Do something small to make a big difference
The issue with most of us South Africans is that we think we need to do something big
I visited Olivia Makete and her husband Robert last week after I learned that somebody had rounded up money to pay for a new home for them in Orange Farm.
Makete made headlines last month when she was seen being beaten by ANC Johannesburg branch secretary Thabiso Setona outside Luthuli House.Makete was not at Luthuli House to ask for then president Jacob Zuma to stay or go; she happened to be part of a group of Orange Farm Extension 10 residents who went to the headquarters of the ruling party to ask for water in their neighbourhood.
After the video showing the assault went viral, Setona was instructed by the ANC in Johannesburg to hand himself over to the police. He was also immediately suspended.The next day, a throng of journalists went to search for Makete . We wanted to know who this woman was who suffered such a brutal attack in the presence of the police.
Eventually we found her helping a neighbour to wash carpets on the banks of the river. She and Robert then hosted an impromptu press briefing in their yard.
Weeks later a good Samaritan, Dianne Bayley, was moved by the condition of Makete’s shack and bought her a brand new structure which she can use as a home. The old shack where Olivia lives does not even have a proper concrete floor.What Bayley said struck a chord with me: “In my heart I know that South Africans are good people. I then thought what could I do that could be better than giving someone money or groceries and I saw the picture of her shack and I was moved.”
The issue with most of us South Africans is that we think that to make a big difference we need to do something big. We think that it will take some big revolution or uprising to transform the communities that we live in.But that is not true. All that we need is a sense of humanity that feels the other person’s pain and then to simply act on what we feel.
Most of the greatest movements that transformed the world did not start with a crowd. They started with someone feeling the pain of another but not ending there – they acted on what they felt.
There is so much going wrong in our communities. Crime is spiralling out of control and the cities are struggling to keep the environment clean. Young people are obsessed with alcohol and things that will ruin their future. There are very few role models, specifically in townships, who the youth can look up to.
With all these problems in our society, it won’t help to expect President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet to solve them. We as individuals can make a difference by helping one person. You may ask where you can start. The answer is right where you are.If you are a chartered accountant, you could spare two hours a week to teach township teenagers accounting. That could change their lives. If you cannot teach them accounting, mentor them or coach them about life. I have met teenagers who have no relatives who have ever graduated. It would mean a lot to them to speak to a graduate and get inspired.
This does not end with professionals. Every adult has a story to share. These stories may be personal and you may think they are about experiences that everyone goes through. But to the younger generation, the stories contain lessons which can save them from drug addiction and other troubles in life.Bayley did not pay for Makete ’s structure herself. She simply acted on what she felt and other people came on board to help. So we don’t need money to do good, we just need the will. Bayley proved it. She got people in the US, UK and Canada to pay for a shack in Orange Farm.
The father of our democracy, Nelson Mandela, said it always seems impossible until it’s done.