Monday, October 6, 2008

Dusty Shoes at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange -- July 2007 Day 10

Today, I went from the board room of Investec, to the dusty shacks of of the poorest townships and the most dangerous places in all of South Africa. Dressed for the board room in heels and skirt, I bumped and rocked through the pitted, narrow streets of Alex, past tin shacks, outdoor barbershops and people butchering meat right on the sidewalk in the warm afternoon sun. I was in Alex to visit the next site we are working on developing with NOAH, one of our NGO partners (, at a school called Realogile. I had arranged to bring four people from Bombardier, our newest corporate partner, to the site to catch the vision of what we are doing...and to help elicit their support to overcome the challenges we face in making this happen in the face of crime, limited public services and over-crowded conditions. As these four people who work less than 15 minutes away in their secure and comfortable offices experienced Alex for the very first time, they asked me to reflect on whether poverty was worse in South Africa, or in any of the other African countries I had visited. I said, a shack is a shack, a malnourished, undereducated child is the same wherever you go, but the disparities of wealth and poverty are so much more stark in South Africa than in any other country I've visited.

And then, from Alex, with the dust still coating my heels, I walked into the beautiful and opulent offices of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Yes, disparity. Vast disparity. But the people who sit in these offices, who work for these multimillion dollar companies are good people...good people willing to take time out of their days and their lives to visit Alex, listen to the story of your work with orphaned children, and be inspired and moved by our efforts and therefore motivated to make further attempts of their own. They too are willing to face the pain and work to lessen the divide, the stark disparities of their world.

The dust will remain embedded in my shoes for a long time...and the memories even longer.

Tomorrow it is back to Soweto and then off to Thembisa. I end the day with a visit to the head of the Department of Community Development for the City of Johannesburg who I hope will give us the go-ahead to begin working with the Techno Centers. Another great day doing wonderful work!

Lucky me!


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