Behind Bars
December 23, 2008, 6:46 am
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One night with a roof over their heads!

One night with a roof over their heads!

I popped into Stroompie for the last time this year to hand over some loaves of bread and rolls. There was enough to give a generous amount to each of all the 30 residents of this ramshackle and dirty set-up they have going. When I arrived though things were quiet. In fact there were only 4 people about. One of the ladies and her baby, Mervin the old ‘ring leader’ of Stroompie at 63 years old and a visitor dude who pulled in with hi shopping trolley-mobile home.

The lady told me that there had been a sweep that morning and that all that were there had been collected by the police and taken to jail. It happens from time to time. They have to either make bail of R50 or sleep over night to be released the next day after being finger printed. None have the R50 so they spend the night behind bars. The police also take any form of structures that the ‘residents’ of Stroompie use to make there shelters. So all the wooden boards or corrigated iron is confiscated. I suppose they need to do this to put the brakes on a proper squatter camp developing on that site.

I handed over the grub anyway as they said that there would be others that would be grateful for some food. The next day I was driving towards Clifton to go and chill on the beach and I noticed the Police doing another sweep … this time it was the chaps who live in the quarry as Strand Street becomes High Level Road upon leaving the city bowl. Looks like they are getting strict on those that live under the stars. I wonder if they are or if I am just more attentive now that I take food to these characters – amongst others. Probably the latter. Well I hope the homeless lot have a decent Christmas time in trying conditions. Thanks to Knead they will at least not be as hungry as they may have been.


Nobody home at the Homestead
December 10, 2008, 8:05 am
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The boys of the Homestead are now on holiday so were not at home when I got there to deliver the cakes, bread and rolls;  fortunately enough I was still be able to be let in to leave the food behind. It was about 4pm in the afternoon and the boys were expected back from their soccer tournament soon. There was some food on the go for them. To my unaccustomed nose, it smelt terrible! It was meat though and although I have no idea what kind of meat, I am sure the boys were happy to have a warm meal. There were huge cabbages waiting to be chopped as well and some almost weightless white bread to add to the meal.

I felt fantastic to be able to leave bread as heavy as bricks and the delicious, carrot cake, cheese cake, chocolate cake and other goodies to add some decadence to their meal.  It was cool that they were not there as now it would be a surprise desert.

December 8, 2008, 6:39 pm
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The gentleman was looking for something like this.

The gentleman was looking for something like this.

I met my buddy and Nick Muzik at 6am Sunday morning on the promenade in Sea Point. We were there to set-up a two man shoot for Runner’s World Magazine. We miss timed the appearance of the sun by about an hour or so though and found ourselves chilling out just waiting for the teasing glow from behind Signal Hill to deliver the all important soft morning rays that we were there to shoot under. Nick was chilling properly with travelers thermo mug of tea and all.

We were not the only ones up at that early hour though. A couple of early morning exercises were doing their thing.As Nick and I talked about the all important sports results from Saturday, another joined us with confidence. An elderly gentleman with oral hygiene problems, amongst others, was not shy to change the subject. As quick as a flash Liverpool and the Springboks 7’s team were forgotten and the chaps urgent need for some cash to buy coffee was was brought to our attention. I am not sure if he was being polite in not making eye contact or if it as just that his eyes were glued to Nicks mug., but I knew I could trump his coffee request by grabbing two fantastic loaves of Knead Rye bread and Chiabatta from the boot of my car. I handed them over to the fella with a smile and waited for him to be on his way.

Well he stashed them both dextrously under his right arm and went ahead a little more urgently with the coffee request. We laughed at what was at this stage just a bit of persistance on his part and told him to enjoy the bread and the rest of the weekend. This cat was not going anywhere though. Giving up on asking for money for coffee now he decided that he was able to settle for a portion of what was in Nicks mug. Diving efficiently into the nearest dustbin and emerging with a empty bottle of Fanta Orange (a good drink after a hard game of touch rugby by the way) the now irrate visitor proferred the bottle under Nicks nose to indicate that he should get pouring. Now with not too much humour left Nick showed him the empty mug. Totally disgusted, the punk disgards the plastic bottle to the floor with much animation and tells us in no uncertain terms that he is hungry (clearly he had already forgotten the bread that he was still clinging to) and he just wants some coffee – can we not understand that?

I was not keen for the new friendship to be taken any further at this stage so told the punk to pick up his plastic litter and be on his way. He slammed the bottle back into the bin and stomped his way across the street, when safely on the other side he scowled at us as if we had just beaten him black and blue … well he certainly did look like he had been beaten the poor fellow. Probably by the odd wall and a pavement or two, and with the assistance of some cheeky steps and the bottom of a bottle of some hard stuff. Nick and I laughed at the sitatuation and got back to work.

November 21, 2008, 10:58 am
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Living Under the Bridge

Living Under the Bridge - Like the Red Hot Chili Peppers

One of Cape Towns good souls that goes by the name of Luke Baker (a huge man of about 6ft 5inch and many kg’s that works as a pastor in the tough world of prisons and on the streets with the homeless) was on hand today to introduce me to the boys of ‘The Homestead”.  They live is a house/shelter under the Bridge off the round about in Woodstock. You don’t know the place you say? Yea, that is not a surprise as it’s not the most eloquent of places as Cape Town real estate goes, however it is fantastic for these youngsters to have a regular bed, mattress and safe place to sleep. They are also given a lift to a school that they attend on Somerset Road that I think is run by the church.

