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.