January 10, 2014

Metro Kids South Africa- Our Visit to Guguletehu

Re-posting as a reminder not to forget to donate to Metro Kids!  I'm sponsoring the beautiful and intelligent teen leader, Anathi!  Tamron and Johnny are sponsoring several children as well. I hope you'll join us! 

On our latest excursion I took more than a couple hundred pictures to try to convey the magnitude of what we were experiencing first hand.  Poverty on this scale is like an ocean- it's vast, it's wide, it's deep.  It isn't, however, hopeless.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let me explain.

Hubby and I have this tradition where we select our next international destination prior to leaving the current one so that our departure back home is a little less bitter-sweet.  So back in Spain, probably over cocktails with Captain Alvaro, we decided South Africa was next.

Since we touched down last week, we've been anticipating the arrival of our friends, celebrity stylist and Artistic Style Director for L'Oreal, Johnny Wright and correspondent for NBC News and NBC's Today Show, Tamron Hall #Flawless.  Also, so Tamron is officially the first African American woman to co-anchor the NBC Nightly News! #ThatHappened #SoCrown #BowDown

But I digress.

You may recall the fabulousness that is Johnny Wright from the EPIC NYC Turn-Up session with Tracee Ellis Ross.  Johnny has been to South Africa 4 times this year alone so of course I texted him to find out (1) who we know locally for the TurnUp  and (2) what to eat/see/do/don't.  He inquired about the dates and the next thing I know, it's a party.  #VacationWithFriends

Read On!>>>
It's also become something of a tradition to try to raise awareness for local community based initiatives in our destination country.  After reaching out to multiple charitable organizations, I spoke with Janet Senior about her NPO, Metro Kids.  It's an organization that seeks to serve children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, “helping them create a better future." Metro Kids is based in Cape Town, South Africa where six thousand children are served weekly in 15 different townships through after-school programs, school assemblies, home visits, child pen-pals, camps, and teenage mentorship programs.

Founded in 2005 by James and Janet Senior, Metro Kids has diligently worked with children and young people whose lives have been affected by HIV and AIDS, poverty, crime, gangs, poor education, child-headed homes, alcohol, drug and child abuse. While help from Western countries is always appreciated, South Africans are beginning to realize that change starts at the community level.  Recognizing this, James and Janet quit their jobs in the United Kingdom and moved with their four kids to Cape Town.  They began working alongside local people, initiating programs and training them to reach their own communities.

Today we were fortunate enough to meet several of the children with whom they work, including the older teens they train to develop and execute the programs for the younger children.  We visited a township which was literally built on a trash heap. 

The view- 

Escorted by James and Janet, we visited a township called, Guguletehu.  Within the township, there is a smaller neighborhood called Barcelona whose residents are predominately from the Xhosa tribe.  These 'bungalows' or 'shacks' are made of wood and sheet metal without insulation, floors or running water.  They do have electricity and the government provides water pumps that are communally shared.  There are also communal outhouses that work on a 'bucket system', in which the buckets are utilized and later retrieved and cleaned weekly. Despite the conditions, rent for many of the shacks are approximately $40 (400R) per month.  

via Wiki
"The town planners did not give names to any of the roads in Guguletehu, all were simply numbered. NY1 stood for "Native Yard 1". There has been strong pressure for the NY terminology to be dropped and for the streets to be renamed. This resulted in the City of Cape Town renaming NY1 as Steve Biko Drive in September 2012. The renaming process continues and the City recently announced that streets will be named after, among others, Albert Luthuli, Amy Biehl, Ray Alexander and the "Gugulethu Seven" (the latter being a group who were fatally ambushed by security police in Gugulethu in 1986)."

Some of the residents kindly invited us into their homes to give us a glimpse of their lives. 

Meet Anathi.  She's fourteen and seven months ago lost her grandmother.  Now, her and her 26-year-old sister are raising six young children on a very low income.  Despite the rat and mice infestation (she said she often has to get up in the middle of the night to make sure the younger kids aren't being bitten), they pay 400 Rand per month for rent which is more than half of their monthly income.   Anathi is one of Metro Kids' top 'Junior Leaders', working with children ages 4-12 every week.  She aspires to be a model and if she lived in the States, she most certainly would be a #TopModel. 

 Hubby is pictured with some of the younger siblings that Anathi is helping to raise. 

The kids loved Tamron and she remarked at how the 5-year-olds, even in these impoverished conditions, appeared no less happy than 5-year-olds in Beverly Hills.  They were smiling, dancing, jumping, and playing. 



 In our next visit, we learned that this woman's home had been burned down during an electrical fire. Prior to the government providing electricity to the area, residents were forced to siphon electricity into their homes with their own make-shift wires.  This is very dangerous and the recent fire destroyed 8 of the bungalows.  She was able to rebuild with materials provided by community members.  They lost all of their furniture and clothing and Metro Kids is working hard to help replace everything--starting with the children's school uniforms.  

The kids were very interested in Hubby's camera and one, in particular, wanted to give it a go and began snapping pics of us!  Peep his photography skills-

The second township we visited, KTC, is the murder capital of South Africa.  Gun violence claimed the lives of 236 people in this small township just last year and many innocent children were injured and/or killed.  

We drove past hundreds of children and adults and there didn't seem to be a single one that didn't recognize James' big green truck!  They would wave and shout greetings at him.  They are truly making a difference in these communities and their compassion shows.  Just last week James and Janet sat with a woman who was dying from AIDS. They stayed and talked with her until she passed on.  

Tamron donated #OnSight and Hubby and I will be sponsoring one of the children we met today!  Metro Kids would appreciate your participation and donations as well.  I saw first hand what the funds are being used for and although these families do not lack spirit, fight, or hope, they are in desperate need.  Contribute if you can by going to their website, emailing Janet Senior (janet@metrokidsafrica.orgor using this link. They accept prayers too!  Help them out, curlies! 

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