According to Index Mundo, South Africa is ranked 24th in the world with regard to its poverty index - 50% of the population live below the poverty line. The poverty line is defined as those living on less than $1.25/day.
At 08:40 this morning I travelled to Vrygrond. The area is less than 4km from one of the most beautiful beaches in Cape Town. Vrygrond is a squatter camp. At 08:40 there were already persons rummaging through trash looking for something of worth. 4km away the beach was teeming with surfers!
The residents of Vrygrond are a veritable mix of people; from refugees, illegal immigrants to our own folk. Some are etching out a living as entrepreneurs, others as blue collar workers and a percentage do crime. The unemployment rate is high. These dynamics form a cocktail that becomes a dangerous mix and at times an incident sparks combustion that often leads to death and despair. Vrygrond is a tough neighborhood. But today is about another side to this living space. One of hope, opportunity and positivity. About mindset change.
The activity on the day take the form of cultural events and the selling of all sorts of items. From food to brickbat tables to clothing tables are arranged throughout the school hall. Parents buy coupons from the school, which they exchange on the day at next-to-nothing prices. 99% of the items on sale are donated. Learners and parents queue to attend this event, currently in its 4th year. The energy the event generates makes one forget where you are - nothing about the spontaneity and fun remind me I'm in a squatter community - these are normal people with the expectations of the "average Joe". They just happen to stay in Vrygrond! And the school treats them with decency and kindness. And the effect is marvelous and contagious.
I will expand on the actual school at another time. Today, I celebrate the dedicated managers, staff and stakeholders attached to this school, who are quietly chipping away at the social conventions that poverty is a trap you cannot wriggle yourself from. The institution and its program of activity allow the children attending it to have a world class experience in the midst of extreme poverty! Do click here to view the picture gallery.