Sunday, November 30, 2008

Day 6: 30 November

Day 6: 30 November (top of the morning)

I just wanted to write a short one to say that i had a good time last night. Gregory and I hung out on Long Street for a LONG time and we sat at Lola's at one of the outdoor tables (it was slow at first because of the rain) and he made beats on the table and i rapped. He said it was because of our mic that Long Street filled up so quickly! Everyone seemed to be in a festive mood. Everyone of course including the rats!! When i was trying to go to sleep i got bombarded by them. At one point three at one time. One of them managed to make its way into my pant leg before i was able to stand up ad kick him out! I will write more later. I have a lot of things on my mind i want to write about but really need something in my stomach! Talk to you later!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Day 5: 29 November - You Are STILL NOT Welcome...VERY MUCH!

I had a great day today! I hung out mostly with the group of younger kids from Long Street. They were excited to hang out because most of the time, over the past few days, when i have seen them it has been at night during their "working hours". So today we had a chance just to hang out. We went to the Company Gardens and just laid in the grass. They actually asked me to come with them and talk to them until they fell asleep (they had stayed up all night and had not yet slept). So we met up with a couple of the other guys that hang out in the Gardens and just hung out, laid on a blanket and chatted. I was again reminded of the blog i wrote the other day about the discrimination that street people receive from police and security compared to "average members of the public".


In a few hours of sitting there we were approached by two different sets of police officers and two different sets of security guards. The kids had eventually fallen asleep and Gregory and i just sat there and chatted. Later my wife came for a visit as well. But in that time, every visit we had from the authorities brought the message that "people" are not allowed to sleep in the Company Gardens. Please picture with me for one second, a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon (that was before it started raining), families sitting all in the grass (many of those people sleeping), all sorts of activities and fun. The kids were not harming anybody. Just sleeping. So were other people, that did not get told FOUR SEPARATE TIMES that they are not allowed to sleep there. I explained that the sign (which is a picture) explains that people, ALL people, are not allowed to sleep there in the night, because it is a picture (crossed out) of man sleeping under the moon. That makes it pretty clear for literate and illiterate alike.

I understand rules. I think many rules are good and allow us to live in peace and harmony with one another. BUT rules have to apply to everyone and not just a certain "class" or grouping of people. I used to walk through the Gardens regularly and there has not been one single time that i have NOT seen people sleeping: business men, construction workers, homeless people, white people, black people, fat people, skinny people, lots and lots of people...sleeping. But the only people i have ever seen be harassed about sleeping in the Gardens are homeless people. So...

  1. Make a rule that NO ONE is allowed to sleep there and enforce it fairly, and equally to the entire public.
  2. Lay off and let everyone enjoy the little bit of "nature" in the middle of this concrete jungle.
BUT WHATEVER YOU DO JUST BE FAIR AND TREAT PEOPLE EQUALLY!!!!!

Day 5: 29 November - Basic Arithmetic

My current smell + Rain = something TERRIBLY smelly!!!!

I was given taxi fair to go to the 100 hour Music Marathon at the Waterfront. I walked through a lot of rain before that. Then i had to sit next to people, making very close contact, on public transport. I felt sorry for them but also felt pretty ashamed. I mean, i know why i am doing this, so it didn't get to my "core being" or anything, but i just imagined how it would be for someone in my position, yet this "position" being their constant reality. I got to the marathon only to find out it was rained out but it wasn't all loss because they had left over KFC that i was able to bring back to town for the guys, which also worked out good because i promised the kids on Long Street i would "sort something out for them later" because they gave me an apple and some chips this morning. So, on the bus on the way back to town, i had my big plastic sack of obviously donated food, and there was some guy that actually made fun of me! On the way in and the way out of the bus. People are truly amazing! I treasure these experiences because they allow an understanding that cannot be obtained by mere observation, reading, hearsay, or even a story straight from the horse's mouth; to really feel and understand it, you have to experience it! It was not cool to be me in that moment, but this "me" only lasts for 16 days; whilst others live under this kind of treatment on a daily basis.

Push...

I saw Ryan today, just like the past couple days before at the Waterfront. I've been lucky to see him on this journey and rock a 365 Days of Activism shirt.

I totally agree with the mentality of 365 Days of Activism. We, as the general population, have many days of awareness i.e. AIDS, Breast Cancer, Homelessness, Gender Violence, ect. ect. ect. While these days are important to remind us that humanity is still a work in progress, it's very easy to become callous to the messages even on their days of recognition.

Ryan asked me today to write about the event my organisation, ConsciousFlowz, along with many other local organisations such as loveLife, The Amy Beihl Foundation, Cape Flats YMCA, New Start and others with DJs such as Azuhl, Eazy, Intellegent Design, Ready D and musical artists such as Claire Phillips, Chad Saamian and Sneaker Box are joining forces to raise awareness of the AIDS Pandemic with World AIDS 5-Day Event at the Waterfront.

The event is spearheaded by a 100 DJ marathon. While I'm not a DJ, but I've working closely with these cats and I can see that 100 hours is A LOT OF TIME EVEN IF IT'S YOUR PASSION. THEY DO HOWEVER CONTINUE TO PUSH FORWARD WHICH REMINDS ME THAT WE AS A GLOBAL COMMUNITY SHOULD DO SO AS WELL NO MATTER HOW PROVERBIALLY TIRED WE BECOME WITH THE EVERYDAY GRIND.

This brings me to the point of my thoughts: RYAN IS PUSHING. Wherever you are in this world there are issues that we allow ourselves to become callous. Why do we let this happen? My belief is that it is easy to not push ourselves to become better humans as we fight for our own survival --- why must we also fight for something else as well? My answer: Our future generations to come.

SO I CHALLENGE US TO FOLLOW RYAN's EXAMPLE AND PUSH.

If you want to hear some of the live tunes that we'll be playing as we continue to push ourselves to Monday concert at Waterfront, you can check out the live stream at:
http://www.consciousflowz.org/ConsciousFlowz/LiveStream.html

Peace:
Stephen

Day 5: 29 November - Role Reversal

Last night i had an interesting experience. Maanie came by the flower stand before we went to sleep. I have known Maanie the entire time i have lived here. I think he was around 10 or 11 when i first met him back in 2000. I really have a soft spot for him and have seen him go through many ups and downs. Right now it seems that he is very "up", which is great for me to see! I don't think he would mind me saying that he just got out of jail the day before yesterday. He had a couple of old cases that stood up against him so he had to spend a couple of months in jail. He said while he was in there he thought a lot about his life, his child (who is one of the cutest babies in the world), and his future.

Maanie said all these years living on and off the streets, in and out of jail, he had always looked at other people to blame for his predicaments he continued to find himself in; his parents, the government, the NGO sector, Cape Town, this guy, that guy...everybody but himself. Now he says, though he sees the role that they all played in the things he has been through, he is currently in a place where he is "old enough" to take responsibility, stop looking for others to blame for his situation, and also look at himself, along with the choices and decisions he has made over all the years that have brought him to this place (even if he was not mature enough to make them at that time). He now takes responsibility for the "place" he is in, but more importantly, he is taking responsibility for his future.

Anyway, as i said, i have always had a soft spot for Maanie; i love him to death. It was really good to see him last night and see how good he looked, and i think he was glad to see me. At the same time, i think it was a little bit strange for him. He said he heard about what i am "doing" (here on the streets) while he was in jail. He kept looking at me with disbelief last night and i could see a mixture of emotion in his eyes: pride, concern, pity...to name a few. He looked at me with concern and said, "You look tired!". I said i was a bit tired because it had been a long day. He said, "Do you have a cold? Here, take this!" and he handed me the cap from his head. I thanked him. He said, "Do you have enough clothes?" and i told him that i only had the clothes i was wearing but i planned on washing them soon. I could literally see the pain in his eyes. I think he finally realised how i felt (and still feel) all those years coming and visiting all the kids on a daily basis.

I told him i stink. He leaned forward and put his nose to my chest and took a big whiff and said, "No you don't. You smell like I always did!". And that was the moment that was so surreal. I was standing there like a stinky little "street kid" and Maanie was standing there nicely dressed, looking and smelling great. I think it was a moving experience for both of us! He told me he wants to do whatever he can to support me in this and that he believes in what i am doing! I appreciated his words and told him that the best way he can "support me" is to continue in the positive way that he is and look after himself. To see him looking so good is the best support i could ever have. That is why i am doing this!

