God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Thoughts, inside, comments of a Catholic priest

A new year for HOPE Cape Town – some thoughts…

With the 1st of March HOPE Cape Town is starting afresh in a new financial circle – the new budgets are approved and put into working, the old ones are closed and now made ready for the independent audit. Obviously the change in the currency exchange rate and so many other factors influence the outcome of budget planing – in our days it is getting more and more difficult to be as precise as possible. Therefore HOPE Cape Town is determined to follow true with the dream to have as much own capital as needed to pay all operations from the interest. It would take away the worries of constant fundraising, the constant knocking on doors which obviously also with all the reporting binds forces which could be used to aid those in need directly.

With HOPE for Babies in the maternity wards of Tygerberg Hospital the work with pregnant moms, delivering moms and then paediatric HIV to follow through with the kids infected and affected HOPE Cape Town compliments more and more its own goal to work with children from birth till they are matured in adulthood, only to come back as parents of newly born babies. The first 1000 days play a pivot role in having a holistic view and HOPE Cape Town is proud to be part of the program, the Western Province is pursuing to make sure that every newborn has the best chance in life possible in the framework of the circumstances he or she is born into. Re-visiting the Go-Box project to engage with young mothers and their babies in teaching them how to stimulate the little once with educational toys and education play adds to the bouquet of services.

Published research in national journals gives HOPE Cape Town the chance to showcase the results of best practice and to share this knowledge with those beyond the Western Cape boarders. Attending national and international conferences or, as just happened with our Program Coordinator doing an internship in a German paediatric hospital in Passau, adds to the possibilities to learn, share and being part of an international movement assisting children being infected, affected or having related illnesses or medical problems.

HIV and AIDS are topics which interconnect with so many other topics and portfolios. This lead for example to the founding of HOPE Cape Town USA – poverty, racism, the desire for Afro-Americans to find their African roots as well as infection rates are common areas to engage in a close working relationship with the USA.  Obviously also the chance to contribute as an US American to our work in South Africa is a welcomed component of this adventure. Many US students take a chance to engage with HOPE Cape Town when visiting South Africa on a field trip or excursion.

So, this small little entity called HOPE Cape Town connects three continents now: HOPE Kapstadt Stiftung in Bonn/Germany, HOPE Cape Town USA in Dallas/Texas and HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust in Cape Town / South Africa. The global family is growing slowly but substantially with all its challenges here in South Africa, but also to bring worlds together in a global village which seems in the moment so much driving apart. We hear about “America First” and all those funny slogans – HOPE Cape Town remains committed to “humanity first” and the organization will work tireless not only to serve those in need in the Western Cape but also to make sure that international understanding and care for each other stays a much-needed focal point.

Filed under: Africa, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, HOPE Cape Town USA, Medical and Research, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As 2016 winds down…

As the year 2016 comes to a close, there is the usual time of reflection. On first view 2016 was indeed for the global community a very sad year: populism was triumphant, in the USA a self absorbed womanizer was elected to be the next president and as even history shows that you can’t run a country like a business as Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand and Silvio Berlusconi in Italy clearly showed – the US system granted victory to the next failure with dire consequences to be seen if I may add. The human race is not learning nor is it able to master and digest what modern science and social media throw at them. After creating the global village and interconnecting with each other – humans are back to nationalism, patronism and guidance by anxiety and promised simple solutions.
In Germany, my home country this all reflected in the drama unfolding regarding refugees, the strengthening of the right-wings, the clash between those following in the footstep of reborn Neonazis and common sense and the uphold of human rights. A battle endangering the European Union symbolized in the Brexit and in the high amount of votes in the Austrian presidential elections. It seems that balance is lost and panic rules.In South Africa 2016 was the year of the Zuptas, the state capture, Nakandla, the SABC8 – and if conspiracy theories to capture a state are known in fiction, it shows reality in the Gupta’s attempt with the help of a president, who surely would have been a great village elders but he is completely out of place as a leading statesman. The mixture of tradition, corruption, brutality, streetwise cleverness is breath-taking and dangerous. And it hurts those suffering the most: the poor people of South Africa.
In this context the systems human mankind created to organize itself are not only abused in a constant way from those in power, but they also develop a perfection which makes them inhumane to its core. The spirits we created are taking over and it seems that compassion, seeing every situation as what it is, indeed a special one, as an impossible undertaking.
An example is the ongoing discussion in the Roman-Catholic Church about Amoris Laetitia: it shows a great example that people are resisting to except that there is no black and white, or in the computer language “zero” and “one” – systems have to be clear cut and judgements have to follow this rule. The law, which is an expression of mercy is seen as a threat to order when applied with the component of conscience and judged situation recognized as unique.
All in all the complexity of life and the interconnection with the possibilities of social media and constant news updates of all sorts seems to overstrain most humans and counter the believe in globalization – the pendulum is going into the opposite direction with a dire outlook into 2017. Anxiety and populism are governing our global village and both are used and abused to keep all afloat for the benefit of a few.