All these guys would be sleeping on the streets if they had not been brought into the shelter and I notice right away that many of them already have the hardened survival exterior appearance that comes with making it out there and must have actually lived on the streets for some time. This is a mix of 30 coloured and black boys between the ages of eight and sixteen. There is loud music playing and the older guys are kicking a ball in the small concrete courtyards when Luke and I pop our noses in to say hi. The social worker tells us that they LOVE bread and was very greatful for the four sacks of Kneads loaves and rolls. The fact that the guys also got some of the cakes brought huge smiles to their faces. They helped us carry the bread into the shelter and placed them on the counters in the huge kitchen.

While Luke and I were chatting to the social worker a scuffle broke out as one of the naughty little oaks had grabbed a roll and now they were sorting it out amongst themselves to make sure that he knew he was wrong to have taken food out of turn and not to have waited until the proper time to share the food. They seemed to have a great sense of a code in this place with the older boys running the show, but with such tough individuals it must get quite heated at times. Luke works in the prisons a lot and he says once these guys leave the place he still see’s some of them behind bars. He reckons it would be a lot more if it was not for places like ‘The Homestead” though.

November 20, 2008, 5:47 pm
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I arrived at the Youngsfield refugee camp today to find that Patrick is now being repatriated I think so when he answered the call he told me he was now in district six. Now the irony in that was not lost on me. Don’t ask me where or why he mentioned district six, but I did have a little chuckle about that. At the gate of the Camp that I was still not allowed to enter were 5 massive security ladies. They were having there very own little competition to see who could slouch the furthest off their chairs without actually falling off. I stood sweating at the gates about 2m away from them under the weight of the Knead bread and rolls in the bags that I was just managing to keep from the ground. Not one of the them acknowledged me. I could not comprehend what was going on. There was nobody else around within 100m and yet they totally ignored me as I huffed and puffed so close to them I feared I could be injured if one of the fat lumps lost the competition and fell from her chair.

I let rip with booming greeting. “HELLO LADIES. ARE ANY OF YOU ACTUALLY GOING TO HELP ME HERE?” The largest poked the smallest one in her substantial ribs as if to indicate she was to make the 2m journey to the gate to let me through to place it in a corner where one of the camp residents could collect it. A brief argument insued as I lost another half a litre of bodily fluids, determined not to let the sacks of bread slip to the ground.

Just then a  regal looking Somalian appeared on my peripheral vision and I turned my attention to him. Now it was action stations as the fatties waddled to the gate to observe … in case I was smuggling South African passports or something, who knows. Well I managed to deliver the food and lost only about 2kg of perspiration in the process, but it was a good workout.

Dessert for 200
November 17, 2008, 4:45 pm
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Happy to get a tasty treat!

Happy to get a tasty treat! (Photo Karin Schermbrucker)

The trendy Wembly Square was abuzz with Fashion Show energy on Friday night. Beautiful people for something that Cosmo Magazine was doing. It might have been a lingerie show or something, I have tried not to think too much about it, my mind gets a bit excited fuzzy.

I got a the call from Knead to make sure I knew about the extra leftovers from the event. They did the catering for the event as it was on their turf. Watching gorgeous people can be appetizing work, but there was a huge amount of confectionery left over when I went to collect on Sunday morning. It was enough for each one of the children for the children at the Dietrich Moravian Secondary School in Phillipe and I could not wait to get it to them the next day.

There are 200 children at what the teachers describe as The Forgotten School. You see the Phillipe is not as ‘glamourous’ a township area as the other larger and more well known ones so this little school in urgent need of assistance misses out on the support that a lot of the other schools get. Most of the parents do not have an income and the government provides just R120 per child per year. This must cover absolutely everything. Now many of these children receive one proper meal a day and that is from the school. The church donates the basics which are girthed up with soy and things so fill their bellies. Its always a struggle though so to be able to take a whole lot of Knead bread as well as over 200 little cakes was definitely going to be special for these little fellas and ladies.

Liezal the strict headmistress was so happy that for a change something special was brought for the children.  She mentioned through a smile: “Poor people need the basics, but also dream of luxuries you know. These cakes will be very special for the children.” I carried the treats in with intentions of stealth to add to the surprise factor but 400 eyes were not to be deceived and one little girl who was close on my haunches whispered excitedly to her friend. “Dis Kook Elsie, dis Kook!” – its CAKE Elsie, its CAKE!.

Patrick from Uganda
November 13, 2008, 6:47 am
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Patrick collects food from outside the camp

Patrick collects food from outside the camp

A tough situation for these fella’s. On the wrong end of the xenophobia attacks that the influx of the Zimbabweans set off, there are many people from North Africa who are now not feeling at all safe to going back to their houses in the townships. They fear they will be beaten or killed. The government assistance of electricity and food has been cut off from their ‘refugee village’. Clearly these chaps are a hungry lot. I managed to get hold of Patrick’s phone number and arranged to meet him at the fence of the refugee camp in Youngsfield. Nobody is allowed in the help them out, but they can leave the camp so he arranged to meet me at the gate.

Patrick was very grateful for the bread, rolls and pastries from Knead. I also chucked in some oranges and apples that I had. There are many women and children from different countries and ethnicities in the camp, but Patrick assured me the food would be distributed amongst them all. He is an amicable dude Patrick and although he speaks English well and looks healthy, when I look a little closer at his face I notice the glazed eyes and even though he looks a little lost it seems his energy is fully focused on surviving this ordeal. He shows sincerity and is very present in his conversation with me, but I can feel his heavy burden and more calamitous his complete sadness for his family who are in a similar camp in Johannesburg.

As quickly as he can, he manages to turn the conversation to ask if I have work for him. If he can show he has a job and a place to stay then the SA government will give him papers to say that he is legally allowed to live and work in the country. This proves almost impossible for these people and the situation does not look good. There are some incredible people working on helping them though and knead bakery falls into that bracket as this food will do a lot of good for the hungry refugees.