Nature’s display

We need to help ourselves, sharing what we have, and it could be as easy as passing on information round the supper table, said Johann Kikillus and Andrea Kettel, two of the speakers at a last week’s Social Transformation Forum meeting.

The meeting, held at the Fish Hoek civic centre on Thursday May 12, looked at the increasing social problems across all communities in the Far South.

“The problems in society can be fixed. We need to stop looking at the government for answers,” said Mr Kikullus, a community worker based in Ocean View and co-founder of the Social Transformation Forum, who described himself as “a man of hope”.

He gave the example of the lack of a library at Kleinberg Primary which, in its 46 years of existence, had never had a library, despite its principal’s best efforts.

“I told Kommetjie Primary kids. They went out and collected books, and now Kleinberg has a library. It wasn’t hard.”

The Care Centre in Ocean View, of which he and Marti Weddephol of MercyNet are directors, came about after a lot of “nagging” and they were given land behind the civic centre and containers.

They might have no electricity and minimal toilet facilities, their windows frequently broken in attempted break-ins, but for a year, 85 pre-Grade R and Grade R children have had a quality education when they had none before, “without a single salary”.

“Every day our children ate through donations. You don’t have to have millions,” he said. “All it takes is the intention in your heart,” he said.

People who have skills and time, people who are retired, have much to offer.

He cautioned, though, that there was a “danger of trying to fix a very complex social problem when you don’t understand it.

More damage done by good intentions without understanding what the problem is”.

“Help is quite simple,” stressed Ms Kettel from the Family Counselling Centre in Valyland who does pro bono work in Ocean View.

“Sharing is caring.

“We need to listen to everyone’s stories. I have the honour of assisting the kids whose uncle was killed, the uncle they re- spected, the uncle who gave them food.”

“Knowledge is power. If you know something about divorce and know how it works, speak the truth.

“Share the information about grants and the legal system. It could simply be conversations around a dinner table.”

She said that, whether in Constantia or Ocean View, Masiphumelele or Noordhoek, in her counselling the only differences were in the language, in the accent or in the zeros in the bank balance.

Everyone had the same problems, such as addiction, anxiety, suicide or trouble with teenagers.

However, as hardship increa- sed, so did fear. This caused a blame shift and “an increase in the misconceptions that increase racism, sexism and the other ‘isms’.”

Mr Kikillus agreed, saying that he had found that as social problems and crime increased, racism and prejudice had increased as well.

After painting a bleak picture of a worsening Far South, Mr Kikillus said that people always said to him, “Thank you for traumatising us, but what do we do about this?”

Among his suggestions were to refrain from reacting and making the situation worse.

“I stay off WhatsApp and Facebook for good reason. We need less social commentary,” he said.

Social media was unhelpful in that it often ran with a problem, but ran in the wrong direction, putting fear into people. It was better to see for yourselves, he pointed out.

Efforts needed to be co-ordinated. “We have a lot of people trying to do the same thing,” he said. “We need to pool our resources – so many organisations trying to bite into this elephant.”

Churches and religious groups need to get involved, resuming their historical duties such as schooling and hospitals; more bursary funds needed to be started and young people need- ed to be made more employable, being given advice on the correct subject choices and finishing school well.

There had to be innovative ways of creating jobs and businesses in the area, and businesses that kept money in the area.

Mr Kikillus stressed that the Far South should not just quietly sit back and accept the way things are. Instead of having the same few voices nagging, Mr Kikillus said he would like to see more people or organisations lobbying, trying to get more resources chanelled into the Far South and ensuring that we get good service.

“People needed to stop tolerating bad service from the government.

“Most of the complaints I deal with are about this. People wait months, years, especially with child abuse. So they give up.

“We need more accountability to get the services working again.”