God, AIDS, Africa and HOPE

Thoughts, inside, comments of a Catholic priest

8 policemen and 11 days

What do you expect from the police when you are robbed and all your belongings you carry with you are stolen? Right: to go to the police station and lay charge and get a case number. That’s the theory but it seems that even that simple truth is not always working properly in South Africa.

One of our HOPE Community Health Workers was robbed on the street and with all her belongings also the new tablet just received was taken from her. The tablet, a donation from the Consulate General in Cape Town was insured and so it seemed to be a clear-cut case besides the trauma of being robbed: to go to the Police Station and report the incident and to get the case number for the insurance company. Not so with the South African Police Force. According to them, a tablet can only be reported stolen if one has the number of the SIM Card inserted into the tablet. But what happens if you don’t have a SIM card because your tablet should work only with wireless and there is no need for a SIM card. Well, according to the police their form has a field requiring the SIM card number and the consequences are clear: no SIM Card – no robbery case number.
One would think that policemen are able to think outside the box, but it took 8 different policemen during 11 days to archive the goal: getting a case number – and it needed finally the threat of our outreach facilitator to camp inside the police station until she gets the case number to make it happen.

What do we learn of it: Giving a police officer a form to fill in can be dangerous in South Africa… and there is a long way to go to get people to think on their own or to apply common sense. One of the most dangerous pitfalls in the training and education of South Africa is that repetition is all it need to pass – to think of your own is not only not required but even not wanted. The consequences are obvious and annoying to those having just gotten out of a dangerous situation and then not able to lay charge because of formalities. About police I can share another story just coming to my mind.

I remember being stopped by a policewoman in the North-West Province for not stopping correctly at a four – way stop. I was asked to step out of the car and the fine form was filled in. Question of the policewoman: “What is your profession?” Answer: “I am a priest.” Question: “Is that a profession?” My answer: “Yes” – Follow up question: “How do you spell that?”
Funny? – Well, depends how you see it – but it is better than having to buy chicken wings for hungry police officers to get off the hook while stopped for a traffic offense in Johannesburg.

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cable theft…

It’s the fourth time in a row that thieves have stolen the cable providing electricity to HOPE Cape Town’s container in Blikkiesdorp. Even burying the cable under the soil did not help – Eskom’s efforts to support the community in Blikkiesdorp by providing electricity to the containers have failed again. This in itself is bad news as the uplifting of the community, the computer training, the cooking courses: they all depend on electricity and stealing the cables again and again does harm to those in need.
What is even more regrettable is that those harmed in this way know exactly who are the culpable but out of fear they will never reveal the names or give it to the police.
And with this we are at one of the devil’s circles of South African township societies – it takes long time and lots of courage to break free from all those thugs and criminals terrorizing those vulnerable  and in need of assistance. It is amazing how patient people are in suffering the consequences of crime and violence, up to a breaking point, where they take the law into their own hands and start killing those they want to get rid off. Dead people don’t do revenge!

Blikkiesdorp is not there yet – the stealing of cable and the continues sabotage of the assistance to their disadvantaged lives seems not to trigger such violent reaction yet – and it is understandable: There is no sense for community and belonging in this part of Delft where more than 38 nations are crowded together – some for a longer period of time, others since Sepp Blatter didn’t want to see certain individuals roaming the streets of Cape Town during the Soccer World Cup.

Blikkiesdorp is or should be semi-permanent – all containers and structures should be disappearing – and with it crime and violence in this area – but it seems that the City of Cape Town has other plans – a small park with a braai area for barbecue is now built next to it – a meeting point where people – who hardly can make a living –  should come together and grill their meat in the open. Maybe it works, but maybe there are also chances that this “public park” will be an ideal place for gangs to meet up and do their business at night. The park signals permanence in many ways – and maybe some more hope is again dying that life will become better within life’s time.

Blikkiesdorp is a sore in the eye of everybody who thinks that decent human living should be applied to everybody. It’s a sore in the eye of those who acknowledge what it means to be able to live as a decent human being. But Blikkiesdorp remains a reality and there are so many other “Blikkies” in South Africa that one could lose hope. But HOPE Cape Town remains steadfast in their approach to better the lives of those living there. And even those pulling the cables out at night will not stop this fine organization to deliver as much service as possible to those in dire need for it.

 

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

USA and the complexity of the world

11 days of traveling in the USA coming to an end.  Since 2 years HOPE Cape Town tries with the help of friends to establish itself as a fundraising NGO in the States. Finally this time things are coming together and it seems a way is found to start in earnest with our efforts to raise funds for the work in the Western Cape. Having an offical representative in New Jersey voted onto the advisory board of the HOPE Cape Town Trust helps a lot. The USA is not South Africa – laws and requirements are different and since 9/11 the trauma of the US nation dictates a lot of scrutiny channeling money from one of the 50 states to Africa or any other part of the world.

It is worth noting that the Catholic Church also plays a big role in this, assisting in setting up and bridging the time until the process is finalised and HOPE Cape Town Trust (USA) will be established in the first of the states. It was great to see how an entity like my church can be of help with its structures and abilities and so speeding up the process of helping others in need. There is still a long way to go but what are 2 or 3 years more compared to eternity :-).

