Tuesday, 15 April 2014

This is the story of the cost of bread

A calm morning in Langa.
No children yet.
Just me and a PPG employee.
From time to time this woman volunteers holding seminars in schools.
She teaches youth about HIV, stds, unwanted pregnancies and the prevention through the use of contraceptives.
She also speaks about something else, something iniquitous and unjust.
Sexual abuse.
Rape of minors.
She argues the importance of reporting such events and tries to encourage victims to come forward.
No one should be forced to carry the burden of assault alone.

She had a story to tell me.
A shattering wake-up-call about the many shades of reality.

Recently she visited a middle school.
She spoke of sexual abuse.
Crude, non-consensual, vicious, destructive, illegal rape of children.
After the session was over a scrawny girl approached her.
This child hesitated.
Face down.
In silence she just stood there, gathering courage.
Finally she looked up.
Sad oppressed eyes.
With a faint apathetic voice she asked:

...What if the man who rapes me is the man who gives me bread..?

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Langa-effect

This world has boatloads of them.
All kinds, some extremely detailed, others more generic.
A concept is defined by a group of conditions which all must be fulfilled for it to take place.
Environment. Creatures present. Time. Location. Emotions.
Every concept has a birth date, a moment in time when someone decided that the overall value of a certain situation saw to it deserving its own name.
Our planet has a finite ever-changing amount of known concepts invented by men, and the number keeps increasing.
Thus, logically it must follow that every once in a while a new concept is born.

The moment it happened
A township in the very very south of Africa.
I stood outside of the offices at PPG, glancing at the grassy field before me.
Crowded with trolls rehearsing for the opening ceremony of the upcoming soccer tournament.
Stage clothes.
Very loud marimbas.
Our little dancers performing like real pros.
Friends and tons of laughter.

The first punch
All these children.
Their living situation. Their poverty. Their statistical future prospects. The probability of alcohol abuse in their families. The brutality of the surrounding soceity. The things they are forced to see.
The  dark .

The second punch
All these children.
Their sincere joy. Their friendships. Their feeling of having a consistent platform at PPG. Their growing self-worth making them believe that they have a chance. Their PPG family. Their hope.
The  light .

The stunning punch
All these children.
How pathetic it is to hold on to a grudge as if it were a precious diamond.
How weeny it is to focus on the ugliness instead of on the beauty in memories.
How embarrassing it is to be too proud or too bitter to forgive people who hurt us long ago.
How preposterous it is to obsess over what we lost and be completely blind to what we gained.
How self-destructive it is to remember the wrongs done to us and let the rights fall into oblivion.
How unworthy it is to let the lingering over what we might not have tomorrow numb the appreciation of what we do have today.
Every coin has two sides.

These children, with their living situation.
Their amazing way of unconsciously underlining "just how we should look at life".
Their capacity to embrace the goodness in whatever environment encircles them.
Their immunity to ponderousness was too contagious for me to resist.
If they can do it, I can do it!
Suddenly the effect overran me like a juggernaut.
Like a defenseless victim I fell prey to their epidemic.
I could not but to follow in their inspiring footsteps.
I let go off that dark weight I still kept inside.
I chose to imbibe the beauty instead.
A light relieving breeze flowed right throw me.

A sunny afternoon, some day at the end of March 2014.
The historical timeline of concepts was forever altered.
Now this universe contains at least one more.

The Langa-effect.

Friday, 28 March 2014

This is the story of the two sides of a wild heart

A few years back I met a man.
One of a kind.
A man who makes an imprint.
A man who will make a difference.

His story is maculated with despair, blood and raw pain.
Along with the dark there are big dreams to improve the world, profound insights and the indeniable truth that change is possible.

[The childhood]
This kid grew up in a township with a mother and an abusive father.
At the age of 13 his father was arrested.
Selling drugs.
Mom lost her job.
Desperation. Empty stomaches. Everyone must help out.
This child was cunning and couragous, wreckless even.
His career as a thief took off.

[The gangster]
He grew older.
He grew bolder.
He grew cruder.
He grew emptier and more careless.
He became a gangster.
Drugs. Threats at gunpoint. Fear. Kills. Crimes. Blood.
He became a leader of his klan.
Infamous in violent circles.
They grew more ruthless.
They grew more powerful.
"Bad men" as he himself puts it.
They ran from the law.
He grew exhausted.

[The surrender]
One evening he gave up, for the will to fight had run out.
The cops were on to him.
For years he had not slept in the same place two nights in a row.
He went home and as he sat by the door he knew what was coming.
The police would take him. Put him away.
Rock bottom.
Enough now.
In silence he just waited...

[The prisoner]
Unevitable bars surrounding him.
The stay in prison did not frighten him, he took his chance of resting his mind.
As he felt a calm in his broken inside he begun studying.
A breaking point.
He knew that he would never again run down this road.
No more blackness, no more violence, no more intimidation.
No more.
His new self was not taken well within the bricked walls.
He took the isolation, the insults from the guards, the beatings.
He did not faulter, for he saw the bigger picture.
Bullying. Torture. Insight. Studying. Finding peace. Loneliness. Blood.
Over 10 years later freedom was his again.
He left captivity a new man.
A man with the vision, the calling really, to change the prospects of youth.
Prevent them from choosing the road to perdition. 

[The new job]
Two Swedish women with an idea of starting a recreational center in Langa met this recently freed man.
Their vision was about creating self-esteem in children.
They say something in him.
His experience of the dark side, his will to fight til his last breath, his dream of a better society where every child has a chance, his sincere belief that change is possible, his knowing what the hole inside can make you do, his natural leadership.
His heart.
He blew them off their feet.
They say IT in him.
This man ended up manager at Project Playground.
He never stops trying.
He never gets enough learning.
He never neglects his responsibilities.
He never turns off reflecting about the bigger picture.
He never gives up fighting for the future of the children.
He never quits dreaming, hoping and believing.

