Friday, March 30, 2012

"The Help" - Jozi version

If you have read the book “The Help” or watched the movie I am sure it made you reflect on the lives of each of those different women. Questions might have been brought to your mind like: How can women treat other women like that? Was the racial divide that bad that the help really couldn’t use the same toilets as their Boss? How can people be so narrow minded in their thinking? For those who still have Helpers I am sure this movie really got you thinking about how you treat your own Help. For those of you who don’t have helpers – like my readers in Canada, I bet you are still in shock that “Helpers” are still a very common career choice for women in some parts of the world – especially in Africa. This blog is a brief insight on the Jozi version of “The Help.”

I can testify that probably every household in Jozi has some sort of level of “Help”. Some have live-in Help, some have full time help, some have part-time help, bi-weekly help, garden Help, cook help, child care help you name it. You see the women everyday at 6am walking to their respective houses. Some wear their normal clothes, some in uniforms, some are young, some are old, some are South African some are Zimbabwean. Could we survive with out “The Help” – well probably we could but it does make life a lot more smoother when you have a helping hand. But due to the unemployment rates and poverty issues this side of the world you tend to have women begging for a job. Before Franci officially left us I had interviewed three women, two of which showed up at my door step desperate for work. So in a way although they are looking to be a helper you the employer are just as much a help!

As some of you may know Franci was my Helper. In fact she wasn’t just my helper she worked for my neighbours, friends and sister as well, because I couldn’t afford to have someone work for me full time in our small two bedroom flat. If you wanna know how she became our helper please refer to the blog Encounters with a Stranger. Anyways she was working for us for over two years and had actually become a really good friend of ours. Not because she cleans our houses fantastically or because she is so good with Kayla and my neighbours kids Robyn and Romy; but purely because of her heart and that was what I was going to miss most of all when she told me she was leaving to go back to Zimbabwe.

Hiring help is not an easy task, I have heard of some horrible stories from people who have hired bad help and from helpers that have had bad bosses. My one co-worker once warned me against hiring help from a certain religion. He said by hiring such you are opening your home to a super natural warfare. I remember watching Nigerian movies with Franci and seeing how deep African witchcraft can go. You could simply say – well if you don’t believe in those things then nothing will really happen to you. Then how do I explain several separate stories about experiences of demonic presences in the house of Christian homes with dodgy helpers. Scary I know – but no lie children and adults were being traumatised in their sleep. Franci even told me about her neighbour in diepsloot who got arrested for stealing. Apparently the lady had told Franci that she used Mooti (witchcraft) on her employers so that she could get what she wanted. Eeeek! Then there is the other issue of Helpers being in cahoots with Tsotsi’s (Thieves) – they know you are leaving for two weeks and they know where all your valuables are – you come home and Ba! everything is gone. Okay this is just one extreme end of the story which I had read about in the Fourways Review last year.

The other side of the story is employers that mistreat their Help. A major issue is human trafficking and abuse of the Help. Since people are so desperate for jobs and have come from extreme poverty they are willing to work for peanuts and suffer abuse. On two occasions Franci has worked for women who have treated her like she was dirt and basically told her she was dirt too. They have sworn at her and told her that they have cameras in every corner of their house so if she even thinks of stealing they will call the police. OUCH! How can anyone work in such conditions? Franci said people would probably steal just because they feel like their boss thinks they are stealing before they have even stolen. One of Franci’s previous bosses even called the police on Franci because after three weeks of working there Franci couldn’t tolerate being called a Fackenn (Yup – that is a swear word with an accent). Franci didn’t do anything wrong other than say don’t call me that, I am a human being! She never left the house because she didn’t want to be accused of stealing either so she just waited for the police and listened while the lady accused her of being abusive. Knowing Franci’s heart I knew that such an environment was probably one of the saddest experiences for her. I just told Franci it wasn’t worth her time to work for such people one day of the week – So she just left with out being paid. But just like Minny in “The Help” and her bad deed with the pie, things could have been worse for Franci’s Boss!

