Friday, September 28, 2007

Introductions - Gsina

Meet the new man in my life. I am deeply in love... wouldn't you be?

This is Gsina. He is 1 year and 8 months old. He is a son of Duduzile, who is Thandi's daughter. When i first met him I thought he was a girl - due to a language barrier between his mom and I.

Gsina lives in the street with his family. Him and mom are HIV positive, so some days he is very sick and down. Other days he is a real little charmer, making all the girls in the office, especially Colleen, go crazy, playing with him, giving him presents etc.

He has an incredible gift. No-one can walk past him without smiling, whatever age, gender, race or walk of life they are. Sometimes he just sits quietly next to his mom, or gran, but sometimes he entertains the whole street by dancing, laughing and pretending to park cars.

He doesn't really know what to do with toys, in fact they seem to scare him, but if he sees a plate of food he grabs it and you can't take it away from him. His other favorite toys so far have been: Meghan's sunglasses, a box, an empty takeaway container... and to my great fear - my new camera :-(

He is one of the few kids in the world that brings out my inner mother. Last time he was sick - I almost cried. I wish he could be mine. I worry every day what will become of him, living with a mom who seems to be just getting more and more sick and a gran, whose heart is giving in, sleeping in the street, with a future of pain, illness and despair ahead.

I hope that every time Colleen lovingly picks him up and plays with him, or brings him gifts - his tiny life becomes that little bit more happy.

Aside: Thank you Cannon

Exciting news, guys. Cannon SA has decided to extend me a helping hand and gave me a pretty sweet deal so thanks to them i can now bring you a whole bunch of photos. Hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I do taking them.

So you see? Not only do they make great cameras - they are also nice. AND they sponsor animals, just in case you didn't know.

Thank you Cannon :-D

Thursday, September 20, 2007

20th of September. Thursday

Sorry it's been so long. I moved houses, went away for a holiday and didnt have a card reader, as well as a few pressing matters in terms of the restaurant that kept me from blogging. It's been a very long time since i slept :-(

So let me try and recap what's been happening

Now you are probably wondering: what the HELL is happening in the pictures above? Why is there like over a dozen cops around this poor looking lady? She must be some hectic criminal..

Well no she is not. That's Olga, whose only crime was being afraid of the cops.

Let me start from the top:
- so it was a lovely morning and the sun was shining. I opened the window to get some fresh air... and saw a whole bunch of metro cops running into my building. I found it worrying. I mean i know the tires on my car are a bit smooth... ok very smooth... but it's not THAT bad is it?

I rushed downstairs to see them surround a couple of homeless women, pulling them by the arms and shouting at them. I shouted: What the hell is going on and why are you in my building??

It seems that when Olga and Fikile saw the cops - they ran inside to where i let them put their stuff during the day to try and hide their things.

The cops said:
- They illegally trespassed
i said:
me:- no I give them permission to use this as a storage facility
cops:- Ok, but we have to search them.
me:- On what grounds?
cops:- They ran from us.
me:- well yes, you keep taking their stuff
cops:- erm, they are sleeping in the street
me:- no they are not
cops:- well, they are selling stuff illegally
me:- no they are not... where is this stuff they are selling?
cops:- well we have to search them anyway
me:- do you have a permit?
cops:- yes.

they didn't. Instead they just proceeded to search her, rather violently, after covering their name badges from us. We kept shouting, they kept shouting back and actually laughing at us and telling us to just get lost, unable to answer a simple question: What right do you have???

The pictures you see above are taken by Chris with his cellphone, which they actually tried to take from him. He had to run away. The rest of us got threatened and insulted.

I usually am quite ok with cops. My mom was an ambulance driver when she was young and often had to rely on cops for help. She taught me to respect them as being 'just people doing their job'.. well these cops didn't act like people, and if their job is to harass homeless people instead of helping fight real crime... then i do not wish to pay my taxes towards their salaries.

But on a positive note - this was the first time i shouted 'Oink' at a passing Cop van since i was 16 ;-)

What else?
Thandi is back from hospital, after 2 weeks or more of absence. She is looking a lot better and has some medicine. she's been asked to go back on the 26th.

Her daughter came back with - to everyone's uncontained delight - the son ;-) She came to see her sick mom, but now cant go back as the family didn't have enough money for a two way bus ticket. We are going to try scrape together some money to send her back.

The daughter is very sick. She has AIDS. She has lost a pile of weight and mostly sleeps. the kid has good days and bad days. When he is sick - his chest sounds like a grinder and he cries a lot. When he is well - he provides entertainment for the whole street. He is one of those beautiful kids you cant walk past without smiling. everyone plays with him, and every girl in the office is madly in love with him. Lets just say - whenever he is around productivity around here drops

Thursday, August 30, 2007

29th of August. Wednesday

Syabonga drinking tea on a cold morning

This is a bit of a bulk entry. I am moving houses, so have been quite busy. All will go back to normal next week.

Ok, so Olga is back. Her troubles seem to be somehow related to a previous operation she had with a pregnancy gone wrong.

Thandi is still in Hospital. No one can really tell us what's going on. One minute they say she is to be operated on, next minute she is not. We also don't know how long they plan to keep her. Apparently by some demented twist of fate - the crazy man that hit Figile came and threatened her in hospital. I am definitely going to kill him.

