God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Memorial Day

IMG_0615Memorial weekend – for my US American friends a long weekend where they not only enjoy free time with family and friends, but also a time to reflect about those having given the ultimate sacrifice for the country. Everywhere flags lowered, on radio shows people phone in to commemorate loved once. Even if all other countries have this kind of memento for fallen soldiers, somehow it is a bit strange to me as the concept of a nation and fighting about territory or power and influence is somehow a strange concept for me. I simply can’t see that soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq during an unjust war can be styled into fallen heroes – for me they are rather victims of a political system unable to bring peace by peaceful means. But I guess there everybody has a different point of view.

Having said this, traveling within the States to develop a HOPE Cape Town related entity called HOPE Cape Town USA I realize more and more, how daunting this task is and that I have to learn a hell of a lot about the people, the way of life or better the way of lives, as crisscrossing the country I see vast differences in behavior and daily habits. But they all have things in common:
I am fascinated by the quest of freedom for the individual to pursue happiness, I am thrilled to see the general friendliness and openness and at the same time their notion of a gun loving nation is the darker flip side I have trouble to understand.

The generosity is mind-boggling, the gap between those having ways to much and those just living on the fringes of society or just making it through the year seems to be God-given in this country. The gap feels different from what I experience it in South Africa and I would have lots of question when it comes to the role of the federal government in terms of social services.

All that said to build up HOPE Cape Town USA is a task of magnitude – and I am so grateful to have with Stacie Greskowiak McNulty and Shirley and Joe Kunzmann persons of deep integrity and the will to assist and lead the effort in bringing Africa and America together. It is indeed not a one-way road: we can learn from each other and people from all walks of life, those living with HIV, those being affected by HIV but also all others we encounter can benefit from this exchange of ideas, this combined will to be a relevant piece in this mosaic we call the world.

IMG_0598I am excited, excited for HOPE Cape Town to be able to expand and connect, excited in my own capacity learning so much every time I meet with my US American friends, excited of the prospect of serving a meaningful purpose for those we care for in our work.

New York, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Jersey – the first baby steps of HOPE Cape Town USA and on this Memorial Day 2016 I feel gratitude for all those people who serve their country by simply doing good, assisting those in need, serving the broader community and bringing people of different walks of life together for the benefit of the common good.

HOPE USA - Monserrat

Filed under: Africa, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, HOPE Cape Town USA, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Preparing for the USA

HOPE USA - MonserratIt has been quite a weekend with the Ball of HOPE taking place in Cape Town and also the AGM of the HOPE Cape Town Trust. And while some quests still remain in Cape Town and enjoying the mother city but also learning about the project, preparations are running high for a trip to the USA.
In February “HOPE Cape Town USA” was founded in Dallas / TX (www.hopecapetownusa.com) and now the four newly appointed directors are due to meet for the first time at the end of May. Besides this, meetings with NGO’s and other interested entities are scheduled in Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and New Jersey. Besides the marketing and fundraising efforts this new family member of the HOPE Cape Town family will serve for, HOPE Cape Town USA is also instrumental to reach out and learn from each others experience in the fields of HIV and AIDS. Knowing that in parts of the USA, for example Washington DC, the HIV rate amongst Afro-American is as high as in South Africa, there is enough common ground to contemplate how to best practice can be applied in instances, where poverty, unemployment and other factors determine and driving the infection. For HOPE Cape Town it is an exciting new step to expand knowledge and to raise awareness for the plight of those living here around the Cape of Good Hope with the syndrome or being affected by it.
Having said that I am already amazed how dedicated the people in the US already known to us are driving this new adventure, with how many heart and courage they prepare for all the encounters and dedicate time and money to make it happen. It is a humbling experience knowing that you are not alone and that hearts and minds are open and willing to assist in whatever way possible. It once again also forces me to reflect, that all our doing in South Africa at the end is only possible if and when other people just join in.
I mentioned that in my presentation at the Ball of HOPE that not me, not even all my colleagues and HOPE Cape Town co-workers together could stem the tide of HIV if and when not an extended HOPE family would lent support in so many ways: money, prayers, good thoughts, network opportunities, goodwill… the list goes on and on.