In this scenario the work of NGO’s and community based initiatives like HOPE Cape Town and millions of others are mere drops in the ocean – but those drops seem to me the only hope we have to survive the waves of inhumanity serving those aforesaid few. Those drops are the basis to conquer the negativity and abuse happening in our days, be it religious, social or political – those drops will make sure that 2017 will see rays of hope, rays of faith, rays of love reaching those suffering under the systems which try to maintain the status quo of this world.

Filed under: General, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Farewell “Christliches” Abendland (Christian Occident)

Arriving back from Europe with lots of fond memories about the HOPE Gala in Dresden and all the other great events I have had the pleasure to participate or contribute, I can’t help but feel a very deep unease regarding the so-called refugee crisis I have seen first hand and the reaction of my German brothers and sisters. Knowing that we Germans always have been blind on the right eye it is nevertheless appalling to see how many people suddenly shift their emotions and reactions loudly into a corner of anxiety and protection of the so-called German identity. History seems suddenly to be static – as if the present state of affair has always been and will always be the only one possible. Creatio ex nihilo – Germany existed since eternity and is now overrun – historic developments never took place… ?

The idea of Europe was officially founded on values like human dignity and human rights and a decent life for all, but it seems in practice it was all about finances and markets but not about people. While the “Christian roots” of Germany and Europe are mentioned at every demonstration against those fleeing to Europe, practically the value of welcoming the stranger, especially the one searching refuge seemed to be scrapped from the holy book and it’s heritage. There are too many coming, I hear again and again.
And yes, I do agree, there are indeed many coming, but has nobody been able to read the signs prior to the stream of desperate people building up in recent months? Has nobody noted that selling weapons and looking on while a country is completely destroyed in the case of Syria can’t go together for long? Has Germany thought with the Dublin agreement that Lampedusa and all other places in the South of Europe will remain nicely far away from the German way of life? Has nobody noted that cutting the funds for the refugees of the Syrian civil war in Jordan has given them no other chance than either dying in Jordan or trying their luck somewhere else?

It is appalling how especially people in politics carrying the “christian” and “social” label in their party name suddenly seems to have episodes of Alzheimer when it comes to all those hard questions – and there are many more to ask. And no, lets clarify that also: it’s not about being a “Gut-Mensch”, a softy wanting to do always good. It is about the question how ethical it is to have built up wealth by exploiting other countries, earning money on weapons sale, giving Sunday sermons in Parliament and then declaring practically that human dignity only is afforded to those who had the luck to be born in Europe. It’s about an attitude of the rich and mostly white West which touches ground with and is related to the discrimination of black people or South American refugees in the USA. It simply touches on the often outspoken discomfort, African people have when they deal with Europe – somehow related to skin color.
But it obviously also touches on the very basic fact that world politics seemingly dictates the European support for incompetent autocrats or dictators in developing countries as long as they keep quiet about the exploitation taking place or even are complicit to it.

The refugee crisis is a watershed for Germany and for the united Europe – and if they not find adequate and humane answers it will proof again that human mankind has still a long way to go before it recognizes how much it is interlinked, depend on each other and cannot afford to build walls and fences but must invest in the dignity of every human being. Otherwise let’s bid a final farewell to our European Christian roots.

 

Filed under: Africa, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , ,

Reflection on a trip to Europe

2 weeks of promoting HOPE Cape Town are coming to an end and I am sitting at Frankfurt airport waiting for my flight back home to South Africa. Time was flying as usual and sitting here and waiting gives some time to reflect on all what was happening in the last 14 days.
Faces of students are crossing my mind whom I met while giving a talk in one of the more rural schools in the northern part of Germany. People, who have never seen a HIV positive person were subjected to a talk about the danger of HIV. And not only that: how to bring the South African reality of crime, corruption and toi-toi to those who never experienced anything else than the orderly running of day-to-day life. Filling the gap, this is what HOPE Cape Town is doing in the fields of HIV and AIDS when it comes to government involvement, filling the gaps applies also when bridging the well-protected realities of a student attending school in rural Germany and those living in Manenberg or Wallecedene.
Press conference in Dresden in preparation of the HOPE Gala – another crowd of people, journalists, wanting to know the progress of HOPE Cape Town’s work in the Western Cape and how money is spend in a responsible way. Pre-recording for a German radio broadcaster – HOPE Cape Town’s story and some private talk included – the moderator wants to know the person behind the project including the seemingly ever hot topic of church and HIV and the famous “c” question…Bridging worlds means also knowing different people – a wedding in France was another highlight on this trip to Europe – diving into the world of stars and VIP’s and playing a small little role in the romance of two people. It’s more on the private side but also serves some networking for HOPE Cape Town on a very different scale.
So from the small town student to the previous chancellor of Germany – the scale of people I met was quite amazing and so have been the interactions and chats in between. Being able to touch the lives of so different people in so many different ways – this is the beauty and the blessing of the work, I am allowed to do. And so remains gratefulness as the essence of the reflection I was able to do before Cape Town and HOPE Cape Town and all the others waiting for me demand again all my time and energy. Life is good.

