For a number of years now, more and more small charity organisations have popped up in small towns. For many people, it seems like more and more people are holding out their hands, and it can be frustrating. But…
Should we be supporting these small charities? Or are they just money-making rackets?
Firstly, let’s consider why these charities exist in the first place:
Their very existence means that there are problems in the community which cannot be solved through normal channels (government- or business intervention, help from churches, etc.).
When you start listening to what these people do, the extent of these problems become apparent. Yes, some of them are simply trying to feed the homeless. Some of them are trying to help victims of crime. Some of them try to help abused women trying to escape their abusive partners. Some of them try to take care of people with special needs. Etc.
But some of them go a bit further than simply trying to address a specific problem. They try to create opportunities.
In tiny towns like Hopefield and Coligny, the small communities face a very typical (for small towns) set of problems. The economy (farming excluded) is very, very small. A such, it is not a self-sustaining economy like – for instance – in Cape Town or say, Klerksdorp or Welkom.
On the one hand there aren’t many job opportunities to go around, so children don’t have much to look forward to as they mature. On the other hand, given the poverty in which their parents live, most parents are unable to create opportunities for their kids, and many even find themselves trapped in “dead end towns”.
The result is that many kids start to lose interest in school, with some of them turning to drugs to escape reality, or to gangs as a means of generating an income.
On the one hand the behaviour is unacceptable – we all try to teach our children right from wrong. On the other hand, if someone loses hope…
(especially the hope of a better future)
Then they feel they have nothing to gain, and nothing to lose either. Desperate people to desperate things.
Unfortunately, the things these children do have a ripple effect. Those who turn to drugs and crime cause loses to people already living in poverty. The teenagers who lose their way become “role models” for younger children – with the result that even primary school kids are getting into drugs.
Of course, the combination of poverty and a lack of education means that the adult portion of the community is unable to turn the situation around, and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and teen pregnancies abound.
And yes, we may feel it is not our problem.
But if we don’t do anything about it, it will eventually become our problem. The more criminals and desperate people we have on our streets, the higher the probability of being robbed or hijacked become. The higher these risks become, the higher our insurance premiums go.
Not to mention that our personal freedoms become more and more limited because of fear of crime.
So – whether we like it or not – the problems these organisations are trying to address, are everybody’s problems.
Now about small town charities and what they do…
Some charities try to involve children in things that give them a sense of direction in life – a sense of purpose. If you look all over the country, there are people trying to help kids by getting them into different types of sports, singing, dancing, and even self defence training.
Because when you are focused on achieving something, you have something to lose. Suddenly, losing your way isn’t an unavoidable certainty any more – it becomes a matter of choice. And once you have hope of doing something better (like being a soccer player or a singer later on in life), you will think twice before you throw it all away.
Fair enough, there will (probably) always be people who will throw it all away – but every single person who can be prevented from doing so, is one less criminal we have to deal with in the future. One gangster less on the street can save countless lives.
Not to mention that younger kids who look up to their older siblings and friends will have better role models to follow.
Cape Coast Youth – in Hopefield – was created from the community’s needs to keep their children from falling into drug and crime.
Their focus is a mixture of sports and other activities, which are meant to create role models out of their members. Besides organising sports events, they also do multi-discipline sports workshops from time to time to expose kids to different types of sports. They do events to acknowledge the achievements of members and role models.
Unfortunately, these small town charities all share one huge problem:
The communities from which they originate cannot afford to fund them.
With their small economies and high levels of poverty, most local businesses don’t make much money, and they usually are not in a position to contribute any substantial amounts.
Getting funding is a constant struggle. Many of these small-town charities don’t survive for long. Their members eventually give up due to a lack of funding.
Of course, if more people will willing to contribute, even in small amounts, it would make the world of difference.
A final thought:
You never know if a few rand you give today, can change someone else’s life in the future. It could keep someone from becoming a murderer or a hijacker, or it can stop a potential soccer player from becoming a junkie. Not to mention the ripple effect of the inspiration by those who are able to find direction in life.
So – the next time someone asks for your help, ask them to tell you what they do. If they can’t, by all means tell them off. But if they do, you will probably find that what they are trying to achieve is something very necessary.
Cape Coast Youth NPC is one such organisation trying to invest in the youth of today..