Tuesday, December 30, 2008
in an attempt to keep you up to date on other work of activism, i want to send you to my blog where i've posted the 2008 newsletter from the Drug Crisis Centre I work for in Fish Hoek. i didn't want to post it here cause it's quite long. but if you are interested...go here.
Monday, December 29, 2008
As I said, I do not want to see children living on the streets, but if we are going to see that day come there is an enormous amount of work that needs to go into our communities. Today I saw a good example of that. I was on my way to town and I got a call on my cell phone from China. He said he was at Groote Schuur Hospital and asked if I could come there. I had not yet parked my car in town so I turned around and headed for the hospital. As I drove I wondered what had happened to him. I have known China for as long as I have lived here. He lived a large portion of his life in a shelter in town. He is an example of a kid that truly does not have “much” to go to at “home”. His mother passed away years ago, and he really does not have any relatives in Cape Town that are capable of taking care of him. I saw him become frustrated after years of staying in the shelter and at one point he ran away.
I found him in Cape Town spoke with him. As stubborn and naughty as he could be, he was unlike the other kids on the streets. He was not hardened like the others and did not use and hard drugs or glue. He stood out. I wondered how long that would last on the streets. I spoke to him about coming off the streets and as much as he wanted to, he expressed feelings of “stagnancy” at the place he had been staying, and wanted to move on to “greater” things. I told him I would look around. Most of the other homes said they would not take a child “straight from the streets” and he had to be referred from a shelter. I was not able to find anything for him, and he therefore had to go back to the place where he had been staying. One of the things that had frustrated him was many of the other kids went home for the weekends and holidays and he did not have anywhere to go. I spoke to the social worker and said that I would be his “guest family” if they would take him back. It was a deal.
Part of the deal was that he would be transferred to a more “home-like” environment as soon as possible. Time went on and he visited my house for some weekends and most holidays. He seemed to remain positive. Unfortunately, soon after that a new social worker came. She did not show much passion in finding a new place for China and also clashed with his stubbornness that others knew well. She also felt that he should not visit me as often because I was not his “family”. They made contact with some of his relatives in Eastern Cape and he went to stay there for a while. He apparently got into trouble there and ended up back in Cape Town. And to make a long story short, he has been in and out of homes and jail ever since. He still occasionally calls from time to time, but until today I had not seen him for about two years.
I arrived at Groote Schuur Hospital, walked down the long corridor, took the lift up to Level F and saw the sign for F8, where China said he was. As I walked in I noticed that there were not many patients in the beds. Just as I was walking up to reception to inquire about China I saw him laying on a bed waving at me. I walked over to his bed. A group of nurses gathered and looked at me in disbelief, that turned into smiles, as they asked, “Are you Ryan??”. I said yes. I found out later that he had told them that I was “family”. That explained the reactions they had when they saw me! I greeted China. He had on a blue hospital gown, an eye patch, a hair net looking thing, and his face was swollen quite a bit. He said he was discharged. Without even knowing why he was there I said, “Ok, let’s go!”.
He said his clothes were covered in blood. I looked at the plastic bag next to his bed and his wadded up shirt and jeans were inside…caked in blood! There was barely a speck of fabric that did not have blood on it! The nurses said there was nothing they could do and he would just have to put on those clothes. I decided to go check in my car for something. Fortunately, I had an old pair of jeans and a hoodie in the boot. I went back up to F8 and gave China the clothes. He put them on and we were on our way. On the way out he told me what had happened. The last time he got out of jail he decided that he had had enough of that lifestyle. He decided to go “home”. But he said that he was not exactly sure where that was. He went to live with his brother in an area called Philippi. This specific area of Philippi is one of the rougher areas and his older brother is a product of that environment: ROUGH! He drinks copious amounts of alcohol and is up to no good most of the time.
China felt it was better than the street, and he really did not have any other options. He very openly told me that he had not known how to make money, but he didn’t want to get “back into crime”, so he just decided to sell ganja on a small level. Yeah, I also found a bit of humor in that too, but understood what he meant by “crime”. So he has just been living with his brother, and selling ganja on a small level to make money to be able to eat and survive. The other night he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. His next door neighbor’s house got broken into and some things were stolen and he was seen walking by. He said to me himself that even he is not “stupid enough” to break into his next door neighbor’s house, and on top of that he said he was through with that lifestyle. The neighbors did not believe him. So they grabbed him and locked him in a room. Then they took turns throwing beer bottles at him and beating him. He said he tried to reason with them, talk to them, but they would not listen. Guilty before proven innocent! They continued to beat him and pelt his face with beer bottles and then they left him there to bleed.
He walked away from the house, dripping in blood. Other community members came to his assistance. They called the ambulance which surprisingly came not too long after that. He slept alone in the hospital during Christmas and said his mind was “not really working properly” (probably from the shots to the head) until today, when he realized he could call me to come get him. And that he did. We left the Hospital and I got him some clean clothes, brought him to my house to get cleaned up (his head was encrusted in dry blood), got some food in his belly, and told him that we would “figure everything out” tomorrow. Honestly I don’t know what can be figured out. As I sit here and type he is sleeping on the couch behind me and I feel the same helpless feeling I felt about 6 years ago when I was trying to find another place for him to stay. And now he has missed more school, burned more bridges, and has even fewer places to go. But I told China that many people don’t understand the complexity of the situation of the kids living on and off the streets of Cape Town and I asked him if he would mind me sharing his story, and even show some of these pictures to you. He confidently said, “Do it Ryan! They need to see this!”.
Many of these kids make their “home” on the streets of Cape Town, and Cape Town has their hearts. Cape Town definitely does not have their best interests in mind however; like an abusive lover! For China, Cape Town has caused too much pain in his life and he doesn’t want any more of what the streets have to offer. But unfortunately for China…home is where the hurt is.
The doctor said he was lucky he didn't lose sight in his right eye.
He has cuts on both hands from trying to block the blows to his face.
His entire head is full of knocks, bruises and stitched up gashes. This one in particular has puss oozing out for some reason.
