Dignity Day ‘a huge success’

2018-10-30 06:00
Students of the False Bay TVET College’s Fish Hoek campus helped with the handing out of clothing donated by Fish Hoek residents to the homeless.

Students of the False Bay TVET College’s Fish Hoek campus helped with the handing out of clothing donated by Fish Hoek residents to the homeless.

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Dignity Day, a partnership between Revamp the Valley and Social Work Connect, two Fish Hoek-based non-profit organisations, was a huge success at the False Bay TVET College’s Fish Hoek campus on Friday 12 October. The partnership is dedicated to building community democracy across the Valley.

“Dignity Day is a holistic community event that aims to make progress in integrating the homeless into the broader community through proactive and equalising activities. Creating open conversations in a safe space allows the community to deepen their understanding of how easy it can be to lose everything. Progress in ending homelessness can only be made by first seeing the humanity of the most vulnerable members of our community and treating people with respect,” says Leigh Barrett of Revamp the Valley.

The idea of Dignity Day was born from a conversation she had a year ago with Lorraine Tanner of eMzantsi Carnival, who, with her husband, had assisted a homeless woman and seen first-hand how treating someone with kindness and dignity can transform a life. There was a recognition that Fish Hoek has little to no services for the homeless despite the high number of people who live in the area.

“Dignity Day offered a clothing pop-up store with clothing generously donated by local residents, two clothing rails made by local business Creative Designs and manned by the college’s students, who created a great venue and helped people find some new clothes.

“Toiletries were donated by Aerosol SA, facilitated by Chad Hamilton, and many additional donated products went into the clothing store for people to select what they needed,” she says.

The college’s kitchen staff provided scones and refreshments on arrival and then served a healthy buffet-style lunch. Additional food was brought by several volunteers to add to the table.

Emma Raisun offered her expertise in creating résumés for a number of attendees, which were generously printed by the college. The Wellness Centre saw Caron Nieuwstad giving some much-needed haircuts and Leoni Greyling focused on the hands and feet which are constantly exposed to the elements. The Fish Hoek Scribblers writers’ club sent three writers to discover the stories of the homeless. Blogger Charisse Louw says: “I’ve met several of our local homeless people over the past few months and been impressed by their stories. Dignity Day was exactly the galvanising force I needed to focus my intention and understand how I can better serve this community, which is our community. It seemed like the perfect collaboration of meeting basic needs – food, clothing, medical and employment assistance – as well as emotional support and even the delightful mani-pedi service offered by Leoni Greyling of CleoCasa. It was a feel-good experience through and through and she was grateful to have been included.”

She describes the homeless she met as: “Resilient. Funny. Truthful. No different from any of us. Though incredibly vulnerable.”

John, a homeless man, told Charisse: “You have different types of homeless people – those who hate being on the street like myself and others who are happy to be on the street. But it’s a very monotonous life – you’ve got nowhere to go, no goal in the day… I’ve had four phones stolen over the past year so it makes it difficult. I read three or four books a week. Unfortunately, the library is closed at the moment, but they have an honesty shelf.”

CMR, False Bay Hospital and Living Hope sent medics and nurses who were kept busy with general health tests and were able to do referrals.

Yandiswa Mazwana from eMzantsi Carnival opened the workshop with the announcement that the Harlequin Foundation would be donating 20 Diversity blankets to the homeless.

She warmed up the crowd with an energetic game that preceded Community Cohesion’s workshop on family and identity.

Barrett says: “When someone came up to me and said, ‘I can’t tell who is homeless and who isn’t’, I knew we’d got it right! The day was designed to break down barriers, steer away from charitable hand-outs, and inspire conversations between all those who live in this community.”

No social development can be possible without economic development, so Revamp the Valley encourages local businesses to get involved in future events, especially where temporary, part-time or full-time jobs are available. They also welcome mentoring and training opportunities. Anyone interested should contact Leigh Barrett at valleyrevamp­@­­gmail.com.

Marion Thomas from Social Work Connect says: “By being more inclusive, we are able to start building human relationships that foster understanding, build confidence and break down barriers. Kindness goes a long way to building self-esteem and restoring dignity. It is hoped that this Dignity Day will be replicated throughout South Africa in an effort to build more inclusive communities­.”

Charlene Matthews of the False Bay College’s Fish Hoek campus says: “Our students were able to show that they have the Courage to Care. We workshop all our students during orientation three important values; The Courage to Care, Say No and to Live. My students and staff were very happy to be part of the Dignity Day. I hope we can do this every year.”

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