God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Philip Seymour Hoffman death is speaking volumes

Another actor dead as a result of drug use; it seems that celebrities and public persons have more possibilities to entertain drug use, even confessing to it, getting clean only to start all over again. Fame seems not to translate into a happy life but into depression and yearning for more and the ultimate kick. All those stories tell us about a tragedy of being put on a pedestal and the assumption, that money and VIP treatment creates happiness in life. From Withney Houston, Amy Winehouse to Heath Ledger and Chris Kelly – they all tell the story of stars  at the end not able to connect to real life; and personalities, whose need for excitement, paired with unlimited finances and so-called VIP friends brought on a lifestyle that often breeds addiction.
It leaves the question what really carries us through life? Is it money, fame or at the end such simple things like love, good friends, a lover holding on to the person even in bad times?
For me such tragedies show how life can be wasted by slipping into an artificial life style often fostered by the need to have again and again a new story for all these celebrity magazines which live and strive of the curiosity of its readers.  So at the end it is the mixture of extreme personalities and perceived society demands which creates the need for drugs and prescribed medication leading to early death.
How far away is from this the daily struggle of those we cater for at HOPE Cape Town. It seems so far away, but at the end, it boils down to the same human experience: anxiety, yearning for love and acknowledgement, the feeling of loneliness and the cry for help in one or the other way. Celebrity person in Hollywood and a person in the townships of Cape Town:  when it comes to emotions, there is a certain similarity for sure.

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

Myth or reality?

The Consultation

The Consultation (Photo credit: bigbluemeanie)

We all have heard it many times: 80% of black South Africans consult a sangoma before they even consider going to a Western Clinic. I always wondered about it, having worked with sangomas and being involved with the work HOPE Cape Town has done and is still doing in parts with traditional leaders. What I have seen is little work for sangomas, lots of part-time traditional healers and a break down in related traditions in the townships of Cape Town. Well, a 2012 article in the South African Medical Journal went further, suggesting that “some 80% of South Africans use traditional medicine to meet their primary healthcare needs”. The claim has also been made in general terms about the population of Southern Africa and the African continent. So where did the claim originate and is there any truth to it?  GroundUp, a South African community journalism project, asked Africa Check to investigate. Their starting point was the World Health Organisation (WHO). A fact sheet on traditional medicine published by the body in 2008 is often cited when the claim is made. “In some Asian and African countries,” it states, “80% of the population depend on traditional medicine for primary health care.” The fact sheet does not include any evidence to substantiate the statement, but one can find a reference to a document discussing the WHO’s Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002-2005. And this was not the end of the research – to read more about Africa Check’s research and its amazing result follow this link.

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

15.02.2010 And another murder…

I know it does not fit into all the hype about the soccer world cup, but with Joseph Dominic Giddy the third student has been murdered in Cape Town within 6 months.  Stabbed during a robbery while on his way home with friends, he is once again someone who was at the wrong place the wrong time. It is sometimes difficult to paint a fair picture of the situation in South Africa while one is thorn between the plight to encourage people to come to South Africa for the world cup and the knowledge, that things are also not in order here at the bottom of the continent.
But what is a fair picture? Telling only the official statistics which would be a disaster… Or just saying that most of the times only locals are killed? Are they less worth than tourists? I find it increasing difficult because now before the big event, there seems to be two camps: one painting a rosy picture and one painting a dark black one. Both are obviously wrong, but on the other hand: How can one do a balanced picture when press is only reporting in broadbrushed terms because that’s what the speed of news requires: quick and just touching it, no in dept information any more. It is a pity. The way modern press and news agency have developed makes it almost impossible to have the time for a journalist, to feel the pulse of the country for a while before giving a diagnose, the first heart peep, so to speak, is already the whole story.

I am living now for almost 13 years in the country and I think it is one of the greatest countries one can live in, no question about it, but at the same time I acknowledge that life is cheap here and that there is a long way to go for society to get a grip on this fact and change it.  And coming today from an extensive outing again into the lives of those less fortune I am convinced that it needs so much more efforts from politics and civil society to bring back this respect for life.

I still hope that the soccer world cup 2010, which was the nail for this country not to take a deeper dip in many regards, will also serve as a push to drive in that direction. And for that we need great games, a feeling, that we are good here in South Africa, that we are on the right track as the people of a wounded nation. A great future is ahead of us, when we don’t derail but move forward with reconciliation and respect and dignity.

Filed under: Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , ,

10.02.2010 traffic and township life

Rain in Cape Town this morning – and as usual the way the drivers of the various vehicles on the street try a great deal to proof, that they have never learned to drive a car in rain. It is one of these mornings where you ask yourself whether someone has a valid drivers licence. Crossings are blocked by cars which just took the dark yellow light to make sure that nobody else is able to cross when they have green light. And all that stop and go and change the lines and stop again… it would be amazing if one would have the time to observe it and is not due to be in time at a certain point.

Visiting of primary health care facilities was the major program point today and together with our compliance and trainings officer I visited 5 such so-called township clinics and spoke with our employee from HOPE Cape Town and with representatives of the clinic, assessing the work and trying to find out where we are with our outreach program. It is always an eye opener to be in these different communities, hearing the life stories of people, visiting also some sick people at home,  seeing the sometimes unbelievable circumstances, people have to live for years or even a lifetime.  I realise again how blessed my life is and how privileged I am.

And one comes home in the evening, full of impressions and with a whole bunch of requests and plea’s it takes time to digest the pictures in your head, but somehow I keep the people I met today in my heart for a while before it fades away to be refreshed the next time. I am grateful to touch township life. It helps me to re-define my life.

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

08.09.2009 Tuesday eve…

It seems that in the moment I am only able to write something is in the evening hours. Well, once again a day full of work and lots of thoughts are going still through my head. At the management meeting of HOPE Cape Town I once again realised how diverse we are in the moment. We contemplated about the participation in a project of the Fraunhofer institute in Germany. They are building a moveable container lab – and we should, together with the NHFS and the University – and who knows else – participate in the realisation of the project here in South Africa. The truck is impressive big and long, the figures are going into the couple of hundred thousands of Euros – and there we sit and contemplate – no, not the state of the art laboratories, not the possibilities what all to test, not the funding – no: one of the first concerns is: how can this long vehicle reach or get through a township. There we mostly don’t have streets like in Europe… The spontaneously solution: Rather ask the institute to build two mini versions…  Well, we will see,  decision is to get all stakeholders around one table soonest and to discuss it in detail…

The code of ethics for the employees – what kind of bonus, is somebody allowed to enjoy chewing gum during work, what kind of disciplinary measures are appropriate and in line with the South African labor law. The sangoma muti pharmacology research, who is doing the application for funds? The 150 people wanting to do something good in January 2010.. how? Debriefing matters…  the recent concerts in lieu of HOPE Cape Town in Germany, our H1N1 sick team secretary, questions of food supply for parents in the ward, the HOPE Cape Town car which is growing older and older and need a replacement – where to get the funding.  Preparation of the annual report and the AGM, the SETA approval for our training.. and… and… and..

So intensive and diverse – time is flying and one feels somehow exhausted after so much time of consideration and decision making. But we have wonderful senior staff and great HOPE Community Health Workers. They are our assets – representing HOPE Cape Town in 16 township communities – and soon, two more HOPE community health workers and a container will be the latest addition to the HOPE Cape Town family.

I am looking forward to have more time for HOPE Cape Town from October onwards. And I know I will enjoy what I am doing as much as I do enjoy what I am doing in the moment. What is more to say on such an eve?

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Reflection, , , , , ,

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