Friday, December 26, 2008
One thing I have realized is that being “happy” comes easier, and more naturally, for some than it does for others. Some people really struggle being happy! It is a true battle for them. On the other hand, I look at myself, and I am not trying to brag, but I find it very easy to be happy and content on a day to day basis. I can actually enjoy the seemingly smallest of tasks, or things that others may not find excitement in because of my outlook; I seek out “happiness” in every situation. It might sound arrogant to speak about myself in this way but it is nothing that I can take credit for! We are all products of our upbringing and environment. I am no different. And I can see where this “outlook” started for me…with my family.
There are many people that had an influence on molding me, and my outlook on life; from my mother who continuously sent the message that “life is not always fair” to my great uncle who told me “adversity is what you will remember and learn the most from”, I can see how my little head and heart was being filled with positively, but a grounding sense of reality, from a young age. But there are two people who played an enormous role in my “outlook”. Two people who lived out “happiness” on an uncompromising, regular and consistent basis! Those two people are my grandparents on my mother’s side, Grandmom and Papa.
There is so much that we take for granted as young people. As we get older we start to look back at those things, take stock, and are able to give them the true value they deserve. I look back at the “things” that Grandmom and Papa gave me, the things that they instilled in me, both directly and indirectly, advertently and inadvertently, and I am so thankful for them and the role they have played in loving and shaping me! Though I know much of their “life lessons” were intentional, they may never know the things I picked up from them, merely by observing, and being in their presence, watching them love life with all their hearts and love each other with more than that.
You see, happiness is a choice, and no one has it perfect all the time, and I know that my grandparents had their own struggles for happiness at one point in their lives, but in my life time they made it seem effortless. They have a way of finding joy in the most mundane situation, and appreciating the most “ordinary” of things. Whether it was a long road trip stuck in a car, with Grandmom deliriously singing songs to keep us entertained, or a meal where Papa told us, “Now, we are not in a rush…”, as he savored every second of dinner conversation and every bite of his food. They both have an amazing passion for life, people, culture and traveling that is most definitely contagious!
We have traveled far and wide with them! And every trip was like a treasure hunt, squeezing every last drop of culture, fun and excitement that a destination had to offer; an even balance of doing the “touristy” things but also experiencing “life of the locals”…sometimes as the locals. Life lessons were never scarce on these trips! And maybe without even knowing it, or even appreciating it at the time, I took it all in!! Every drop of it! I soaked it up! And I learned so many things, but most importantly was the importance of enjoying life. Not merely living to “get by”, but finding beauty, humor and joy in every situation. Seeking out culture, life lessons, and wisdom in every person I come across. Looking for history, art, and magnificence in every place that I visit.
That is what Grandmom and Papa do every day, whether they are at home or traveling in some far off land! They have a standard, and that standard is love; love for each other, love for others, love for life…Grandmom used to always say that “LUUUUUUV” (said with her thick southern accent) is the “password”. So if we were on vacation and we went out of the place we were staying and she stayed behind, on our return, when we knocked at the door, she would come to the other side and ask for the password, knowing exactly who was on the other side. We would respond by saying “love”. And she would open the door and greet us with hugs, kisses and smiles. Now I realize that love is the password! It is not some silly thing that Grandmom used to do! Love is the key to happiness. It is the password!
So many people fight their whole lives to achieve “happiness”, and they are miserable the entire journey. They overlook opportunity after opportunity to love…life, themselves and others. They cannot find joy in the journey because they are too focused on where they are trying to get to. Others base their “happiness” on what, or how much, they have… their things. Never realizing that without a sense of true gratefulness and contentment with life, those “things” will only make the void bigger; because there will always be newer and better “things” out there. My grandparents taught me that it is important to dream and wish for bigger and better things for myself, but it is even more valuable to enjoy the “ride” on the way to achieving those things, savoring every second of the journey. They taught me the importance of finding the good, and “fun”, in every situation, no matter how dreary or “ordinary” that situation may be.
My grandparents taught me the importance of love. I do not know a couple that love each other more than they do! I equally do not know individuals that love life, and the people that are in their lives, more than they do. A perfect example was when they called me on Christmas Eve. I was talking to my grandmother and she said (like a true Southern Bell), “Oh wait, hold on a second Ryan (short pause)…Ok, I just had to wave at the UPS man. He just walked by. His name is…”. I actually don’t remember what she said his name was, but what I do know is she knows it. She made a point to know it, just like she made a point to wave and smile at him when he walked by! And that is one tiny example of spreading love and happiness that I learned from Grandmom; another example that she is not even aware that I even took note of. There are thousands, if not millions, of other examples in “happiness” I have learned from Grandmom and Papa!
I now know that if you put value in the right “things” in life (people, experience, culture, life itself…), happiness and contentment is inevitable! It is important to find humor in every situation; it is extremely important to laugh regularly! It is important to “eat slow” and savor every bit of the experience. It is just as important to find excitement and fun in the “journey” as it is at the “destination”; and really, on earth, no destination is “final”. It is important to soak up every single morsel that life has to offer. It is important to seek out lessons in life; they are all around us, but we are not always listening and learning! It is important to bring a smile and a hug into most situations. It is important to find value in the simplest of things. It is important to fight for happiness. But most importantly, it is important to love. Love is the password to happiness.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Am so tired,i will start the posts tomorrow.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The past two mornings i have received calls from Pollsmoor Prison Juvenile section. Pollsmoor is really the worst place a young person can end up in Cape Town. There are a group of guys there that all strolled in town but are now locked up for various reasons. They call fairly regularly. Usually about once a week. One of them that knows my number will tell the guys he is going to call me and a group of all my buddies from Cape Town will gather around the phone and take turns speaking. Yesterday was funny because it was the first time i had spoken to them since i had spent 16 days on the streets. They had heard about it and were all interested how it went, what i did, if i begged for money, if people gave it to me, where i slept, and so on. They all said they wish they could have seen it, and some of them said they went to court in town during my 16 days and heard about how i was doing from others that came by the court.
Today two of the guys brought their friends to the phone to speak to me. The one kid, who they call Whitey, got on the phone and said, "Is this Ryan?".
"Yep. Is this Whitey?"
He laughed, "Yeah. I have heard allot about you. These guys are always talking about you."
"That's nice. I hope it's not bad stuff!"
He laughed and confirmed that it was not. "They say you rap."
"A little bit."
Without missing a beat he said, "They say you make movies!"
I laughed, "Well, i have never made a movie but i have made a couple of music videos. Where do you come from?"
"Do you know Louwellen?"
"Yeah, we live on the same street."