So I am excited to experience the further expansion of the HOPE Cape Town family into the “land of the free” and I hope to free up lots of goodwill and support so that HOPE Cape Town can continue to support those infected and affected by HIV, AIDS, TB and related illnesses.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, HOPE Cape Town USA, Reflection, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

May days and US blues

It is the time of the year – May and the prestigious Ball of HOPE is on again – this year with Nevio Passaro as a special guest coming from Germany to entertain those lucky to have a ticket. A sold out event is always a dream for the organizers and also this year we are indeed full to capacity. The Southern African – German Chamber of Commerce and HOPE Cape Town celebrating 15 years of the Ball of HOPE, 15 years of HOPE Cape Town Association and 10 years of HOPE Cape Town Trust. Time is indeed flying and it seems yesterday when we started humbly with opening the ward G7 at Tygerberg Children’s Hospital. Was it at the beginning important to have a ward dedicated to infectious diseases and to administer treatment – in those days government were battling anti-retrovirals as poison – so is the scenario now completely different. The mother to child transmission rate is down to 5% but could be pressed further down to under 1%. People on anti-retroviral treatment are staying healthy longer and longer – but still HIV is a major contributor to the death toll of South Africa. All the prevention work has not cut down the new infection rate the way it was expected – so the status quo of HIV in South Africa is still remaining a mixed one.
15 years of HOPE Cape Town Association also means 15 years of support from so many different people, some being members of the HOPE family since interception of the project, others have come and gone and many are joining in our days. They are all a blessing for those HOPE Cape Town is able to assist in getting a life back with the possibility of a good future.
But “balls” are not falling from heaven – preparation is hard work and bringing together great entertainment, good food and all the logistics coming with it seems every year to be a never-ending story. That the AGM of the HOPE Cape Town Trust is the very same day of the Ball of HOPE makes this day even more challenging.

If you live in South Africa welcome to watch Expresso Show on SABC 2 Friday, 6th of May in the morning and watch Katlego Maboe, our HOPE Cape Town Goodwill Ambassador performing with Nevio Passaro from Germany. So you get a glimpse of what to expect at the Ball of HOPE 2016.

But May is not only marked by this local event, HOPE Cape Town is adding a new sister entity called “HOPE Cape Town USA” which was founded in Dallas Texas some weeks ago. I will fly to the first directors meeting mid May and if you read this blog and live in or around Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or New Jersey and you want to help, assist, meet up – just let me know and we will get in touch. The HOPE family is growing and being a HOPE ambassador is a worthwhile cause. Spread the word, make connections, support those living here in South Africa with little hope for a bride future. HIV, TB and related illnesses, connected with poverty, unemployment, weak education is a recipe for disaster, not only in a personal life but at the end for a society as a whole. You can make a difference in the life of others – count your blessings and pass on some to those without/.

 

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Networking, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

New York, New York

English: Broadway show billboards at the corne...

English: Broadway show billboards at the corner of 7th Avenue and West 47th Street in Times Square in New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those who had the pleasure of visiting New York say, that the city never sleeps and that New York is not America – somehow like Cape Town is not South Africa.
Being in town and trying to find my way through town – and obviously getting lost between upper Manhattan and some of my destinations – there is always plenty of time to observe people. Amazing how individualistic people are – how mixed – how crazy – how ordinary – how business like – and all in the same metro not even taking notice of each other. How different from Germany or even South Africa, where you can see people glancing at unusual behavior or dressing.
Sitting at a fast food chain near Times Square I observed a family holding hands and praying before starting eating – in full view of others and without any hesitation.
Race seems to be no issue – and how much would I like to see that also in South Africa – as well as the mass transport system of New York, which seems to be orderly chaotic, but at most times functional. Except when there is disruption and you are advised to use other methods of transport, then the poor visitor is lost in transition. 😦

On Monday I will have several meetings, among others with the Fordham University, which is a Catholic institution and a marketing company. I am thrilled to see whether HOPE Cape Town is able to capture the imagination of US Americans in a way which leads to support and partnership. Maybe New York is a good start with its diversity and embrace of a variety of cultures and traditions. To live in such an environment hopefully means to have an open heart and an open mind. Well, lets see what the next days will bring towards more support for HOPE Cape Town. It would be a welcomed addition to all the support and assistance the organization already gets from Europe and South Africa. HOPE Cape Town can only be as strong as the network of supporter and donor is. So cross the fingers that this city which never sleeps has a heart which never stops supporting those in need, even if they live far away in another part of the global village called earth.

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

14th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenNovember 16th, 2019
4 months to go.

Ball of HOPE 2020

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 23rd, 2020
11 months to go.
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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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