I've always been optimistic about South Africa. I've always felt exceptionally grateful for the education, life and chances this place has given me. For a while I lived the cliche that this place was alive with possibilities.
However as the economy has begun to suffocate and people are deprived of the very basics in terms of decent healthcare, promised housing or even clean water, I too have felt disillusioned.
We are bombarded with poverty constantly. People young enough to be my our own children and adults old enough to be our grandparents stand ever-hopeful at intersections imploring us to help. They have been robbed of an intrinsic core value: dignity. We have become so desensitised and robotic that we automatically, as if rehearsed, shake our heads and say "not today." We no longer see their faces. We do not even know their stories.
We are too traumatised or worried about self preservation to stop and ask. Perhaps we fear that we will see ourselves and our own vulnerability in the person, within arms reach, standing on the other side of our closed window.
The old adage says that when we are faced with a situation that will not change, we have to change our response to it.
A group of women recognised this and felt that they could no longer sit back, relying on some intangible change to happen and do nothing. And so The Angel Network was born.
In one of their first Facebook posts, they expressed that their "goal is to help as many needy people in this country as possible." The mission being, to give a hand up as opposed to a hand out.
"They certainly not reinventing the wheel," you may be cynically thinking while reading this. The difference however is that they have dared to throw the stranded starfish back into the ocean, creating a powerful ripple effect. Networks in Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth have been established, with volunteers and donors, both locally and abroad.
Their efforts are not limited to certain individuals, organizations, colors or creeds. Under resourced crèches, church elders in need of blankets, desperately ill children and their families, hardworking souls whose livelihoods have been taken away from them, men and women putting themselves through university while working 12 hour days and earning very little... The tapestry of narratives is endless.
The Angel Network's primary motive has never been to just provide and then leave. Sustainability is key. The people and organizations with whom they become involved are family. This was so painfully illustrated when one of the beneficiaries, a selfless women who had taken it upon herself to feed the impoverished children in her community, tragically lost her two sons in a fire. The fifteen thousand or so members grieved simultaneously with a woman who epitomised mothering. They rallied together to provide financial and emotional support, endeavored as best they could to continue feeding the children and allowed her sons to be buried with respect.
I could espouse their virtues ad infinitum but you may lose interest. Instead I hope that this is a call to arms, albeit of a different form. Join "The Angel Network." Consider starting your own. You do not need to be wealthy or connected to do good. Compassion for the other and an acknowledgement that, that person exists and is important, is far reaching.
A wise teacher once remarked that the incredible thing about South Africa, is that we are given an opportunity perform kind deeds daily!