We then chatted a bit about Louwellen, Bellville South and then i asked him about his case. Whitey is in for "armed robbery", which he really did do, but he has still not been sentenced and has been in Pollsmoor for more than two years! There were a couple of things that stood out to me in talking to Whitey. One, was what a respectable young man he was over the phone. He spoke to me with respect and seemed to have a genuinely kind heart. This does not mean he should get off easy for the things that he has done, but also realising that these youngsters are often products of their environments is important; so if they are raised by the "streets" they will act like it, but if they have people to see the goo din them and nurture that, they will feed off of it. The other thing that stood out was something that i have seen time and time again. Whitey has sat two year in prison! TWO YEARS!! Think back on all that you have done in the past two years and imagine spending that time in jail. But not only in jail but only AWAITING being sentenced because the court messed up and there is a "problem with the evidence".
This happens all too often in the South African "justice" system, most especially when it comes to minors! And i see it is one piece of the complex puzzle that holds these kids in this lifestyle. Because often they are arrested, and then much of the time they sit for prolonged periods of time, for different reasons (social workers can't get a hold of guardians, missing evidence, can't find others that are also in the case, etc.), only to become more frustrated, also getting more involved in gang activity, only to come out even more hardened than before. And a case like Whitey shows that it not only happens with kids from the streets, but also kids that commit crimes in the communities. This is an area where we need to see more focus.
Many people are happy when the "trouble making" youth are just locked up; out of sight out of mind! But i assure you, though they are out of sight for a time period, if they do not receive justice they deserve, coupled with true rehabilitation, they will return to society being worse than before. So even though they might be out of sight for now, we need to keep them in mind, and even make them our priorities, for the good of our future and theirs!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
A big dankie from me and all the boys at The Homestead. Although its sometimes believed that children make the choice to live on the streets there are many out there who want to come off but cant because they are trapped in a self destructive cycle which society cannot get them out of unless they commit a crime (how ironic).... although allowing them to be on the streets is a crime in itself. Anyways you have made a big push toward helping the bonanis and we salute you man. One of the things that is remarkable when reading you thoughts is the importance of strengthening the sense of belonging within any family....because as you said that if they not going to get it at home they will try and find it somewhere else.So apart from creating awareness about the crime of allowing kids to live on the street you also highlighted the importance and the responsibility we have within our own family as charity begins at home. I spoke to one of the boys the other day who had lost both his parents living on the streets. I asked him about his mother and the relationship they shared, he went on to tell me how that she drank most of the time but above all that he said that he knew that she cared because 'sy het my dan skoene gekoep' (she even bought me shoes) So if this simple thing meant so much to a little boy lets not neglect the lesson about our responsibilty to care in the simple ways.
Ryan keep pressing and you are a hero amongst the boys at the shelter.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Imagine turning 28 and not being able to remember spending a birthday outside of jail. He ran to the streets and began his "life of crime" at a very young age. At an age when he should have been protected from those things. At an age when he should have been guided and lead into good decisions. Instead, he partook in criminal activities that many grown adults shy away from; and that was before the age of 12! Now he is left with thousands of unwanted memories he cannot block out, gang tattoos that won't come off, blood on his hands that he can't wash off, and one birthday that he can proudly say he did not spend in jail. Let's hope it gets better from here. Let's hope we are able to make a greater impact on the "Bones" of the future...BEFORE their 28th birthday! Happy Birthday Bones!
Monday, December 15, 2008
It involves 2 young children who are living on the streets with their parents.
When I first met them the father was walking around Observatory sending his 7 year old son to beg door to door. We got involved in a discussion about the well being of the child and he admitted to not being in a position to care for the child. He ended up leaving the child with me. The boy waited with me inside the hall while I attended to some necessary
matters. He then returned with the child's mother and a 5 year old girl and asked me if I could take the girl as well. As I am in no position to look after 2 small children I called up the emergency social work services to try and get them placed in a suitable place.
Rene (the social worker) suggested that we meet at Mowbray Police station, which we all did. I was not at all happy with the way she dealt with the situation. It seems she is unable to be polite or speak to people in a respectful way and after a lengthy discussion with the parents, who were very willing to give the children away she refused to place them. She warned the parents that if they do it again the children will be removed, the father responded that we could take them there and then, Rene said that she would not allow them to abdicate responsibility and wouldn't take them. I understand that the children were not in immediate danger but I dont see the reason for delaying an intervention into their lives. Rene's reasoning was that the children have been living outside all their lives and therefore they should be fine to continue doing it, she also told me that there are many children living in adverse circumstances and she can't just help them all (or something to that effect). In the end I had to take the entire family to the place where they sleep under a bridge in Salt River. The disappointment on the children's faces was evident and they did not want to go with their parents. It broke my heart to insist that they could not come with me.
I then discovered that ACVV (contracted to provide social work services on behalf of the dept) are fully aware of these children and have been taking them to creche a few times a week. I am not satisfied that this is all that the department is prepared to do for them. Some people think that the best place for a child is with thier parents, I don't, and neither do these kids. They are in their current situation because of bad choices made by their parents. At their young age they are already aware that their opportunities are limited and are desperate for help but if the Dept of Social Services is unwilling to... where else can they turn?
Ryan, John, and Eli's mom :)
--kent nerburn, 'letters to my son'
According to Pam Jackson, Director of Ons Plek, a home for street children, there is a long history of police harassment of homeless people. “Dating back to the apartheid era, this kind of harassment has happened in the past” she reveals, “but I fear that the By-law has ushered in a new era of harassment”. Her sentiments are echoed by Sandra Morreira, Director of the Homestead and chairperson of the Western Cape Street Children’s Forum which was also part of the NGO task team opposed to the new By-law, “Harassment is happening anyway, our concern has always been that the intention of the By-law may be good but the problem comes in when it is implemented on the ground.”
Although Insp. Bernadine Steyn of the SAPS could confirm that that Sea Point Police conducts operations, or what Nowellen Petersen of Metro City Police describes as “interventions”, in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies on a regular basis, she denies that blankets have been confiscated. “During the past three weeks several integrated operations have been conducted and several people have been arrested for specific crimes, for example, trespassing. We want to state it clearly that no SAPS member confiscate any blankets as mentioned during the operations.” Heather Teger who is on the board of directors of the Sea Point City Improvement District also denies allegations that the Sea Point CID are involved along with Metro Police and SAPS in arresting people sleeping on the streets and confiscating blankets. “We have never confiscated blankets”, she says adamantly, adding, “We are very humane in our approach but we are not there to protect people who commit crimes”. However Pam Jackson of Ons Plek claims that blankets are being confiscated: “I know from a reputable source that this is happening and that two people have died as a result.”
