions to find out if they have families and would like to go back. He mentioned that these boys are the cause of most of the accidents which happen at intersections, as well as snatch and grab theft.

Some of these boys are actually peddling the drug Whoonga, and they have caught many of them with handfuls of packets of Whoonga. Some have informed him they make lots of money begging, from R300 to R800 a day. So imagine how much more if they sell drugs at the same time. They pick these boys up and drop them off in far areas like Pietermaritzburg but the kids still come back, so I told him that’s useless then if they come back and surely there must be a better way. He said they do this in hope that the boy would maybe get sick and tired of this life and maybe go home. He mentioned that most of the black boys have homes; they just came to town one day and through peer pressure push each other to be naughty, and end up smoking Whoonga and glue until they are just too embarrassed to go back home. Since the security company works with and through municipality, they did have 3 tents (1 at “Whoonga Park”, 1 by the Station, and 1 by Point Road) to which they used to take the boys to get their details and work out ways they could help get them back home. But then they realized that certain ones didn’t want to be helped; they would throw fits and tantrums just saying they want to be left alone, and would not give away any information. This is why they started dropping them off in far areas.  He said his security company also works hand in hand with metro police. They started off as just a separate entity as their company was on probation, and now are closely linked to metro police.

The man said from their findings, in terms of race, all the white beggars normally hang out together. One night they got called out to the station because there was a racket and noise of two people fighting and they got there and found 24 white beggars in one place. Two were arguing, and when they were asked how they landed up on the streets the general and common problems where because they had lost their jobs or got divorced or separated from their partners (family related differences), unlike the young black boys who just tend to run away from their families.

This man seemed to know a lot about the beggars on the streets, as that is his job. He deals with these individuals every day. He agreed with me that the public need to stop giving them money because this does not help the situation and that it’s the main reason why they are there – because the public give them money and basically enable them to be beggars, or should we say give them the job of being a Successful Beggar.

After having a great conversation with the man he took my details and gave me a lot more information on what they do, stating that we (his security company and the NGO I work for) should work together and put a stop to this problem. So I said my goodbyes and started heading back to the office, and to my surprise the boy who got chased away was at a robot two streets up. So I asked him about what those security companies do to them and as I was asking a driver stuck out his hand and gave him some coins and the passenger stuck her hand out and gave the boy some left over KFC. The boy, while nibbling on his KFC, said “Arggh! They just normally pick us up and drop us far away; otherwise they can’t do anything to me, I’m not scared of them!” The boy was very relaxed, not stressed at all, kind of like he didn’t have any cares in the world. He was nibbling on KFC, had money in his pocket and said to me “sho uncle, Ngisayo phuzamanzi”, which basically means “cool uncle, I’m going to go drink some water around the corner”. He took the rubbish packet from around his neck, put it in the bin and went off. I thought to myself that he seems to be on top of his game.

Still on my journey back the office, I walked passed a lady sitting on the pavement looking as if she was fatigued, sitting under the blazing sun. She looked like an aborigine/cape coloured. She had birds around her eating crumbs of bread which looked like she had sprinkled on the pavement for them, since she had the same type of brown bread in a white ice cream container beside her. There was just less than a quarter loaf in the container and it had like some sort of curry on the side. I greeted her and asked “are you tired?” She replied “and sick!”, so I laughingly said “sick and tired!” and she replied “sick and tired of Durban!” Then curiously I asked her where she was from; she said Australia.

She told me she’s sick and tired of the rogues here in Durban; that if you leave anything anywhere someone will come and take it. She told me how she’d had a packet next to a nearby street pole, and now it’s gone but she had left it there just that morning.  She mentioned something about getting taken in a truck to the airport and then on a plane to Johannesburg, then she went to Cape Town and now she is in Durban. She carried on talking and I couldn’t ask her how she ended up in the truck. She said she doesn’t get what the big deal about Durban is when everyone here is a rogue, “a bunch of dogs”. I told her I love Durban, and she replied that the weather is not bad but otherwise the people are rubbish.

She was an elderly lady, probably on her late 60s, and she has 3 kids (2 daughters, 1 son). One daughter lives in Hillcrest, one in Seaview, and her son is in Newlands. She was staying with her son but her grandkids drive her crazy; she drinks and doesn’t want to be bothered. She said her husband was a cheat of a man who had tons of girlfriends, and that he is no longer alive. She seemed like a wise old lady in the way she spoke, and she mentioned that she doesn’t know how some people live without God. She said she sleeps outside a house nearby, and the owner allows her to sleep there. While we were sitting there a few people walked past and greeted her by name, so people around there know her. She told me that some people drop food of for her and some bring her clothes, “so life is not that bad, it could be a lot worse so I thank God”. She seemed to have more peace then a lot of people who are more financially/materially rich then she was. She asked me about myself; was interested in my life. I kind of got the feeling she was wondering why I would sit there with her and talk to her. But I honestly think she was a cool old lady, very chilled and worry-free, but at the same time she had concerns or needs such as a blanket and a pair of shoes. She was the type of person who I believe has lots to say but choses what to tell you. Nonetheless, she is a sweet, still-spirited old lady, who lives a simple life from what I know, and I hope to see her again and find out more about her.

These people are not homeless.  These are people who have made choices to be where they are and are being sustained through human kindness.  They all know how to survive and how to get off the streets but they choose to stay.  If you choose to give to them you are enabling them to stay there.  So unltimately – its YOUR choice, do YOU want beggars or not?