Thandi's nephew came and took a change of clothes for her. Olga, who keeps having to go back to the hospital, also keeps visiting her. I will post as soon as I know more.

There is a crazy woman in the street. I don't know her name but she gets quite agro. She recently hit Figile with a crate and threatened Maria. Figile had a swollen arm, but she is better now.

In rather more disturbing news, I had the pleasure of meeting the head of NORA - Norwood/Orchards resident association. This is how it happened:
As Colleen and I stood outside, talking to Maria and Olga - we saw a Metro cop circling. He left and came back half an hour later, this time accompanied by a whole bunch of Norwood residents - the guy from the book shop, the large man from next door, etc.
''Look at those people, just sitting there'' - they were saying.
''And they pee on the wall too''
''Why must they sit here? why can't they get a job" - Hmmm... good point. I mean it's not like there is a huge unemployment rate or anything.
''They all look healthy, they can work''.
This is the part where Colleen piped up:
- actually most of these ladies are seriously ill.

This is when we met Chantal, the head of NORA. She runs a wedding dress shop in the area. We told her as much as possible about what we knew of the homeless in her area and their lives. We also tried to tell her that the Metro Police being called has an unnecessarily devistating effect on the community and doesn't solve anything. She agreed to meet with us in the near future to discuss what can be done

If anyone wants to help out with suggestions, comments on the situation etc directed at NORA - please post them here and we will pass them on

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Introductions - Olga

Olga is the new kid on the block. She appeared sometime last week and just walked up to me and started chatting. She is very friendly and pleasant. When I asked if I could take a picture, she took of her jersey, assumed this sexy pose above and smiled at me: 'Yes please' :-)

Olga has a boyfriend. he does some sort of road works. He is a small guy that speaks little English, and was great at taking care of her when she was sick.

Colleen told me the saddest story today. She says Olga told her that when she woke up in the park this morning, she looked at the small piece of wall next to which she sleeps. Still half asleep she thought to herself for a second that she was waking up in a house... Until she realised she was still in the park

Olga found this hysterical.
We found it heart breaking

Aside: 'I will have to start all over again'

This article was originally published on page 11 of The Star on August 24, 2007

By Botho Molosankwe

With his eyes closed, his hands on his head and a look of despair on his face, Jermaine George walks away from the place he called home.

It wasn't much, but it was all he had.

George lived with several other homeless people under the bridge over Bree Street in Fordsburg.

Among the blankets when he went to sleep on Thursday night was a bag that held all his possessions - clothes, ID book and phone numbers of relatives.

Now he has lost it all.

Residents say that at 7am on Thursday the police swooped on the area.

They told the "residents" to put their hands against the wall, searched them, put them in police vehicles - and then torched their belongings. While in the vans, the people who lived under the bridge were not aware of what was happening and could only see smoke.

When they got out, they were stunned by the sight that greeted them.

The checkered pants, takkies and blue shirt George was wearing on Friday morning when the police arrived are the only possessions he has left. The fire destroyed all he owned.

He and his friends had called the littered space under the bridge home for years. Although not much, it was all that they had. It had blankets, food, clothes and toiletries. Some of the belongings were handouts, while some had been bought with the money from their daily odd jobs.

Now it is all gone.

For Abrachman Idries, who was hurt in an accident and wears a spinal cord-supporting brace, the medication to help him heal was lost in the fire.

Some people are determined to make the place home again and soon after the police left they began clearing up.

"I will have to start all over again," said George.

--The Star will donate blankets to the people who lost their possessions in the fire.

Monday, August 27, 2007

24th of August. Friday

When you look at the image above, what's the first thing that comes to mind? A fun thing to watch on a Friday?

Didn't think so.
Now try putting not one, but two homeless people in an ambulance in one day.

First it's Olga. Her pain is so bad she cant even lift herself off the ground. A lady from Carlos, Gwen, who is a trained paramedic happens to walk past. She attends to her and gets an ambulance. They arrive, due to her insider pull I am sure, within 20 minutes. We get Olga on an ambulance and hope for the best.

Sure as hell, not even an hour later Samantha calls me. Thandi's nose just wont stop bleeding. I run over and see this giant puddle of blood on the ground. I panic. Aragorn and I run over to Carlos to get Gwen. She drops everything and comes with us. She estimated a liter of blood to be lost and calls an ambulance. They send out life support that arrives withing 20 minutes (Bless you Gwen). A lovely guy called Kevin attends to Thandi, and I must commend him on his level of professionalism. Thandi's heartbeat was through the roof. He put her on a drip, hooked her up to a machine... and we sat in the cold for 2 hours waiting for a bloody ambulance, while people in expensive cars insisted on parking almost on top of us, despite Kevin telling them he needed to keep the space clear for his ambulance. Riddle me this: when You see a life support vehicle, a lady covered in blood and a paramedic attending to her, is your first thought 'OOH look, a free parking!''? WTF!? Poor Kevin. I am sure he has enough crap to deal with, trying to save lives, and here he is having to argue with some selfish rich person.

After Thandi finally left - I went over to Carlos to have a much-needed drink and thank Gwen and Lesleigh for everything they did for us. They allowed me to take a photo.

Here they are, the new owners of Carlos coffee shop. Both of them are trained paramedics and Gwen used to run a children's shelter. Admirable people and by far the nicest, kindest and most genuine residents of Norwood. They selflessly went out of their way to help Olga and Thandi, so you'd all better support their business :-)