This past summer I traveled to South Africa for the first time. The area that I spent most of my time is a highly impoverished community called Kliptown. It is located in the township of Soweto in Johannesburg SA. My mission was to help this community to start a sewing business that would help them produce an ongoing sustainable income for themselves and their community. It was very affective and the products they are now producing are gorgeous. They are earning income and able to put money back into the business to help it to continue growing. The picture below shows the beautiful purses they are now producing. It is so amazing considering most of the people did not even know how to sew before our arrival. These bags are produced on crank style sewing machines because of the lack of electricity.
I went through quite a culture shock upon seeing and working in the level of poverty that we were in. I thought that I had seen severe poverty and homelessness here in the inner city where I live. I was wrong. What I experienced in Africa broke me. It was worse than what I ever imagined. If you have ever seen the movie Slumdog Millionaire you will understand what I am talking about when I say it was "poverty at it's worst."
I have been thinking about that trip a lot lately as winter and snow have fallen over my corner of the planet. I am so thankful for a warm home and a warm bed to protect me and comfort me from the cold. I never realized how cold it can get in Africa until visiting there. It was the winter season when we were there and although it would warm up to a comfortable 50 or 60 degrees, it was frosty cold in the morning. It was no wonder all of the children we met had runny noses. They had just gotten up from sleeping on a cold mat on the floor inside a tiny tin shack with no heat, water or electricity.
I am also realizing, especially at this time of year, how much we buy and how much we waste. I can not think of a single thing I NEED right now. I can however think of a lot of things I might WANT. I also have a basement full of things that I WANTED at one time and have now gone in a cardboard box for some future garage sale or trip to Goodwill. I feel ashamed and pathetic for how much waste is right here in my own home. In Africa we gave over 100 warm hats to children and you would have thought we gave them each a Wii. They were so thankful for these warm knit hats that they truly needed.
My daughter who is a typical 17yr old with an attraction for the latest goods and gadgets went on the Africa trip with me. It was eye opening for her too. She came home with a renewed appreciation for the things she has and a more careful, thoughtful approach to any shopping she does. Now anything she buys she decides whether it is a "need" or a "want" and if it is a "want" how much will she really use it, and can it be shared.
This year for Christmas we won't have many presents under the tree. We have all been blessed in our home with the things we need to survive, to stay warm, well fed and so much more than that. There is nothing any of us really NEEDS. Sure we will exchange some gifts and enjoy some extra "goodies" at Christmas but instead of spending more on stuff we don't need we will contribute to the folks in Africa who really have a true NEEDS list.This kind of gift is something of great value that won't end up in one of my cardboard boxes in the basement and will make us all feel good.
Last year we decided to do this with our extended family as well. The past few years had turned into a silly exchange of gift cards so everyone decided to contribute to a combined charitable gift instead. Also what we do now for gift exchange is a white elephant gift exchange game that turns into rip roaring laughter and fun. The rules are that your gift needs to be preferably an item from home that you already have (like from the box in the basement). One year I wrapped up an entire junk drawer. It was a hit! The entire family loves this newest tradition, from youngest to oldest.
I hope you don't think I am a humbug for Christmas but there are other ways to enjoy the holidays other than the huge focus on buying more "stuff". It really feels good to give where there is greater need. If you are at all interested in joining me in this kind of Christmas giving, let me know. I would love to share more about our adopted community of Kliptown, and the needs there, for they truly are very great. We are still in need of financial contributions for the sewing project as well as the school.
Blessings and Merry Christmas to All!
Five Star Real Estate