Sunshine and rain in Khayelitsha

While walking in the hot sun along a road in Site C my colleagues from Olive Leaf Foundation pointed out that they had to be careful in this area. ‘People are not familiar with us, and pointing at me, ‘your skin colour doesn’t matter, and they rob anyone.’ I asked them if they ever get scared – yes they had been, but sometimes the people helped and point out that they shouldn’t go in street such and such. In the mean time I was waving at some kids, reflecting that I would hand over my bag immediately, when needed. I just focused on the sun that seemed to soften the possibility of being robbed in bright daylight (certainly naive, but let’s be honest the people that have to deal with it on a daily bases are definitely aware of it).

Site C is part of Khayelitsha, one of South Africa’s fastest growing townships. It is direct legacy of the apartheid system, where different groups were designated to particular areas under the Group Areas Act. In other words the forced segregation as a direct result of the discriminatory ideology based on skin colour and race. The majority of people living there are Xhosa. The X is pronounced as one of the famous click sounds (which I keep on struggling with).

Not long after contemplating my fears away, we walked into a creche. A few brave kids immediately stormed at me, bright smiles all over and they told me their names. They had to lie down though, it was resting time. A quick estimated head count accumulated to 50-60 energy balls in a space of approximately 50 square meters. There was about 30 square meters of outside playing space, so when the sun shines this is not a problem.

The next day the first rains for the fall had come, and this showed the actual problem. All of these kids had to play inside. Fortunately my colleagues Lennox and Patrick didn’t mind running around in circles with the kids inside – and took me along, singing songs, clapping and giving them an excellent time as part of their support in early childhood development activities. Creating a bit of sunshine inside again.

The next stop was a support group for women living with HIV/AIDS. They did a number of personal assessments asking people how they were doing and gave me the opportunity to ask questions to the women. Feeling slightly uncomfortable to ask very personal questions as a total stranger to them most of the women seemed to have less problems with it, then I did. I was thoroughly impressed with the strenght and resilience they showed. The majority had found out about their infection when pregnant and being tested then. Some had learnt about the treatment necessary to prevent transmission – so not all their children were infected. A two year old girl that came along with her clearly underweight (due to tuberculosis), but upbeat and spirited mother, had not been so lucky. She was however the c center of attention during the support group and we all laughed and smiled at her.

We had a session on Sexually Transmitted Infections. Any infection is opportune when you have HIV – moreover a person with an STI is more susceptible to the virus – so in order for you to prevent infecting others even more easily and not pick up another decease along the way, it is definitely important to talk about this as well.

It ended with a lunch provided by the lady who hosted the group in her house. A warm-hearted woman that pays for this out of her own pocket. A bit more of sunshine inside, while it kept on raining outside.

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