Peggy - the true spirit of Ubuntu - Day 359
Today, we spent time with Peggy - the true spirit of Ubuntu (human kindness) and an exceptional person.
While spending time in South Africa, we have been saddened to see the inequality of the standard of living for people based on the amount of melanin in the top layer of their skin. Just that thin top coat, so to speak, will determine where a person lives, what type of education they receive, and their career and earning potential. And we are in the 21st century – an age of so-called equality. I don’t know what the solution is. What we can do is connect with ALL people from a place of love.
Today, unplanned, we went to a township on the outskirts of Knysna. Most are on the outskirts, a consequence of the apartheid era when black people were evicted from their properties and forced to move into these segregated areas, out of sight. Out of the 76,000 residents in this affluent area, 47,000 live in townships, of which 80% are unemployed and those who do work, probably earn just £7 per day. We had popped into the Tourist Information Centre, had a glorious chat with Gloria, who works there, and mentioned that we were interested in experiencing the other side of the town one day. She called up Peggy Dlephu, and luck would have it, she was available to take us on tour in 20 minutes. What an inspiring lady Peggy is: an entrepreneur, artist, guide and massive support for the community, organising a soup kitchen as well as a kindergarten.
As we drove into the township, Peggy explained the differences between the houses. She pointed out an original building made from concrete when the settlement was first created during the Apartheid period. In this small rectangle, 20 people would somehow have lived together. Being resourceful, the people used local, easily found material, such as wood, and built their own shacks – at least it was their own home. And in the township today, many people still live in wooden or corrugated metal homes. They do now have electricity and running water, but this was only installed once Nelson Mandela came to power. Some families are now able to apply for “Mandela” houses, a scheme set up in 1994 to provide brick houses to all those in need. Sadly there is still a huge backlog which is certainly evident to see from where we were standing.
As Peggy stopped the car to show us around, many children came running up asking for sweets. There was a box of chocolate wafers in the car, and Peggy handed these out to the children. In typical Tim style, he noticed lots of rubbish lying around and suggested that the children picked the litter up first, and then they were rewarded with their sweets. Peggy loved this idea, and the next thing we saw were children running about, finding bags to put the rubbish in. We praised them, and they did get their wafers (would have preferred to give them something healthy). Their little faces looked proud.
Peggy drove around, pointed out shipping containers that have been converted into shops. Tim showed her photos of Wapping Wharf in Bristol where shipping containers have also been turned into retail premises. A contrast between trendy v necessities. She stopped outside one called JOE De Cobbler SHOES, and we walked in to be greeted warmly by Joe and his wife, Lisa. Joe designs and makes shoes, learning his trade in Nairobi, where he originates from. He has also taught himself how to make leather bracelets and bags and was busy making 100 bracelets to be shipped out to Spain. His wife makes lovely stuffed elephant toys using some South African traditional material. It is terrific seeing entrepreneurs like Joe, Lisa and Peggy. This is what the country needs, entrepreneurs from these townships who employ people from the community, getting the economy out from poverty. Onto a friend’s house, whose husband is the chef for the soup kitchen that Peggy is involved in. We did have a laugh when Tim and I tried the click from the Xhosa language. Funny how differently we use our tongues and mouths in language. I remember some of my Indian friends finding it challenging to say “V”. We sat chatting mainly to Peggy’s friend’s beautiful daughter, Asenathi. She had just taken some Life science exams and revealed that she wanted to do something in conservation and also media. I immediately thought of Ramnath, a fantastic guy who I met in Chennai on an Inspire weekend, a passionate Conservation Educator, filmmaker and an incredible photographer. I put them in touch with one another, the power of Facebook. It was so lovely chatting with Asenathi, a joyful, warm and intelligent soul, and we loved looking at her photos when she and her friends dressed up for a red carpet evening at school. What a beauty!
We next popped into the Crèche that Peggy is involved with. She was very proud to show us the blue and pink toilets that have been built for the little ones and the foundation ready for a container that will be transformed into their new building. The crèche is currently held in the church hut next door. As we entered, Tim immediately sat on the floor and was covered with kids jumping all over him. I followed suit and luckily got two gentle toddlers sitting on me, and later we encouraged a little boy to join us. While Tim was throwing the children about and tickling them, with squeals of delight, we sat quietly singing “Row, row, row the boat”. The two girls were very quick to pick up the words.
Parents and grandparents were coming to collect their little ones, so time for us to leave. We drove back to Peggy’s shop and office in the main town. Wow, a beautiful space, full of her vibrant paintings and fabulous jewellery she sells on behalf of many local people. I was so tempted to buy something. We met her two staff members, one was so proud to show me Peggy’s certificates for Entrepreneur of the Year, three years running and how Peggy has personally helped her in life. We also noticed many plastic bags piled on the floor. Peggy explained that these are Christmas bags for the children, each with a pair of shoes, paper and pens etc. As she writes on her website “In the true spirit of Ubuntu (human kindness) she is actively involved in community projects that enrich disadvantage children with art.” And she does so much more than that.
Just like Evelyn who we met the other day, there are so many amazing strong, selfless people here in South Africa, making a difference in many people’s lives. What great role models. Let’s hope that with the strength and guidance of these incredible beings, South Africa as a nation will thrive, reaching their amazing potential from a place of peace, love and joy.