Under the new “Prevention of Nuisances” By-law, begging and sleeping on the streets is illegal and, essentially, it criminalizes poverty which means that homeless people are resorting to hiding from police and organisations such as the Sea Point Community Police Forum in order to avoid being arrested. “People don’t want to come out of the building because they are scared of the police. That’s why people get sick in there” says Rasta pointing to an abandoned, derelict building next to Somerset Hospital. When Rasta takes me inside the building I can see why some have opted to brave the wet, cold nights and sleep on the roof of the building to the avoid the regular “integrated operations”. The rooms of the building are strewn with rubbish and the stench of human faeces is unbearable. “There is nothing in the By-law that says you can confiscate blankets. It is very inhumane – people are dying of exposure,” says Sandra Morreira, “these actions illustrate the problem of inappropriate implementation”.
The NGO Task Team which has made representation to Helen Zille, the Mayor of Cape Town and DA councillor J.P. Smith, chairperson of the Safety and Security Portfolio Committee, are concerned that the By-law targets the practices of the poor and marginalized: “It does not make sense to arrest and fine people for trying to keep warm, cook food and create a shelter for themselves when there is clearly a huge backlog in housing and people are homeless and forced to squat.” In a letter to the NGO Task Team, J.P. Smith has defended the By-law claiming that it is “one of the most progressive pieces of local government legislation in South Africa.” He points out that Cape Town, unlike Johannesburg and Durban, has not outlawed begging altogether. Smith claims that the By-law only prohibits “aggressive” begging and states that, “no person shall continue to beg from a person or closely follow a person after the person has given a negative response to such begging”.
However, the NGO Task Team have argued that what is problematic about the By-law is that it allows for individual discretion to decide exactly what constitutes an offence such as “aggressive” begging, which could lead to abuse and corruption. Pam Jackson of Ons Plek says that although “street people do their fair share of annoying and irritating people” to her “the By-law reflects a hardening of hearts towards street people”. The NGO Task Team believe that to arrest, charge and fine people for behaviour that is the result of social and economic hardships and destitution is not what Cape Town should be known for. “We believe that the city can deal more effectively with the issue of homelessness and people who live and work on the streets by developing a comprehensive strategy to provide them with viable alternatives” state the NGO Task Team in a written statement that outlines its recommendations for tackling the social problems of poverty and unemployment. For the homeless community sleeping on Fort Wynyard Rd, it is understandable why the Western Cape’s slogan “A Home for All” seems questionable. “I want to ask them why they don’t take the rubbish away in this street but they take us away”, implores Rasta, “we are the rubbish.”
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Jerome - December 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
So likewise, over the past eight years i have seen and understood causal factors of kids being on the streets. I see, what are known as the "push" factors, that lead them to leave their communities (poverty, abuse, no sense of belonging, etc.). I also see the "pull" factors, that suck the kids into the street lifestyle and hold them hostage (drugs, freedom, belonging, etc.). I saw and understood those things. I understood that a kid coming from a community where he is not looked after, and maybe does not feel like he has a place to "belong" can find that belonging on the streets, experiencing real "family". But i always underestimated that aspect. Probably merely because i had never felt it on the level i have now. I mean, i have always had extremely close relationships with the kids on the streets. I could not have imagined them being much closer! But these 16 days showed me a total other level of human relation and interaction.
When you literally depend on each other for basic survival, watch out for each other, break bread together, share close interactions, protect each other, stand up for each other, live in close and continuous communion, and literally spend every waking (and sleeping) hour of the day with one another, you build bonds that i have never found in the "real" world! It takes a relationship to a whole other level of closeness. Before the 16 days i experienced a since of belonging with friends and family; they are all great! So i can only imagine how it must be for a child, who has never experienced a family or belonging before going to the streets, and then came into these relationships that i have just explained. I can now see what a strong hold that aspect, and that aspect alone, can have on a child! I can see how it can hold them captive! Unfortunately, though they experience close bonds, there is a negative side of this "family" and through them the child suffers drug use, abuse of different forms, and other wrongs.
I went to town today and visited everyone. Every single person, from shop keepers to people from the streets, greeted me with the same smile and similar comments; about how clean i looked, how the beard is gone, how the "old Ryan" is back, and so on. But they all also looked at me with a pride in what i had accomplished. Some of them verbalized it. Wise was one of those people. He simply said, "What you did was a great thing.". I do not say that to bring attention to myself because i only did what i thought i was supposed to do. But i mention it to draw attention to the ongoing support that i have received from my "street" family. And though it was a bit strange seeing them today, knowing that i would return home again, i know that they respect what i did, and know that i will continue to fight on their behalf, walk along side them, and they will continue to be my family...even if it looks a little different than it did for the 16 days.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Last night I had the privilege of speaking at a "discussion" group that meets in a very nice restaurant called Doppio Zero. Wise Guy and I were pretty much the first people to arrive and we both sat down and basked in the contrast of street life and that fancy restaurant environment that we found ourselves in. Wise said he had just passed by it with a friend the other day and as they looked in the window from outside he made a comment about the "rich people" in there. He laughed about the fact that he was now sitting there, and wondered what the people passing by thought of him. The venue was an ironic and harsh contrast to my 16 Days, and my filthiness made that statement loud and clear, but it was also amazing that Danny, the owner of the restaurant, had made his business open and available for an event like that.
People began to show up, both familiar and unfamiliar faces. I was thrilled to see the diversity of people that came; Joe Seremane (Federal Chairman of the DA political party), some of my brothers and sisters from the streets, some "business people", friends, and strangers. It was an honour to get to spend time with Mr. Seremane! As people were still arriving he sat beside me and said he would not "spoil what is to come" by asking me questions though he was curious. I asked him if i could ask him questions. He said i could for only 10 dollars per question. I offered him all that was left in my pocket: 50 cents and he said that would do and he would put it in a bond with 12 % interest. He spent six years on Robbyn Island with other political prisoners during the Apartheid, and then another 28 months in solitary confinement in another prison. He said that the 6 years were nothing compared to the 28 months that he spent all by himself, alone with nothing but his own thoughts and conversations to entertain him. He said he had to become "insane" to stay sane; he spoke to flies that visited him, took long walks around his cell envisioning he was walking from Cape Town to other far off cities, and came up with a range of poems and songs. It was amazing to be in his company! He has incredible wisdom, insight and humility. I wish he was our president (he was the DA's candidate against Kgalema Motlanthe)!
