By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
Marien Bos, from Coaldale, is once again off to South Africa in the New Year. He wants to raise awareness about the situation there.
“Not everybody knows South Africa, since the change of the Apartheid, it has had a lot of bad implications,” he noted.
Last year, Bos had the opportunity to visit the area and volunteer with Projects Abroad and helped local kids with sports at school and spent two weeks working on a building project.
“I left for South Africa last winter in January and the first week I spent at a building project,” he said, adding where he was situated, there was a lot of violence and gangs.
“I didn’t experience much of that but there were actually days we couldn’t get into work because of the gang violence, especially when one of the gang members got shot, you know they’re going to retaliate and usually the shootings happen throughout the day,” he explained.
Bos said there are incidents there, when kids are getting into the crossfire and have been shot.
“It’s pretty drastic. For the kids, there’s not a whole lot of room,” he said, adding the township he visited had a 1970s-looking road with shacks upon shacks and very little room for children to play between the housing.
Last time he visited the area, he helped with the Gift of Hope Centre, which was funded by the government and had fairly nice facilities for younger kids aged 2-5 years old.
“We did some building there. They were making some concrete buildings. What they do is, they put sand bags as walls and then they just plaster the walls and build the walls with concrete that we make ourselves — white sand mixed with water and cement,” he said.
But, the one thing Bos enjoyed most about his recent trip was spending time with the kids.
“The kids are phenomenal but they go to situations that are really unreal. The guy who was in charge for the building project was right open about a lot of things the first day. He said, this is what’s happening. I don’t lie about it,” Bos explained, adding he was told about a boy who saw his mom being murdered by his dad and a girl who was locked up for 60 days by her mom.
“There is a tremendous amount of drug addiction, alcohol abuse and probably physical abuse,” he said.
Because of the living situations and a declining socio-economic climate in the area Bos visited, there is a lot of hopelessness for a lot of people. Bos added there is hardly any work and the majority of residents in the township of 1.2 million people feel trapped.
Bos is heading back to South Africa in January of 2016 but instead of going through the organization he previously went through, he is going back to the school he volunteered at last year.
“I have contacted the teachers there and I’m definitely going back to the school probably for about seven or eight weeks helping with sports events again,” he said, but he’s still looking for a host family to stay with during his time at the school.
According to Bos, he has been a resident of Coaldale since 2002 and owns a seasonal irrigation contracting business in the community and usually has winters off, which allows him the time to travel to help out elsewhere in the world, in need. “I feel like I can make a difference.”
Bos said when apartheid was still in the area, students were allowed to have sports teams including soccer and baseball but since apartheid came to an end, things have really changed and the government wants schools to focus on mandatory academics. “They hardly get any physical activity other than the Sports Day,” he noted, adding the school might offer physical activity once a week for an hour. He added the school does offer a music program parents must pay for but the school doesn’t offer any arts or crafts, just math, history, geography and other core classes. “Right side of the brain activities aren’t being developed,” he said. “What are the chances for the kids to leave the township in the future? Unless they are academically or musically successful.”
Bos said he was shocked to see the situation in the townships he visited, as he has been to Mexico to volunteer with those less fortunate but he said South Africa is totally different.
“It’s made quite an impact on me.” said Bos.
Bos also noted he has made positive relationships with the teachers and he feels as though he was allowed to help a lot and make a difference with the students.
“I do believe these kids, when they come to school, they have the energy and they can’t express it. A lot of the kids rebel normally and some are shutting down emotionally,” he said.