Once a kid has been allowed to grow up on the streets it is not easy for him to come away from the street life (especially after many years on the streets). Maanie is very aware of the challenges and open about the temptations that are out there for him. Like i have said many times before, we have to catch these kids before they even go to the streets. Before the streets suck them in and steal prime years of their lives. I am so proud of Maanie! I know he will make mistakes again, but i also know that we have to take it one day at a time and today...Maanie gave me hope!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Day 4: 28 November (evening)

Today was a really nice day...after i got over the whole diarrhea thing! I went to Crippie (the soup kitchen) and hung out there for most of the morning. One thing i have noticed is how much the other street youth, and adults for that matter, enjoy having me around. Though I have felt close to them for the past eight years, this experience is bringing me closer than words can explain. Each and every day i am reminded of the fact that they truly are my family; whether it is through a smile, a gift of some sort (usually coffee or coke), encouraging words telling me they believe in what i am doing, or just quality conversations. Before i would have these types of experiences but then return to my home. Now, i am here...all the time!

I don't really have all that much to say tonight. But i am doing good, and feel absolutely privileged to be in the place that i am! Crippie is closed for the weekend so we will see what tomorrow and Sunday bring!

Day 4: November 28 - Live by the Day

Alright, i don't want to be too gross on here, but i guess part of this experience is to learn, and share, all the different aspects of street life (especially in context with why the streets are not appropriate for children to live on), as "real" as they might be. This one is pretty gritty! I woke up this morning and my stomach was not happy. I realised something i had eaten yesterday made my stomach runny. Unfortunately, it was 6:00 AM. The public toilets on the Parade don't open until 7:00 AM! Fortunately, i wanted to come to the Internet cafe to write this blog and i knew i could use this toilet (an option that the kids would not actually have). That also meant i had to walk a bit further.

As i walked i could feel my unhappy stomach trying to relieve itself as quickly as possible. I pinched like i never have before. I made it to the toilet, BUT someone had urinated ALL over the seat. "Oh man!!!! I don't think i can hold it long enough to clean it off!". I got it cleaned off just in time for the explosion that followed! HA! I know, i am sorry! Too much information!! But i guess that is one of the many realities of street life that has just become very real to me! What if i had not have made it? I only have this one pair of pants!!! What if i would have had to wait until 7:00 AM? I don't think i could have held off! Anyways, that's not even what i wanted to write about this morning, but i did want to share that with you.

Moving on...

One thing that i have always seen as a positive and negative of street life is the "live by the day" mentality that comes with it. I mean, it is good because some people spend their entire lives collecting "things" that they think will make them happy, and they don't, but they horde and they horde until they die, and then the stuff stays, and they move on. On the other side however, it has always been difficult for me in the past, working with the kids that come off the streets, trying to teach them values of saving money, thinking ahead and not acting so spontaneously. Street life is very spontaneous. Life just "happens". Many of the kids act impulsively, not thinking of the consequences, maybe because that action could be their very last. Why save money from today when someone is going to steal it in the night? Last night i got a taste of why it does not always pay off to "save" things on the streets.

For those of you that don't know, yesterday was Thanksgiving in the States. And i have some American friends here that like to celebrate it. One of those friends had told me that back in the States her and her mother always take food to homeless people on Thanksgiving, and she said she would bring me something when i am here on the streets. So she came last night and brought Wise and I too lovely bags of goodies!! I am talking a whole chicken, a loaf of bread, some candy, peanut butter, apples, soap, pain tablets and more! It was like Christmas! She found us at our sleeping place and we were already asleep, so she said it would keep until the morning. Wise and i looked forward to a nice breakfast, AND lunch!

We knew the rats were on the prowl so i put the bags under a crate. We then returned to la la land. This morning when we woke up, we wanted to take a look at the goodies in the morning light and we noticed little pieces of plastic bag laying all around the bags. And each bag had its own hole. The rats has figured a way into our "refrigerator" crate!! (i thought i felt something crawling over me in the night) They has eaten about half the whole chicken and nibbled on every single piece of bread! Wise said we shouldn't eat the other half of the chicken because the rats carry diseases and he has seen people get very sick from eating food that rats have nibbled on. So we salvaged what we could and fed the rest to the birds. I am pretty excited to use the soap!

Anyways, all of that to say, though i always understood the "live by the day" mentality, i have never really been in a position where i have really and truly had to live by that philosophy. I think there are lessons to learn on both sides. Again, if our children grow up on the streets with the "live by the day" mentality, it makes it harder for them to later reintegrate into society if or when they come off the streets; they act spontaneously and often cannot grasp the concept of "saving". But on the other side, those people that have an abundance of "stuff", and they continue just to collect more, and are looking to that for happiness...i am here to tell you, the rats are real, and your stuff will just end up getting eaten one day or another! I guess we can all learn from this!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Day 3: 27 November - You are NOT welcome!

It is very interesting as i really "sink" into street life; it is interesting to view a life that i have known "so well" (for the past eight years) from another angle. I mean, i know about street life, in my first three years here in South Africa i spent more time on the streets than i did in my flat, but that was still an "outsiders" perspective. Even though the kids invited me into their lives and showed me all about street life, told me stories, and i walked with them through so much, it was still not a full taste of "street life".

I am only three days into this journey but i know i don't smell so hot! The poor guy sitting next to me in the Internet cafe keeps looking this way out of the corner of his eyes. I don't look quite as "kept" as i did on the first day. I am more sunburned. My eyes are a little bloodshot from who knows what; maybe it's my allergies acting up from sleeping next to the flowers. I did get given some new shoes. They are pretty funny and are attracting quite a bit of attention. They are white, but one is painted neon orange and the other is painted neon yellow. "Beggars can' be choosers!". Those words have never rang so true!

Anyways, i was walking back to town from the Waterfront today, with a BIG sack of rolls someone gave me. I am sure i was quite a sight, but people couldn't help but look at me with in different judgments; some thought it was funny, others held their purses tighter, others just looked in unbelief. I probably would have laughed at myself if i would have been them! Wise Guy was walking with me, and he keeps much more clean than i ever will be able to on the streets! We passed by a traffic light where we had tried to hand out 365 Days of Activism flyers on the first day. We were about five minutes into it that day and a security came to us and told us we had to have a permit. Today when we passed by there were two different groups of people handing out flyers. I asked them if they had a permit and sure enough, they did not. Wise and i walked on and low and behold who was standing there but the security that had chased us away, and he was merely standing their watching the group hand out their flyers.

Wise and i questioned him about it and he actually lied and said that it was not him. But it was. Wise reckons he looked at our tattoos and decided we were a danger to hand out flyers. Anyways. Yesterday morning i got to the soup kitchen early and ran into an old friend who lives on the streets. We had allot to catch up on because the last time i saw him was maybe a year ago, in Manenberg and there was a drive by shooting one block away and i had to leave quickly. Anyways. We sat on the steps right in front of St. Georges Cathedral and spoke. After a few minutes a CCID security came up and told us we had to move. I was not planning on arguing.

Just as i was standing up Melvin, my friend, began arguing with him. He had pain and anger in his voice. "How many times a day do i see foreigners sitting in this same spot looking at maps and books?! They sit here for hours and you don't ask them to move and i am here for a few minutes and i have to move!? I am a South African citizen!". This is true. It happens to be a spot where a tour bus drops tourists and i see them sit there on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, later that day i saw a group of business people sitting there eating lunch with the same security guard nearby. But that makes no difference. Melvin's argument was not heard. We moved. Melvin mumbled threats under his breath as we walked away.

