A return to normal and a reality check

Imagine having to worry about your child’s walk to school. If they take their normal route, will they encounter protests and strikes? Will they be harassed for going to school in the midst of the unrest? These were our concerns during the recent protests in Diepsloot. Will our kiddos go hungry before we are able to get there to give them their food? It had been two months.

The residents of Diepsloot were challenging their poor living conditions. Demanding electricity be installed throughout the informal settlement. Demanding that something be done about the high crime rate. Demanding roads be completed. Basic things but a luxury to many in Diepsloot. We would love to say that the call to action brought swift change, but it did not. Despite the uprising Diepsloot still struggles.

Each Ngangifisa family is safe, but they were not untouched. Our delay in delivering food caused Kamohelo Moema and his six bothers and sisters to go hungry. Kamohelo’s older brother is disabled and bound to a wheelchair which means at the age of 13 Kamohelo is the advocate for his family. Without our monthly assistance he would be forced into a decision no child in grade eight should have to make. He would have to leave school to provide for his siblings.

Every time we arrive in Diepsloot to deliver food we are met by school staff who urgently need to speak to us. Usually, it is to tell us Jonas once again broke dress code, that Thabiso talked back to one of his teachers or that Jack is struggling in Math. On this occasion, however, we were met with the details of Kamohelo’s  living conditions and the harsh words of the social worker informing us that she “does not know how the family survives.” It was like being punched in the gut.

Seven children living in one room with electricity that is rigged and being stolen, when it works at all. There is no indoor plumbing. There is no kitchen sink, shower or toilet. They do have water through an outdoor tap where they can fill buckets for cleaning and bathing. The majority of their government stipend goes to the medical bills the older brother accrues. Food isn’t always the priority.

We are failing them. We could do more. We haven’t asked the right questions to make sure we understand Kamohelo’s needs. We can not be lazy in sharing all of their stories. We must shout louder that we have 20 families waiting to join our program. A waitlist Kamohelo sat on for over a year. Barely surviving.

“Poverty is a very complicated issue, but feeding a child isn’t.”  -Jeff Bridges

$300 is all it takes to feed a family for an entire year. €267 eliminates the worry of where their next meal is coming from for twelve months. £246 means children are fed, focused on school and working towards breaking the cycle of poverty. 

One frivolous night for most of us is an entire year of comfort for these children. Regardless of where you live and the currency you use, $300 can be one good meal celebrating with friends. It’s a ladies night. It’s a stag party. A single night of happiness for the privileged is an entire year of hope for these kids. You cannot tell a hungry child that you gave him food yesterday…What about today?

There is not much we can do about the stability within Diepsloot. We can not affect the politics within the settlement nor can we police their streets to make them safer. But we can ensure the children don’t go hungry. We can make them feel loved and supported. We can show them the difference between surviving and thriving.

A child may be born in poverty, but poverty is never born in a child. We produce enough food globally to feed 11 billion people, yet 25,000 people die everyday of hunger. This is one person every three and a half seconds. How does this still happen?

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