Her eyes were swollen from crying – real, genuine, heart-broken tears, not the manufactured kind. Her tiny frame was hunched over, as if in pain. There was a grubby bandage around her leg and on her feet, she wore slippers. Her presence at the robot made me severely uncomfortable. I felt overwhelmed. Too many people like her, needing my help. On the other hand, me, in my car – safe, comfortable and cared for – knowing that I should help. What to do?
This is a scenario that confronts many of us on a daily basis. Wanting to help but not knowing how. Wanting to help but being jaded by a bad experience. Wanting to help but thinking your help won’t make a difference. Recent statistics conclude that 21.7% of South Africans live in extreme poverty – meaning that, among other things, they’re unable to afford to provide for their basic nutritional requirements. How can we even begin to address this problem? Sometimes, it feels like a problem too big to solve. A problem that you’d rather politely disassociate yourself from.
South Africa has one of the biggest inequality gaps in the world. Because of this, the contrast between those who have and those who don’t is stark. By-the-robot scenes are a daily occurrence. Compassion fatigue is ever-present.
Despite this, we can do something. Although helping everyone is simply not possible, impact can most certainly be made – even by the smallest contribution. For example, R2.50 per day can pay for a child to have a fortified meal, sufficient to provide her with her daily nutrient requirements. For her, this R2.50 is the difference between flourishing and struggling to survive. For me, it’s less than a handful of loose change.
The Lunchbox Fund, JAM South Africa and MES as we believe that they’re doing excellent work in their respective fields. We want to enable you to help bring meaningful change in South Africa by introducing you to organisations such as these so that you can help them continue their work. Yes, there is much need – there probably always will be. But there are also stories of triumph and turn-around, and we want you to be part of those.
*A note about the woman at the robot. After chatting to Precious, who is in her early twenties, I learnt that she has no identity document. She is in the process of remedying this. I have found it challenging to follow her story and am not sure how to help her. My small contributions of sandwiches every now and then don’t seem adequate but for now, being helpful to her in this way is what I’ve decided to do.