You know, i of all people know the trouble that the "youth" living on the streets can cause. But it is also sad when we forget to treat people like humans. I do want to come to a day when there is not one single child living on the streets. But at the same time, if there are people living on the streets, young or old, they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, or we cannot expect that back from them. Even initiatives, present and future, we come up with to eradicate homelessness amongst youth should be done in a respectful way, with the youth's best interests in mind! It is insightful to experience street life from the "other side". I don't just hear about the problems the kids, encounter i experience them. I don't just "see" the looks and judgements from people, i feel them!

day 3 pics.

i met up with ryan and wise guy at the waterfront today. here's some pics!!!



these are some photos i have taken over the time with brown
i hope it gives you more insight into his world...


brown's guide on the streets - ralph / wise guy
of strong heart and warm smile
this man is a champion


bed time


walking home...


long street night life...


brown is seen here in muizenberg on his first day with his chinese fortune given to him by a friend: actions speak louder than words

Day 3: 27 November (morning)

Wow! I slept like a LOG last night!!! I was so exhausted from the combination of waking up so early and walking around all day that i barely moved the whole night! I vaguely remember some friends coming by late at night (or maybe it was early morning) and bringing me a bag a leftovers from their dinner. I have so many things running through my mind today, so many things i want to write about, but i actually think for now i will just keep it simple. Instead i will just make a list of...

Things i take for granted on a daily basis:
  • STRONG coffee in the mornings
  • an easily accessible toilet (most especially late at night and early in the mornings)
  • being able to easily wash my clothes
  • being able to eat pretty much anytime i want, not to mention the choice of food that comes with it
  • good shoes
  • pain pills of some sort (I went to sleep with a big headache last night)
  • hot showers
  • easily accessible faucet to drink water out of
  • my car
  • having a place to keep my "valuables" all day and not having to carry them around with me everywhere (keeping in mind that my "valuables" have also changed seeing that the most valuable thing i have with me now is my blanket)
  • tooth brush
  • soap
  • the capacity to "buy things"
  • and even this Internet connection that i am using right this second. seeing that it is prepaid i don't even know how long it will last!
There is definitely more stuff that i take for granted on a daily basis, but those are the things that come to mind very quickly! I have about an hour and a half until Crippie is open. I am hungry and ready for breakfast! After that i am walking to the Waterfront because i actually have to perform there at the 100 hour music marathon that is starting today. That should be interesting and fun! i will be back tonight to let you know how the day went!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day 2: 26 November (evening)

Well it was a LONG day!!! i don't think have have woke up that early in a while! And i had quite a few hours to kill before breakfast at 9:00. It was great meeting up with everybody at "Crippie" (the soup kitchen in St Georges Cathedral). I had some stew and it was really good! As the day went on i walked around and visited with different people. I didn't have any money today, and the reality of not being able to just go and buy a Coke weighed heavy on my head!! Yes, i am in addict! But fortunately i ran into Shane on the Grand Parade and he bought a 300 Ml Coke that we shared. I think the guys know i love Coke more than food! Wise Guy bought me one last night!

Anyways, i had to go to Beth Uriel for my regular Wednesday meeting with two young guys i work with. Gerald from Homestead offered to give me a lift there this morning when he popped into Crippie I was thankful because my feet are pretty sore!! i wore some old shoes and half of the sole fell out on the way from my flat to the Muizenberg train station. Now my left foot is cooked when i walk and it hurts pretty bad. I will have to see what i can do about another pair of shoes! By the end of the day i had not eaten anything and was starting to get a little light headed. I had also not had a chance to make any money so i didn't know what i was going to do. Fortunately, the big dudes, that used to be laaities (kids) are looking after me and Stan gave me ten rand to buy some food. They are really taking care of me out here!

But it is yet again a harsh reminder of the children that come to the streets without that kind of care and protection from others. The streets are not a place for children! I have known that, but each and every minute i "live" here, i see it more and more!!!

Sorry, I forgot to add this picture of us last summer when we went bowling!

life on the streeets

My brother tells me life on the streets is hard. I help with it. I raise money for my brother Ryan and when he comes home we get things for the kids he works with. Like last time when he came we got some pajamas for three of the kids he works with. They wear them day and night. I put $1 every week from my allowance in a drawer and I hardly ever get to see Ryan so when he comes home, it's a lot of money! They're not reallly street children, they're just kids that live on the street. I want other people to find out about their lives. People haven't even taken the time to find out about them. People should try to understand the children. Ryan's living on the street to get people to notice him so he can tell them. That's what he says in all his songs at least. I love Ryan. He's my older brother that loves me even though he's far, far away. Be careful Ryan! Watch out for the rats!!

the silent anguish.

hi there! i'm ashley, ryan's wife. i'm incredibly proud of what my husband is doing over these next 16 days. since he left home yesterday morning, i've thought of him many times. and my phones have been ringing off the hooks. i have 2 things i want to write about.
i remember when i first moved to cape town. i started working in a project with about 15 kids who had run away from home and were starting to live on the streets of muizenberg, just outside of cape town. i remember the shock and anguish i went through those first few weeks. each time i rained, i was in tears. each time it was too hot outside, i was thinking those kids would melt or die of heat. each time i laid in my nice warm bed, i thought of the hard concrete ground their little bodies laid upon. each time i indulged in a hearty meal, i thought of their stomachs filled with chips and sweets, a diet void of nutrients that a growing boy needs.
my journal was my closest friend. i spent hours dumping my thoughts, worries, concerns, obsessiveness onto those pages. i went to bed most nights in tears, totally torn up over the injustice of it all.
as i got to know the families of these kids, i realized some of the reasons why they had run away. alcoholism, drug addiction, domestic violence, poor education system--there were so few structures and "pluses" of staying at home. each kid had at least one parent on drugs. each kid had been abused, most of the sexually. i saw mom's hit their kids, swear at their kids, throw food at their kids each time they tried going home. i started realizing that, in the kids minds, it wasn't a toss-up decision of home or street...street life was freedom, independence, and a chance to not be hurt by those closest to you.
my constant thinking of the kids physical needs subsided and i started thinking deeper, past the outside and into the roots of their problems.

all this is to say that there is a silent anguish buried within each of them. a small child wanting love and boundaries. a confused kid who has seen too much for their age. a child among many, born to a young mother who cannot care for herself, much less a kid. i began to think so often about that silent anguish, the pain so strong and deep that life became a constant attempt to numb that pain. the rejection, the carelessness, the meaninglessness of it all.

that's why i believe is people like ryan, gerald, lindsay...some of the writers on this blog. people who walk the daily road with these kids, who aren't afraid of that darkness.

i urge each of you readers to reconsider your actions to those less fortunate than yourself. imagine a world where you were never hugged, loved, encouraged, touched, fed, or taught the ways of life. imagine being truly alone in the world. and the next time you see a kid in need, stop and allow yourself to be changed by his situation. be brave enough to enter the anguish he carries.

Day 2: 26 November (morning)

Good morning to you! As you can see i survived my first night's sleep on the streets. I am about to go eat breakfast at the soup kitchen but wanted to come and give you a quick report back before i eat. The soup kitchen doesn't open for another two hours anyways! We were up EARLY this morning!!! I am sleeping near next to the flower stalls on Adderley street with Wise Guy, and we had to be up before the people that sell flowers get there to set up. Wise Guy is 38 and has been on the streets for 28 years. He has ALOT of respect on the streets and knows the "routine" by now!

So, before i came here to live on the streets i had many people asked me if i was nervous or scared. I really wasn't at all, and definitely not for the reasons people thought i should be. I think people thought i would be scared i would get robbed, or stabbed, or whatever, but that really isn't a fear of mine. I did tell people that the only people i am concerned that might harass me are the police and securities, but so far i haven't had any incidents with them. There is one factor that i did not even think about however! Something that i am pretty scared of!

Last night, just as "sleeping" time was approaching, i was sitting talking to some of the guys and Shawn mentioned the rats. You know, in all my time in Cape Town, i have seen MANY rats, some HUGE ones that are more the size of small dogs, but for some reason, when considering living on the streets for 16 days, the rats did not even cross my mind. Shawn said to me, "Yeah, just make sure you keep your ears covered because the rats come and bite them in the night!". I looked around a bit and saw at least five rats scurrying around where i would be sleeping a few minutes later. That is when i realised that there is one thing i am a little scared of!! Wise Guy said the rats in Cape Town are pretty tough. When you stomp and make noise trying to scare them away they just stand up on their back legs and growl back at you! I am not a fan of rats of any kind, but most especially not gangster rats!!!