When it was time for me to speak i felt a lump in my throat. I stood up and before i could even open my mouth i felt tears coming on. I guess i had been holding them back over the past 16 days and they were dead set on getting out. I think i spoke for about 15 or 20 minutes, but really have no concept of the time. I do know that majority of what i said was through a quivery voice. I had to stop at times to try and gain composure so people could even understand what i was saying. I felt like a little girl! But i also realised that my experience over the 16 days was moving for me, but also broke my heart all over again, for the people that i care the most about in Cape Town! I also noticed that my eyes were not the only wet eyes in the room, and i felt comforted by that. After i finished i sat back down beside Wise Guy and he pulled me over and hugged me and showed his overwhelming approval for what i had said. He had tears in his eyes but was trying to push them back.
We all hung out and ate together, and eventually the streets were calling Wise's name and he was curious as to what was going on at the flower stand. He snuck out without telling anyone but me, and i walked with him to the door. It was strange knowing that he was going back to the flower stand and i was going back to my flat in Muizenberg. It felt strangely wrong but i knew that it was the way it had to be, for now. I hugged him and thanked him for everything he had done; his role in the 16 days was incredibly huge! I told him i would miss him. He expressed the same sentiments with his eyes welling up with tears and then said, "I can't talk about this right now! I don't want to..." he made gestures pointing to his eyes, saying he did not want to cry. With a quivery voice he told me that i should go back in because people really wanted to talk to me in there. We hugged again and i watched him walk away; both of us pushing back tears, but Wise doing a better job.
Last night was very emotional for me. It is really strange because i don't cry much. There are sometimes when i want to cry but i can't! Last night was not one of those times! As the night came to an end and we said our goodbyes, i felt tears coming on again as i walked to our car with my wife Ashley. I think i cried the entire drive home. It is hard to explain. Even now i am sitting here typing like a little baby, with snot running out my nose and tears rolling down my face! When we got to our flat i took off my shoes, peeled off my socks that had not come off for the past 16 days, shed the rest of my clothes, shaved my face and head, and then took a warm shower. My feet were covered in dirt and what seemed to be mildew! I had to scrub three times over to remove all the dirt from my body. I dried off and put on my clean "pajamas" and got into my soft, warm bed not long after that. I think i fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow!
This morning i woke up at about 9:00. I didn't have to worry about getting up before flower sellers came into my room. I was able to immediately get up and give relief to my full bladder, and didn't have to wait until the public toilet opened, or walk to Long street. I walked over to the coffee pot and poured coffee, and didn't have to walk to the Parade and give Anwar 3 of my hard earned rand from the night before. I sat down in from of my own computer and began checking all my various sites, without having to walk all the way to Long Street to the Internet cafe where i wrote my blogs. And though i had told myself that i would take today off and take it easy, my mind is already racing as to what i am going to do today...but mostly racing with curiosity about what is going on with my family that live on the streets that i called home for 16 days!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Yeah...so here i sit. Day 16! I made it. Someone last night told me that they did not think i would make it the entire 16 days. I knew i would. I feel a strange mixture of emotions. A sense of accomplishment but also a deep sadness that it is now coming to an end. Wise Guy slept out by the traffic lights with us last night and so Clare gave us a lift back to the Flower Stand this morning to take his bedding back. It was so strange walking into the flower stand, seeing that some of the "early birds" were already up and out (Wise and i would have been by that point) but the last sleepers were still fast asleep. I cannot even really begin to explain the emotion i felt, but it was strange. I have had amazing experiences over the past 16 days and i cherish every second!
In the 16 days i have seen and learned allot! Over the past 8 years i have seen this stuff time and time again, walked with the kids through it and experienced it with them. But for these 16 days i was able experience it for myself. Feel it myself. This helped me to be a more accurate voice as to what is going on on the streets. 16 days is absolutely nothing in comparison to the years that many of the guys have lived on the streets, but it was definitely a taste. I will continue to do daily updates for the next little bit; informing you as to how i am "fitting back in" to society, how i am coping, what i am experiencing and any other drama i might run into along the way! Thank you for your support and keep checking in on me!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Many people have asked me what i hope to "achieve" through spending 16 days on the streets. At the very least, i would like to create an awareness and start a dialogue. A productive dialogue amongst the NGO's involved, and no more politics and meetings with the same talk, no action. A dialogue between the NGO's and government about real, and achievable goals to help get these children off the streets, but with their best interests in mind! A dialogue amongst ALL the role players, including the general public itself, to try and find solutions for these children, instead of seeing them as the "problem"! I would hope that this, and further, awareness would begin to work against the reality that society has accepted children living on the streets as a "norm". I would hope that we would begin to see how strangely wrong, even wicked, it is to allow children to live on the streets. I would hope that the mass majority of people would merely get the revelation that something needs to be done, even if they don't know what that "something" is. And with THAT foundation of awareness, and disdain for the situation, we will have a strong foundation to build up support structure for these children. Until we gain that awareness amongst the masses, there will continue to be cracks in our structures, as their attitudes and actions enable this social ill to continue on and on and on and on and on and on and on and...
So, I am asking anybody and everybody to join me on my last night. We are going to all spend one night on the streets together, to stand together against the fact that children are ALLOWED to live on the streets! Even if you can't stay the entire evening you can still come out and show your support for a moment. Bring friends, family, kids, strangers, and come out tonight and show your support! We are meeting at 20:00 at the bottom of Buitengracht Street in the grassy median just in front of the entrance to the Waterfront (across from the International Convention Centre). Please come out and show your support and try and be there right at 20:00 in case we get chased away. But bring your blankets and be prepared to sleep there! I hope to see you there!!!
