These were our 5 favourite #ImStaying stories of 2020

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#ImStaying Facebook page
#ImStaying Facebook page
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  • #ImStaying has become a platform of mutual adoration for the things South Africans love about each other.
  • The movement even got a nod from President Cyril Ramaphosa on 14 November in his weekly newsletter.
  • Here are some of our favourite stories.

#ImStaying took a literal turn this year as the Covid-19 pandemic severely restricted South Africans' movement. For many weeks, we were confined to our homes and not permitted to travel unnecessarily.

But many South Africans managed to stay positive and this was best illustrated by the #ImStaying movement.

In September 2019, Cape Town-based entrepreneur Jarette Petzer posted a video on Facebook. It was an emotional recognition of the difficulties faced by South Africa, as well as a heartfelt plea to nurture everything he loves about this country. Friends suggested that Petzer start a Facebook page to continue the conversation and #ImStaying was born.

According to Natasha M. Freeman, author of the book #ImStaying, the movement became a platform to share mutual adoration for the things South Africans love about each other.

"These were simple celebrations of being South African that began to unfold in head-nodding laughter, pride-inducing recognition, humble realisations and moments of 'Yes! Yes! That's so true!' followed by laughter and a collective sense of 'We are South Africa'. These moments illustrated that the beauty and uniqueness of South Africa exists because of South Africans."

The movement got a nod from President Cyril Ramaphosa on 14 November in his weekly newsletter.

"They are simple, everyday stories of South Africans living and working alongside each other, being friends and helping each other," Ramaphosa wrote.

These are our five favourite #ImStaying stories of 2020 (in the writers' own words):

Elton Thamangani 

Just thought I could share this: There are so many good people out there. When we opened restaurants after level 3 lockdown, one of our local customers came to our restaurant and l served him with much joy as we had not seen each other for months. We laughed, talked and cracked jokes and when it was time for him to pay the bill of R3 800, he added R4 000 as a tip. At first I thought I was dreaming, but I wasn't. There is nothing that beats the joy of being loved and appreciated. I just want to say thank you.

Natasha Rufaro 

On Friday, 18 December a dream will come true: I will receive a bachelor's degree in oral health from the University of the Western Cape (UWC). I worked very hard to achieve this goal, but the most important reason I'll be graduating is due to the support, inspiration and love I've received from many amazing South Africans.

Ten years ago, I came to South Africa as a traumatised orphan. After both my parents died in Zimbabwe, I suffered terrible hardships and only survived because my aunt brought me to South Africa. It was difficult to adjust in Cape Town, but I remained focused and my matric results were good enough to be accepted at UWC's dental faculty.

As a refugee, I didn't qualify for educational funding from the state so I decided to try and pay my own way through university. Over the past three years, I worked very hard to pay my tuition and res fees – I did babysitting and worked in a restaurant over weekends; I sold beauty products and jewellery I made from beads.

I was fortunate that my aunt, who works as a waitress, managed to make several payments to help me to continue studying.

A mentor, Hannelie Booyens, and a school friend, Thembalethu Seyisi, also helped me to raise funds so I could afford my registration fees at the beginning of each year. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit South Africa in March and the country went into lockdown, I started to panic – part-time work opportunities dried up and I didn't know how I would be able to raise money to settle my final-year tuition fees.

But then my friend Thembalethu, a third-year law student at Stellenbosch University, came up with a brilliant plan to celebrate his 21st birthday and to help me: He decided to compile a book of 21 life lessons by celebrated South Africans to raise funds for my tuition fees.

ALSO READ | #ImStaying becomes an NGO funded by its members

Two weeks ago, Themba presented me with his special book on his 21st birthday, just in time for my graduation. Knowing how many people worked hard to support me, gave me strength and motivated me to do well in my exams, I pushed through because I knew things would work out in the end.

I am so grateful for all the people who contributed to help me make a success of my studies. I hope to pay it forward so that one day I can also help young people make their dreams come true. I've applied to become a South African resident, so soon I won't be a refugee anymore. I have so much love and appreciation for this country and all the wonderful people who opened their hearts to a lost little girl.

Tanielle Lloyd

I wanted to share a special little gesture that my son Zach has done, as it was done so selflessly and with such a beautiful heart, with no rewards or praise wanted, for doing it just simply for helping someone else and making someone smile.

He has made me and the family so incredibly proud. With Christmas fast approaching and this crazy year of 2020 coming to an end, we sat down at the beginning of the month and chatted about how he could do a small gesture just to make one person's Christmas a little more memorable.

I asked Zach if he had any ideas and without a thought he piped up and said: "Mom, I want to buy all the peanuts that that man at the robot sells." My heart sank. I immediately knew which man he was talking about, it was the man that daily, come rain or sunshine, would stand at the robots at the top of Waterloo Road and sells peanuts to the public to try to make money.

We do not know his story, nor where he has come from or what he has been through, but we do know that daily, a simple "Good morning", wave and his contagious smile clearly touched the heart of a little boy and his parents. We look forward to saying hello in the mornings and in the afternoons after school.

