God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

The “Ball of HOPE” joy – please join in…

Indeed, there is much joy in the hearts of those organizing the Ball of HOPE for the 20th time. After 2 years of cancellations due to Covid-19 it looks good for the 21st of May 2022 at the Westin Hotel by Marriott in Cape Town.

20 years Ball of HOPE, the end of the 20 years anniversary year of the organisation itself and the better late than never celebration of 20 years of the local office of the Southern African – German Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Ball of HOPE developed out of a dinner-dance established in 1998 at the Mount Nelson and organised by the German-speaking Catholic Community in Cape Town. The first guest of honour was Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He also introduced the culture of letting culinary chefs be in pain keeping the main course hot and tasty, while speeches are indeed longer than anticipated.

The first guest of honour: Archbishop Desmond Tutu

With the opening of the local office of the AHK in Cape Town, the dinner-dance became the “Ball of HOPE” in cooperation between the newly founded organisation HOPE Cape Town and the Chamber of Commerce. In 2003 the Westin was inaugurated, and the event moved from the Mount Nelson Hotel to the then newly established Arabella Hotel at the Foreshore in Cape Town, which today is the Westin by Marriott.

Opening and blessing of the new Westin Hotel

During the following years, the Ball of HOPE became a fixture in the social calendar of Cape Town, and attracted also visitors from Europe to come and join this prestigious event.

So, yes, we are full of joy to invite all of you to the 20th Ball of HOPE – please come, register and join us in this celebration of service, of commitment and of a partnership between business and development, which changes the lives of people for the better in the last more than 20 years.

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , ,

I don’t know how you want to pull this through…

A new and fresh year has started – and while the world as such is still in combat mood regarding Covid-19 admittedly in different stages and variations around the world, also other challenges have not changed because a new yearly chapter has been opened.

Building a holistic campus like “The Nex – Indawo Yethu” in such times was and is a challenge in itself; looking at how South Africa is perceived by many currently adds to the woes. Besides all praise for doing what HOPE Cape Town is doing in the various townships of Cape Town in the last 20 years, there are a lot of nagging questions we face on an ongoing base:

How can you build in a notorious violent township, a place nobody wants to go?
How can you dare to think, that you can change a place riddled with desperation?
And more general questions and statements:

South Africa is doomed – how can you invest time and energy in a lost cause?
Are you not dreaming of a pie in the sky – believing in values while corruption, cadre deployment, empty promises and betrayal of “our people” governs daily life in South Africa?

Yes, maybe I am a dreamer; maybe HOPE Cape Town is taking on more than it can handle. Maybe I have too much confidence in our partners and their ability to walk the talk and to show the world, that change – positive change – is possible.

But in my view, this is the only way to get out of the doomsday vision and the self-fulfilling prophecies of decline and retrogression. Believing in people, in partnerships, and trusting in the ability of people to join and work together towards a better future is what creates positive development. And this is not only a humanistic or religious motion.

Africa will be soon to have the youngest population in the world and with it one of the biggest markets and opportunities. South Africa remains the gateway for quite a part of it. The whole environmental questions currently discussed are a challenge for African countries, but if done right, they will be on the forefront of a new reality which is not determined by Covid-19, but ambience needs bringing humanity in line and in tune with the preservation of environment simply for survival of human mankind.

South Africa is not doomed but deserves every effort for upliftment. The world, being currently in discussions and battles of all sorts and manners about the history of colonisation, racism, male dominance and asking critical questions about how the world economics is run and dominated warrants much more patience and determination to get it right.
South Africa has still the possibility to become again a beacon of hope for the world, showing how diversity can be an asset and how the own history can be a teacher for future generations.

“The Nex – Indawo Yethu”, the holistic campus in Delft and the work of HOPE Cape Town in general will continue to contribute to this vision of a better world and a decent future for South Africa and the people living in it. It understands itself to be one little building block – offering to partner with whoever is walking the same talk – dreaming big and walking little realistic baby steps at the same time.

And coming back to the question of how to pull through with the project?

I don’t know – HOPE Cape Town walking with the local people and not having all answers means the adventure of development, based on trust and the confidence, that doors will open at the right time, people will join at the right time and that together we will – despite all bumpers and rollercoasters on the way – succeed in creating a better future for all.

