A Group of People

These Numbers Have Faces – Cape Town, South Africa

In Africa, Cape Town, college degree, dreams, education, future, hope, opportunity, poverty, social cause, social good, society, South Africa, unemployment on February 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm

By Elizabeth Benninger

Driving through the community of Lavender Hill in my now notorious 1992 bronze Honda Ballade, I turn each corner with caution as the children crowd into the street. They appear to be unfazed by the cars while they play their innovative games with rocks and sticks. At the sight of my car, they cry out “Lizzie Lizzie!” with excitement. The adults passing by comment on the strange light skinned blond woman in their community. They say “hallo whitey” and smile.

As I approach the green gate, I can hear the voices of children speaking in Afrikaans on the other side. “Hallo,” I call out peering through the cracked wood, “Hoe gaan dit meisie (how are you girl)?” A small girl opens the gate and welcomes me into her sandy yard “baaie goed dankie (very good thanks),” she shyly responds. Three more children run up, showing me the tires which have become their exciting toys. “Com en asseblief,” the smiling woman greets me at the door. A black scarf covers her hair and rests gently on her coffee-toned skin.

I step inside their small one room home, divided by curtains into a lounge, bedroom, and kitchen. Eighteen year old Rezaan, surrounded by more children, steps into the room. I hand him some groceries donated by a nearby food store and we sit and chat about our weekends and laugh at my attempt to speak Afrikaans. His younger high school sister sits with a smile, explaining that she works very hard at school so that she will one day go to the University just like Rezaan.

Rezaan lives with his six brothers and sisters, and his unemployed mother and father in the community of Lavender Hill, near Cape Town, South Africa. The townships were created during the apartheid system in which Non-white South Africans were removed from their homes and land and forced to live in racially designated areas, where they had limited access to food, housing, education, and other essential resources. Lavender Hill remains an area overwhelmed with poverty and its associated challenges of unemployment, gang violence, poor service delivery, and inadequate education. According to the recent City of Cape Town Census, unemployment floated near 70%, only 14% have graduated from high school, and less than 1% of the members of the community go on to receive a college degree.

Rezaan is an inspiring young man dedicated to his future. He dreams of becoming an accountant so that he can one day build up his community and support his family. Because of a scholarship from These Numbers Have Faces, he will be the first one in his family to go to college. Rezaan is a story and a face of hope for the community and a hero for his brothers and sisters who see that they do not have to become the victims of the statistics overwhelmed with poverty and crime. Rezaan has shown them that they are capable of building their own lives and futures.

I would like to end this particular story by sharing a lesson I have learned in South Africa. It is a place that has taught me that I am human and most importantly what this really means. I am no more human than the children from Lavender Hill who are forced to beg on the weekends for food. I am no more human than Adrian, the four-year-old boy who lived outside my apartment in a cardboard box, or Melissa, the thirteen-year-old orphan who must sell her body to find a place to sleep. Finally I see the equality of my humanity in Rezaan who, just like me when I was 18, dreams of an education so he can shape his own future. Their hunger, their fear, their hopes, and their dreams are ours because we are human together. The world is changed simply by our existence in it. It is up to each individual to decide what kind of existence they will be.

Elizabeth Benninger is the South African Programme Director at These Numbers Have Faces, an education organization empowering young people to reduce poverty in their own communities.

Please visit their website to learn more about the incredible work they are doing and how you can play a role:  www.thesenumbers.org

Follow them on Twitter: @TheseNumbers

Like their page on Facebook: These Numbers Have Faces

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gunnar Simonsen and Biscuit Media , liquidcloud11. liquidcloud11 said: These Numbers Have Faces – Cape Town, South Africa http://wp.me/p1jd28-5v […]

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