Anyways, i had a good nights sleep, with no serious confrontations with the rats, but it did remind me of yet another factor that makes the streets an unsuitable place for children! I will be back later to tell you how the day goes!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day 1: 25 November

Well, even though i am sitting here in this Internet cafe, i am in fact "homeless"! I am using this prepaid account i set up last week. This morning i left my house for the streets. It was a surreal. I wasn't expecting it to be emotional or anything, but it sure was a strange feeling to walk away from my flat, with absolutely no money, cell phone, and no changes of clothes, knowing that i would not return for 16 days. It was liberating in some ways, and strangely eerie in others. But i feel great about it. I have been in Cape Town long enough. Seen way too much! And talked until i was blue in the face about the injustice of allowing children to live on the streets. It was time to do something radical and ACT!

Funny enough, a friend of mine ate at a Chinese restaurant the night before last, and when i saw her yesterday she said, "I've got something for you!!!". Then she pulled a little "fortune" out of her pocket. She had gotten it in a cookie the night before. She handed it to me and told me that it was MY fortune and was exactly what i was about to embark on. I took it from her and looked down at it, "Actions speak louder than words." Perfect! And i hope that this "fortune" does ring true over the next 16 days! That people would HEAR and RECEIVE the message in my ACTIONS!

So today i rode the train to town. I hung out a bit with some of the people that will be documenting (filming) my street journey over the next 16 days, and showed them all of my "hang out" spots so they would be able to find me. After they left i just kind of settled in. I needed to drop some 365 Days of Activism shirts off at a friends house in an area near the top of town so i took a walk up. On my way i met Jerome, a "kid" that i haven't hung out with in a while. I have known Jerome since he was tiny! He was one of the first kids i met in town. He is now twenty or so. He was actually the first kid i "took off the streets" way back in 2000. That didn't last long and he ran away from the institution a few months later. Anyways, he is much bigger, and into more trouble now, but he has has an enormous amount of respect for me, and speaks to me as though he is still that young kid i once knew. He walked with me today to drop the shirts.

As we walked we talked and it was great catching up! He told me a funny story (which may not be all that "funny" to you). One night Jerome and a friend were hanging out in a certain area and saw a "white guy" approaching and decided to rob him. As they approached the guy Jerome said they could sense the fear in the guys eyes. When they got right up on the guy, before they could say or do anything, apparently, the guy said, "I know Ryan!". Jerome said they took a step back and said, "Oh! OK." and then they "left him". They had a brief chat with him about how he knew me and then he went happily on his way. Now they see him all the time and greet him and he friendlily greets back. As we walked, Jerome continued to tell me stories, many of them involving crime. But he was not bragging, or showing off, he was just telling me about what was going on in his life. I noticed how calloused he is to the life he is living but at the same time i could see that respectful, sweet kid that i have always known. Unfortunately many people, especially walking around late at night, do not get to see that side of him!

It is because of "kids" like Jerome that i hope my ACTIONS echo in every corner of Cape Town and are HEARD by all. He was just an innocent kid, full of potential, with the capacity to respect and be respected, with a warm heart and a great sense of humor, but he was ALLOWED, as that small child, to go and live on the streets. Now that same child does exist somewhere deep down inside of him, but he really only makes occasional guest appearances, and the hardened "man" that the streets created will most probably rob you if he sees you. It could have been different. But we cannot change the past. That is why i hope my ACTIONS can make some difference, even if it is very small, on the "Jeromes" of the future!

It is almost time for my first night's sleep on the streets. Talk to you tomorrow!

Hamba Gahle, Brown

I didn't think "have fun!" or "enjoy your sixteen days on the street!" was the appropriate send-off. So I'm sticking with "hamba gahle," - go well.

Go well and learn.

Go well and encourage.

Go well and stimulate discussion.

Go well and cause controversy.

Go well and promote justice.

Go well and bring healing.

Go well and be changed.

Go well and change us all.

Kim Speaks Out--rape, traumatic experiences in court and a new start to life

Kim Speaks Out--rape, traumatic experiences in court and a new start to life
KIM was admitted to Ons Plek Projects on 23/01/07.

Kim is a rape survivor. Her father repeatedly raped her over a two-year period. She only recently had the courage to break the silence whereupon she was referred to Ons Plek. She also endured physical abuse by her father and her relatives, who witnessed the beatings, were unable to protect her.
Kim was born in A... in Congo. She was reared by her father and stepmother in Congo. She has never met her biological mother and does not know her maternal relatives. She once met a man on a train station in Cape Town, he saw her school name tag and he allegedly told her that she is the daughter of G..., who is still living in Congo. She only had this one encounter with this man.
After Kim laid criminal charges against her father, her stepmother and other paternal relatives were intimidating and threatening her. She only has the support of two cousins.
Experience has taught us that criminal court cases can be postponed several times and often take years for a verdict. In the past few months, Kim had four appointments at the Sexual Offences Court. She saw her father and stepmother at court (she has not seen them since she ran away from home) and she exchanged an emotional embrace with her younger stepsister.
Initially the case was postponed because the interpreter (who was warned to attend) was not present. Kim has been strong, even though she was writing her final school exams.
Witnesses have a “special, secure” waiting room. One has to pass security guards and a security gate to enter the waiting room, but on two occasions security allowed relatives to pass. These relatives were there to support her father and “intimidate” Kim.
On the last court date, the interpreter who speaks the father’s mother tongue arrived but daddy suddenly claimed to have a different mother tongue and the case has yet been postponed again. This happened twice. This was too much for Kim and she finally broke down.
She turned eighteen recently and her only wish was to find her biological mother. A cousin gave us a telephone number to enquire about relatives in Congo. After making three calls, we found her maternal aunt and were told to call the following day. Kim spoke to her mother for the very first time and was told that her birth name is Pretty. News spread fast in Congo, when we called for the mother, Kim spoke to three siblings, aunts and uncles. They were all waiting for her call!
Subsequently, Kim successfully completed a three-month Youth Leadership Development and Skills Training Program at Chrysallis Academy, where she obtained Certificates of Competency in Introduction to Tourism; Emergency Medical Training First Aid Level 1 and Red Watch Fire Fighting Basic Training.
She returned to Siviwe and was warmly welcomed by all the girls and staff members.
Currently she is updating her Curriculum Vitae and exploring employment opportunities.
Written by,
Carmen De Vos

PS My aim is to bring the world closer to what we sometimes go through,yet we stii manage to fight on and be the shining lights!!

Press Release

Young people call for an end to the sexual exploitation of children on World Youth Day
Bangkok, Thailand - Children and adolescents around the globe are working together with ECPAT International to put an end to the commercial sexual exploitation of children in the lead up to the World Congress III against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents to be held 25-28 November, 2008 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Through representation in the Organizing Committee of the Congress and their participation in regional meetings in East Asia/Pacific, South Asia, Latin America and Africa to take place this month, children and adolescents between 12-18 years of age will help identify and find solutions to new dimensions of child trafficking, prostitution, pornography, and abuse in travel and tourism that are important in their region. These issues will be brought forward to the World Congress III.
Around 300 children and adolescents will participate in theWorld Congress III, with around 150 young participants coming from Brazil and around 150 young participants coming from other countries and regions of the world. The youth participants include those who are at-risk or are survivors of sexual exploitation that are now directly involved in stopping this problem, through their networks, shelters, schools and communities, as well as other children and adolescents actively involved in child rights work linked to initiatives for protection against sexual exploitation.
‘Now is the time to get involved to make sure governments and policymakers listen to the experiences of young people, and to promote the importance of working together with children and youth to find sustainable solutions for ending sexual exploitation,’ said Lotta Segerström, youth representative on the board of ECPAT International.
'Children are the backbone of our nation and it is the duty of everyone to protect them because if they are abused and exploited, we cannot dream of a prosperous nation,' said Suman Bhujel, a member of ECPAT’s Youth Partnership Project in South Asia (YPP).
All children and youth can get involved right now by sharing their views on how children’s right to live free of sexual exploitation can be achieved by going online and using the child-friendly consultation tool. All input and ideas received will contribute to thematic background papers on the different themes of the Congress that are being developed for participants to the World Congress III. For more information, see http://www.eicyac.org/Get_Involved/index.html.
TheWorld Congress III will bring together more than 3000 participants comprised of governments, civil society, international organizations, private sector, children and young people to map out the actions to be taken to combat the sexual exploitation of children. ECPAT International, a global network of organisations and individuals working together for the elimination of child prostitution, child pornography and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes, is a key organizing partner of the World Congress III. ECPAT International is the only World Congress organizer that has a youth representative on the Organizing Committee of the World Congress III.
For further information:
Caroline Liou, Information & Communications Officer, ECPAT International, email carolinel@ecpat.net, tel +66 84 729 7528 ext 128, Fax: + 66 (0) 2 215 8272, http://www.ecpat.net
Notes to editors:

