Heritage Day Potjie Competition

We Are Durban held their annual Potjie Competition on Heritage Day, 24the September. The competition was hosted in partnership with Buyisithemba GD  community Development, a Non-Profit Organisation in KwaMashu, Durban.

 

Teams started arriving from 08:00 and it wasn’t long before gazebos were up, deck chairs were out and 21 potjies were on the go all over the venue.

 

There was a festive atmosphere as friends, family and colleagues all joined in celebrating Heritage Day and experienced a taste of township life while building relationships with the local community.

 

During the event we were privileged to be entertained with some dancing from the children of the community.

 

Whilst the judges were deliberating  over  which potjie was the winner of the competition, we lined up the potjies and started serving the food to the eagerly awaiting local community.

 

There was more than enough for everyone, we estimated that approximately 250 people were fed.

 

Once the judges had completed their task and all the scores collated the winner was announced.  Well done to the defending champion, Warren Gedye and his team for taking first prize again this year.

 

A big thank you to all our participants, volunteers and sponsors for making this event a great success.

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.

Cupboards for Bridges of Hope for Children

Bridges of Hope for Children gives a home to vulnerable children in foster care.  Sharon who run’s it has made a real home for the children in her care including 2 special needs boys.  They recently moved from the Midland’s to Cato Ridge and have rented a very rundown farm.  The previous tenants had stripped the place of plumbing and electrics and left it in a horrendous situation.

A group of friends have assisted by sorting out, and giving a face-lift to the kids playroom, art room and schoolroom as well as raising R15,000.00 from EBH which will go a long way to assist the upgrades.

WE are Durban has been donated plenty kitchen cupboard doors which allowed us the opportunity to spend time with the family and assist in making their kitchen functional.  With the assistance of a team of volunteers and intern we have been able to make a difference there.  Plenty more needs doing but little by little a change can be made.  A big thanks to Chris Lyle, Chris Gill and our interns for the hard work they put in.  We need to return soon to complete more work.

Grace aid is sending a electrician to rewire the building and a team of volunteers to clear out the garden on the 16 July.

This project is really showing the power of working together to assist those in need.

 

Youth Beach Day 2016

On Saturday, 11 June 2016, we help our chilliest Youth Beach Day event yet!  Our beach day has become an annual event as it is so well received by the community and by the volunteers.  The celebration around Youth day is remembering the youth lost in the ending of apartheid and giving some of our underprivileged youth the opportunity to have a real childhood experience.  The day at the beach along with the life-skill lesson of beach and water safety from the lifeguards, was such a treat for the kids.  This year again we chose to work with the organisation called Key of Hope which works with vulnerable children in 14 different townships in the greater Durban area.  They develop leadership in the children.  They impact approximately 2,000 children a week through their various programs.

A trip to the beach is a highlight for any child and when we noticed that the weather was not looking good for Saturday we considered alternative plans, but soon realised that for children, especially children who don’t get to the beach, there was no real alternative.  We were also concerned that the volunteers would not show up if it was cold.  We were pleasantly surprised.  Not only did we have plenty of volunteers but the kids even swam!

Charles Khumalo and his team of lifeguards did a great safety briefing.  They have a slick operation which goes around rural areas educating the public on watersafety and what to do if you land up in trouble in the water.  Their heart is to prevent drowning in our communities.

After dividing into teams the kids began a series of fun games that all encouraged teamwork and communication.  We left the swimming off the list of games as we didn’t want to deal with hypothermia, but still the kids found a way to go swim and they thoroughly enjoyed it.  The day ended with a meal arranged by Terence Pillay and a goodie bag to take home.  Their goodie bag contained a mug, bath scourer, and cap.  On top of that, Froggie sponsored a brand new pair of shoes for each of the children who attended!  All the games equipment and our lifeguards on duty, were sponsored by Mpact Plastics.

At the end of the day our volunteers were spoilt by the Key of Hope choir singing for us. A big THANK YOU goes out to all who helped out on the day.  We appreciate each and every one of you.  TO our volunteers, the day could not happen if you didn’t get involved.  Terence Pillay and Sandie Rogerson, who did so much behind the scenes to make the day a success, to Charles Khumalo and his team for ensuring the kids safety, to our sponsors, Froggie and Mpact Plastics that enabled us to bless the kids, and to the Key of Hope for the work you do in Durban, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

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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

We need action

Yesterday, 01 June 2016, I visited the Dalton Hostel Beer Hall and the area surrounding it.  We have been asked by the municipality to assist in moving and creating another safe space for the children from that area.  We will continue to pursue this and it will happen within this year, but that is not the point of this article.  While there I visited with the Usizo Lwethu Afrisun Clinic (an outreach from the Denis Hurley Centre) who provide primary health care free of charge to the residents on a Wednesday.  They set up their mobile screens and gazebo in among the rubbish that has been dumped in piles all over the vacant site.  It has been dumped as there is nowhere else to throw rubbish.  There are plenty of squatters, people who are completely down and out living there under the builder’s plastic lean-tos. These people are at the lowest of the low but they are still people and should not have to live like that.  The place is a festering pool of disease.  There is one tap in the area which means those who want to wash clothes, themselves, get a drink, collect for using in their work, and cooking all have to queue to use it.  There is also only one toilet enclosed with an old curtain for privacy. I watched as the patients at the clinic instead of using this ablution to provide their urine sample would choose to stand against a wall. A man came in with blood gushing from a cut on his thumb.  He had sliced it while making a Zulu shield nearby. And there in amongst the filth and the rubble the dedicated team from the Usizo L’wethu Clinic assisted him. IMG_8747