Maita, Fransisca, Kayla and Kanya

Now the one thing I learnt about in the book “The Help” is the importance of a good relationship between the helper and the employer. Just like Constantine and Skeeter you can see how Love can go beyond all boundaries and really impact lives. Both Fransisca and I can say it has been a real blessing letting each other into one anothers life. The good the bad and the ugly....alot has happened which I haven't even blogged about. We have both sad down and gone....Wow imagine if we hadn't met.....and the image is just depressing. Anways when I heard Franci was leaving us I had a deep fear build up in me because I was afraid of finding someone else who I could love and trust just like Franci. How could I start afresh with someone new again? I didn’t want Franci to go. I felt like such a hypocrite because I would testify at how amazing God is because He lead Franci and I to each other…. Yet I almost had a lack of faith that God would step in again. Why is Trust such a difficult thing?

Story to be continued…… “Along came Langton and Lillian”

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Nike Run Jozi - Food for Thought

At 2am this morning I was so restless because earlier that evening I was excited that Nike Running South Africa had re-tweeted my blog of the Nike Run Jozi event and now, in the early hours of the morning, I had a flush of thoughts running through my head. So I got up earlier for work and decided I must write these thoughts down before my work day starts.
You are probably thinking …Kanya what could you possibly be thinking of so early in the morning. Well my imagination had invited me to the Nike Jozi Run board meeting and I was presenting LIVE……

Good Morning, it is such an honour to be here presenting a runner’s feedback and perspective on the Nike Run Jozi Event which took place last week. I have jotted down a few Do-Wells and Do-Differently’s and hopefully this will provide some guidance for your future planning.

At the top of your Do-Wells is your Nike Branding strategy. This event is going to be the talk of Johannesburg for quite a while, so much so that next year you can guarantee the signup for the run is going to be so quick and effortless. The Nike vibe and energy was felt throughout the streets of Johannesburg not only from the runners but also the supporters. But we can’t let it just end there we need this energy to keep the hearts of these people hungry for more.

This leads me to my Do-Differently list – Nike Run Jozi needs to impact the people with great power. You should be an Unforgettable brand in the hearts of the runners AND the people living on the streets. I know there are probably many organisations you could give to but let’s try narrow it down to the ones with the greatest impact – The Children. These are the leaders of tomorrow.

You should have seen how excited the kids on the street were to see us running in their hood. Their faces lit up like we were angels out to give them Hope. Hope that their life on the street would change, Hope that someone of importance has taken the time to pass by their house. When I ran and saw 3 kids running beside me on the side walk…dodging the people, bins, pay meters etc I couldn’t help but think of the scene in Slum Dog Millionaire when the children were running through the slums of India….or the movie/book the Kite-Runner when the children were chasing their Kites. It is something so small that takes them out of their current situation and gives them hope in believing that life will get better. And yes we did give them Hope but Nike lets make it better NOW and for next year.

(this is when I turn to a more serious side of my presentation)

Here are some suggestions:

1. Donating to Philile Hillbrow – a pre-school situated in an old children’s hospital on the border of Hillbrow. Gugu Zulu and Letsego Moshoeu, the wonderful Adventure Couple who were also involved in Run Jozi, did the 94.7 cycle challenge in support of this organisation. Last year our life group tried to raise funds for them but I am sure your support would make an even greater impact to the lives of these children. You can read more about our initiative here

2. Maybe next year hand out reflector bands, lights or glow in the dark sticks to the supporters. That would really get the children excited.

3. As a middle class runner I would have easily paid R100 for this event that is R30 more than what we paid. Maybe next year give runners the option of donating to a certain organisation. Or just up the price by R10 that will be approximately R10*10000= R R100 000 of the Runners money which could go in support of a chosen organisation or issue. It would also make the runners feel like they are running for a purpose not just for a Time.

4. Have each watering hole be in support of a chosen organisation. So at 3km the refreshment stand could be in support for an orgnisation that deals with Drug abuse on the street, 6km - Stopping Crime.. Oh you could even have a live performance from some of the singers from SHOUT SA. Just a thought.

