Today I felt as though I was transported back in time. Not because of the seeming era that South Africa lives in, but because I was reminded of my first visits to Ukraine at the beginning of this decade. CEO partners Josh and Abby took me out to visit the work of a woman working among the poor in this area.
It was cold and rainy at about noon when we drove out of town about fifteen minutes from Mossel Bay. We arrived at a house on a nice street which is serving as a Skills Development and Training Center. At this place I learned many things about life here for the non-white peoples. Most or all of which are tragic and, I suggest, bring tears to our Father’s eyes every day and night.
I was told that gang life is wide spread, organized and horrible. Gangs here, like everywhere else, are places that youths go to to find community, prove their worth, and provide for their family through the fruits of their crime. Apparently, these young men enter the gang through initiation and then perform crimes to rise in rank, each ‘promotion’ is marked by a new tattoo, so that, the higher ranking members have longer stretches of tattoos on their arms. Eventually they wind up in prison and some make their way back to the streets. It is here that this center’s leader wishes to have a place for them to go as a half way house to learn a skill and find a job (no small feat since unemployment in this region is reportedly over 50%). Thus getting them out of the cycle of crime, incarceration, release, crime…
We also heard more about the plight of girls in these communities. This was the second time this week that I have heard about these tragedies (among both black and white). There is apparently sexual abuse of girls in the poorer communities from very early ages affecting nearly 80% of the population. Once raped, these girls often become promiscuous because they have lost their purity. Earlier in the week, I met a couple who have a burden for a ministry to these girls. I will be learning more from them and will address this problem next week.
At the training center, we saw a young lady learning how to sew and make coats
and young men who were learning how to work with wood to make trays and garden edging. All with the intention of learning a trade to become self supporting.
This center is being run by two women, one white and one colored (‘colored’ here is a mixed race person of a lighter skin tone as distinguished from black folks). The driving force behind this tiny organization is a university trained woman who studied psychology and has been involved in social work for several years. She is a literacy volunteer who gets to know people in the community through her teaching and finds those who truly want to help themselves. We will meet with her again next week to visit more preschools.
When we visited the center and received the quick tour, a team of women were putting the finishing touches on a hot lunch of soup and fish cakes to be taken to a ‘creche’ or preschool in a nearby township. So after a quick cup of tea…
we loaded up in our cars and drove out.
Next: a visit to a township…