As 2016 winds down, I have had a very full and busy year to reflect upon, with many contrasting and conflicting emotions.
With a broad smile on my face, I think of all the dear VIDEA Canadian interns we’ve thoroughly enjoyed having with us on the ground at Slangspruit Primary School. With four interns the first half of the year, and six the second, their contributions were significant and immense. It was a bumper year to be sure, and I thank you one and all!
2016 was also a bumper year for visitors to both Ukulapha Community Outreach and me! What a treat, as each and every visitor brought and shared their unique selves with us all, and left with their hearts and souls overflowing, having been embraced by all those smiling, loving kiddies.
I feel deep gratitude towards all the generous education fund sponsors as I think about the four exquisite young girls who, through their dedication and hard work, earned Ukulapha scholarships to attend Alexandra High School in 2017.
They are the four top students in grade seven. Four girls,; how poignant given my reflections as this year winds down.
A girl in South Africa has more chance of being raped than passing matriculation/grade 12.
A horrifying statistic in a country where innocent girls as young as three, to dear old grannies of 94 are raped.
I find myself torn between two countries; two vastly different realities, really two totally opposing paradigms. Having lived in Victoria, Canada from the age of 32 until returning to my homeland of South Africa at age 57, I continually experience a sense of myself suspended between the exquisite beauty and horrors of South Africa and the tranquility and safety of Canada.
Both are mesmerizing.
A land with the starkest inequality and disparity between rich and poor in the world; both exist cheek by jowl. An immensely resource-rich land wracked by poverty. A land with immense hope and an internationally enviable constitution bereft of leadership. A Nelson Mandela legacy severely (bordering on mortally) wounded. A country decimated by HIV/Aids with an uneducated polygamist president who has fathered 22 children, many out of wedlock, who believes women need to be married and bearing children as part of their training. A country where we are dangerously used to seeing dead bodies on TV, people being tortured, hearing with dreadful regularity of people who have been mugged, stabbed and often killed for a cell phone or a bit of change, babies and small children abducted, their body parts removed and ultimately their lives sacrificed for supposed medicine rituals.
Life seems to have no value.
Compassion has all but disappeared.
Teen pregnancy (from the age of 12) is horrifyingly on the rise, which not only tragically interrupts the life and education of the young lass but exposes her to HIV.
Fathers are ‘sperm donors’ and absent in their children’s lives. There is an epidemic of fatherless children. Children who will grow up with no dad’s knee to bounce on, no healthy reflection of dad’s love and strong arms of protection.
The animal kingdom has so much to teach us about protecting and caring for the young...
The younger generation has so much to teach us about acceptance, integration and breaking free from the historical deep wounding around racial divides and discrimination.
Having moved back to South Africa seven years ago, I have fallen deeply in love with the land of my birth; a love affair that often feels painfully bi-polar. Being passionately attached to introspection, I often wonder how the South African struggle reflects my internal world. How I can torture myself and wrestle for ‘perfection’ and the illusion that may indicate that ‘I have arrived’.
That the reason for my birth has found its purpose.
Returning to Canada annually feels like a necessary ‘escape’ to gentleness, safety, honesty, tranquility, generosity, significant and exquisite friends and a people with a deep social conscience and kindness.
I will feel eternal gratitude to life for taking my hand and leading me halfway across the world, walking alongside me as I make many errors in order to learn and grow whilst cheerleading me to remain present, open and curious.
As one of South Africa’s sterling leaders, Professor Jonathan Jansen writes in his magnificent book: Letters to my Children;
‘Never let anyone force you to choose between your white brother and your black brother;