The South African Press reports renewed protests against domestic violence outside the trial of Oscar Pistorius. Signs demand: “No violence against women” and “No to killing of women and children”. Days before her shooting by Pistorius, Reeva Steenkamp tweeted her support to end violence against women after the brutal gang rape and killing of 17-year-old Anene Booysen.
Child rape is a constant danger in Mzamomhle, (pronounced “Zhamonshlay”) an East London township which is ministered to by CATCH, an organisation supported by Beckford Group Parish for the last ten or so years. Thanks partly to the continuing myth that sex with a virgin will cure a man of HIV or AIDS, at least one child rape is reported in Mzamomhle every single week.
In Mzamomhle 40,000 people battle for survival. In 1994 the government erected 500 small brick built homes there for the growing number of residents. The houses are basic, but have running water facilities outside. Each could sleep up to 8 people side by side, like sardines, accommodating some 4000 people.
The other 36,000 live in tin shacks with no running water, sewage system or electricity. Just 16 pumps located next to poorly maintained public toilets supply water. These unsanitary conditions create a community riddled with diseases such as TB - but that may be the least of their worries. Over 65% of residents are HIV positive. ARVs can keep an HIV sufferer reasonably healthy for years, but few receive the treatment needed. HIV and AIDS are both still taboo topics within the Xhosa tribes so those affected often suffer in silence, out of shame.
Massive unemployment breeds desperation. Alcoholism and drug abuse affect over half the population. Robberies and assaults are a daily occurrence. Even the poorest of the shacks are protected with metal bars. The streets are unsafe. The children of Mzamomhle witness violence every day. Often they are targets, especially young girls.
CATCH Projects is an NGO that was set up in 2002 by an incredible woman called Sue Davies. Sue gave up her high flying career with Mercedes Benz to dedicate her life to helping the children affected by the desperate conditions in which they live.
Sue now includes community work in her vision. CATCH’s daily ‘fun clubs’ offer children safety away from the dangerous streets of Mzamomhle. At these free clubs children get a hot, nutritious meal - often their only meal that day. 500 children a week are fed. HIV support groups for affected adults work closely with influential members of the community and there is training on domestic violence, contraception and self defence. Six at risk girls, aged between 4 and 14 have been given a foster home at the project, but many more places for such youngsters are needed.
The work that CATCH does is vital. The community know CATCH and often go there for help. Hundreds of children have been protected by CATCH over the years.
Now approaching 70, Sue Davies is about to hand over to a new General Manager, CJ Avery, who will be visiting Beckford in May. She volunteered for 6 months, and was so affected by the plight of the children that she decided to stay.
CJ will be giving an illustrated talk on progress at CATCH projects at Beckford Village Hall on May 7th from 7.00 pm. If you want to hear more about a project supported by the Beckford Group Parish for many years, then come along. You will be informed, moved, and uplifted!