If you want to call CCID and file a complaint about the way they are treating the children you can contact them at:
- CCID Security Manager: 082 453 2942
- CCID Deputy Security Manager: 082 442 2112
- CCID 24 Hour Number: 082 415 7127
- SAPS Control Room (Cape Town): 021 467 8002
Monday, December 8, 2008
I will upload pictures later so you can see for yourself; judge for yourself. If you click on Bonani you can see what he looked like before they rearranged his face. (this picture was taken late last week)
It was the CCID Security that beat him, threw him in the back of the security truck with a can of tear gas, and then doused him with water. The CCID, for those that don't know, are the Central City Improvement District. The basically tax the businesses in the CBD and then put that money towards making the CBD a "better" place. One of their biggest challenges are the "vagrants"; most especially the kids. The CCID and I actually have a lot in common! We both want to see a day where there are no children living on the streets of Cape Town. Unfortunately, they have the best interest of business and tourism in mind. I have the best interest of the CHILDREN in mind!! They will never succeed. What they don't realise is they are creating more and more enemies. Because they pick up the kids and drop them in far off places, only for them to return more angry. They arrest the kids for petty cases, only for the kids to come out of jail better criminals. They try and beat the kids away, only creating children with more battle wounds to avenge.
I would not want the security guards' jobs for one second! I know it must be tough!! They have a lot of pressure from above to "get rid of the kids". They don't know what to do with them. So they act stupidly. As i said, i would not want their job. But they HAVE their job, and they should do it properly. It is unconstitutional to treat people the way they do. They should be taken before the constitutional court. And i just might!!!!
Chapter 2: Section 38 Enforcement of Rights
Anyone listed in this section has the right to approach a competent court, alleging that a right in the Bill of Rights has been infringed or threatened, and the court may grant appropriate relief, including a declaration of rights. The persons who may approach a court are -
- anyone acting in their own interest;
- anyone acting on behalf of another person who cannot act in their own name;
- anyone acting as a member of, or in the interest of, a group or class of persons;
- anyone acting in the public interest; and
- an association acting in the interest of its members.
YEARS BACK IT WAS ME BEING BULLIED,ABUSED AND DENIED MY RIGHTS.
If a child in the streets does anything bad,does that mean we have to treat him like a little devil?And cops(whoever trains them) will never be human to children living in the streets whether we in mali,India,mexico or S.A.its so horrible that kids go through all this and the perpetrators being the supposed protectors after all.its our attitude towards the kids which makes them behave the way they do sometimes!!If we show them love,will they be rude to us?
i was once stoned by a guy who was in company of two nice ladies and they all atarted giggling,that was 1994 whilst i was living in the streets.Upto this day,i still wonder what made the guy do what he did.funnily i went to hospital and they told me they would not assist me without a police report first.i knew what awaited me at the police and at the end,i had to let the wound heal on its own.ant it was on my head!
His hands were totally withered like someone who had spent way too long in the bath tub. His eyes were swollen and blood shot; which i later found out was from tear gas. He asked me to contact a social worker because the Security had picked him up and taken him to the police last night. They beat him, sprayed him with tear gas, sprayed him down with water, and beat him some more. He is starving and has not had anything to eat. I do not know what provoked this response from the Security, but i do know that beating a child and spraying him with tear gas is never acceptable! No matter what! I can't write long because he is sitting beside me sleeping, waiting for me to "help" him. I have no cell phone to call for help and only a few rand to buy him something to eat. I wanted to take a minute to write this because this is the kind of story that needs to get out. It is very ironic that such a small child got beat up by the very people who are supposed to be "keeping the peace", WITHIN the 16 days of activism against violence towards women and children!! I say enough is enough!
Sunday, December 7, 2008
As he approached i greeted him in a friendly way, like friends who haven't seen each other in a long time do, "BEN!!". I saw him reading my face, his brain quickly searching its data base as to where he knew me from. Search is complete. There are no results to display.
"I don't know you?" he said with question and confusion in his voice, and a strange fear on his face.
I chuckled and began walking with him, "Oh no! This is the first time we have officially met. We have mutual friends."
He seemed relieved. "Oh! OK. Nice to meet you."
Not so sure if you would think that if you knew exactly who those friends are, i thought to myself. I looked him in the eyes as i walked and said, "I work with the children that live on the streets here in Cape Town and they say they know you quite well." My tone was neither friendly nor aggressive; monotone.
He assumed they had not told me the "dirt". "Oh yes! I always used to look after them. I am not able to now so much anymore because my pension is not as much as i used to get, but i still do things for them when i can."
Yes, and they do things for you too you sick..., i thought. But i stayed calm. "What exactly do you do for them?", i calmly inquired.
Becoming very comfortable with my company he said, "Oh you know! i buy them things, give them food like fruit and bread."
"And hot dogs!" i sarcastically said. He did not pick up on my sarcasm.
"Sure! Sometimes.". He really does not have a clue. I decided to give him one.
"I hear your relationship with them i quite interesting." My voice was serious, with an undertone of anger. My jaws were clinched and my eyes were piecing. He made eye contact and then looked away as my eyes shot lazer beams through his. He picked up the pace a little bit and and his breathing became a bit heavier. He was not sure how to respond.
Awkwardly he just says, "Yes.".
We passed by one of the kids who greeted me and looked in curiosity as to why i was walking with Ben. Ben picked up on it. I greeted the kid and kept walking with Ben. His anxiety increased. I felt a strange pity for him but i was not going to let him off easy. Yes, he is old, seventy to be exact, but all i could think about is the hundreds, if not thousands, of young lives he has destroyed in those seventy years! "Yeah. I have even seen you on TV if i am not mistaken!" Both of us knowing that i am talking about a Special Assignment episode in which a clip of him is showed; walking outside the court when he was on trial for child sex abuse.
"Yes. A couple of times." It almost seemed as though he was bragging.
Three of the older guys passed by and greeted me with the same looks on their faces as the last kid. They offered to finish off what was left of my peanut butter quarter and coke. I was not entirely finished but was also happy to share. I walked over to them, leaving Ben to walk alone, "I will catch up with you later Ben. I know where you stay!".
