Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the tag “Rehabilitation”

August Photo of the Month

By Richard Bolland

This photo is of myself (centre) sitting with two close friends. We come from three very different backgrounds. I come from a middle class white suburban background. Ash (on the left) comes from a hard life growing up in Durban and living in the shelters of Cape Town. Mashudu (on the right) grew up in the Northern Cape, had to brave the streets of Cape Town when he lost his job but now lives in an informal settlement in Langa. We decided to set the photo up like this to show that walls can be broken down, cultures can merge, race can be overlooked. We all enjoy the simple pleasures of life. So that’s what we’re doing. Watching television together as sons of one Father.

Until a couple of years ago, I’d often find myself getting back from a hard days work in the film industry, relaxing on my six-seater couch – paid for with my hard earned money – and enjoying some of Woolworth’s finest. There’s me on the couch flicking on the news. Watching how a group of shacks has burned down. Watching how our education system is getting caught up in corruption. The figures for gang violence in Manenberg come on the screen. As my heart hardens, I change the channel onto Supersport Blitz. I’d much rather just watch the late night football. But wait. Somethings not right. How have I become so numb to this? What do I have to do? The problem is too big. How could I possibly make a change? Something tells me that changing my Facebook status isn’t going to change much. Maybe I should do this Live Under the Line Challenge? Why not cook a meal for the guys living in the train subway, I think to myself. Maybe assist some of them into a shelter? What about finding out if there’s a place they can finish their matric? It seems like its gonna be difficult. Maybe I should just watch a movie.

Living in South Africa and constantly seeing the pain and suffering has often brought a tear to my eye. But when you start to cry your 500th tear it seems way easier to just harden up and ignore what goes on all around us. It became apparent to me that we are called to sow our tears, in other words, to take that grieving and do something about it. So two years ago I decided to find some similar minded people and work out what we could do. Fast forward two years and my world has been changed completely.

Going to the Haven Night shelter every week gives us middle-class, suburban-bound volunteers an insight into how 13 million people live in South Africa every day. It shows us how an 18-year-old rainbow nation still holds such struggles and pains. We go there every week not out of guilt but rather out of hope. Hope that there is a chance we can make a difference. We have seen people come off the streets. Complete rehab. Find a job. Work their way from a first phase shelter into a second phase shelter. Relapse. Redo rehab. Go back to school. Buy a home. We’ve seen all of this in the last two years we’ve been going there. I’m glad I didn’t just flick the channel and watch that movie all those years ago.

– Richard , 24, is a motion graphics artist and is a member of the Common Ground Wynberg congregation. To find out more about the street and shelter ministry he’s a part of, visit their Facebook page here.

Who are ‘the poor’?

– A message from the Common Ground Street and Shelter ministry team

Often Jesus would spend time with the poor. In the Gospel, He also stressed great importance on giving to the poor and loving the poor.  We, as the Common Ground Street and Shelter ministry team, have come across many problems in trying to give freely and generously to the poor and destitute. Our prayer has been for the Lord to give us discernment in the way we love the poor and the way in which we give generously.

Most South Africans have a general view of the poor as being people that are unemployed and unable to get a job. Although many people living in poverty are unemployed, there are many different reasons for unemployment and loss of dignity in each case.

Read more…

Breaking chains

By Deborah Cuthbert

One of my favourite musicals is Les Misérables.  Jean Valjean, an ex-prisoner, faces rejection by society until he is taken in by Bishop Myriel.  During the night, however, he ransacks Myriel’s house and flees, but is caught and brought back.  Instead of condemning him, Myriel gives Valjean two silver candlesticks which he said Valjean “forgot” and tells him to “go and make an honest man of himself.”  As Monsieur Madeleine, Valjean makes good on this “promise” and prospers as a factory owner, upstanding citizen and mayor.  However, he is doggedly pursued by policeman Javert, who wants to unmask his true identity.  What a picture of the journey an ex-offender makes back into society– where he or she faces too many Javerts and too few Myriels!

While for some, an offender’s time in prison results in an individual turning from crime, this is not the norm.  An estimated 85% of the 6 000 people released monthly from prison in South Africa go on to reoffend.  The offender spends days of little activity in close proximity to seasoned criminals and prison gangs.  They also lose contact with law-abiding support structures such as employment, friends and family.  When they leave prison, their needs are great.  It’s not just about ensuring that they have accommodation, food and work – they need a lot of support and guidance.

What can individual Christians do?

There are a number of NGO’s and ministries involved in working with offenders, such as NICRO, Young in Prison, Prison Care and Support Network, Realistic, Prison Fellowship International, Andrew Murray Centre and Hillsong.  I will concentrate on some of the things done by Hope Prison Ministry, with whom Common Good partners.  Last year, I had my first opportunity to visit Pollsmoor Prison and sit in on a Hope course.  I had always been intimidated by the thought of going into prisons and speaking to prisoners, but found that I actually enjoy going and speaking to them.

What can I do?

A lot!  How about:

Praying  for those involved in working with ex-offenders; for the ex-offenders themselves and their families and victims?

Donating non-perishable items to the Hidden Treasures shop in Plumstead or volunteering a few hours a week there (they’re at 142 Main Road – tel 071 861 2283)?

Joining prayer walks at Pollsmoor on the first Thursday evening of every month? Email to sign up for the next one – you’ll need to send through your full name and ID number.

Working with the prisoners themselves?  Hope Prison Ministry runs Bible studies, skills and arts programmes and restorative justice courses (which aim at enabling the perpetrator to seek forgiveness from the victim and/or his or her family).

Thank you to the following people for their input into this article:

Vanessa Padayachee (NICRO)

Adrian Strydom (Hope Prison Ministry)

About the author: Deborah Cuthbert is a relief librarian at the University of Cape Town.  She has just completed an honours degree in criminal justice.

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