On return to my office and inquiry into the situation, I discovered that the land is Provincial owned and therefore the municipality has little or no mandate to clear up and maintain it.  It is however in the process of being handed over and the municipality is stepping in.  If we are aiming to be seen as “the most caring city in Africa” this were we need to start.  Here and places similar.  These are people, yes people who have made some poor decisions in life, some who have been abused, and exploited and traumatised so badly that they no longer function as a rational person anymore, but they are still human.  These are people who need to be reminded that they are human and that Durban does care and we do want to help and see them reintegrate into society.  These people are our challenge.  These people are our assets. We need to discover how to allow them to be those assets again.  Municipality is going to clear the rubbish this week and is going to look into providing a permanent clinic in the area as well as more water points.  But we need to do more, not just say more and talk more actually take action.  If you would like to help please contact me at linda@wearedurban.com, We have enough assets, talents and passion in Durban to see these challenges become a thing of the past.  Let us together face them head on and see them eradicated from our beautiful City.

Mother’s Day spoiling

Saturday, 14 May 2016, we decided to pay a visit to two TAFTA homes (the John Dunne house in Wentworth and Kingdom Hall in town) and Salvation Army’s Montpilier retirement Home. With mother’s day having happened the week before we wanted to celebrate some of the mothers of Durban whose family could not visit them last week for whatever reason.  We have such treasures in our aged community in terms of their wisdom and understanding of life and we wanted to show them we value them.

The team met up at 113 Florida Rd from 8am to make up 100 posies of flowers for the ladies at John Dunne House and Salvation Army.  The ladies at Kingdom Hall received gifts from Milady’s, which were very kindly sponsored. The 40 volunteers were split into 3 teams which went to the three different venues.

At Salvation Army we were welcomed by 40 elderly people who were keen for conversation and a tasty treat.  It was great to have the opportunity to go into their rooms and see their facilities.  We hope to be able to help them more in the future.

When our team arrived at TAFTA Central there were 45 ladies all eagerly awaiting our arrival and welcomed us with a warm round of applause.

We handed out the gifts and cake, chatted and laughed over a cuppa tea. New bonds and friendships were made as we swapped stories and got to know one another.

Our time flew by, and before we knew it, it was time to leave.

The volunteers received many warm hugs and words of appreciation as the ladies left carrying their gifts.

Many of the volunteers were so deeply moved by the experience that they decided that they wanted to return in the not too distant future and are looking at a number of options of how they can get involved.

Thank you to our organisers Sarah Geddie and Sandie Rogerson, we really appreciate you.

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.

Jumble Gym no. 2

On the 30th January, a dedicated team of volunteers met at a crèche in Newlands East that partners with Key of Hope, to build a jungle gym. Most of the team had participated in a Jungle Gym build at the end of October 2015 so had a good idea of what to expect. Knowing they would take a jumble of wood and turn it into a work of art.

The day turned out to be a real scorcher with high humidity and we were wet with perspiration before we had even begun.

There were no plans to follow, just fertile imaginations. Fortunately the ground was a lot softer than the previous build so we had a few holes dug in no time. Two of the Dads brought their children along for the experience and they chipped in wherever they could. At this gym build we had access to electricity which helped a great deal when it came to cutting the various bits of timber to size, there was no need to use our blunt hand saws.

At the previous build our pièce de résistance was a ships wheel that the children could play with. Although this gym had a scramble net, monkey bars and swings, we felt that something extra was needed to finish it off.

After racking our brains for a while we decided that in view of the fact that the children at this crèche were tiny tots a sand pit would be appreciated. The problem was that we didn’t have any sand suitable for the children to play in.

While the team got to work building the enclosure for the sandpit, two volunteers were dispatched in a bakkie to find suitable sand.

Just after lunch the team completed the project but there was still no sand, after a few failed attempts to contact the sand men, and on completion of a photo shoot, most of the volunteers decided to call it a day and left.

Within the next 10minutes the sand men arrived with a bakkie load of sand.

 

The following day I went back to visit the crèche, I could see the sand pit had been well used.The crèche teacher informed me that the local children had had a wonderful time playing in the sand pit and on the jungle gym after we had left.

A big thank you to Embury College for the donation and to all our amazing volunteers who gave up their Saturday and toiled in the blazing heat to put smiles on the faces of many children.

Jumble gym 2.1 Jumble gym 2.2