A Lavender Hill resident says home is always where the heart is, and that is why he has returned to his home country to help his community where he can.
After travelling the world and living in London for over a decade, Ralph Bouwers had to make a tough decision to either continue living a happy life in London or come back home to Lavender Hill
He returned to the community in May last year and since then has left no stone unturned in trying to help improve his community as much as possible.
“My calling is to help the community. I couldn’t do that while in London so I had to return home where I am needed. After many years of struggle, gangs, drugs and substance abuse have become the norm to the communities. People have lost all hope. Life has become burden with no hopes and dreams,” says Bouwers.
Bouwers searched his soul for answers and the Guardians of the National Treasure (GNT) was born. GNT is a non-profit organisation that helps underprivileged children and families on a daily basis with food, education and clothing, as well as sport and other activities in Lavender Hill. The organisation aims to champion culture and community spirit through voluntary and community action, working inclusively and non-violently with the community.
Bouwers has been back in South Africa for nine months and now spends his days working with the community from the advice office he has opened from his house to assist locals with personal, legal, medical, educational and socioeconomic issues. “I feel there is still more to be done. It’s the little things one can do to help. I have turned my bedroom into an office. People come for help, be it with CV writing or needing someone to talk to. I’m happy I can help. These little things give people hope,” he says
Bouwers adds that people in his community are working against the system of change for the good. “Only because they don’t want to see the wrongs of their own, and the wrongs their children are doing. On the other hand, you have children without hope using crime to support their dire need for drugs. Such a system can only be tackled with socioeconomic alleviation and boarded support. It requires a great financial commitment, which the government is not prepared to undertake due to the lack of funds on top of the already failing Sassa hand-outs,” he says.
Despite all the challenges that the organisation might face, Bouwers says he can’t stop now. “We need all the help we can get to continue with what we do. We have to work together to bring hope and change in this community. Most of the time I have to put my pride in my pocket and ask people for help. My friends and family have helped me a lot. When working with the community there is so much you need. I have to beg friends for airtime to make calls, and talk to people again and again to ask for donations if we have events. Financially it has been difficult but we can’t give up now. I will give until it hurts, asking nothing in return. I care because it feels good inside, completely believing in all I do,” he says.
He says that last year GNT was about restoring hope to the people and they believe they did a good job. This year they will be restoring love for oneself and love for other people, asking for nothing in return.