Pick up a newspaper ....well more like open the news app on your smartphone & almost every article you read gives off a negative vibe. Currently the economic outlook of our country is bleak and if you're anything like me, then you skip all the financial jargon in search of some happier content. No matter how much I limit my intake of current affairs, I am still painfully aware of the soaring unemployment rates & the direct impact that has on the number of people that are likely to end up living below the poverty line. With so many families struggling to make ends meet its no wonder that even basic necessities are no longer possible.
As Acts of Love prepares for the second Winter Outreach for 2016, where we will distribute blankets and warm clothing to 1500 needy individuals in Olievenhoutbosch, I started to wonder what it truly means to be homeless and destitute during this time of year.
In Johannesburg, the temperatures can plummet to a mere 2 degrees at night, sometimes even lower. I shudder to think what that must feel like without having a proper shelter to shield yourself from the harsh elements. During winter the only way I can brave the cold is by looking like an Eskimo from the several layers of clothing I attempt to insulate myself with. But there are many at this very moment who don't even have access to a blanket let alone warm clothing. The disheveled and unkempt appearance of street dwellers can be frightening to so many of us but on closer inspection you see a face that has been through a hard life. If we could only understand that many of these people were once just like you and me.
Even though there are shelters around the city, there is just not nearly enough capacity to help all the people in need. When I think about changing the situation I feel like we need to do so much more - we need training centers that can help people who are unemployed to better equip themselves for the job market, we need business owners to create job opportunities, we need recovery centers where addicts can receive the help & support that they need. We need to do so much MORE!
Despite the enormity of the task ahead, I have come to realise that small initiatives in your own neighbourhood or at your school or work place can in fact make a huge difference. Sometimes we think that giving a homeless person some warm clothing or a plate of food won't matter - he still lives on the street after all. But it does matter! The smallest act of kindness can give hope to a hurting person, can teach your kids (who are the future) to care for others, can inspire the person behind you in traffic to do exactly the same thus starting a chain reaction of kindness. It all starts with a simple act of love and in the end it is these small acts of kindness that together can inspire & build a better future for everyone.
Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- Donate to our winter campaign - it's not too late, our second winter outreach is this Saturday. EFT donations are open till Friday. We will provide winter packs to impoverished families together with a hot meal
- Join us at the winter outreach and show love to someone in need - a hug & a smile can go a long way
- Keep a winter pack in your car - warm blanket, beanie, gloves and give it to someone who needs it
- Get together with your neighbours, cook a pot of soup or stew and distribute it to the many people living on the street near shopping centers and buildings in your area
Will you give a homeless person some hope with a small act of kindness? Will you make a difference this winter for someone in need?