THE MANY FACETTES OF “GORGO”
A Meaningful Word and an Exclamation Mark behind Ubomi
For more than two years now, we have been in the Townships of Cape Town with our project – and one Xhosa word has meanwhile become part of the everyday language of all of us: “gorgo”. Like many words in this South African tribal language, “gorgo” has several meanings. Conversely, there are often many words for one meaning. or example, “Ubomi” is only one of many words that can be translated as “life”. Each word has its own unique facet. “Ubomi” is a very positive, hopeful word for life and more and more we realize how much this word fits our project. The deeper we immerse ourselves in the structures and special way of life of the Township, the more we feel that our project “Ubomi” takes on its own meaning for the people here.
„Gorgo“: A „Good Friend“
I will try to explain how vital and indispensable our project houses have become in the meantime. For this we go back to the beginning, back to the word “gorgo”. One meaning is roughly “good friend”. In this form we use the term more and more often. Many people have simply become very dear to us and have become “gorgos” – and we vice versa. We are no longer just the „umlungos“, as we were in the beginning.
When someone in the Township calls out “umlungo” (white people) to me in surprise, it has even happened to me that I have turned around because I did not feel addressed. We are no longer strangers and word of our project has spread far and wide. All the colder we were caught by incidents that I would like to tell you about, because they shed light on a crucial aspect of why Ubomi is so important for the children here.
„Gorgo“: „I Knew it!“
In this context, the word “gorgo” also plays a role. “I told you so” or “I knew it!” is another meaning. Who does not know it? Often, we believe in the good, suppress possible dangers or problems. Of course, we always are aware of the fact that we are in the hot spots of the Townships with our project. Our goal is to support those who need it most urgently. These are the children who, for various reasons, spend their lives on the streets in the “lost areas” of the Townships. We know what this means for our children and we are aware that, in addition to all the wonderful experiences with our children, we can experience – and have already experienced – things at any time that often take a toll on us. Hunger, water scarcity, a hard everyday life, illnesses, drugs and crime are part of everyday life in the Township. In the last few months, we unfortunately had to make experiences with skolis – young petty criminals who have just come out of prison. Disoriented and without any sense they tried to make Site C, the hot spot where our first house is located, their area. And so, unfortunately, in the presence of our Ubomi children, we experienced two robberies at gunpoint.
A Fantastic Camp Weekend – and a Robbery before
Of course, we always keep an eye on what we carry with us when we move around the Township. The following incident was all the more tragic for us: We had planned a camp weekend with all our children for the first time. Weeks before, our children, most of whom had never left the Township in their lives, were incredibly excited. It was also incredibly nice for us to plan this weekend full of anticipation. However, the preparation for a trip with children, for whom everything planned will take place for the first time, is very intensive.
So it happened that for organizational reasons the meat was already in the trunk of the car when Tommy wanted to put the children safely on the bus. Maybe it was a “set-up”, a planned and deliberate action. Or maybe the Skolis were just lucky when they made “fat spoils” that day with our entire supply of meat for the whole camp weekend. “Hey man, we’re just hungry too!” was the explanation of the Skolis. This of course in no way excuses what above all Tommy and our children, who had to watch everything, had to suffer through in the minutes of fear. For this reason, it was all the more important to us that the trip to the camp would become an unforgettable experience that would put this traumatic assault in the past. The weekend was very special for all of us and the robbery once again just gasoline on the engine. “Gorgo: now more than ever, I’m telling you”. It just shows us how important our work in the Township is. Breaking the cycle of poverty and crime is only possible if the children are offered alternatives that help them to develop so that they can lead a dignified life with the necessary respect for others.
The Critical Test for Ubomi …
Unfortunately, it didn’t stop at the one attack in Site C. It’s hard to explain what brought about this change and hard to comprehend that the skolis even put the community’s “Ubuntu” (“Together we are strong”) to the test for a short time. The situation worsened to such an extent that we were even warned not to enter Site C at all. Even the police responsible for Site B – there haven’t been any in Site C for a long time – couldn’t help us. For them, Site C is a ” lost area “. However, in this “lost area” are the very children who need us most urgently! For the first time in the last two years we felt an incredible sense of helpless anger. And even though it was very painful for us, we had to close the house for the time being, because we didn’t want to put ourselves and our children in danger. This was by far our hardest decision!
… and a New Beginning!
This helpless decision turned out to be a small breakthrough that brought us and Ubomi a long way forward. Our house became indispensable for the community, but above all for our children and their parents. An unbelievable dynamic developed – an “Ubuntu”, a cohesion, like we had never experienced before. Together, everyone was now fighting for the preservation and security of the Ubomi house in Site C. It would overstretch this article to name and explain all the details and measures, for example the “parent security”. The most important and crucial point is that Ubomi is once again a safe place, an island of safety for our children. No less significant for us is the lasting change in the community, which has made it its goal to create a hopeful perspective on life through Ubomi.
In the meantime, we have even opened a third house. This time, the decision was not made by us, but for us. In our consternation, it seemed right not to close a house without opening a new one.
April 2019: Three Ubomis for over One Hundred Children
Now we have three houses and over a hundred children. The events of the last months have brought us even closer together and have shown us how important and necessary our Ubomi houses are in the hot spots of the Townships. Even when we started Ubomi, it was always clear to us that we wanted to realize and advance Ubomi in the Township for the local people and, above all, always with the people in the Township. We know that together we can do it. Gorgo!
BECOME A SUPPORTER
We want a peaceful life and better future for our Ubomi children. We believe in this vision. „It always seems impossible until it’s done“. This quote from Nelson Mandela was our motto when we planned and finally opened our first Ubomi house back in 2016. Please continue to help us realize our vision and enable the children, who so deeply deserve it, to have a life worth living.