[The core & the two extremes]
A constant hunger for a broader horizon.
A natural in making people listen.
The burning longing to fill the hole inside.
Ravishing passion.
Profound scars.
Savage-like blood that keeps rushing through the veins.
An inner drive combined with complete relentlessness.
A dreamy mind packed with images of a better life.

One man with a tsunami-like force inside.
At the crossroads there are two possible roads.
One will eventually lead into total darkness.
The other into dazzling light.
Only two extremes can spring from such a core.

...For this is a story of a wild heart.

Monday, 24 March 2014

A remarkable will to hang

Langa stadium.
Soccer balls.
Empty chips bags & sweaty socks.
Warn autumn winds.
A perfect ceremony performed by trolls before the finals.

The annual PPG soccer tournament.
20 teams in various age categories fighting for a trophy.

What struck me far most was one specific thing.
It was not the outstanding work of the staff with their super professional FBI-looking walkies.
Neither was it the fighting spirit of the teams, as they sang when they entered the field with a completely syncronized rhythm.
It was not the sincere joy of the proud parents cheering for their kids.
Not even an altogether seemingly spotless tournament under a deepblue sky could top the list of strike-me-mosts.

#1: The will to hang
There were people everywhere.
Overjoyed cheerful crowds.
All ages. Men and women.
All different persons with the same immense longing to have a reason to come together.
To feel that we have something in common, some bond that keeps us connected to one other.
A bond. Any bond.
The dammed up will to hang was overwhelming.

Glimpses of a soccer tournament in a township somewhere in South Africa
Pictures of a feeling of fellowship

The will to hang.
For really, any reason is a good reason to be united.

Together we are less lonely.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

That certain place

They say the human mind strives to comprehend its corporal emotions.
That once we grasp what we feel we find peace.

I say that there is something even greater than that.
The complete opposite.
When we are left with an emotion too big to embrace.
A bit more than human, it would seem.
It just remains there.
Unmovable with a touch of magic sprinkled on top of it.
No logic applicable.
All reasons in the world do not suffice to explain it.

I say that such emotions define us, transform us, deepen us and make us believe.
I say that a certain place in a township just ouside of Cape Town has that impact.

Hello again Project Playground.
Yes, you have been missed.

Friday, 2 November 2012

This is the story of the silent happiness

The office in Langa.
Crowded in the afternoons.
Staff & trolls running in and out to fetch stuff.

I overheard a conversation.
About a boy. 
The destiny of a child I never met, but could not help being captured by.
Someone whose story should be told to the world.
Here it is:

16 years ago a child was born.
A boy.
He grew up on a farm somewhere in the countryside outside of Cape Town.
Goats. Crops. Chores.
A lot to take care of to keep the farm going.
His guardians did not see it. They did not know it. They loved him.
His indigence to interact with other people.
The seasons changed.
The years passed.
The farm needed him. His family needed him. He needed more.

Fate saw to him ending up on Project Playground one day in October 2012.
In the middle of the troll-army.
The mess. The constant interaction. The laughter. The friends. The challenges. The neverending chattering.
He joined Photography-class.
The joy of this creative boy; no language houses words big enough to embrace it.
 A ray of light.
A second chance.
My turn now.
Waving to everyone around as he cannot contain his beatification.
Surrounded by troll-friends.
Creative stimuli.
People speak of him as the child with the light inside.
Crazy contagious.

16 years.
No school.
He keeps silent for he can hardly speak.
He does not know English.
He can merely master his mother tongue; Xhosa.

His guardians did not see it. They did not know it. They loved him.

I call you "The silent happiness".

Monday, 29 October 2012

Frozen in time

Time flies.

Seconds turn into minutes. Minutes turn into hours. Hours eventually turn into years.
The future becomes the present. The present becomes the past.
What was once now is but a memory of it.
Time is fair and simultaneously it shows no mercy.
Time does not care nor does it retaliate.
The strident voice of time calling the same words throughout history:
"Try evading me and I will capture you. Try capturing me and I will flee you. Leave me be".
Time just is.

Two years earlier
An NGO opened their doors to the people of a black South African township called Langa.
Their idea was to empower children, increasing their self-esteem through play and by doing so improving the prospects of the up-growing generation and of society as a whole.
Change is possible.
One big family.
Respect & justice.
The right to a childhood.
The two Swedish women who founded the organization named it Project Playground.

The day before
Everything must be ready for tomorrow.
Clean the toilets.
Put up the photo gallery.
Buy the missing supplies.
Clear the square.
Decorate the various fore- and backgrounds.
Dim twilight.
Set the tables.
Look through the program & rehearse again. And again.
Complete darkness. Stars.
Hang the welcome sign at the gate.
Fettle the whole area.
Close up the Big Hall.
Sleep. Dream now.

The afternoon
All the staff came early to attend the meeting.
Circle of chairs.
Words of gratitude, nostalgia and seriousness.
Words of where we've been, where we are and where we're going.
Everyone in suits and dresses.
High-heels and ties.
The guests will start arriving at 18:00 sharp.
Only a few hours away.

The evening
The air throughout the night was so over-brimmed with feeling, one could slice it up.
Even without one of those special "feeling-slicers" (which are so hard to come by), the attendants were served the emotion-desert of their lives.

Images tell more than a thousand words, hence:

The thoughts after
Some fractions time cannot touch.
As if there were some guardian out there who could perceive their true significance, and therefore protects them by never letting them fade out.
Moments frozen in history.
A stray night like this.

Project Playground's second anniversary.

Time flies.