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It was glorious, warm Highveld weather − perfect to celebrate Mandela Day. There was a sense of excitement as tables were brought to the front of our Salvation Army headquarters in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Then Karina Haynes and her friendly staff arrived from the Parktonian Hotel (our neighbour) with two enormous, piping hot pots of soup and baskets filled with bread which they put onto one of the tables. The other was for our literature on anti-human trafficking.
The excitement built as the delicious food aroma spread and the joyous sound of music from our world-renowned brass band filled the air. Within minutes a curious crowd gathered and soon a long, patient queue had formed. For many this would be their only meal of the day.
I − yes, your editor − called everyone’s attention to thank them for joining in this Mandela Day celebration and thank God for the excellent food generously donated by the Parktonian. Children, women and men of all ages found spots to sit in the sun. Staff from our Public Relations Department helped serve the food while our officers of all ranks took the opportunity to wander among the people and chat.
There was a wide cross-section from many parts of the country. Thando Rafani (34) came from Port Elizabeth to seek work after his wife passed away, leaving his daughter (11) in PE to live with his sister. He is a proud porter at Park Station and lives in a nearby shelter. He loves God and wants to help people as The Salvation Army does!
Tragically, Zindela (36) was shot in the knee while sleeping in a doorway. Now he walks with a crutch, with difficulty − and he walks the Jo’burg streets all day, searching for work as a baker. This is made more difficult since he lost his Identity Document six years ago. He sleeps in a Hillbrow park.
Surprisingly, 48-year-old Moremoliob from Lesotho is a final year student at North West University studying management and development! He happened to be passing through the Golden City.
Malawian Zanib (31), a domestic worker, came to Johannesburg in January, with her 20-month-old baby, Hanna. She and her babe seek shelter in doorways during the cold winter months.
Sadly another homeless soul, Marietjie (54), lost her daughter who left her three children to look after. She works three days a week, cleaning toilets and cars, but does not earn enough to support herself or her grand children. Tearfully she told us that her prayers have just been answered as a cousin on the father’s side has agreed to care for them. For her, this is also likely to be the only meal of the day.
On Mandela Day we fed 260 people. The great man’s dream of a better South Africa is a long time coming!
The Help Line that helps you help us combat human trafficking
The recent presumed suicide of a high profile American paedophile has again raised public awareness of human trafficking. The Salvation Army is intensely aware of this heinous crime, and Major Margaret Stafford has compiled this up-to-date information on this increasing curse.
In the last Global Slavery Index, carried out in 2016, it was estimated that 248 700 people in this country were living in conditions of modern slavery! Numbers and statistics, however, do not give a true picture of the seriousness and complexity of the issue. Here, for instance, the increase in human trafficking, especially in the sex trade, is part of the ripple effect of poverty, racism, unemployment, inequality and, most importantly, lack of education.
South Africa has been kept on the ‘downgraded tier 2 Watch group’ by the USA Trafficking in Persons Report for several reasons: lack of accurate data; lack of convictions; and general complicity by government officials. There have been only 2 132 Human Trafficking-related cases reported to SAPS between August 9, 2015 and December 12, 2017 (Dr Marcel Van Der Watt, Mail & Guardian, August 2019).
We have a help line − 08000 73728 − which we believe every family should keep handy, particularly for children who may be shy to report an incident to family, but would comfortably talk anonymously to an ‘official’. On average, each month we receive 30 to 40 calls which include tip-offs, requests to find out if a job offer is legitimate, people asking for help, some just needing to talk to someone.
In our shelters for women and men we have housed a number of female victims and several male, who were victims of trafficking. And our children’s homes are still helping child victims.
Our street work with female prostitutes calls for building relationships so that we can serve this lost community better. The Salvation Army stands against the legalisation of prostitution: we want a country where prostitution is not an option for a young woman, or man, to choose this trade to feed a family.
We believe in social justice and the sanctity of all life. That, as a nation, we can build a society which really does care about one another.
Human trafficking thrives in the darkest corners of society — and we will never stop shining a light into those corners to expose the true horror stories behind the statistics. Every life matters is not just a slogan … it’s a reality.
Reebok’s stunning stand
To mark women’s month this August, your favourite store for fitness apparel and shoes pledged a fabulous 10% of all sales to The Salvation Army’s fight against human trafficking. The promotion may be over, but let’s say Thank You by giving Reebok our support! Check their range on www.reebok.co.za.
Benoni Goodwill Centre
The face, flushed in the sunlight, was familiar. Yes … it was the gentleman we’d dubbed Johan when we interviewed him for our 2017 winter appeal. What was he doing here, in the Benoni Goodwill Centre? We quickly caught up. Now 64, Johan had sold his pig farm to finance his third grandchild’s university study but had been unable to find employment. Ironically his family had turned its collective backs on him.
