A Travellerspoint blog

A Country of Oh-So much Potential

An amazing day in Sharpeville - home of the 1960 massacre

We spent an awesome day in the townships this Sunday. We stopped over first to visit two of our aspiring entrepreneurs - Raymond and Walter from Sharpeville, a township just 45 min south of Joburg.

Raymond and Walter came to Zazida (www.zazida.co.za) last week to talk to us about how they can help unemployed youth in Sharpeville. They want to start a youth center where they can teach young South Africans the basic skills and tools needed to find a job, or create one themselves. Yet, they also mentioned starting a Tour Company, to show off the great town they live in. And we were their first customers!

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So we went to go visit them today, and after getting lost about 10 times (my bad) we finally found them. They took us around the township and showed us the exact spot where Nelson Mandela signed the Constitution. Quite an amazing feat!

But then came the sad part, the history. For those of you who studied South African history, you might well recognize the name: the Sharpeville Massacre. On March 21st, 1960, 60 South Africans were killed for silently protesting their rights to freedom and equality.

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"Eye-witnesses said men, women and children fled 'like rabbits' as up to 300 officers began randomly shooting into a 5,000-strong crowd outside the municipal offices in Sharpeville. Between 5,000 and 7,000 people had gathered at Sharpeville police station to protest against the pass laws... which require all black men and women to carry reference books containing their personal details including name, tax code and employer details. The law states that anyone found in a public place without their book will be arrested and detained for up to 30 days." http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/march/21/newsid_2653000/2653405.stm

In retaliation of their silent protest - the police commander stated "If they do these things, they must learn their lessons the hard way." Awful. Just awful.

We visited the site of the massacre, and the feeling you get is like nothing you can describe. How such senseless violence occurs is just so horrific. Innocent people - men, women, and children - slain because they wanted the same freedom as everyone else, is just too heart-breaking.

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As we visited the memorial, I came across another girl - only 18 who shared my name - Christina. I vowed then, however cliche it may sound, that I will do our name justice. That I will always fight for those who need and deserve better. And that I will help these amazing people I have met in Sharpeville build the center they want to build for these young children.

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It sounds cheesy I know, but nothing can ever explain the sadness one feels when you read that a 13 year old child lost their life. Its inexplicable.

But our tour guides, quickly brought us to the reality of today - a township full of starry-eyed youth full of potential and eager for an opportunity.

They took us to see Tiro - an amazing painter who has set up his own shop called Deep Rooted along with an amazing photographer friend. Their art showcase was truly fantastic. I share some pictures here so you can see they I aint playin when I say they have some real talent in this town. I can't wait to work more with Tiro at Zazida to get their artwork out to the market and earn they attention they deserve.

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We finished at the mural painted by Tiro himself. Just astonishing in a sea of rubble. This man has some great talent, and this group of people is bringing hope and color to this town of such historically sad significance.

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I have said it before and I will say it again: South Africa is amazing. And its people, more than anything, never cease to amaze me.

Thanks for the journey Raymond and Walter. We will be back!

love,
Cristina

Posted by cbernardo 13:34 Archived in South Africa Tagged art history murals south africa living_abroad sharpeville townships Comments (0)

Oh Lord Jes-s its a Fire...

Back to Jozi and oh so happy indeed.

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Hello world! It's me Margaret.

Ok, or Cristina.

I am back in South Africa, whoop, whoop. And though I have been here quite a long time now (2 months), I have left you all behind. I apologize.

Truth be told, I am back in the real world now. Where you work, you pay your bills (kinda), and you are busy like 120% of the time. So writing my blog has been quite the task.

But I am back. And I have a lot to say, so I am sure you will stop listening now.

First and foremost, I have to give a shout out to my new job at the Zazida Institute of Entrepreneurship.

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You know that saying "find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life?" Sounds like rubbish right?! Well its so unbelievably true.

I have never, ever in my long history of working (ok extremely short for someone my age...but why work, when you can travel!) have I loved what I do so much. I really feel like I have found my calling and im "reunited and it feels so good!"

At Zazida, we train South Africans (and others!) how to start their own businesses or grow ones they already have.

Ok, to those of you out there, no I am NOT an entrepreneur (though I am pretty sure I have that spirit) and NO I am not qualified to teach. So I don't. And yes, entrepreneurship is VERY important for pulling people, mothers, families, and youth out of poverty, though most people don't see the connection.

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There is nearly 40% unemployment in South Africa. 40! Where over 50% of the population lives below the poverty line. It's not to say there aren't smart, motivated people out there, the truth is...there aren't enough jobs! And the jobs they do have - I don't know high profile web developer -what what Aradhna - are not exactly suited for someone with a high school education.

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South Africa just lives in two different worlds. The first world of bright lights and strip malls (think Bethesda, Maryland) and corrugated-metal shacks with one water faucet for 500 people in others. You can not easily shift the working population from one to the next.

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Shall I continue?!?!

SOOO, that is where we come in. Despite the negative facts, South Africa is a country FULL of potential! And the most amazing, kind-hearted people I have ever met. The youth are smart and funny, bright and passionate. These communities are full of AMAZING talent - see this video for proof.

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What they need is faith within themselves, some added training, and the vision to turn their dreams into reality. We are giving them that. We see some one with amazing potential, no matter what their background, and we give them the education and skills to build their business however small.

And we are building confident, ambitious business-minded individuals in the process who have the courage and the strength to create their OWN jobs and even employ others.

