Cleopatra’s Story: “I felt so proud of myself”

Cleopatra’s Story: “I felt so proud of myself”

A wave of children’s shouts and laughter greets you as you enter Kewtown Primary School, on the edge of Athlone in Cape Town. But if you follow the yellow arrows down a labyrinth of brightly-painted corridors you’ll soon find a haven of calm.

This is the Shine Literacy Centre, run by Common Ground Church volunteers.

Here, seated on a cushion with her favourite book, Rapunzel, perched on her knees is seven-year-old Cleopatra.

Away from the noise, she gently turns the pages, immersed in a world of princesses and …

Read More »

Carmen’s Story: The Birth of a Mother

Carmen’s Story: The Birth of a Mother

The challenges that face South Africa seem overwhelming, but the solution to many of our social problems often starts with the simple love of a parent.

Carmen’s story is one example of how a mother’s love can change the trajectory of a family’s course.

It’s a sunny Autumn morning and Carmen sits on the floor of her home in Capricorn playing with her 8-month-old son, Matthew.

She kisses his chubby cheeks and he giggles delightedly. Watching them together, it’s hard to believe that Carmen almost gave Matthew up for …

Read More »

Africa’s Story: A Craftsman in the Making

Africa’s Story: A Craftsman in the Making

Did you know that the unemployment rate for those under 25 in South Africa is 50% (Stats SA)? Imagine graduating from matric, often against huge personal challenges,  only to find this daunting statistic standing in your way of a bright future.

Africa’s story could’ve followed a similar plot to that of thousands of other young South Africans, with the high of graduation day quickly spiralling into hopelessness, as the realities of joblessness sank in.

But today you won’t find Africa among the unemployed – or hopeless. Rather you’ll find him expertly …

Read More »

Margaret’s Story: From Domestic Worker to Entrepreneur

Margaret’s Story: From Domestic Worker to Entrepreneur

Over the past few weeks, the stories being told across our nation are often ones of fear, violence and despair, as xenophobic attacks have punctured the heart of our country.

These stories are important to hear. As a community, we can’t bury our heads in the sand. But there are other stories which also need to be heard.

Stories of hope, courage, and perseverance. Margaret’s story is one of them.

As a child growing up in Malawi, Margaret dreamed of becoming a lawyer, but without enough money for university, her next …

Read More »

The day that rock beat paper

The day that rock beat paper

Other than vague memories from high school history classes, I’m not all that clued up on the meaning behind South Africa’s Women’s Day, which takes place every year on 9 August. (I know that much.)

Embarrassingly, my response is often, “Well, isn’t that nice? Hooray, for us women! Now can I take a nap/go shopping/read my book?”

So this year I decided to do some research before the day, so that on the public holiday I’d be able to appreciate what all the fuss was about.

I googled, …

Read More »

16 Things only volunteers will understand

16 Things only volunteers will understand

1. When you’re asked to fix something with a power tool, and you do.

2. When everything is running on time.

3. When you share your experience with someone and they ask if they can volunteer too.

4. When someone thinks they know all about an issue just because they saw a Brad Pitt documentary.

5. When you have to get up early on a Saturday morning to volunteer.

6. 30 minutes after arriving to volunteer.

7. Six hours after volunteering.

8. When only half the people who had signed up to volunteer, …

Read More »

3 Surprising things to give to those without homes

3 Surprising things to give to those without homes

Last night, our small group gathered with hot chocolate in hand and fires blazing to do a mini-Warm Up Winter sort.

We each brought a few items of good quality clothing to sort into parcels to give to people and organisations we know who are in need of warm clothing this winter.

It was a fun thing to do together, but it was also really challenging as we shared stories about who the clothing was going to bless.

My husband spoke about the friendship he’s built with a …

Read More »

Why working at an NGO made me less generous

Why working at an NGO made me less generous

I’m sure most of us have had that moment when, through a deadline-infused haze, we’ve thought, “Maybe I should just quit my job and go work for an NGO.”

The thought usually brings with it a few ‘warm and fuzzies’. You ponder on all the good you can do for mankind, and how working for an NGO would surely make you a better person, right?

Part of me is hoping my mother will never read this, because, well, here’s the truth: working for an NGO made me a …

Read More »

Why should we celebrate?

Why should we celebrate?

This month, South Africa will commemorate 20 years of democracy.

You’ll be surprised to know that it took me a while to write that sentence. I kept getting stuck at word six: ‘commemorate’ or ‘celebrate’?

It seems so silly but I’m not the only one struggling with the word ‘celebrate’ this month.

When Daily Maverick columnist Onkgopotse Tabane wrote an article giving twenty reasons to celebrate twenty years of democracy, the response he got from many readers was, “Celebrate? What’s there to celebrate?”

Many people aren’t feeling in the …

Read More »

My TWD Challenge: 12 Acts of Kindness in 12 Hours

My TWD Challenge: 12 Acts of Kindness in 12 Hours

On public holidays I generally do as little as is humanly possible while still breathing, but on Human Rights Day, 21 March 2013, I decided to forgo my beloved naps in favour of doing something a little different.  Or 12 things a little different, to be precise, involving a mystery car wash, 150 cupcakes, transporting a tree and ‘breaking into’ a prison.

I hope you’re intrigued.

This operation of military-like proportions was all part of the first That Was Different campaign. I called my individual challenge “12 Random Acts of …

Read More »