Yesterday i went to the Obz Fest. It takes place every year in an area called Observatory; a street festival. I had made enough money on Long Street the night before to be able to take the taxi to and from Observatory. That was a huge relief because the sun was trying to make a statement yesterday! So i went to the Obz Fest and joined my friends who had a Mekasi stall set up. I also scurried around amongst the crowd and handed out fliers. Obz Fest had changed faces this year. In the years before it was a casual, laid back event, free for all, with the entire main road blocked, packed with stalls selling all forms of art, clothing, curios, antiques, hippie paraphernalia, and other random things. There were stages set up on each end of the Festival with free concerts on each end, displaying different genre's and different artists. People from all walks of life passed through; homeless, artists, yuppies, hippies, gangsters, white, black, yellow, light brown, dark brown, fat, skinny...you get the point. This year was different. The stalls were all set up in a particular fenced in area, off the main road; likewise the main stage was on a fenced in field of some sort. This year you had to pay 40 rand to hear the acts on the main stage, and 20 rand to hear the acts on the acoustic stage. This was not possible for a homeless guy like me. I feel like it was against the very heart and spirit of what i have always known the Obz Fest to be. Oh well. Things change i guess.
Anyways. The sun really gave me a pounding yesterday. As i said, it was almost as though the sun had some point to prove; like we had forgotten how powerful it is, and it decided to give us a reminder! By the time i got on the taxi to go back to town i felt like a zombie. It didn't help matters that I had gotten a total of about 7 hours of sleep if you combine the hours i had slept in the two nights prior. My exhaustion caught up to me and the sun took advantage of my vulnerable state! By the time the taxi reached the taxi rank i felt like a lethargic heavy weight boxer, in the thirteenth round of taking hard and heavy blows from his opponent! I saw some of the kids at the rank and they actually asked me if i had smoked heroin, though they know that i don't use drugs. I decided it might be best to just turn in early and go straight to the flower stand.
I sluggishly walked and could hear my feet dragging. As i came near the flower stand, i noticed they were setting up a movie set in my "back yard". It was an American film because they had American flags up, the street was blocked off and filled with American made cars, and other things you might find on the side of a New York street. It was kind of surreal. They didn't ask our permission to film right outside our house! I walked through the New York street and rounded the corner to the flower stand. Everyone greeting me with a smile because they could see how tired i was. I didn't not waste time finding a piece of cardboard and a little spot to relax. I think it was about 6:00 or 7:00 when i laid down. People came in and out, influenced by different drugs they had been using, making for interesting and sometimes nonsensical conversation. Xavier came and laid down beside me and talked for a while, but after about 30 minutes or so he had to get up and go make some money to support his drug habit.
A couple of fights almost broke out between a couple of different guys. A couple of people i don't really even know imposed on my privacy and forced conversation that i was not really in the mood for. And the heat! They heat kept pressing in on me! I could see the sun was starting to go down, but it had made such an impact on the day that it left a residue of heat that just hung in the air through the night; quite an impression! I eventually turned in. People continued to come in and out. I would occasionally hear "Ryan!" as someone would walk past. I could tell by the tone that they were not trying to get my attention but merely greeting. I would reply with closed eyes, in a tired voice, "Yes yeah!" and then fall back into a deep sleep. One thing that stood out to me is that when your house has no walls, it is impossible to keep out the "elements" of all sorts.
I could not go inside my flat and escape the heat, maybe lay on my couch and watch TV. I had to lay in the heat. And though i did not want the rats to chow my ears, i could not bear to put on my cap or put the blanket over my head. As i tried to relax people came in and out, bringing all sorts of different vibes and moods with them. When last were you sitting in your living room on a Saturday afternoon, chilling on the couch, when all of the sudden a guy sniffing glue enters the room, followed by a guy who had just smoked rocks, and in their paranoid state they fight over something only they can understand. You would probably move to a new house or increase your security measure is that happened! I also felt the need to sleep with heightened senses seeing that the guy who had tried to steal my bag the night before was lingering around all night. He had seemed embarrassed about the incident, and didn't seem like he would try it again, but you never know. But i am an adult and it is my choice to live like this right now. It may not even be a choice for some adults that live on the streets.
But children...children should not have the right to make a choice to live in a house with no walls; a house that leaves them vulnerable to all of the "elements". Children have the right to shelter, at least according to the Constitution they do. They have the right to four walls to surround and protect them from the elements and even parents, or "appropriate alternative care", to watch over them and also protect them from these elements, leading them towards good choices and decisions in life. But now, many of our children live in open houses, and the are open to the elements. And these elements have their way way those children!
Change happens. Person's abilities shift and change. Ryan, your written articulations in this BLOG demonstrates a gift for composition and clear easy expression which will be your tool with which to forcefully correct the systemic problems that you so passionately describe. You will MATTER to the whole system while continuing to show your love for the individual.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
One of the first thing i noticed about you is that you are a mother to runaways. You open yourself to those that society consider to be "strays" and you welcome them whole heartedly. At first glance it seemed as though you really loved and cared for those children; taking them in when no one else would. They seemed to be so happy under your care; so carefree under your supervision. They are mystified by your ways and never want to leave your presence. They become so attached that they often forget about the families they once knew; even their own mothers. You become their mother! They are highly devoted to you and vulnerable in your care. Their lives are in your hands. I thought you loved them.
I thought you loved them. I thought you cared for them. I thought you were so noble and great, taking in and caring for the "least". But the more time i have spent with you, the more i have gotten to know you. You are not a suitable guardian; in fact, no mother at all. You are a fraud and a child abuser! You identify the vulnerable, hurting and rebellious children and seduce them to you. You convince them that the many others in your care are now their family, and you try to make them forget their pasts, their communities, and their families. Like a true predator you entice them with money, food, services, and drugs. You captivate them by introducing a new, addictive way of life and you hold them as prisoners. That is when you really begin to work on them.
You rape them, beat them and rob them of their innocence. You pimp them out to paedophiles and allow the rich to walk all over them. You brainwash them to think that you are all they have...all they want...all they need. And they believe it. You are abusive beyond belief and are even known to turn on one of your "children". You have the blood of many children on your hands. But you continue to laugh and smile for the rest of the world. You put on a face, a front. You try and silence those that speak out against your wrongdoings and you reward those that allow you to continue. You suck every second of life you can out of every child you get your hands on. But they love you. They continue to show their devotion to you. They do not wish to leave you.
But I have seen the truth! You are no mother! You are a fraud!