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Empowering people to make a change in their lives. That's the name of the game. And teaching a man, women, child HOW to fish, instead of giving them a fish.

That's what Zazida is all about. And that's what I am all about. And doing something I am so passionate about, honestly, just couldn't feel better.

love,
Cristina

Posted by cbernardo 01:46 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

I Can Die Happy

Cape Town is all it is meant to be and more.

So Cape Town ehh. AMAZING. Only one word to describe it. It is literally a slice of heaven on earth. From the tallest mountain top to the infinite white sand coast-line, you have a bit of everything to make ones head turn. And all I can think to myself is...do people really live like this?!?

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How does this fit into the bigger picture of South Africa to me? Like a glove...NOT.

I haven't really wrapped me head around it yet. For now I am being a tourist, not an activist. I am parading the beaches, climbing the cliffs, and enjoying the sunsets. The only thoughts I am thinking of late is... God, I wish my family could see this.

This truly is the "other-South Africa." And as Florian so intelligently asked, "which one is the real one?" to which, neither Chris or I could respond. But sometimes with this much beauty around it is hard to feel anything but joy. To laugh and play and love like all the kids we saw in Haut Bay (the Cape Town township) and to sit and admire the immense scenery that surrounds you. I wonder if it is easier to have so little in a land that has so much. It's harder to be sad when you live at the foot of the one of the 7 Wonders of the World.

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So yes I have little to say just yet about this "millionaires walk." For right now I am just thanking the Lord up above for giving me the opportunity to see such beautiful sights amongst such amazing people. Makes me think - I am not worthy.

Big kisses from the Cape,

and more pics to come! (since clearly these are not mine. no time to download!)

love,
Cristina

Posted by cbernardo 00:17 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Who needs electricity & water when you've got billion$ train

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Last night I rode one of the nicest trains I have ever been on. High-speed, super stylish, amazingly clean, the train even beat the Tokyo bullet in my book.

But one minor detail - Japan is a 1st World Country with 15% poverty compared to South Africa's startling 55%. Fifty-five freaking percent. Quite atrocious when you find out SA has recently become a Middle-Income Country.

In fact the most recent UNICEF report found that over 50% of children live in poverty. Makes me want to cry. Here is the latest from Telegraph.uk

"The Unicef report found that 1.4 million children live in homes that rely on often dirty streams for drinking water, 1.5 million have no flushing lavatories and 1.7 million live in shacks, with no proper bedding, cooking or washing facilities. Four in 10 live in homes where no one is employed and, in cases of dire poverty, the figure rises to seven in 10."

And boy do I have the pictures to show it. Working in Kliptown and El Dorado park day in and day out, its pretty much all you see. Lovely children running around left and right, their noses' running, with no shoes, but oh man a big old smile. "Shoot me, shoot me" the chants that rings aloud as I walk amongst the corrugated roofs in shanty town, actually means "take my picture", not use a gun.

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These kids are at the mercy of a system that is NOT working for them. Where upper-income people in the North get high-speed first-world trains, and they are lucky if they have one drain for the entire community to fetch water. How can these co-exist? It just baffles the mind.

My little friend's Mom, a school teacher in Limpopo, tells me about her classroom of 67 kids, the vast majority with no shoes, and four pencils given to them by the government. F-O-U-R! How can this even be possible?

But the frustrating thing is few seem to do anything about it. Us foreigners - yes- we are flabbergasted. Nearly every NGO leader I have met is not from these borders. Yet, what are the businesses doing? What is the government doing to help these kids? To change SA's future?

It's a sad world when the rich can have so much and the poor so little. Some days I really wonder what God's plan for us is. Are all meant to suffer to be happy?

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I know I have to make my mark, as little as that may be. Now if only I could boycott that darn train....gots to get me a bike!

love,
Cristina

Posted by cbernardo 00:22 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Women pretty much ROCK.

As if you didn't know that...

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The list of amazing things I have encountered here in South Africa runs long. But I believe on the top of it is the WOMEN. Talk about impressive. These ladies are the ones that raise the kids, make the money, support the schools, help others in need, and still look stylish doing it :P

Impressed really is an understatement. Of course women everywhere are great, and I do believe strongly that women empowerment is the key to development, but the ladies here are really in charge. Take my boss at PUSH (www.push.co.za) for example. Realizing the HIV/AIDS was becoming a big issue in her community, she set up Persevere Until Something Happens an orphan and vulnerable childrens center as well as an HIV testing and treating site with the little money she had in her own pocket. Twelve years later, PUSH feeds over 400 children 3 meals a day daily and helps far more with home based care and testing. All of this with no college education, no husband and children to raise. "Mam" Lorna FIsher is a presence and an present to her community, rightfully owing her the title of one of South Africa's Most Inspirational Women two years back. (see pic!)
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But even outside work, it is the women that are pushing this country forward. My lovely neighbor's mother raised 6 kids alone on a teacher's bare minimal salary in the poorest province in SA and even managed somehow to build a 3 bedroom house to keep them safe. This from a women who was poorly educated under apartheid who when fighting for her own freedom in 1986, was beaten and injured by the "cops."

These women are my inspiration. No matter how little or how great their education they are striving daily to improve the lives of those around them. Most of them suffered horribly under apartheids deathly rein, but so many are fighting selflessly for their future and that of their children.

I salute this women and say God Bless. If more women ruled the world, I have no doubt the world would be a safer, more caring place.

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Much love,
Cristina

Posted by cbernardo 02:35 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

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