I know I haven’t been particularly prompt in updates over the summer, but I hope I can brief you a bit on my frantic schedule. Since my last post, I’ve done two chief things. First, I was at the SA Bishops’ Conference, helping at some meetings in the office of Justice and Peace. The first was on economic justice, where we discussed the main problems facing South Africans today. One of the themes that emerged was the problem of unemployment which, taking into account official statistics and overestimating somewhat, is accounted at about 45% (a huge figure – and you thought the US had it bad!). So, we discussed having the next conference hosted by the J&P office on the theme of “creating livelihoods,” with a focus on creating a new mindset of decreased dependency by having individual speakers who would be successful South African entrepreneurs as well as people who had experienced disadvantage (there are a large number of “informal traders” who sell small trade goods on the street; the government and much of the populace has tried to “shut down” these traders, some of which have even involved xenophobic, violent attacks). The other day was focused on land reform – a pressing problem in South Africa. The main discussion area was implementing models of land reform with Catholic Church property holdings, setting up speakers for a bishops’ consultation with a government minister, and working out a “vision statement” for the Conferences’ position on land reform.
Second, I spent all of today at St. Martin De Porres Development Project, run by a Dominican brother, Br. Dominic Chihota. The center operates as a recreational center for at-risk youth (including children orphaned by AIDS), as well as providing some basic vocational training with a small farm (livestock and vegetables). All of the youth come from a nearby village, which is a fairly typical South African shantytown of corrugated aluminum and tin.
I am afraid that they do not have a very well-designed or informative website, but I did find the following which describes part of their work (they have multiple aspects in their development project): http://www.webspawner.com/users/domcopro/
I played with the children and helped serve lunch (and clean up!) from about 9am-2pm. I’m afraid I didn’t take any pictures; although I was very keen to do so, I didn’t have time!
To end with, a little South African humour I saw in a magazine at breakfast this morning. To get the following joke (advertising car insurance), you have to know two things: traffic lights are called “robots” here in South Africa, and they are often not working due to power failures or somesuch.
Yours in Christ,
Br. James Dominic, OP