They are two guys with two pole views on the same issue. The Zimbabwean is stuck in the past. Yes, "white people" have caused harm all over the world, done many terrible things, things that are horrendous beyond words, but we have to move on, taking responsibility for what is "ours", surrendering what is "out of our hands" and forgiving those that have done us wrong. The English chap on the other hand does not want to take enough responsibility. He does not want to take any responsibility for the evil deeds of his forefathers. Sure, he wasn't there, it wasn't his fault, but in many areas of the world, you benefit just by being born white. Anyway, i didn't want to get into this discussion at the moment but yeah. They will continue on to shout, swear, interrupt each other, and they will both walk away from this conversation having learned nothing from each other, but only pushed further into their strong opinions they so tightly guard. ANYWAY...
I can't believe it's the 12 day! Only four days left. Time has flown by!
Yesterday morning on my way to the Internet cafe i met up with Xavier. He is a little guy. I think he is probably 13 or 14 but his growth has been drastically stunted by drugs, malnutrition and whatever else. He uses all sorts of substances; drugs way too big for his size. He is kind of a loner and moves around alone, going from one group to the next. He sometimes comes around at night to the flower stalls. He works on the taxis (the VW Minibus taxis) quite a bit. They, of course, can use him as their "guardtjie" (the guy who shouts out the window, collects the money from the people and opens and closes the door), and pay him way less then they would have to pay an actual adult. Street vendors, informal traders, taxi drivers, and the lot really benefit from the cheap child labour and exploitation the get out of the children living on the streets.
Back to the story...So i was walking to the Internet cafe yesterday morning and bumped into Xavier. He had some food in his hand and looked exhausted. We were going the same direction so we walked and talked together. He said that he had been working all night on a taxi and he was "dead tired". He was going to eat his food and then sleep all day. It was not more than 30 seconds after those words came out of his mouth when a taxi driver passed by and saw Xavier. The driver stopped the taxi, shouted out of the window "Don't you want to work?!". Without thinking twice Xavier said bye to me, ran to the taxi and jumped in. I found him late last night, about 10:00, at the flower stall and he had just finished working. He looked like a zombie. The drugs he smoked just after i saw him did not help the look much!
I went back out into town and came back in late. Xavier was passed out, all by himself, curled up into a ball under a jacket, snuggled up next to the wall. I looked at him and thought about how wrong it is for a kid that small to be exploited in the way that he is on a daily basis. I mean, this not even to mention the paedophiles he probably goes with for money. I looked at him and thought about how wrong it is for a child that small to go around, all hours of the day and night, smoking drugs with adults; drugs too big for his size. I looked at him and thought about how wrong it is that such a small kid sleeps all by himself, curled up with no protection but a jacket thrown over him. Anything could happen really. And it probably does! Wise was busy doing some stuff and i was tired so i got my piece of cardboard and laid it next to Xavier.
I laid my head on my "pillow" (my backpack) and fell asleep pretty soon after. I was awakened later in the evening by a rat crawling on my stomach. I catapulted it with my blanket and sent it flying. My sleep was disturbed again later in the evening by some movement of my bag. Someone was trying to steal it. I uncovered my head from underneath the blanket and said, "JY! Wat maak jy?!" (What are you doing?!). The guy was surprised to see it was me. He didn't realise. He seemed embarrassed. His shadiness was revealed to me first hand. He apologized and made up some excuse that he was looking for matches. I told him to look somewhere else. He did. I went back to sleep. I was again later awakened by some little hands pulling the blanket off of my head. It was Xavier. He looked pleasantly surprised to see it was me. He said, "Oh!! It's you!". Then he scurried back over to his spot, got back under his jacket and stretched his legs over me and went straight back to sleep. It was sad and funny at the same time.
I told Wise about it this morning and he said that Xavier probably felt safer with his legs laying over me as he slept. It is really sad for me to think about a kid, out in the world all by himself, fending for himself in all sorts of ways that are way to mature for his age and size. But this is why i am doing this. To be able to experience these things, feel them, understand them on a deeper level, and share them with you.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Basically, Damian told me that he was told by another lady (i won't mention names as to not get anyone in trouble in any way) that works for another organization, that "several" of the NGO's are not in agreement with what i am doing, and they are "boycotting" me. Now that actually sounds kind of funny when i type it and i actually don't even know what that means, but yeah. Damian told the lady that he would tell me and he did, and then when i inquired about who exactly she was talking about he called her to find out. She said she had gotten the information from a colleague who had been to a meeting where this was talked about. Apparently they were upset because i did this without consulting them or including them. This is strange for me because i sent out a press release for that very reason two weeks before the 16 days, so that if anyone wanted to meet up they could. I got contacted by several people from several different organization who showed support, and a couple that even wanted to meet. And that we did.
So i don't know who has a problem, and what it is all about, but i want to make it clear that i am not doing this for organizations. I am doing what i am doing for the kids. I do however want everyone involved with them to be involved with this, but the only way to do that is by making contact. Likewise, if people really do have problems with me, i would like to think that we are adult enough for them to come to me and we can talk it out. This whole thing could however just be a big misunderstanding and maybe no one has a problem. I have always tried to work with everyone, and work against the organizational politics, that only make the situation on the streets more complex. So i guess there could be a bigger reason why this even came up at all. For me to highlight this point.
One thing i have experienced is there is a lot of competition and organizational politics within this sector. I think it has gotten better since when i first came here, but it still exists, and it holds the kids right where they are. I hope for a day when we can all work together, agree to disagree about certain things, and work in unity towards finding solutions for these kids. No one person can do it alone! But it requires dedication to teamwork and networking, along with all of us basically being willing to "work ourselves out of a job". I hope this happens! I hope that others are striving for the same thing!
So here is the venue. I am opening it up. Please feel free to contact me if you have a problem with what i am doing. Please let me know how we can better work together. Please let me know if you support what i am doing. I need that too! Both negative and positive input are greatly needed for anything and everything we do in life, both privately and professionally. All i know is that i have seen eight years of children dying, drugging themselves stupid, wasting away, and being ignored by society (until they get under society's skin, that is) and i can't bear to see this for 8 more years! Desperate times call for desperate measures. This is my desperate act. I pray and hope that i have your support, even if you don't fully understand or agree with it.
I am sorry if this blog came off a little whiny and PMSy! This is normally not my style. But this has just been bugging me all day! Thanks for letting me vent!