Johan had been homeless for four years and we were worried as we hadn’t seen him in his usual spot for some time. “When next we saw him,” related Major Jeff Stafford, head of the Centre, “we asked if he’d like to come to the Goodwill Centre.” Johan was delighted and grateful and has been here for some months now. “I’m so happy here. Each day I can have a nice hot bath or shower, sleep in a warm bed, and the food is delicious − I don’t have to worry about getting enough motorists’ hand-outs for food. This Centre has given me back my dignity. I even go to church. The people are kind, friendly and helpful.”
Since Major Stafford is a kind, caring, and Godly person, people in need are made to feel welcome and respected. “When souls arrive here they’re both mentally and physically broken, and have nowhere else to go. Most arrive with just the clothes on their back and no money. Many know what it’s like to spend nights on the street,” explains the Major.
A bridge for the better
The Centre is a bridge to a new and better life, providing comfort and care. It’s a place where people can stay while they get on their feet again. We give them a chance to reflect on why and how they got here. We help them work through their problems so they can change their lifestyle. We teach them self-worth, and some even find their faith. We let them know they’re not alone.
The complex includes a block with accommodation for 24 pensioners and rooms for 38 singles and families needing temporary support. Residents share in the work of running the Centre, helping with cleaning, cooking, and food distribution. They love helping to cook for the homeless because they’ve been there. There’s also a crèche that provides very low cost, quality care for 26 kids from impoverished families in the area. Maintaining the old buildings is on-going and paint donations are always most welcome.
“As part of our outreach programme, every weekday we feed between 100 and 140 homeless people outside the Benoni Goodwill Centre, with hot soup and bread.” says the Major. “And in winter, once a week we have a night feed in the city’s centre.”
The Goodwill Centre means so much to the residents, “We’re made to feel welcome,” says Arie. “Yes, we’re so grateful for The Salvation Army’s support here,” echoes another.
A pensioner, Julia Dreyer (64), had a really tough life before coming to the Centre 18 months ago. She was devastated when her youngest of four children was brutally murdered. In anger she blamed God for his death and lost faith. Then her husband died and her other son, the eldest, moved to New Zealand. Although she loves her two daughters, she cannot live with either. When she was employed, she had independence − until the company she worked for closed down and she found herself jobless.
At the Centre, Julia started helping in the kitchen. “I’ve always loved cooking and God opened my heart to feeding the masses,” she says. “I’m happy here it is my healing. The people are my family. Major Stafford, Major Holmes and Antoinette, our manager, are earth angels. They have helped me realise without God’s grace I am nothing.”
With the welcome support of the Benoni community, local business and caring service clubs − and the income from our charity shop − the Benoni Goodwill Centre will continue to provide a much-needed service to those in need.
Farewell and Welcome
A farewell usually mean a new beginning and right now this is happening in The Salvation Army, involving South Africa and England.
We say a fond farewell to out-going Commissioners Keith and Yvonne Conrad as they take up office in London, but still with strong African ties. Their new posts will be respectively: Secretary for the Africa Zone and International Secretary for Women’s Ministries in the Africa Zone. The guidance and leadership of the Conrads will be truly missed, but we know their work at International Headquarters will be most appreciated.
This brings us to welcoming our new territorial leaders, Colonels Daniel and Tracey Kasuso, both from Zimbabwe where they were Chief Secretary and Territorial Secretary of Women’s Ministries. They previously served in South Africa as Divisional Commander and Divisional Director of Women’s Ministries in the Eastern Cape. Daniel Kasuso has been appointed as Territorial Commander of the Southern Africa Territory, while Tracey Kasuso will take up her duties as Territorial President of Women’s Ministries.
Giving hope to the hopeless
So often homeless means hopeless. In this country there’s the frightening, hopeless search for jobs. Often in ragged clothing, which instantly has a negative effect on a prospective employer. And joblessness often leads to homelessness. And to loss of family who don’t have the strength to stand by someone down and out. (See Johan’s story in the article on Benoni Goodwill Centre.)
Behind every homeless person is a tragedy of having nothing, yet being robbed of it. Of sleeping in doorways, in parks, under bridges, and worse. Imagine how awful it must be to live like this. No one would choose to live this way, if they had a choice.
Yes, it’s hard, isn’t it, to even imagine the unbearable daily hardships so many face. How do those who have no protection from the long, icy fingers of winter, go sometimes days without decent nourishment, don’t have clothes that provide an extra skin of warmth, are still able to count their blessings? That they can give thanks for the nourishing soup and bread given to them? That they can thank God for being able to live this day, for the gift of life, for their loved ones and for their ability to keep hoping for a better tomorrow?
In our humility we thank God for the opportunity to make even a small difference to these people’s lives, and are truly grateful for our own blessings.
So often we forget to count our many blessings − like a warm bed at night, a roof over our heads, a daily meal. And people like you! People who understand just how much The Salvation Army needs you. For it is only with your help that we are able to help the homeless, the hungry, and others in need − no matter the need − all over South Africa.
Inspired by the words of William Booth, our founder: ‘Heart to God – hand to man’, working for The Salvation Army means looking beyond the ragged unwashed clothes, broken shoes, and cracked fingers to the human heart and soul of each individual, and realising that each one still has his or her own hopes of a better life. Despite the suffering they endure daily, people still have hope in their hearts.