Well thanks again for inviting me to this meeting. I look forward to getting more involved with your plans and event strategies. Goodnight…..zzzzzzzz I finally went to bed at 3:30am.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Nike Run Jozi Night Race

On March 21, 2010 Avon and I hit the streets of Jozi with a 10 000 other excited runners. If you are not a runner you are probably thinking what could convince people to run 10km for Mahala (for free). But once you have the running bug it is so addictive. There is something so magical about being amongst a group of people with different shapes, sizes, colours, personalities, energies and yet one mutual goal – to cross that finish line. But this run was different as it stirred something in my heart.

Now I haven’t run for probably over a year but my friend Rachel had a medical condition which required her to walk the race and that was what convinced me that maybe this would be a good idea for me to get involved and support my hubby in his new running hobby.

I was so excited that I did go because the excitement of everyone was just so contagious. We all had to wear our bright yellow Nike shirts which made each of us feel like a beam of sunlight during the wet weather. It was funny coz on the highway you could spot all the racers in their cars and it was just fun waving to each other so randomly. It was like we were saying – RAIN OR SHINE…..WE ARE GOING TO RUN THIS RACE! Rachel said “When else could you feel so comfortable waving to a stranger.”

But I think the excitement of the race kinda fogged my reality that I was a breastfeeding mother. The race started at 7pm and my last express was at 3pm. I remember standing there 5 minutes before the race was kicking off and realising – Ooopsy my milk is kicking in – feels like pins and needles in your boobs. I also hadn’t eaten since 2pm and I had a day dream of me passing out on a random street in Hilbrow.

5pm...still 2 hours to go before the race start.

Then Bang the fireworks kicked in, the race had started and there was no time for turning around. The sight of thousands of people in bright shirts running through the dark city gave me chills down my back. It was like a river of gold passing over the Nelson Mandela Bridge. Funny enough Rachel’s walk was equivalent to my run (I run slow) so I did get quite a work out.

The River of Gold heading for Hillbrow
 As we moved deeper and deeper into the heart of Johannesburg the reality of city life hit me – it wasn’t an easy life. Everyone was supporting the runners from the drunkards to the street kids to the prostitutes and gang members. I didn’t know quite how to take it all in – I felt ashamed and guilty for feeling so excited about being in Hillbrow at this time of night…because I would never be caught dead in these parts of Johannesburg on foot. It was like we were showing off with all our cool expensive shoes, gear, phones, i-pods ect. Like we had such a great life we could afford to run through these streets of poverty for free. Kids would run beside us and would ask us for our reflector bands or even just for a Hi-five. Women would sing and cheer – “Come on you can do it my sister push!!!!” One drunken man was singing “Welcome to Jozi, where you can become famous….” which was probably the Jozi remix to the New York song by Alicia Keys and JZ.

But my heart sank! What was I really doing here? What was God trying to show me? I remember running and picturing what life was like behind the walls of the homes we passed by. What was cooking for dinner? Were these people genuinely happy? What are their daily struggles? Where are the parents for these children? How close is drug abuse, gang membership, prostitution ect close to the lives of these innocent children? What was Nike doing right here in the heart of poverty in Johannesburg? Did my R70 race entry contribute to anything? Part of me just wanted to ignore it all and turn a blind eye and just look at how beautiful the city is at night but I knew that wasn’t me! I big part of me wanted to take my shoes and clothes off and say – here you need it more than I do!

Then the song “You are the God of this City!” by Chris Tomlin came to my mind and played over and over again. The lyrics and the experience of being in this part of town couldn’t become more real:

You're the God of this City
You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation
You are

You're the Light in this darkness
You're the Hope to the hopeless
You're the Peace to the restless
You are

I finished the race exhausted both physically and emotionally. The Nike Run Jozi Race made me realise that greater things are yet to come…..Greater things are still to be done in this City!!!!! I hope I wasn’t the only one who’s heart was stirred in this way. .. I hope the run created a passion and a hunger to make a difference NOW. Let’s pray that next year when this race happens we won’t be using the slogan “Take back the streets,” but something along the lines of “Give back to the streets.”