That does not mean that there are no plans and strategies, that there are no aspirations and wishes, but not prescribing a way but discerning a way together with those living in Delft – a participatory process – means no fixed road to walk but landmarks on the way. Agility would be the word in the business world used.

Despite what we read in the newspapers and on social media every day – the majority of people – also in a township of Delft and in South Africa – are prepared to work for the common good. And that willingness, together with all the partners joining, should be enough to pull it through.

Filed under: Africa, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, The Nex - Indawo Yethu, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

“The Nex” Theology

The Nex - Blessings ceremony
Blessing Ceremony

People of faith think in religious terms, their whole life makes sense in the light of a belief system giving meaning to what they do and how they see life in general. It does not mean to prescribe this to all involved, but it serves as an explanation for motivation, reflected on a deeper personal level. This is a first draft, a first attempt to reflect on the theological meaning of building a campus in Delft / South Africa.

Theological Consideration – first thoughts…

Normally Catholic priests in South Africa are bound to parish life, leading under the authority of a Bishop the faithful of a prescribed territorial area in prayer, worship and charity for those in need.

Running a foundation during the week and only attending to the spiritual needs on a weekend as a supply priest before retirement is already different and for some not fitting the picture of a priest. Building a campus in a gang and crime ridden area is then certainly not their first priestly task and would be seen as extra-ordinary, rather flamboyant in church terms.

And still, I believe there is merit to look with a theological and pastoral eye exactly on this campus comprising of buildings serving in the following areas: Health, Early Childhood Development, Social Services, Youth, Entrepreneurial Skills Development and Vocational Training. Not to forget community uplifting, understanding of democracy and the value of human life and human dignity.

Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!
Genesis 1:31

Having worked in the Delft area since more than a decade Delft mirrors all the shortcomings of the new South Africa, it showcases the lost hopes, the cut-short aspirations, the undervalue of life as such, latent racism and not a lot of those living there would on a daily basis and in their daily life agree, that all is “very good”. Churches of different kinds are spread all over Delft and often for some hours they beam those attending gatherings into a different sphere trying to instil hope for the days to come.

Sermons can be a good tool to inspire but I feel that theology and bible are more than source for fiery sermons, theology – the word of God – must trickle down much more than just in words and charity, it must be felt and walked the talk by development and action on the ground. The word of God must be felt in the trenches of daily life experience for those left out here in South Africa after more than 30 years living in the promised land called the New South Africa.

Theology can also not only be confined in the framework of parishes, formation seminars, theological faculties and church structures – it must cover that “God looked over all he had made” – so there should be room for more than church structures allowing the word “catholic” – meaning covering the whole – universal to be put into action.

Theology must also be able to be applied to what we do and how we act – it should be able to make sense and to bring a greater meaning to our action – it is part of a circle of action – interpretation – encouragement and out of this more, different but definitely better or more appropriate action again before the circle starts anew. At the same time there is no need for religion to capture what is done. There will be different motivations, different ethos and different religious affiliation and convictions of those working together on a project like “The Nex”.  There will be different ways to describe God or the reason for creation, there will be different theologies – and if such a project fosters more dialogue amongst those different pictures without becoming a competition there is another ecumenical and inter-religious meaning in what we do. “The Nex” becomes a place where unspoken different religions encounter each other in a practical way for the better good of people. The blessings ceremony for The Nex – Indawo Yethu  gave witness to intention and prayers when a Catholic priest, a Rabbi, an Imam and a Sangoma not only spoke but brought the blessings onto the new venture.

In the Catholic Church we talk about the “option for the poor” – and again here we are: How easy is it, to establish oneself as an NGO in one of the safe areas instead of going there, where it hurts, where things will on a long run not only run smoothly but hurtles will be encountered, failures will happen and the hardship of life will be mirrored and shared within this project as people experience it themselves every day. Walking together and staying together even if it hurts at times is taking the words “all is very good” almost on a prophetic level: we are not in the promised land, but we have made ourselves ready to walk towards it; together and equipped with hope, love and faith, that we can reach our destiny.

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?.”
 1 Corinthians 6:19

Spiritually is often connected to meditation and prayer, sometimes fasting exercises which indicate that concentrating on the body is an important part of such exercises. Mindfulness towards body and spirit.
I strongly believe that to a holistic spiritual wellbeing health and attention to the body is non-negotiable. The Nex – Indawo Yethu acknowledges this with the offering of health services, linked to social services and the programme of the “First 1000 days” specifically looking at the wellbeing of a human being in the decisive foundation phase of life.