In the time I have visited the killing of an 18-year-old black youngster through a white police officers were not only constant headlines but also led to unrest in St. Louis (Mo). The little suburb of Ferguson brought again onto the light the problem of race and justice. As somebody living in South Africa, where race is often still determining how a person sees himself, it was somehow eye-opening to understand that the question of injustice does not stop at a certain nation. It seems to me that the perceived inferiority of Afro-American or the perceived superiority of white people is a worldwide problem manifesting itself quite harshly in the “great nation on earth”. It is a clear expression and outcome of a cruel world order, especially when it comes to economic justice or the power balance in our world. And having visited the National Museum for Indian History in Washington, I have learned anew what I already have somehow know before: How much also my church has contributed to eliminate old ancient tradition and forced people to take over the white European lifestyle. While Christianity absorbed so much from the European (Greek and Roman) habits and tradition and converted its meanings, it failed to do the same often on American or African soil. This is indeed a problem we have until today and whoever is observing the reactions on Pope Francis from the neo-conservative side will pick up that his “latin-american” style is seen as a treat to European structured theology and hierarchy.

I am always thrilled to see and learn how inter-connected the world, it’s past, present and future, is and how important it is to learn from the past to understand the present time. It is indeed also the only way to prevent from injustice happening again even if it seems that humanity does not learn and has to go through all the trials and errors again and again.

What has survived through history is for most people the compassion and will to better the world – and that brings me back to the beginning and the fundraising efforts which would not be possible without this life line of hope. And it is indeed the only hope we have, that despite all the failures, of the systematic injustices there have been always people and there will be always people who care about their brothers and sisters near and far away.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sometimes I have to pinch myself…

Driving from Somerville in New Jersey to Washington DC for a meeting I suddenly have to pinch myself and to tell me: “Yes, it’s me driving here on US American soil to meetings in NY, NJ and DC.”. coming from a small little town in the South West of Germany I never thought that my life will turn into being a wanderer between worlds, a person trying to bridge worlds way apart. That this would bring me around the world, having the chance to meet people from all walks of life and background.
It is a blessing and looking back I wonder how it all came together. Living abroad would have been no option for me in the earlier days – living in Africa not really on my mind. Becoming next to a priest an activist was also not really on the plan for the future and still – until this day all this makes sense to me in way I don’t understand. Contradiction? Yes, maybe, well, I want to say that I have no clue where it will end and why all this has become my life, but deep inside me there is the certain conviction and feeling that all does make sense and will reveal itself at a certain point in time. And knowing all my week sides I seldom admit, I have to say that the apostle Paul is completely right in saying that God has chosen the weak for his work. And it is nice to know that he has to deal with it – not only me or anybody else in that position.

Sitting now after a 5 hour drive two blocks away from the White House I will meet representatives of a Catholic NGO who are more into life issues, but they are willing to talk and even partner with HOPE Cape Town and me for the greater good of the people concerned. It is for me great to see that labels of “conservative” and “progressive” simply not stick and don’t have a meaning when it comes to support “the next, the neighbour, the one suffering, the one having no chance because born in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Especially in these times of religion often seen as a divide it is exactly the right time to show that the opposite is not only possible but feasible and practical. So I am very excited to see what the next two days will bring to me.

And then back to the people representing already officially HOPE Cape Town in New Jersey. Again, it is wonderful to see how somebody who has headed the social services of  a county and surely he would deserve a relaxed retirement is willing to dedicate time and energy that fellow South Africans can have hope and a future. It is indeed a long way to connect the dots, the people and the cause, but it is worth every mile along the way. HOPE Cape Town and the USA – a new chapter of fundraising is beginning to emerge and it will add more goodwill and good people to those already working hard to support HOPE Cape Town. It is great to know that HOPE Cape Town is more than the 36 employees, but a network of fine people around the world.

 

Filed under: Catholic Church, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Violence till murder…

HOPE Cape Town mourns murdered young patient
HOPE Cape Town has joined all South Africans in condemning the senseless murder of a 13-year-old boy in the Western Cape community of Wesbank at the weekend.
The boy, who had been in the care of HOPE Cape Town for many years, was caught in gang related crossfire and died from a bullet wound to the head.
According to spokesperson for the organisation, Mr Fahim Docrat, “We are outraged by this act of violence and are personally affected especially because of the relationship we had with this young man. We have supported him and his family for many years now and were very pleased with his progress and the bright future he had. It is unacceptable that our children are exposed to such violence on a daily basis and is an indictment on our society raising serious concerns. The levels of crime in such communities and the underlying socio-economic factors need to be addressed as a matter of urgency and we call on government for support and intervention and communities to take a stand against crime. This further highlights the dangers our 24 HOPE Community Health Workers face on a daily basis when working in such communities.”
HOPE Cape Town is supporting the family by assisting with funeral arrangements for this weekend.

It was a shocking news last Monday morning that one of our patients died in the cross fire of gang related violence. But it also makes very clear in which environment we are working in. Especially thinking of some of our volunteers who know shootings only from TV and can somehow not realize that people here not stand up again after being shot. Violence is in general quite a problem. Home visits by our staff can often not be made because of the danger for the life and well-being of our employees. Afterschool Care in Manenberg might be interrupted because gang violence prevents kids from even coming to the church grounds.
Violence is not only a topic related to gangs – violence is also part and parcel of almost every toi-toi or demonstration taking place in the country. People being involved in such action tend to forget their medication take in times or even the appointments with clinics and doctors as they fight for better sanitation or more money or whatever is the case. So violence has many faces, but all of them are stumbling blocks for better care, prevention and treatment. Paired with drugs and alcohol the situation only can get worse or ends up in such a violent fight which kills also innocent bystanders like this boy in Wesbank.

Let’s hope that the culprits will be found and brought to justice, but as much as I know the justice system it would be a miracle if that happens in due time and anyhow, it does not bring back the youngster who had a full life in front of him.

 

 

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 25th, 2014
1 month to go.

Ball of HOPE

The Ball of HOPE - our charity event in Cape TownMay 16th, 2015
8 months to go.

Stefan Hippler

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