Thursday, December 03, 2015

I See You (with John)

John McInroy is the founder of the Unogwaja Charitable Trust in South Africa... we had a chat.

John:
I often hear people feeling quite helpless about the state of our country (South Africa) and that they wish there was something they could do to make a real difference. Education IS our bastion of hope. If you truly care for our country. If you truly want to contribute. This is how we can change everything. We can make a real difference if we collectively prioritise this, and support people who are committing their life force towards serving this.

Trev:
Part of why education is that key is that we don't have the answers. We don't know where to start because we only understand our own paths, and even then only partly. Through supporting education, those who want to help are able to help without forcing their own solutions on others they themselves need to learn to understand. There is no need to feel helpless if we can constantly ask more beautiful questions.

John:
We are not arriving at Umsilinga Primary School in Ezinketheni, KwaZulu Natal with any solutions. I think solutions are often thrust upon people in cases of "charity". Charity needs to end. We don't believe in charity. All we can see is great courage and resilience. We wish to support this courage and resilience. In Zulu, the greeting "Sawubona" means I see you. This is what we are trying to do. We are saying we see you. We are here. We are here to listen. We support you. Instead of your courage and resilience going towards daily survival, we want to help you direct it towards learning and empowerment.

Trev:
There are a lot of people who grapple with the best way to give. I haven't figured it out. It certainly doesn't feel like charity when what is being done is the removal of blatant obstacles to foundational opportunity. What I also like about the Unogwaja approach is that it recognises, it sees, the spark that is already there. It isn't only about where these kids could be. It is also about what we in more cushy positions can learn from the strength, smiles and optimism of the next generation right now. That spirit is inspirational.

John:
Exactly Bru! This spirit as you call it is inspirational. And it is the foundation of our future. And it deserves support. I caught up with 10 year old Nokwanda after school one day. She was collecting water for her siblings. Packing two 25 litre drums into a wheelbarrow and wheeling it down a steep hill to her house was quite sobering to watch. It was just another day for her. Imagine this resilience channelled into education. Right now it has to be quite rightly channelled into survival and what is left can go to education. Imagine the potential of Nokwanda? Her background can become an advantage for her as this type of resilience is bred in tough circumstances.


Nokwanda (10 - Grade 5) wants to be a Vet because she wants to help animals

Trev:
I love those stories, and it is exactly what I mean. There can be this idea that people without, need to be taught by people with. We don't know what enough is, but we do know there are people with much less, and there are people with much more, than they need. There is learning on both sides. Helping by listening is a way of seeing stuff that has been hidden from you. Education isn't about a teacher standing in front of a classroom issuing books. It is about walking together and a society sharing insight.

John:
Yes Trev. I get inspired having this chat. I have had some powerful lessons of learning of late. I was at a mates house whose car was broken down. The AA guy came. His name was Asiz. It was the day of the SA vs Scotland rugby match. I had my Springbok jersey on. I was passionate. I wanted to know Asiz. I asked him where he was watching the rugby and if he was putting his Bok shirt on after work. His reply was "I am not watching and I don't wear that shirt". It was a hammer blow for me but after reflection I realised I was looking at this through my perspective and failing to understand his. I see you Asiz. I see your struggle man. Your struggle is also my struggle. This is Ubuntu. Our country needs to listen to each other and see each other.

Trev:
There are some deep emotions we need to process. I am busy reading 'Country of My Skull' by Antjie Krog. Some stories build you up, but some, necessarily, cut brutally and show you the pain of people's journeys. Listening requires both. The wonderful thing is stories connect us across tribes and borders. They make the suffering of someone in Kenya matter to someone in America. They also make the learning of someone in Kenya available to America. Stories dissolve stupid artificial borders. We are not separate individuals on isolated journeys.



John:
Speaking to students at Texas A&M University earlier this year made me fully conscious of the fact that we all share this planet and ultimately the actions of people in Texas impact us in SA. And vice versa. I just hope we don't wait for too long to realize this and how destructive so many accepted status quo's have become and continue to be. It is not ok just because it has been done in a certain way by many people for decades or centuries or because it serves you. Apartheid also served some people but it was totally wrong. We need to be honest with ourselves. The human species is not a keystone species (without a keystone the ecosystem would be dramatically different or would cease to exist) but that doesn't stop you from being a keystone individual. And small groups of keystone individuals can change the world. And we will!

Trev:
What we do doesn't matter and what we do is the only thing that matters. Both are true. We can create a future worth living by appreciating the magnificence of the moment we are living now, but ensuring it is sustainable. Nokwanda is already a happy person. We can learn from her. That happiness can be found in less than we think. But we can chip away at the obstacles to happiness and learning by sharing the journey. By listening to each others stories and seeing each other. Keep up the good work John, you are an inspirational guy who I am lucky to have as a friend. I see you.

Post a Comment