Avon finished the race under 1hour...I probably found him an hour later :)

Rachel and I straight after the race - I was sure I looked thinner

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Strategic Environmental Focus 15Th Birthday

Me listening heavily to the presentation

Kanya, Vici and Areeg at breakfast

Our Straight picture

You know me...we gotta have a crazy photo!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Letters to Kayla: You at 6 months old

Dear Kayla,

Gosh you are fast approaching your 6month birthday and I can’t even begin to describe how much you have developed and transformed into such a gorgeous little person. 
Grampa Howard says you are so photogenic!

I thought I would miss out on so much having gone to work but every day you show me a new development as if you are doing it for the first time. You are now reaching for things, it all started with the simple reaching for a toy and now you are reaching for my glass when I am drinking, my banana when I am eating, the packet of spinach when I am packing food away. You get fascinated by the sound, taste, texture each item brings and your eyes just say “Mommy I have to touch that, I just gotta know what it THAT thing is?” Your curiosity brings such a joy to my heart.

Our family has finally got into a workable routine and you have just fitted in like you have been there all along. You love the routine but never fuss if we have to change something here or there. You are definitely a morning girl. Dad says during the week you can talk to yourself for a good 30mintues before you want any attention. I wonder what you are thinking – Are you telling Teddy-F1 about your dreams? Are you talking to God or the angels that surround you? You have such an anticipating personality – Your eyes are always open wide as if you don’t want to miss out on A THING! Daddy says you kick your legs and get excited when he drops you off at your wonderful day mom…which makes me happy because that is exactly what you do when I come to pick you up.

As much as I love holding you and being with you 247 I have also learnt to release you, although it wasn’t easy. I remember getting upset when a youth who wanted to hold you during one church service. All I could think about was I only get to be with you on weekends can’t I just hold my own child please!!!! I know that sounds so selfish of me and I felt quite guilty afterwards. Coz really Kayla you are not mine at all you are God’s child...and God reminded me about the blog I wrote on “SIAM the unknown Gift!” Kayla you are a gift, a God given gift to everyone who holds you and meets you, and I needed to be reminded of that. So I let people hold you more and see how their faces light up in your presence, I keep a close eye on you tho, just to monitor your tolerance levels because I know too many faces can be too much for your little character to take in. It can be even too much for mommy to handle too.

Family photo
You are probably wondering how Daddy and I are doing with all the changes (you, mommy working, daddy working, ect)? Well it has been an adjustment for us and we are also learning as we go along. But honestly if God wasn’t at the top of it all I think we would be really struggling to keep everything together. God’s Grace has given us that patience to support each other, to listen, to be sensitive to each others needs, to laugh, to face our fears, to open up with our frustrations, to forgive when we struggle to, ….God truly is amazing and I want you to always remember that.

Well my angel mom needs to get going. I love you inside out. Till next time keep smiling and shining your light


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pillars of Prayer: Franci Sick and Alone

Fransisca and I up making Valentines cookies at 11pm Feb 13, 2012
 As I write this blog a good friend of mine is 7 months pregnant and lies on the floor of a hut located in the heart of the rural areas of Zimbabwe - Gokwe. Fransisca does not quite understand why the cards of life have played out the way they have. She has not said it but I can imagine she is wondering “Lord why have you forsaken me?” just like Jesus said during the final hours of his life on the cross.

At 6 months pregnant Fransisca’s in-laws told her to pack up her life here in Johannesburg and move to Zimbabwe. I knew she battled with the decision as it was written all over her face during her final days here. I put myself in her shoes…23 yrs old having come from extreme poverty in Zimbabwe and finally having a job and a life here in Johannesburg…now being told to go back??? It just didn’t make sense. She said before this point in her life she never knew what it was like to have R100 in her pocket. Deep down her heart didn’t want to go, but this was her husband’s family’s will and as the Zimbabwe culture stands it is really her responsibility to obey.

