Happy Freedom Day!

Happy Freedom Day!

So happy it is weekend. My week started badly. Getting out my car to do a home visit, a Zulu woman greeted me warmly with, ‘hello fat lady’. She actually held out her arms to demonstrate just how fat! Apparently in Zulu culture it’s a compliment. But the mix of cultures is just one part of South African life that I love.

It is a beautiful country. A drive to work with a frequent sighting of zebra or giraffe brightens my day. Fighting with a cow or a goat for a parking space, is less fun but still beautiful.

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South Africa is a land of people crazy enough to eat koeksusters – deep fried doughnuts drowned in sugar syrup. A place where you can order a side of ‘walkie talkies’ which are fried chicken feet, with your stew.

It’s a magical country where you wouldn’t be surprised to see news headlines such as ‘dead man dies again’ or ‘ghost children claim social grants’.img_20190416_122925_resized_20190418_115039043.jpg

Of course there is plenty not to like.  Recent floods have highlighted not only the vulnerable conditions in which so many live, but also the pollution and litter problem. The crime is truly horrendous; we live with house alarms and electric fences. We even have to label the stools outside home affairs asking people to not steal or abuse them! Our public services are corrupt and inefficient. I have tried 4 times to get a new identity document – each time queuing in the unbearable heat and not even making it inside the building.IMG_20190418_110619_resized_20190418_115038914

But it was standing in that home affairs queue, that I really had time to reflect on just how wonderful this country really is; such a mix of ages, cultures and races, chatting and enjoying the water and sweets handed out by a self-appointed service delivery volunteer. There is nothing like shared suffering to promote comradery.

Today, on the 25th anniversary of the first time people of all races were allowed to cast their vote, my Facebook news feed is full of positivity and South Africans doing ‘their bit’. There was an army of volunteers collecting litter on the beaches today and multiple collection sites for food and clothing items for the flood victims. The country is full of amazing people doing incredible work with children, the elderly, animals, literacy, hunger alleviation, gender equality – too many to mention. All of this leaves me #Hopeful and #ProudlySouthAfrican!

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So Happy Freedom Day South Africa full of hope and promise!

Love this video of hope #hopejoanna

Burning the Laptop?

I have just realised that this is the first time I have written this year. Oops, it is already April.  I guess I am trying to work out where the time went? Or maybe I am just tired. People are tired. Emotionally drained. Aren’t you just so tired of being tired and busy?

I’m having such a busy year. In fact that my ADD is playing up something terrible. I managed to accidentally book myself to run a workshop in Johannesburg, at the same time that my BFF would be on holiday in Durban, at my house! Today I am on a flight from Durban to Jozi but only just… Why? I managed to book the flight in the wrong direction. And my poor laptop is bearing the scars; I burnt it on a candle while working in a hotel restaurant. I now have a permanent black mark on my screen! There has to be a GIF or a meme for that somewhere.

The reality is that my situation is not that different to everyone else. Everyone is busy. Everyone is tired, perhaps apart from those awesome folk who like kale, jogging and yoga with some mindfulness in between.

The problem I am facing is the reason I am busy. I am busy because I don’t get to just do my job. At Umduduzi, Tracey and I spend most days working with seriously ill children and their parents, attending advocacy meetings, teaching health professionals and medical students and then we go home and come up with fundraising ideas.

I find myself wanting to yell “but I am just a doctor.” Too bad Julia. This is a path you have chosen (and here I hear my mother’s voice) because you believe in the work you do. And I really do, passionately. However, it is not sexy work. It’s not feel good stuff. No one wants to talk about seriously ill children that may suffer and that may not get better. No one really wants to think about it. I don’t even like talking about it. It is a serious conversation killer…Picture the scene:

Stranger: So what do you do?

Me: I’m a doctor.

Stranger: Wow, that’s amazing. What is your specialty?

Me: Ahem, (clears throat) Well, (pause) I provide care and support to seriously ill children, most of whom won’t survive.

Stranger: oh, oh, wow, that’s amazing (strained tone). You must be such a special person.

And so, fundraising, which is always difficult, becomes even more so.

Sadly, one of the communities that has supported us enormously in the last 5 years, has been on the receiving end of tragedy after tragedy. Emotionally draining because everyone cares so much. Everyone wants to help. And yes people are busy; very busy with their own lives.

Where it ends in a beautiful crazy country like ours, who knows, but NGOs like ours need help. While we are delighted with every toy and stationery item we receive, we need money. We need to give our team members a salary raise, we need to hire more staff. Bottom line, we need money to provide our professional service.

We can look to the government and say, “You should be funding this.” They know. And contrary to popular belief there are some beautiful people doing a phenomenal job in the Department of Health. And slowly things are starting to change but there is a long way to go with a massive list of competing priorities.

So the challenge is out there. Here are 5 ways you can support your chosen NGO: (preferably us!)

1)      If you read this and you don’t have a MySchool card. Get one. It costs you nothing and you can swipe it at a number of stores. https://www.myschool.co.za/

2)      If you have a spare R100, a month donate it. Sign up to an organisation that you believe in.

3)      If you don’t have spare cash but like spending time with friends, host a small ‘Crumbs for Comfort’ event. http://www.umduduzi.co.za/crumbs-for-comfort/

4)      If you have spare cash and like spending time with friends, hold an expensive ‘Crumbs for Comfort’ event. http://www.umduduzi.co.za/crumbs-for-comfort/

5)       And at the very least, get vocal – share the posts on social media, like every post you see and tell your friends.

With that, I am going to bed and really hope that I have booked a flight in the correct direction tomorrow!