It’s not enough to take in the beauty of the land while you’re here; for, although I’m continually surrounded by incredible beauty, I also work in places of overwhelming poverty. Cape Town is a land defined by bold and strict boundaries. Train tracks and street signs separate the decent areas from the areas of high crime.
During the apartheid era, whites, blacks, and colored people were all separated by living quarters— forbidden to cross over into places reserved for other races. Each community had specific rights, which heavily favored the white population and offered nearly nothing to the native Africans. Poverty in the black and colored areas ensued as more and more opportunities were withheld from them. Although the apartheid era is over, the effects of this devastating institution still weigh heavily on the South African culture— separating its people even still. The townships, places of abject poverty, still paint the land of the South African people. Massive plots of dirt, lined and crossed with tin shacks hold millions of opportunity-deprived people.
In the beginning, gangs formed to create a sense of safety within communities; however, now the gangs exist to keep power and enforce boundaries for drug trade. The townships are areas of high crime and, at times, magnificent violence. Although these areas are considered the most dangerous, they are also places that hold some of the most eminent needs in this part of the world. No matter where I’ve been in the world, no matter the danger or the poverty I’ve seen, this statement is always constant: in the areas of greatest poverty, there is also the greatest need. Poverty perpetuates crime, crime creates danger and violence, which creates a need for help— help to restore opportunity and order, and help to establish hope in the hearts of people who live in a near-hopeless situation. In my experience, no matter where you are, there is always good to be found. The good always finds a way to outweigh the bad, love has been bigger than danger, and the hearts of justice overrule the plight of the wicked.
The work we’ve done in the townships by day has defined the purpose of this trip thus far. The level of destitution in these places highlights my reason for coming. It makes the work real— allowing me to attach files in the office with real faces, voices, and names. Along with the casework we do in the office, we also get the opportunity to work alongside the communities in the townships.
The people we work with are some of the most loving, and innocent people I’ve ever had the opportunity to see and know. Last week, along with others from the project, I worked to build a vegetable shed for the people of Khayelitcha— one of the largest townships in South Africa, holding over 1.2 million people. Other volunteers participated in home-visits, working as a voice of intervention in places of strife and attrition. The women cooked food for the volunteers working, and we ate together after the work was done. Everyone worked together, and threw in what they had for the sake of everyone else. It was such an amazing thing to actually see the product of giving present itself right before my eyes through the people I was working to help. Receiving the thanks of the people in Khayelitcha was so rewarding, and inspired me to continue on this journey of love.