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

From Internet worries to gay conversion – moments of a week’s work

Often when people make contact with me or it comes to a meeting they ask what a  typical week looks like for me as a priest and AIDS activist and the only thing I can say is: There is no typical week. A lot of time this week was spent on HOPE Cape Town affairs: we getting used to a new computer system which records every meeting, every result thereof and to do so, one needs some training and motivation to get used to it. How much bits and pieces of information gets lost when one not religiously records encounters, offers and follow-ups during the day? I can tell, it is amazing and the older one gets, the less one remembers with all the information streaming in every day. But HOPE Cape Town also changed this week service providers for the internet, email, web hosting etc. and as expected, there are some problems arising until everything is settled. Not being able to access email and information is very disruptive in our days and once again one is reminded how much we depend on it. Connected with this was a meeting with TBWA – a well-known marketing / advertising company in South Africa which does pro bono work for us. After re-designing our flyers it shifts now to our webpage which will be the next object of reflection and changes. All has to do with branding and getting the brand “HOPE Cape Town” known and identifiable in using all instruments available in this department. Doing good and getting the message across is so important , from an informational point of view as well as from the fundraising aspect. Another aspect of work this week was to go through the new employer handbook for HOPE Cape Town – we have to adhere to the South African labor law and this is indeed changing again and again. So the newest version was checked by labor lawyers and now we have to finalize it before it is handed out to the employees of HOPE Cape Town and forms then part of the work contract. On Wednesday I also met with all HOPE Community Health Workers on the issue of the “bonus” to be paid out at the end of the year. Obviously everybody likes a bonus to shop for all the Christmas presents, but a bonus is always at the discretion of the board. It also is a result of merit assessments – and once in a while one has to remind employees that a bonus is paid for exceeding expectations at work; not for doing what one is paid for anyhow. On the other hand it must be clear-cut how an assessment is done and what tick boxes are important to receive a bonus. Surely all important discussion points. HOPE Cape Town also secured it’s first official HOPE Cape Town Ambassador – watch the space, I will not tell here and now who was chosen and accepted gladly.
What else happened the last week?
The Southern African – German Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosted a luncheon with MEC Alan Winde. As a member of the Regional Council I attended this event and listened carefully what Alan had to say about the state of affair when it comes to business and investment in the Western Cape and in South Africa. As new legislation comes into effect regarding BB BEE coming year it is also important for HOPE Cape Town to know the next changes we are BB BEE approved and we would like to keep it that way.
Bavaria and the Western Cape celebrating 20 years of partnership next year, so a meeting to find out how HOPE Cape Town can participate in these events in Bavaria and showcase its contribution towards the partnership.
A meeting with Rev Ryan from the Philippines saw discussions about HIV / AIDS support groups in this part of the world.  I learned that the Catholic Church in the Philippines supports conversion programs trying to get gay people straight – quite shocking for me – as this runs counter all academic research and adds to the burden to people anyhow threatened by HIV and AIDS and the difficulties to come out in a very Catholic environment. It surely adds to the shame people feel as being HIV positive and gay at the same time as it implies that there is something wrong with them besides the punishment of HIV. Somehow the expression “dark middle ages” came to my mind. Conversion as a possibility to get rid of being who I am is on an ethical level as bad as criminalizing is on a legal level. I once again realized how much is still to do….
Exhalation of the Cross – the Catholic Feast celebrated with the Catholic Community in Belgravia ended a week – being reminded of all the crosses people carry and are burdened with and celebrating our believe that the good message of the kingdom of God is told to all and everybody – unconditional love, that’s what we are called for.  And that is a good starting point for the coming week which will bring me to Europe again for a couple of days.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 28th, 2017
5 months to go.

Ball of HOPE 2017

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 13th, 2017
The Southern African - German Chamber of Commerce and Industry and HOPE Cape Town looking forward to celebrate this event with you - more info: admin@hopecapetown.com

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