The City of Gold at sunset
In one of the African dialects (which I can’t remember, please forgive me!), the city of Johannesburg is literally translated into “city of gold.” This comes from the gold rush which launched the city into the most industrialized city in Africa. The name has stuck and thousands of people from all over Africa – Zimbabwe, Mozambique and others – travel great distances to come to this “city of gold.” However, what they find here isn’t often a city of gold. South Africa has an unemployment rate of over 30% – three times the US rate. Instead of finding the gold they had expected many find the same tin shacks and lack of jobs they had left in their motherland.
Across the street from the guest house we are staying at 12,000 people, who came to Johannesburg to find their city of gold, live in tin shacks. This squatter camp is the basis of Zoe’s work. Today as we drive through the camp everyone – from the town alcoholics to the lively children wave with a welcoming smile saying, “Hello sister Zoe!” It seems that the whole camp knows her name.
Today we visited with three women. The first, who in some ways reminds me of Zemzem, seems to have her hands in just about every money making venture possible – she sells the clothes she buys from Zoe, runs a small crèche for the children in the camp whose parents are sick, sells wigs, and has about five other schemes. The second has come across marital trouble (her husband is abusive and appeared on her doorstep with a second wife) and Zoe has recently helped her build a new shack as she was kicked out of her abusive husband’s. And the third runs a day care for 28 children.
Family and friends at TLC
The last stop was probably my favorite of the day. While Zoe chatted with the woman my mom and I played tag and tickle with the seven children who were at her place at the time. It always amazes me the universality of a good tickle – every child understands it no matter what country they are from! The other universal, “naaa-na-na-naa-na!” always means, “please try to catch me, I am teasing you saying that you can’t catch me but I really want you to please catch me!” It’s so lovely to know that in every country, every child will love this affection! Our game became so ruckus that the children from the neighboring homes came to see what all the commotion was about! Sorry, no pictures of this, for safety reasons we traveled into the camp without any valuables (no money, cell phone, camera, nothing).
The last stop in the camp was to bring a totally blind man to his home. He is cared for by the community of the camp. He was having lunch at one woman’s place and his next door neighbor will cook him dinner. Zoe brought her some food to help care for him – with the money Zoe makes from selling the clothes to the local woman (which they then sell as a means of income) she buys food for the individuals in the camp who aren’t able to care for themselves, it’s really an impressive system she’s developed!
Upon our arrival back at TLC we discovered a large food donation being delivered, all of the older kids were carrying in loads of sugar, salt, juice, etc. This donation will help ensure that the children and the family have a wonderful Christmas. Our afternoon was spent sorting this donation and doing one of my favorite things, taking a small group of kids out for a special treat, ice cream. The five kids we took out we’re just little babies when I was here last. It was so amazing to sit down and have a proper chat with them! Again, sorry no pictures – two white women with five black children outside of Soweto brings enough attention without out a camera but I’ll try to get pictures of the kids tomorrow.
All in all, today was a wonderful day – exactly what I wanted to do with my Holiday Season – help others and make life a little more enjoyable for a few very special people.
P.S. We’ve finished – sorting clothes that is! My mother and I spent the better part of 14 hours over the last three days sorting clothing for the local woman to sell (see previous post with more details by clicking here). It was a tiring feat but well worth it. While we sorted the clothes Zoe was able to help many in the community, including the starving women who come to the gate at TLC begging for food for themselves and their children. She remarked to me that it felt like she was accomplishing two tasks at once – she was able to help others throughout the day knowing that one of her major tasks was still being accomplished. I’m so grateful to help her be able to help more families in the community.