New book,THE STREET BOYS

SynopsisThe moving true story of 7 young kids and their struggle to escape a life of gangs and violence. 'Eight years old. That's when life went downhill. From eight years old nobody looked after me. I just lived on the street and made do by myself. There was no one except me and my friends.' Simon This is the story of Elijah (JaJa), Simon (Phat Si), 'Bloods', Nathan (Inch), Michael (Birdie), Byron (Ribz), and Darren (Tempman). These 7 young boys each have one thing in common -- they grew up on the Angell Town estate, south London. Phat Si comes home from school one day to find his mother gone, so he takes to the streets. He's 8 years old. JaJa looks out of his kitchen window and sees drug dealers, pimps and whores. Overwhelmed by what he sees, JaJa slowly descends from petty theft to life as a kid in a street gang. Ribz's mother sells crack and is sent to prison. He doesn't know who his father is but is drawn to Angell Town, knowing that his dad has an unknown number of kids living on the estate. He's determined to find some kind of family.Street Boys tells a powerful and important true story of courage, determination and hope -- of creating a family from your friends and starting again when the world seems against you.

Get Real or Die trying

It seemed some people were happy to see me in the streets.There were times when i tried to go back home before it was too late but it was tough.i remember kids my age being told not to play with me.We didnt have a tv or radio and when i wanted to watch a Thursday evening Music programme and the guys would flight Oliver Mutukudzi's song,Streetkid.Hey that was torture i will never like that song.I was like an outcast,those were the day when a song called Runaway To Save Ur Life was a hit.In the streets i was seeing Newspaper headlines of violence that was rocking KZN.I had this determination to shine.I used to train karate with a guy called Lawrence who used to come to the park.He taught me to focus,respect and endure.Believe me not i went to look for a grade 5 place by myself.Dirty as i was with no transfer letter or birth certificate.But the school head gave me a place.Two days into class,the ugly head of bulling stuck me.

fear of rejection

I think it was the fear of rejection,or rather an abstruct instinct.i would scrutinise who to tell and who not to tell.I remember when i was 18 and i was in a UNiCEF programe.i had been chosen to represent a politi2l constituency due to my academic performance.No one knew of my background at school.Even my foster parents jus knew i was a disadvantaged young man,period.Now we had our trip to Matopos in Bulawayo postponed and we were going to sleep in Highfields,a high density subura in Harare.Funny enough we went to Upenyu Utsva[new life] childrens home!Hey i didnt sleep that night.Story afta story the kids told us and i was taking comments passed by my friends and fellows.That was actually an eye opener for me.i started acceptinp my childhood and its history.Painful was the fact that i was gon live the kids behind.@ least they were going to school,had somewhere to scho sleep and something to eat.i remember a young boy who had big dreams of becoming a soccer star.thats when i saw the influence of celebrities

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tomorrow

Here i sit. In front of my computer in my comfortable flat. Typing on my very own computer. Drinking some refreshing Coke. About to climb in my soft bed, under my warm blankets, and sleep. When i wake up tomorrow i have to leave all of this and head to the streets. I must say i am really looking forward to the next 16 days, but at the same time i am VERY aware of the very REAL realities of "street life". So i am going to get one more good night's sleep and i will let you know how tomorrow goes...tomorrow!

A Billion lives














I am Daniel, I am white, I am male, I am a resident of one of the richest countries in the world(Sweden). The front page of my passport tells me that I am a citizen of one of the worlds richest countries (Norway). Being a part of this blog community reminds me once again that it really doesnt matter where I am from or how rich I am.

I meet a lot of similar people where I live (residents or citizens of rich, wealthy countries) and when they and I get a glimpse of how the world really is, whether its through travel or study or reading statistics,I find it can quickly lead to guilt. We have so much , while others have so little.

Guilt is not helpful

Honesty is helpful. Awareness is helpful. Knowledge is helpful.

Guilt isn't.

Honesty, awareness and knowledge should lead us all to activism. The word activism comes from the word active. The real meaning of active = active. In other words an activist is someone who is active about something.


I have been reading a fantastic book by Jan Egeland called a Billion lives. I quote:

A billion lives are still at stake at humanities front lines. This is the number of fellow human beings without drinking water, daily food, or even a dollar a day to survive on.

Egeland (also from Norway) tells the stories of his meeting with the citizens in the front lines of humanity. Its a powerful book. its a book that inspires people as myself to stay active. I am also reminded once again that I am not a Norwegian or a Swede on a day like to day. for the next 365 days I am a citizen of the world. The billion lives Egeland writes about, are for the next 365 days my brother, my sister, my mother, my father. Understanding biology the way I do, there is nothing that can separate my father from being my father. There is nothing that can separate my mother, being my mother, my sister or brother, being my sibling. I guess that means they will forever be family.

Oh and that means I am brown , I am poor , I am sick...

Buy the book by the way, and give it away as a Christmas present once you have read it.

You can read more about me on my other blog. Head over here.

GIVE!

Speaking of giving, if you do, in fact, want to give money but not directly to the kids, here are some organizations that work with them. If you give to these organizations, the money will reach kids that need it, in the way that they need it!

Straatwerk- programmes including employment for Men and Women - 021 423 2464

The Homestead- programmes including food, clothing and shelter for Boys -021 461 7470

Ons Plek- programmes including food, clothing and shelter for Girls - 021 461 4829

Home of Hope– programmes and after hours Social Work for Children - 086 010 9089(emergency number)

Percey Bartley- programmes and place of safety for boys - 021 447 5722


FEEL FREE TO ADD ANY ORGANIZATIONS IN COMMENTS!!!

To Give or Not to Give...That is the Question

"We would often be ashamed of our finest actions if the world understood all the motives which produced them." -Francois de la Rochefoucauld

I came across this quote in a book i have that is filled with famous quotes. I do not know who Francois is, or if i am supposed to know (I slept through many-a history classes), but his words rang true to me. They also reminded me of a question that i am often asked. It is probably one of the most common questions i am asked, with regards to the children i work with. People are often torn with the dilemma of whether or not to "give" to "street children", because of the stories of the kids' drug use, or older gangsters that send them out to beg for them, some huge crime syndicate that is using them, or aliens that abduct them and then use them to get cash (just seeing if you were still paying attention). You probably wonder what on earth Mr. Rochefoucauld's quote has to do with that question! Well...

My answer is always complex and very simple at the same time. Many of those scenarios of where the children's money goes to are true, well with exception to the alien one; i have yet to see that. I do know that a mass majority of kids living on the streets definitely use money, they earn in various fashions, to support their drug habits, and sometimes the habits of others. So i "simply" suggest not to give money. Then the person usually asks if it is ok to give food, along with the question if that is "enabling them to live on the streets". Again, my "simple" answer is "yes it probably is", but i also feel that giving food is better than giving money.

Back to the quote... the thing i see over and over again with people that ask me this question, is their different motives for wanting the answer. Some start it with, "Every time i go out and try to have a good time some little kid comes up and pesters me for money..." where others begin with something like, "I have kids of my own and it just break my heart when one of them comes up to my window at a stop light...". Some people want to know what to do just to get the kid out of their face, while others truly do seem to care about the kids and want to help but don't know how. Our motivations in giving should be with the best interests of the kids in mind. We should not "give" just to get someone off our back, but at the same time even when our intentions are good it is also beneficial to make sure we know what to give, and that it will in fact be helping the recipient.

With all of that said, i would say never give money. But there are many things you can give! You can give your time, energy, love, a smile, a short conversation, and just some good old fashion healthy human interaction. Many of these children are deprived of that on a daily basis. Often they actually get food, and money for that matter, but society treats them like nuisances, "vagrants", and less then human. Giving of yourself, offering things that money cannot buy is probably the most valuable thing you can give to these kids. I know it sounds idealistic, but that is how i started 9 years ago when i first came to Cape Town, and now some of my closest "family" live on the streets of downtown Cape Town.

