Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

An Equal Education for All

By Amy Gatland

Children in under-resourced schools face numerous challenges to their education (Image courtesy of the Read Educational Trust)

On a bright sunny morning on a leafy green street in the Southern suburbs of Cape Town, two little girls hop out of a car and run through the gates of their school, hand in hand. They are Margaret and Abby and they are best friends. They do not have the same colour skin or the same colour hair or eyes but they wear the same blue school dress. They have the same backpack and the same little blue sun hat on their head. That morning they will sing the same school song, spend the day learning in the same grade 2 classroom, from the same teacher and at lunch time they will enjoy the same nutritious food packed lovingly into their matching lunch boxes.

But in reality Margret and Abby, when not at school, are worlds apart. Margret’s mother works for Abby’s parents. She cleans their house. She lives in a one roomed house in Gugulethu and cannot read or write. But she is loved and seen as part of the family and so Abby’s parents decided that they wanted her daughter, Margret, to have the same opportunities as their own daughter and so they pay for her to attend the same school and make sure she has everything she needs. This is a true story.

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A time for stories

By Lindsay Carlin

Remember when your parents read stories to you as a child? If you’re anything like me, you probably couldn’t wait until story time. Should I choose “The Little Fur Family” or a Madeline book? Do I want to hear a heroic tale or something a bit more silly? Perhaps I’ll pick a long book so I can stay up extra late…

There is something enchanting in learning about the events and happenings of someone else’s life. I used to spend hours spilling over the pages of my favourite books as if I were interacting with the characters first-hand. What I love about stories is that they can inspire change, ignite a passion and enliven a seemingly hopeless journey. When I read about how someone else has overcome a difficult challenge or responded to an event in a heroic way, I am encouraged to follow suit.

If we are a people committed to living social justice, then hearing about the realities of others doing the same should stimulate us to press on. Their stories should inspire us to implement the same radical principles in our own lives. That’s why this week I’d like to highlight a few of my favourite story-telling blogs. They range from well-known organizations to smaller places filled with heart. Whatever their size, home country or mission, one thing is for sure—these websites tell their stories well.

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When Helping Hurts

By Nathalie Koenig

When Helping Hurts is an often quoted and incredibly helpful book written by Steve Corbett and Mike Fikkert, but the first thing that comes to mind when I think of that phrase, after that book, is a grass-burn on a little boy’s shoulder. It was acquired after a rough little tumble off one of those terrifying merry-go-rounds they have in kid’s playgrounds. They are TERRIFYING – not so much for the kids, but for those watching them! Especially these kids… Their playground acrobatics have every parent casting rather seething side-glances at me – not only because I let the kids swing too high (There was an episode on Mythbusters that said the swings will NOT go all the way around), but because I’m letting them give their kids ideas.

I met ‘these kids’ in 2008 at a school in Heideveld, in Cape Town’s ‘eastern suburbs’, where I began volunteering at a literacy and numeracy support programme through an organisation that works there. Living in the eastern suburbs means that these five children are being brought up in very different circumstances to those I was accustomed to as a kid. Their daily realities include gangsterism, drug abuse, and broken families. A far cry from the Gummi Bears and Ninja Turtles that defined mine.  Getting to know them and their families meant that I was able to build relationships with them despite these differences, and begin to share some of the things that I love with these children – and have a whole lot of fun in the process.

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The Rise of the Armchair Activist

By Sam Rawson

Kony 2012 (Image courtesy of Invisible Children)

If you’re on Facebook, Twitter or any other form of social media, than the chances are you’ve already heard about the Kony 2012 viral campaign that launched earlier this week. In less than 24 hours, the 29 minute documentary, produced by the non-profit organisation Invisible Children, received more than one hundred thousand views on Youtube. When I last checked, this number had already grown to over 52 million! To put it in perspective, that’s more than the entire population of South Africa.

The video documents the atrocities committed against civilians by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, focusing mainly on the brutal abduction of children to be used as sex slaves and child soldiers. (The LRA was formed in Uganda in 1987 and has been active in Uganda, the DRC, the Central African Republic and South Sudan). It encourages people to ‘make Kony famous’ by taking part in a worldwide guerrilla marketing campaign, complete with posters, stickers, and garden signs. The overarching message: if everyone knows about him, the chances of him being ‘stopped’ are greater. (What exactly they mean by ‘stopped’ is never fully addressed.)

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A Simple Yes

By Linda Martindale, communications and advocacy at The Warehouse

I watched Hlumelo hurtling down the aisle of the Cape Town City Hall, explosive smile, bursting out of his school blazer. He leapt into his mother’s arms. She looked at me and mouthed quietly, “I have never heard him sing in his choir before,” as he squashed his face up against her cheek. “Transport from Philippi is a problem at night so we don’t usually come to these choir shows,” she explained. I realised I was witnessing a ‘kingdom moment’ and took a snapshot in my mind.

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