I suggested to Zach that, instead of buying all his peanuts, why doesn't he keep saving the money he has been saving this year and then – come Christmas time – he can give what he has managed to save to this gentleman. He loved this idea.

Zach slowly started saving up all his coins in a jar, which he kept next to his bed, and each time he was able to put a coin or a few in the jar, his face lit up, he got more happy as it became more full.

Zach had said that he wanted to gift "the peanut man" this gift before Christmas. I asked Zach what he wanted the man to do with the money and he answered "maybe buy more peanuts to sell, so he can make more money", or maybe buy himself something nice for Christmas. I mean, come on, how special!

[On] 7 December, the jar is finally filled, reaching the amount of R472. Zach was very excited to give this gentleman his gift, so after he had finished school, we took our daily drive home and stopped at "the peanut man", who we now know as our friend Zukisa.

We parked and took a walk to the robots, Zach with a constant smile on his face, reached our new friend and excitedly handed the jar to him with a simple: "This is for you, Merry Christmas".

That moment had me in tears, to see the smile on Zukisa's and Zach's faces.

It's the simple things in life that matter. I am incredibly proud of Zach and his willingness to want to help and make people around him happy, even if it means one person at a time and is such a small gesture. I am not one for giving and then "showing what's been given", but this little gesture and this little, kind-hearted boy whom I call my son made me so incredibly proud. I just had to share this little story with you all with the simple yet so important lesson behind it.

Mafefe Moloko 

Allow me to introduce to you, my mentee, Masilo Mabetoa, who saved me from being financially excluded at university.

I started teaching him Mathematics and Physical Science when he was in Grade 10 (in 2013, during my gap year).

I then went to university in 2014 and we continued with the lessons during the June and December holidays. Fast forward, he passed matric with flying colours in 2015.

Masilo stays just a few streets from mine, in a small village called Sekonye in Limpopo. After obtaining his matric results, he told me that he had applied for the same course as me (B.Eng Civil) at UP, Wits and UJ, but he wanted to come to UJ because I was studying there. In simple terms, he just wanted to be close to me because of my willingness to assist and discipline him.

While at varsity during his second year, we decided to be roommates. The unfortunate part was that I had lost my bursary that same year.

However, by God's grace, he attained a bursary in the same year. What stood out the most for me was his act of humility towards me. He said to me: "General, if this bursary gives me enough money, I am going to help you pay your fees and buy food for us every month."

And indeed his bursary came through and he gave me R10 000 in cash to help pay my fees; also he bought groceries every month, just as he had promised. As if that was not enough, he went on to buy me a brand new smartphone and a Bible for my birthday.

By God's grace, I completed my studies and I am currently an engineer in training (EIT). But that is not the good news for today. The good news is that he has just completed his B.Eng (Civil) honours degree. To celebrate our achievements and the endeavours we have been through, we are planning to have a braai nyana with close friends and family.

Nomsa Tshingowe 

Months back, I posted about going bald in support of other cancer survivors. I was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer in October 2014 – six years cancer free and five years living with prosthesis.

In January, I'll be 30 years old. Again, in support of other survivors, every year we host an annual food drive and a childhood cancer survivors' celebration in September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

After our honorable President Cyril Ramaphosa announced lockdown due to Covid-19, we decided to cancel our event. But after careful consideration and the impact of Covid-19 on cancer patients, we decided to start Covid-19 relief to help cancer survivors and their families with electricity vouchers, food vouchers, clothes and counselling.

You must remember that cancer survivors are more vulnerable to Covid-19. Our latest and last Covid-19 relief was a Christmas party we hosted at the Polokwane Provincial Hospital Paediatric Oncology Ward. Our theme for this year was Christmas because we realise that due to Covid-19, and the fact that they will be getting treatment at the hospital, some kids will not get a chance to spend Christmas Day at their homes with their loved one.

We decided to bring Christmas to them by hosting an early Christmas. We organised Christmas gifts for the kids: masks, sanitisers and non-perishable food. Thirty children benefitted from this initiative.

The event was supported by Mentz Reading Paradise. They donated snacks, books and pencils to children with cancer. It was also supported by Dr Mabitsi Mathipa Surgery and other people who purchased our cancer T-shirts and also donated.

All thanks to these amazing souls who made the event a huge success: Marvelous Mushanganyisi, Lebogang Ramphele, Martha Setseba and Phathu Mabalane.

To all those awaiting preliminary tests/results, those newly diagnosed, those awaiting or undergoing treatment, those for whom there is no more useful treatment, all those with loved ones who have cancer, all those recently, or not so recently, to those in remission: I know the situation is overwhelming. Fighting cancer and trying to stay safe from Covid-19. I hope things get easier as you go on. Merry Christmas and happy new year. I am staying because of the love and support we get from people as a cancer survivor.

Visit #ImStaying's Facebook page here.

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