So... to give or not to give? GIVE! But give lasting things. A kid will get hungry again. The high of the drug bought with the money will wear off. But if you check your motivations in why you want to give, and you truly "give" with the best interests of the child in mind, i am sure your giving will not be in vain!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Free T-Shirt Results

Alright! Thank you to all who supported by making comments on the T-shirt post! Here are the official results of the first 20 people who posted comments:
1 John Dalton
2 Eli Anderson
3 Chad Clendinen
4 Daisha Versaw (mama D)
5 Quinton Lavery
6 Katy Kudry
7 Taffie Tamba
8 Kyle Fuller
9 Rebecca Huddleston
10 Leslie Savage
11 Katie Sanning
12 Brandy Hensley
13 Christina Gardner
14 Eric Anderson
15 Gerald Jacobs
16 Johanna Williams
17 Sandi Muranda
18 Alex Conner
19 Stephen Richardson
20 Janina Halbauer

Ok, so those are the people with quick trigger fingers that will be receiving free 365 Days of Activism shirts in the mail! I will send them out first thing on Monday! For those of you that were too late, don't fret! I do have some more shirts. Contact me by email capetownbrown@gmail.com. But remember if you don't contact me before Tuesday, i will not be able to get back to you until after the 10th of December! Thanks again for all who participated!! Please help continue to spread the word!!!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

It's Going Down on Tuesday!!!!!

My reflections

On 6 November i turned 26 and as i looked back i saw episodes of my life unfolding.I was in tears and smiles and as i went to sleep i realised that i may noe be an achiever but a believer!25 feb 2000,i became a victim of Cyclone Eline,i was travelling in a full chicken bus from school,visiting my blood parents only to be a survivor in a bus accident that killed 34 people.amazingly i was the first survivor!The bus got swept from a bridge right into a flloded river,and we were swept for 15 mitres whilst still inside the bus,with water already filling in!!I lost a close friend and classmate in the accident as well as my school bag(i was always reading!).13 May 1995,i went to look for a place at school on my own and the heard master gave me the benefit of doubt and i was in,without any documantation,after five years in the streets!!!!!2002 i became so depressed i did not have any reason to be living,i thiught the world did not care about me,but then i had a question!Why did God put me through grave situations only take me out?i was reading a lot of magazines and world journals and i hated school like nobody's business.And i had intense hatred for a Maths teacher who had mocked me in front of the whole class for having GOOD Passes!!I really wanted to harm her,but for what and what would i benefit.i was reading about people cutting themselves to let out pain,peole hanging themselves for failing to handle their troubles and i almost gave up the will to live but i always asked myself:WHO WOULD I GIVE THE GIFT GOD GAVE ME?I would look around and see people struggling with simple things,i would even ask myself if my mother knew about Breast Cancer,if the society knew about depression.i never went for counselling not because i didnt want but i had no access to a counsellor and at the end i had to devise a survival plan,when ever i was down i had to escape into the fictional world and start writing what i wanted to write and each peace of work i wrote became a puillar of strenght.i would ask myself,tendai if you die who will take care of your writings,are you gonna pass over the talent?Are you gonna provide angels to calm those you will heartbreak?i kept on asking myself questions that killed the stupid suicide thoughts.I had seen and lived a life i would share with the world,i also saw my potential to help change someone's life and with that why would i give up.i remember the days we would sneak into a disused Air Zimbabwe plane,which is now a hotel along Bulawayo Rd and i would play the pilot.There was an armed security guard but we were proving too smart for him!!!!!!!!!!We sometimes slept inside the plane!I also used to tell my friends(classmates) that if they found me noisy i would be trying to forget my troubles........lol and i was a real nuisence luckily i was sharp in class.They made me a headboy in high school and when alone i would say,"so i can Lead?" and then there came anything that needed brains i was at the fore front,and i would laugh and say,"do these people know where i come from?"Being a streetkid taught me a lot and today as i write,i maybe becoming a TV presenter dealing with street issues!Souldier!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

365 Days of Activism T-Shirts


Alright, here they are! Fresh off the press!! This is the shirt that I will be wearing for the duration of the 16 days of activism. As you can see, it is very white! We will see how white it remains after 16 days of street life! I also printed a few extras for very special people. So here's the deal...the first 20 people that post a comment on this particular blog post will each get a free shirt! All you have to do is scroll down, click "comment", make some sort of comment and one, crisp, clean, white 365 Days of Activism shirt is YOURS! And though i look pretty, pretty dorky in that picture, I am very sure that you all will look TOTALLY cool!


Oh, and it might be a good idea to include your name, postal address, and shirt size (small, medium, large and XL) in that comment!
DON'T BE FOOLED BY THE NUMBER OF COMMENTS BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE POST TWICE!!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The R2.00 boy - Part 1

There was this boy who at the time seemed very much too ordinary looking to be standing on the corner of the street. He looked about ten years old - if not younger.
Every second or so he would tilt his head back just to make sure I was still making my way towards him. There was a hint of hope, pain and confusion deeply vexed within him. I could see the not to sublty desperation, wrapped in shyness cling around him.
"Here he comes...but I wonder if I can trust him" he must have thought to himself.
As I walked closer, I could not help but be moved by his innocence that was resembled in him facial expression. The closer I came, his hand started opening up and I slowly saw the figurement of what became a R2.00 coin.
"Excuse me sir" he said. "Do you have a rand...my mom sent me to the shop to get some bread?"
"No, sorry, I don't." I anwered quickly, and shocked I walked away.

After this happened, I could not help but drown into a spell of thought. Im not sure if the kid lived on the street. He did not resemble that look with his grey pance and black school shoes. Another possible explanation is that his mother had sent him to the shop to get bread and thought that it would be easier for the boy to get money than her trying at all.
I've been toying with the idea of what it means to be an ACTIVIST. I love words, and breaking them down is something I do quite often. Thus, I began to explore.

So, the word ACTIVIST (with help of the Maxi Chambers Paperback Dictionary) is derived from the word ACT which has various descriptions. But simply means to perform and produce an effect. To 'ACT UPON TO' means to fulfill. 'GET IN ON/GET INTO THE ACT' is to start participating in something.
It is also seen in the word ACTION, which involves activity, behaviour, a deed or gesture, fighting or a battle.
ACTIVISM is described as a philosophy of creative will, a policy of direct vigorous action. So an activist is someone who believes in activism. Interesting enough that the word 'will' and 'creative' are used to define this word. There is a power to choose.

These various intepretations got me thinking. To be an activist or be involved in activism requires one to feel strongly about and against a particular kind of issue or injustice. This issue would need one's continuous attention and must be heartfelt. I am not trying to teach readers of things they may already know. I hate the fact that there could be a R2.00 boy in this country. I am hungry for a kind of activism that is heartfelt - I too am on the discovery path of what it really means to be an ACTIVIST.

The Comfortable Compromise

I woke up this morning and did my normal internet routine: checked my email, facebook, blogs, myspace and all of those wonderful web pages. While I was on facebook I started thinking about something. I was thinking about, as humans, what excitable little creatures we can be, but at the very same time we fall back into a routine, and become very comfortable in compromise. You probably wonder what in the world I am talking about! Let me explain…

A few months back facebook decided to revamp their, already good, social networking service. They tried to gradually bring change, because I guess they knew how the masses feel about change, and first gave you an option as to whether or not you wanted to switch to the new facebook. But then, after a while, they forced everyone to change over. People were FURIOUS! I include myself in that because I found the new facebook more difficult to use than the old version. People threatened to leave facebook, they started groups (1,000,000,000 people against the new facebook, new facebook haters, etc.), they tried to come up with applications to make it possible to use the old format, they had daily statuses complaining about it, and so on and so forth. I am sure, like I did, many people also gave negative feedback to facebook (it was an option on the new browser up at the top).

Did any of this help? Not that I can see! Does anyone even remember the old facebook after a few months on the new format? Probably not. I sat there this morning and chuckled when I thought about how riled up I got about facebook changing their format, and yet how distant that anger, motivation to speak out against it, and worry about the matter seems now. We tried what we could and then just settled into that mediocre routine of acceptance; recognizing that our voices were not heard and surrendering to compromise of using the new facebook. You see, that’s just the thing! We are using the new facebook; all of us who were sooooooo against it just settled for less, and succumbed to the need to be in a cyber “social network”. The days of “old facebook” are forgotten, though not that far away. And now we are content and happy again.

