In the small town, RSE, that we visit in South Africa there is rampant drug and alcohol abuse. It is very obvious as people stagger through the streets every weekend as they spend their meager wages on booze and whatever. The good thing is there are few DUI’s since most people do not have a car. There also are few guns which is another very good and life saving thing. There are of course endless other challenges that arise on a steady basis like domestic violence, unexpected pregnancies and the on-going spread of TB and HIV. There is a small area of “squatter camp” where the housing consists of shacks built from salvaged pieces of metal and wood. In that sector, many folks have arrived from other parts of S.A. and other countries. The local people see that influx as the source of many more drugs that become available to the youth, and others. The biggest challenge I hear of is Meth.
On the airplane coming home I happened upon the movie, Beautiful Boy, which is about how very difficult it is to break the stranglehold of Meth even for people with many resources and strong family support. I recommend the movie because it is a huge issue right here at home as well. Watching this very real depiction of the struggle against the seduction of Meth, validated my feeling that I cannot make any impact in RSE in fighting addiction. I always back up from there and go back to the prevention stage with youth who are truly wanting to study in order to have hopes for a good job. That in itself is enough of an uphill climb.
We provide all the yarn and fabric we can to the women, who create beautiful items to sell and quilts that we can raffle. That feeds the Youth Education Fund and supports youth to actually be able to get to university, through books, fees, food, and lots of ground transport. The main ingredient though is love. I know these kids appreciate the support and are grateful for a shot at a better life. Perhaps it doesn’t change a town filled with every major health challenge you can think of all tangled up with substance abuse, but it gives a shot to a few. Like the story of the man throwing beached starfish into the sea, it matters to this one. I feel a deep love and connection to the youth as I watch them grow year after year. I am very aware of the issues they face daily but I continue to believe in the goodness in each of them.
Despite all odds, I keep going and know that it matters to this one, and that one and that one. Love ripples endlessly when they hit the sea and swim free,