Poverty- the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions (Merriam-Webster dictionary).
This definition doesn’t even begin to describe the amount of poverty that is in Egoli. Egoli is an informal settlement about half an hour away from my apartment. Ironically enough “Egoli” means “place of gold” in Zulu, there is certainly no gold to be found in Egoli. Those living in the settlement have made houses of whatever materials they can find. The houses are jammed together. There is no plumbing or electricity, one or two of the houses have generators. The people living here don’t own the land so they are at the mercy of the landowners. Due to the fact that they don’t have ownership the landowners do whatever they can to cut the costs, which means that they do not arrange for the trash to be collected from the settlement. Trash heaps cover the streets of Egoli causing massive sanitation problems. I spent my morning in Egoli playing with the kids. I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with some people from my program and we handed them out to the kids. In spite of the abject poverty that these kids have to face every day they were full of smiles and laughs. They taught me the games that they like to play, most of them consisting of dancing.
Egoli is where I am doing my service learning project. Today we visited to do a basic needs assessment of the area and decide how best to go about serving the community. There is a small community center that we are going to work to refurbish and make it more inviting for the kids to spend their time there instead of getting involved with the wrong crowd. We are going to set up soccer and rugby camps and a daycare for the younger kids. These are just a few of the ideas that we have come up with so far. Our main focus is to help these families but doing it in a way that gets them involved, giving them a sense of pride and ownership.
Although these families live with basically nothing they have the sweetest dispositions. They welcomed us into their community with open arms and warm smiles. The kids had great manners, asking for things using “please “and “thank you.” The human spirit is amazing, that those that have so little can be so happy. I was fortunate enough to spend my morning with them and as I reflect on my time there I guess in a sense there is gold in Egoli. It certainly isn’t real gold but metaphorically those that I encountered today are golden. They have nothing yet they give so much, they have become determined to rise above their financial situations and keep a positive outlook on life. Golden.