06 June 2009

The grannies and grandpas

The great clothing donation has come to a close. I'll be backtracking with images- because I was down for so long between the killer flu and then my busted ankle - I'm playing catch up now... but with all the money we generated from the huge jumble sale we put on with all the clothing... we hosted a lunch for the pensioners in Zandspruit.

I got there at 9:00 and there were already people at Emthonjeni - waiting. By 11:00 the place was packed. My main "job" was to do photojournalism for the event, but we don't have enough room inside the "house" for that many people, so we had set up chairs in the courtyard - all in rows - all facing the house - so every time I peeked out there, all I saw was rows and rows of faces staring back at me. I found myself very shy of the grannies and grandpas.

But then I realized how ridiculous that was. The worst they could do was reject me. So, by logic, the worst I could do was reject them. Wasn't that essentially what I was already doing by inviting them to Emthonjeni and then not talking to them? So I took a deep breath and walked outside to sit for a spell. The first thing I saw was a child sitting on a grannie's lap, holding her breast like a cup and nursing. Sometimes we forget that we really are in Africa out here. I looked for my friend, Mama Joyce and wove my way back to where she was sitting. It's easiest to overcome shyness with a familiar face. Mama Joyce and I talked about the cold at night that seeps in through the thin & gapy shack walls, the excitement of having a meal cooked for everyone, all the beautiful faces of the seniors that were gathering, the music that was playing, we sang together. I found, not surprisingly, that my hesitation had melted away as I hugged her again and made my way through the sea of grandparents, welcoming and having small conversations and taking portraits of stunning faces, etched with unimaginable amounts of life.

This generation, especially, has lived through so much. Most of them grew up into adult hood on their tribal homeland- some even raised their children in the rural tribe-oriented lifestyles. Apartheid, the dying of the land, generations of men migrating to the cities to work in the mines, the breakdown of apartheid, westernization watering down their own culture. They find themselves in a dramatically new world that has shifted many times over their years. Now, for scores of reasons, they all live here in the city....cramped in small make-shift shacks, many of them raising grandchildren. Some have family to provide for them in their old age, many do not, having lost children to a myriad of poverty induced illnesses, or HIV/AIDS or violence. To apply for a pension means days traveling by taxi to wait in long, lines - wading through confusing government papers and systems. Many don't have the knowledge of the procedures or the stamina to wait all day only to be given the run around again. It is a social group that is highly neglected. They are difficult to gather, often difficult to speak to (due to both language and personality), their needs are as individualistic as they are great.

At Emthonjeni, we were able to host this lunch for the grandparents by using money we earned by turning donated clothing into a giant garage sale for the community. But we don't have plans as of yet to have any ongoing programs for this group of seniors. You can pray with us that as the needs of this demographic are recognized, solutions are provided for through our resources of people and funding.

1 comment:

  1. The future belongs to young people …

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    Abhishek Shah


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