I even struggled with the idea of her going back to Zimbabwe. I wasn’t ready for her to leave as I had grown to love this woman who was a stranger 2 yrs ago in the parking lot of Northgate. And right now she was my sister, my daughter, my spiritual friend. But she had such strength within she said “Kanya you should not worry because God is with me and I talk to him daily. No matter what happens I know he is with me.” Her faithfulness was a testimony for me to never forget that God is with you no matter what decision you make in life…..good or bad.

So 2 weeks ago, she sold all her things and moved back, not knowing what the situation across the borders would be. For some of us it just seems logical to say “NO, I don’t want to go!” But can I remind you that Fransisca was now married and paid for, and in a way her new independent way of thinking cannot exist. She has to dutifully obey.

I spoke to her for the first time on Sunday evening and it appears the worst situation has taken place. She was sent to the heart of the rural areas to look after her husband’s grandmother. There is hardly anything in this area…..and it hurts me to think of how I was when I was 7 months pregnant. Could I survive on barely eating anything…and doing manual labour all day? When she spoke she was calm and collective, sweet and sincere. “Kanya I know everything will be fine! Don’t stop Praying for me. My God is Faithful!” We said goodbye and I cried - I felt so helpless. I had been in prayer for several women that day and I realised the strength and faithfulness Fransisca had in trusting God through this situation was way stronger than I felt I could ever be.

I have received an urgent sms from her today and I am putting her prayer request Live because as Matthew 18:20 says “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” We are in a world of cyberspace and I can testify that the Holy Spirit has moved miraculously and touched the lives of women I have met and never have met before through this web….and I have been moved more than ever before. So where you are take a moment to just pray for Fransisca! She is sick and leaking amniotic fluids…she is alone and scared and needs your help! Please stand as a pillar for her in this time of need.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Surround Yourself with Good People

Two weeks ago my work celebrated its 15yr birthday which kick started with a very inspirational motivational speaker from Highveld 702fm, Benita Levine – Two things that really sunk in from this talk were – surround yourself with good people and keep your passion burning. I will delve on the later in my upcoming “Secret shoot” blog. But today I wanna really chat about the importance of surrounding yourself with good people.

Every 6 weeks I get together with a bunch of ladies from my church. There are about 8 of us and we range in age, size, race, jobs, talents ect. However the main common denominator is that we all are aiming to put God on top of our lists …coz you know us women have many lists in our lives! We are each others supportive structures.

Today’s meeting was an early morning Saturday breakfast and as busy as our schedules all were we knew deep down that this get together was not about us but all about God. One mother leaves her 2 week old and 2 yr old alone at home with dad for the first time, another just needs a breather from her family’s hussel and bussel, a teacher slips away from all the marking she has taken home for the weekend, a stay at home mom anticipates the social aspect of the gathering, a working mom just needs to pause for a second, some ladies are ready to be refreshed and others are ready to refresh others.

I was moved when each lady shared there feedback on “what was going well in their life and what they were struggling with.” Each lady opened up like flower as they shared the “what was going well”…and as they slowly unfolded their struggles you could just resonate with the emotion. Yes you can imagine how the flood gates were let loose here in a little cafĂ© in jozi. But it was humbling to hear that some of the struggles were very similar – being busy and burnt out, feeling guilty with not spending enough time with God, waiting for God’s confirmation in decision ect. As we shared our hearts we realised how God has come through and although the struggles seemed hectic and unbarring …which made you wanna cry, it was so encouraging witness God’s faithfulness in the various seasons.

When the breakfast was over and the waitress was tired of asking us if we needed anything else…we all went our separate ways refreshed and ready for the battle field of life.

The whole experience really encouraged me to push all my women readers that feel like they are alone and struggling or unsupported - to surround yourself with Good Women. Women that you can open your hearts to and share your joys and tribulations; women you can trust that will be praying for you when you are struggling to pray for yourself; women that will refresh you with God’s word and wisdom. We can’t go through life thinking we can manage everything alone…including our relationship with God. We need good supporting structures that will guide us with God’s light because life can get so hectic it may even feel hard to breath.
If you feel like this blog or any of my blogs have spoken to you and you would really like specific prayer comment or send me a private email