Last week I was confronted by the very issues I seek to highlight with this blog when my grandparents were attacked by two men at their home in South Africa. The men were attempting to steal my grandmother’s car when they were interrupted by my grandfather as he entered the garage to find a tool. The attack was unnecessarily brutal and my grandparents were left badly bruised, wounded and shaken by the incident. The would-be burglars fled only with the little bit of money my grandfather had in his wallet.
For the last week I have been contemplating the ordeal and trying to make sense of this awful situation. I want to be outraged and resentful about these two people but I keep coming back to face the same deep sadness each time; a feeling of despair not only about this particular incident but at the circumstances that led to the terrible episode. As millions of South Africans face desperate levels of poverty and the divide between rich and poor widens, such violence becomes almost an inevitability. I am furious that this was allowed to happen at all; that so many people see no other way to survive than to turn to crime and inflict pain on innocent people like my grandparents. This is why I care so deeply about the issues of poverty: in a world where poverty is forced on innocent people, everyone suffers.
In a country that was able to find £1.2bn to spend on the 2010 Football World Cup, it is disgraceful that 23% of the population still live below the poverty line and 9% of children are malnourished. I’m baffled by the priorities of a government that will favour a few sport matches over feeding millions of hungry people. No wonder there is so much animosity brewing between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. I am not for one second condoning the actions of the two men who hurt my loved-ones. I am merely trying to understand why such incidents have become a daily occurrence in a country that should be thriving in all its natural and cultural splendour.
Today I have a choice to throw my hands in the air and declare it is a hopeless situation; OR I can do my bit for the sake of my family who live in a country where people face unjust levels of poverty. My grandmother is very involved with an incredible charity called Animal Outreaches who work with vulnerable animals and people in townships, seeking to improve conditions for those who have almost nothing. The success stories I read in their newsletter each month always bring me to tears and I am so grateful for people like the AO team who go into the places where many fear to tread. For updates on their work or to support you can contact Mike here. I know my grandmother would be truly touched if some good could come out of the nightmare she endured.
There are so many wonderful people who are doing great things in South Africa and they need the support of others near and far if they are going to have an impact. We can all be the change that South Africa needs and must undergo for the sake of all who inhabit that beautiful land.