Health, Wellness – mental health and an environment to thrive is so important especially for children and adolescents. Not forgetting those kids with special needs whose wellbeing will be catered for specifically in the Early Childhood Development Centre of the Campus.

Safety is another aspect of bodily wellbeing. The Nex – Indawo Yethu is situated in an area which is marked currently by violence and gangsterism as well as drug-related problems. It is certainly not a safe area, and it was interesting to see and hear, that in the first community participation meeting we had, the question of safety was raised several times: “Are our kids, our youngsters safe on your campus?” Obviously, this is a challenge and if you want the ugly side of business to admit, that security measures have to play a vital role in planning and executing this project. But ones again: the hope that The Nex – Indawo Yethu can be a turning point in moving into a more peaceful future translates a building into a prophetic sign that change is possible and change in this regard is on the way.

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, chaplain, Religion and Ethics, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blessing Ceremony

In Delft, the blessing ceremony for a safe space campus called “The Nex – Indawo Yethu” has taken place yesterday in the presence of Premier (WP) Alan Winde, Minister for Human Settlement (WP) Tertuis Simmers, Executive Mayor from Cape Town Dan Plato, Consul General of Germany Matthias Hansen, religious leaders and various guests and collaborators.

The Nex – Indawo Yethu is a safe space project of HOPE Cape Town (www.hopecapetown.org) and will holistically offer services: health, social services, early childhood development, youth work, afterschool care, vocational dual training, entrepreneurial skills development training for the people within the greater Delft area. This project is in collaboration with the Western Cape Government, the City of Cape Town, the government of the Free state of Bavaria and other NGO’s and institutions.

The blessings were given by a Catholic priest, an Imam, a Rabbi and a Sangoma. Here are some pictures from this event.

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, HOPE Cape Town USA, HOPE Gala Dresden, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

In Anticipation

The disconnect between national government and the South African society is palpable at the moment – and South Africans are in high anticipation of rumours becoming reality that the President will announce the easing of restrictions this week.
So far nothing has happened and given the track record of delaying tactics it is to be expected that it will only be at the weekend, when he will proclaim the news to be changed anyhow before being implemented days later. It is always the same game and mirrors the split in the ruling party, the politics playing out behind the curtain and the extent, crisis is used to change the economic narrative with predictable catastrophic outcomes if realised.
Therefore, time is of essence in South Africa to stop the complete economic meltdown and a so-called 2nd wave which is already happening in unemployment, despair and trauma.
Covid-19 has again shown how complex South Africa can be:
the lockdown, which was only partly adhered to in the townships due to existing conditions, the predictions of infection and death rate which were way over realities materializing, the almost unbridgeable gap between those in power continuing to follow an ANC system of past struggle times complemented with shameless corruption and stealing from the people. Add the revelations of the Zondo commission on a daily base nailing the fact that those in power either willingly participated or witnessed and did nothing to stop the looting under the Zuma government. All the ills of South Africa are lying bare to see for those who want to see it.
And therefore the anticipation of some easing of lockdown is an indication of the pressure building up – people have enough from irrational rules, outright stupid arguments to bolster ideology and power play, so much trust is lost in the new democracy that we can almost talk about a danger zone in also democratic terms we have entered now.

What we would need is political, social and religious leadership which really makes an effort to guide, comfort and lead – so far it is only seen in some places, but very shy as it has to work against a flood of present woes. Courts and civil society organisations have kept the ship South Africa and its democracy and rule of law afloat so far, and it also were those entities preventing more hardship and despair. The country has shown again and again that it could jump from the abyss – but this time it is only possible if there is capability to reconnect politics, business and civil society to form a united front against all the odds South Africa faces. And for this to happen, there must be trust, one of the factors clearly a miss at the moment.

In practical terms speaking: The lockdown has to end – and instead of petty rules we have to learn to live with Covid-19: emphasis clearly on hygiene, physical distance, face-masks in public and testing, hot spot identification and containment. Period. All this can happen without a lockdown.

South Africa has the potential to rise again out of the ashes of its past – this global crisis lend a helping hand to unmask all what is wrong and not healed in this country, but it also showed clearly the potential of civil society and NGO’s and men and women of goodwill to come and join the efforts to tackle what is not right. A clever leadership would cease this moment – and also here: in anticipation…

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

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