Dignity (noun): The quality or state of being worthy of esteem or respect. Inherent nobility and worth.
The tears flow freely now; tears of unimaginable joy. It has been years since she felt human; a part of life; normal life. She will never forget this day.
If we are living in South Africa in 2015 then human dignity should matter to us. It should matter because indignity; degradation, humiliation, disrespect and the devaluing of life – surrounds us constantly.
He looks old. In truth he has been old since he was young. He is only in his forties but that is what the Durban climate will do to a man. That and the never-ending grind of life on the street. But today he feels like people actually see him; see him and approve of him.
And how do we deal with it all; the constant barrage of indignity? The vast majority of us just shut off; we disconnect to protect ourselves from that clawing feeling of helplessness; we turn our car radios up louder and louder as we shut the windows hoping to silence the never-ending voices asking for help; hoping to block out the images of the outstretched hands.
She is a bouncy baby with a very naughty twinkle in her eye. Her mum works hard but it is not enough to afford regular shelter. There is certainly no money for clothes or toys or even proper nappies. But today? Today Mum remembers what it feels like to be treated like a lady. And baby? Well baby has the socks loved off her by hundreds of cooing volunteers!
A couple of times a year Durbanites band together and donate stock to what is called the Durban Street Store. The Street Store ‘pops up’ for just one day – this round will take place on Saturday 16 May 2015 at Christ Church Addington, 398 Mahatma Gandhi Road.
Spearheaded by local NGO Grace Aid in partnership with Imagine Durban, over 100 volunteers will man the store and give hundreds of shoppers – all our cities most poor and needy – a genuine shopping experience.
No money changes hands of course but the customers each get to choose items that will suit them. Emphasis here is on the word ‘choose’. The Street Store aims to restore people’s dignity by giving them the freedom to choose clothes in the size, colour and style they wish to wear.
You and I can become a part of stories like the ones I have shared above. By donating new or ‘like new’ clothes, shoes and hats for all genders and ages, along with non-battery operated toys for kiddies we will help to restore people’s dignity.
Donations can be dropped at any Grace Family Church campus in Umhlanga, Ballito and Riverside or at JAM Clothing branches including Amanzimtoti, Hillcrest, Umhlanga and Smith Street. For more information visit www.thestreetstore.org
This column is dedicated to the memory of 17 year old Anene Booysens: gang raped, mutilated and murdered, and our Mozambican brother Emmanuel Josias Sithole: beaten and stabbed to death.