This is how we operate. We see things we don’t like. We get really excited and riled up about them. We complain for a little bit. But then whether the thing changes, for the good or bad, we eventually forget about it and move on. We saw this happen near the middle of the year with the xenophobic attacks here in South Africa. When it was on the nightly news and we were forced to see graphic pictures of the violence and sad images of the refugee camps, we cared; we talked about it, we were outraged, we donated stuff, we smiled at every foreigner we saw, we volunteered our time at refugee camps, and we seemed to really care. Now, it is no longer in our faces anymore. Though xenophobia still exists, some of the refugee camps are still around and some of them are even worse off than before, we have moved on (though I know some people who are completely dedicated to the cause). But the masses are no longer affected by it because it is no longer in their faces or disrupting their day-to-day lives.

All of this to say, I have seen this same trend with the kids living on the streets. People complain about them when they are harassed on a night out on Long Street, are outraged when they are robbed by one of the kids, and are heartbroken when something terrible happens to one of the “street children” (like in 2003 when a young boy was shot, execution style, at point blank range by Michael Jackson: the Teasers strip club owner), but that emotion that they feel does not drive them to do something lasting about the situation. Most of the time, when the emotion wears off, so does the motivation to see the situation changed. Something that an individual felt SO strongly about can simply be compromised. The person settles back into his or her comfortable, “normal” life, and moves on…

until the next drama occurs.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gangster Tears

So, it's not long now until i am on the streets for 16 days! I preparing myself. Last night, laying in the comfort of my home, on my nice warm comfortable bed, i had the realization that those comforts would be completely and totally removed for those 16 days; my nice therapeutic mattress exchanged for a piece of cardboard on the cold concrete, my warm team of blankets traded for the one not-so-thick blanket, my safe and secure walls replaced with openness and vulnerability. Yeah...

I was in town today and i came across some of the "kids" i haven't seen in a while. One of them was Jason. Jason is a perfect example of how the streets suck the kids in, the system messes them around, and how little innocent kids can so easily turn into hardened gangsters! I remember when Jason was a little kid; YEARS ago! He was a sweet, considerate, energetic little guy. I also remember when he witnessed one of his best friends on the streets get run over, and killed, by a Golden Arrow bus as they were trying to cross the M3 one late night (November 2004). Needless to say, that was pretty traumatic for Jason. After that things sort of went downhill for him!




Since then Jason has been in and out of jail. He is basically a hardened criminal. His body is covered in gang tattoos, including his neck and face. Under both eyes he has two tear drops. I remember right after Jason witnessed his friend's death, one night i came across him in town and he seemed extra traumatized, plus he had a HUGE gash in his foot. I brought him to my house and doctored his foot up with my first aid kit and we spoke about his friend. One of the things that bothered him the most was that his friend died, "like a dog". He said he cried about it, but he did not want to cry about it anymore. The two tattooed tears that are now forever standing under his eyes are a harsh contrast to the way that he has allowed his heart to harden over the years, probably to cope with the pain of the death of his friend, and other things he has seen in his time on the streets.



I don't know if this blog really even makes since. I don't know if i really even have a point. But one thing i know is that it hurts to see "kids" with so much potential, their whole lives before them, years later, with nothing to really show for it but some tattoos, hardened little hearts and a stone cold look in their eyes. This is why i want to catch them before they get to that point! And this is one of the MANY reasons that i think it is child abuse to allow a kid to live on the streets in the first place!

(Photo: Masixoli, Jason's friend who passed away)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I'm Watching You!

So, i was walking on Long Street this morning, preparing some things for next week, when i passed by the flat of a known paedophile. He is know very well by the kids, and therefore known by be, and has even been to court a few times for his deeds. His name is Ben. So i walked past the road to his flat, as i often do, and thought about how justice was never really served because he still roams the streets, and continues with his ways. Then, low and behold, who do i see LITERALLY roaming the streets...BEN!

He was walking down to the corner, just past Kennedy's Cigar Bar. He came to the corner, stopped, looked down the road, didn't see what, or maybe "who", he was looking for and turned to head back to his flat. I am sure he was looking for one of the kids. I have no proof though. He was dressed in his pajamas. Did i mention he is retired and really old?

So i crossed the street and walked behind him. I followed him all the way back to his flat. I could tell he sensed my presence, though it didn't take Sherlock Holmes because i was walking a few inches behind him, as he did that look back but don't really look back thing that people do when they think they are being followed, or REALLY being followed! Anyways, i followed him to his doorstep, that is when he turned around and saw me. His face showed some sort of recognition (we both appeared in a couple of Special Assignment episodes: me speaking out against pedophilia amongst street children and a clip of him getting whacked in the head with a protesters sign outside of one of his court cases) and he tried to cover up his nervousness by greeting and saying "good morning".

I nodded, watched him go into his house, and just wanted to leave him with the feeling of "being watched". I know, sounds a bit psycho-obsessive-stalkerish, but these guys that sexual abuse these kids and get away with it make me sick!!! If justice is not served in court, i at least want them to feel as though someone, somewhere, even if it is only sometimes, is watching them and sees the things they do! So Ben...and all those like you...i AM watching you!

Oh, and for 16 days (25th November - 10th December) i will be camped outside your doorsteps!!! See you there!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

let's cure diabetes


I want a cure for diabetes.Did you know evrey 20 seconds someone is dignosed with diabetes.My  friend Lily Z has diabetes. Are you next!? I'm working hard to find a cure for everyone!  I have raised almost $10,000 in the past 3 years for the ADA. I sold tomatoes that I grew, I swam laps, I requested donations, I stood outside Walmart, and I made notecards to sell. Every year we walk 2 miles at the Nashville Zoo in the Step out for Diabetes. Our team is called Team Lily Z! I hope you enjoy the pictures from the walk this year! Lily Z deserves to not be stuck all the time!








Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Normal"

This morning I passed by a 12-year-old kid I know who was sleeping on the pavement on the side of the road. He was all sprawled out, and dead asleep right there on the middle of the sidewalk. This is a sight that i have seen many times. A sight that society is calloused to. And I hope that one day this will not be a "normal" sight.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Double Dog Dare you

Why now? Why just in November and December? All of a sudden, everyone is looking for a cause....a family to buy presents for, an organization that sends presents to children in impoverished parts of the world, a nursing home where they can sing carols. I know these are all great things to do, but why only now? I've often thought this to myself, but when Ryan began his 365 of activism, it hit me again. During the holiday season, everyone will feel goodwill and pour out their hearts and pockets to help others. But, in January, suddenly these same people will go back to their lives as usual until next November. What kind of an impact could we have if we tried to carry our holiday spirit throughout the year? Imagine how our hearts would warm and the recipients of all of that goodwill would thrive! What if we found a family in April and bought Easter outfits for the children? What if we invited a lonely family over for a 4th of July celebration? What if in the middle of May we just chose someone who looked like they needed a smile and did just that...smiled at them like we knew them even if we didn't? What would happen if you decided to let everyone who is trying to get into your lane of traffic do just that during the month of June? What about paying for the food of the person behind you in the fastfood line in September? March seems like a great time to go to a nursing home and have a sing-a-long of some old favorites. What a concept! : ) So that's my holiday crusade.....I want everyone to carry the holiday spirit in their hearts throughout the year. Be a rebel. Do something radical. Be kind and care with a purpose all year!! You'll be happpier and healthier for your efforts and the world will be a better place because you tried to make a difference. I double dog dare you!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Government Issued Toilet Paper


I am doing several things in preparation of my 16 days on the streets. I did one of those things today. I went to the government printing press and bought my very own copy of the South African Constitution for only 15 Rand. Sure, I have read it before and am familiar with it, but I wanted to have my very own copy to take with me on my 16 day street journey. Reading through it again, the realization really hit me that if people are not empowered to demand their rights, liberties and freedoms that the Constitution lays out for them, those “rights, liberties and freedoms” are worth no more than the paper they are printed on.

One thing I do know is that by allowing children to live on the streets, we are allowing them to forfeit each and every last right they have, under Chapter 2, Section 28 of the constitution (Bill of Rights: Children). Here is a breakdown for those of you that are not familiar with the rights of South African children:

28 (1) Every child has the right:

(a) to a name and a nationality from birth;

Yet once these children go and make their homes on the streets, we as society give them a new, generic name of “street children”. We often do not see them as individuals, but clump them in a mass grouping, labeling them with their new name: “street kid”.

