An intensive, special and very rich time in Khayelitsha lies behind us. In the blog post “The Umlungus in the Township” we described our first impressions. In the past weeks, we have become more and more immersed in the reality of the Township. Our Ubomi vision has become more and more clear and meaningful to us, and we will try to describe our impressions, experiences and emotions here. To say it in advance: We would not want to miss a single day in the Township! We are already looking forward to our next visit to the project and to seeing our Ubomi children again.
We start with a sad experience concerning one of our children: the discovery of Boyboy. For his protection we will stick to his nickname. Around our house, as everywhere in the Township, it is very noisy at night, but the heart-breaking crying of Boyboy, who was squatting behind our house, jolted us out of sleep. Since it is very dangerous to leave the house at night, we could not take action. So it was even harder for us to hear from neighbours the next day that this boy, only seven years old, is often beaten by his mother, left hungry on the street and not sent to school. Boyboy is one of many children who give more than meaning to the project. Each of our Ubomi children has a wholly captivating story and a personality of their own. Boyboy, for example, is a very reserved child – but when he laughs, the sun comes up.
Many children in the Township grow up with hunger, scarce educational opportunities, and the dangers of the streets. We saw the effects frequently and felt some of them. We quickly got used to many things – such as the loud underlying beat of the Township, the sight of the corrugated iron huts, some of which are only eight square meters in size, and the fact that they have neither a shower nor any privacy. Starving and neglected children, on the other hand, are a sight we can never get used to. We could even feel the life with fear and constant insecurity, caused by the dangers in the Township. Armed youths and young adults, for example, are not uncommon in the streets. Due to poverty, lack of opportunities and as a result of apartheid, life is given a lower value and often there is no holding back. Children, too, are exposed to permanent danger here – a condition that, though familiar, never becomes more bearable. Parents constantly fear that their children will become victims of gang warfare, rape, robbery or the like. This makes it all the more important to create islands like our Ubomi House, where children can feel safe, experience family warmth, and where living and experiencing is the focus. How appropriate our name Ubomi (Xhosa for “life”) is became increasingly clear to us.