(b) to family care or parental care, or to appropriate alternative care when removed from the family environment;

Though children often make a “new” family on the streets, it is far from the safe and healthy “family or parental care” that the Constitution refers to. Many of the children come into relationships with people who “look after them” in exchange for money, sex, labour, etc.

(c) to basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services;

Children living on the streets do not eat healthy, regular meals; many of their meals come from rubbish bins. They do not live under a permanent shelter, and are exposed to the elements of whatever the weather may be on any given day in Cape Town. They often only visit the hospital in emergency situations, if then, and often they are not mature enough to follow up on medication and treatment; many illnesses that could be prevented or properly treated (e.g. Tuberculosis, STD’s, HIV, etc.) are left undiscovered until they are at a drastic state. Though many of the children make use of various NGO’s and programs offered, most of them have little to no contact with “social services”.

(d) to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation;

Maltreatment, neglect, abuse and degradation are factors a child living on the streets lives under each and every day of his or her life! And this is not only from fellow “street people”, but from society as a whole!

(e) to be protected from exploitative labour practices;

Children on the streets perform all sorts of exploitive labour practices; from selling themselves to pedophiles, to doing odd jobs for mere cents! Some of the younger children are often sent out by older, not-so-cute-anymore youth to beg for money, break into cars or houses, and/or rob people.

(f) not to be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that:
i. are inappropriate for a person of the child's age; or
ii. place at risk the child's well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development;

There are very few people that would argue the point that a child having sex with a 50-year-old man for money is “appropriate” work for that child’s age. At the same time, street life negatively impacts the child’s well-being, education, physical and mental health and spiritual, moral and social development each and every day they spend on the streets!

(g) not to be detained except as a measure of last resort, in which case, in addition to the rights a child enjoys under sections 12 and 35 [relating to freedom and security of the person and rights of arrested, detained and accused persons], the child may be detained only for the shortest appropriate period of time, and the right to be:
i. kept separately from detained persons over the age of 18 years; and
ii. treated in a manner and kept in conditions that take account of the child's age;

Detainment is rarely the case of “last resort” when it comes to the children living on the streets; quite the opposite. On top of that, due to backlog, improper book keeping, and criminal records only being on a computerized system for the past few years, many children are being locked up for crimes committed years ago; and this “tool” is being used to “clear the streets”.

(h) to have a legal practitioner assigned to the child by the state, and at state expense, in civil proceedings affecting the child if substantial injustice would otherwise result; and

This is one right that the children usually are able to obtain. However, overworked “legal practitioners” and court social workers often lead to poor service delivery. On top of that, many children picked up for various crimes will often be detained for months on end, visiting court about once a month, “awaiting trial”. This is due to slow investigations, missing evidence, witnesses and complainants that do not appear, and simply a leisurely moving juvenile “justice” system.

(i). not to be used directly in armed conflict, and to be protected in times of armed conflict.

Armed conflict is a consistent and regular part of street life. Even now, whilst writing this blog, I just got a reverse charge call from a kid who is laying in Groote Schuur Hospital because he was “stabbed by a Nigerian right near his private parts”. In his words, “I still can’t walk. I have been here for two weeks. They cut me open more and had to fix things on my inside, right next to my private parts. I have a lot of stitches and it is very sore!”.

28 (2) A child's best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.

By allowing a child to live on the streets in the first place, we obviously do not have his or her best interests in mind! Unfortunately, as we move closer to 2010, many initiatives working to “clean up the streets” have the best interest of tourism and business in mind; the children are a nuisance, they are in the way, and they have to be “cleared out”.

Children do not always know what is best for them. They are not always capable or mature enough to make decisions; especially ones that will literally shape and mold their lives for the good or bad. They have to be guided, loved, taught, steered in the right direction and protected. It is our job, as adults in society, to insure that our children live in the fullness of their rights, liberties and freedoms that the Constitution sets out for them; to teach them that those things are more than just words on a piece of paper! I hold on to the hope that we can reclaim these rights on behalf of our children. Otherwise the Constitution that I bought today, and will be taking with me on the streets, can be used for other purposes during my stay on the streets (see blog title)!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

16 Days and Beyond

So, I started this blog as a platform to be able to post daily updates throughout my time living on the streets, during the 16 Days of Activism. I called it “365 Days of Activism” because I feel that our “activism” against violence towards women and children, or any cause for that matter, should not be bound to 16 days, but should rather be year-round! Then I got to thinking about what a powerful tool this blog could be; to feature different “activists” I know who are involved in all sorts of different kinds of “activism”. So during the 16 Days (25 November – 10 December), I will be using this blog to give everyone day-to-day updates, but after that, this blog will remain. It will be a place to read about the experiences and messages of activism in many size, shape and forms, and to be inspired by these “activists”; young and old, all different races, from all walks of life.

I have hand-picked people that I think are very inspiring people, with equally inspiring messages and experiences to share with the world. The youngest blogger is an eight-year-old with a passion to cure diabetes, and the oldest is…cough…cough (we will just keep that a secret for now). As I said, they come from all walks of life; DJ’s, pastors, a teachers, social workers, a Stanford law student, just to name a few. But they all share a passion for what they do, and a passion to see change come in their sector, in their own unique way. Make sure to subscribe, become a follower, or whatever else you can do to keep up with what’s going on with this group of activists, located all over the world!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Life Under the Table


So, I wrote a book back in 2003 about my experiences in the first three years of working with the kids. I am tired of trying to get it published! So as of today, it IS "published"!!! Read it here:




Monday, November 10, 2008

16 Days of Activism...on the streets: the long and short of it

The “short” of it:

Yes, I am a small, white American guy (child activist, social worker, rapper, blah blah blah!).

Yes! I will be living on the streets of downtown Cape Town for the 16 Days of Activism against violence towards women and children (25 November – 10 December 2008)!

The “long” of it:

I have lived in Cape Town for more than eight years now, working amongst the youth living on the streets of Cape Town, and in the various communities that they come from. I have seen quite a few “16 Days of Activism” come and go, and I always experience mixed emotions; I think it is wonderful that we have dedicated 16 days towards speaking out against violence of women and children, but I also feel that 365 days of our year should be dedicated to this cause! Since I do spend 365 days out of the year fighting for this cause, this year I decided to spend the “16 Days” doing something a little more radical.

From the 25th of November to the 10th of December 2008, I will be living on the streets of downtown Cape Town, in protest of children being “allowed” to live on the streets. In my work with the youth of Cape Town, I have found that the children who find their way to the streets of Cape Town have been failed by their communities, let down by their families, disillusioned by the education system, and “aborted” by society as a whole. Though they come from impoverished communities and difficult situations, they, as children, have been given the “choice” to live on the streets, and many of them chose the streets over their previous situations. Life on the street sucks the child in and that child soon becomes a small adult, taking part in various activities of street life that rob them of their innocence (drugs, child labor, selling their bodies for money, violence, to name just a few).

I feel strongly that it is child abuse to allow a child to make the choice to live on the streets! A child should not be given a decision to make that he or she is not mature enough to make. That is why we have ages of consent for things such as alcohol and tobacco consumption, voting, sex, and so on. However, by “allowing” children to live on the street, we are allowing them to forfeit each and every right the constitution lays out for them. As the 2010 Soccer World Cup approaches, and the pressure mounts to “put on a good face” for the rest of the world, our efforts and initiatives to “clean the streets” should be with the best interests of the children in mind, and not the best interests of business or tourism! We have to take this “adult decision” away from our children and allow them to be children!

So, for the “16 Days” I will be living on the streets in protest of this; calling for more structures of support (for youth) to be built up in our communities, a revival of the education system in impoverished communities, and a general awakening of society to see that these are OUR children and we have the responsibility to look after them! I will sleep on the streets, rely on handouts and various feeding schemes for food, will not wash or brush my teeth unless I come across the utensils needed to do so, and live and survive on the streets in the same manner that our children do. I will only be taking a blanket, the clothes on my back, and a couple of books with me; no money, no cell phone, or anything else. I am asking you to give whatever support and coverage you can for this cause!

During the 16 Days I also hope to give daily reports on this blog (with a prepaid internet account at an internet cafe in downtown Cape Town), so watch this space!!