Humans of NY was in Joburg and our hearts have swollen three times their size

We draw closer as a people when we share our stories with each other
We draw closer as a people when we share our stories with each other

A storytelling series titled Humans of New York (HONY) made its way to South Africa to share the stories of ordinary yet inspirational people in our big cities.

Created by Brendon Stanton, the project showcases the stories of not only Americans but of people from countries around the world, including Kenya, Iran, Uganda, and South Africa. 

HONY has already shared a few stories from South Africans and our hearts swelled three times their normal size when we read them. Here are some of the stories from the series that remind us of concepts like ubuntu and caring for each other as a people:

READ MORE: 11-year-old girls are being taught feminist self-defence as part of sexual and gender-based violence awareness 

Family bonds

This young woman is single-handedly raising her daughter and her niece after her sister's passing. "In our culture, it’s an automatic. It just kicks in. She belongs to me now. I’m a single mother so it’s not easy," she says about raising her niece. in a country that believes in involving a community to raise a child, this rings true for so many other parents. 

An ambitious generation

This young woman had the dream to become a pilot from a young age, and she went to great lengths to get funding for her to pursue her dreams. She finally made it and the story of her journey is utterly inspirational. 

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(2/2) “Mom tried her best to pay for flight school, but we kept running out of money. I’d have to drop out for a few weeks, and since flying involves so much muscle memory, it would take me a while to get back on track. So one day I bought a stack of magazines and newspapers. I went through every page and cut out the advertisements. Then I opened my pantry and wrote down every brand I could find. I sent all of them letters, asking for help. Almost everyone said ‘no.’ But I did receive an amount from a grocery store called Pick-n-Pay. And Breitling sent me a brand new watch to raffle. That was a huge break. I sold six hundred raffle tickets. Things were going so well. African Pilot Magazine promoted the raffle for free. A man from Australia bought 100 tickets. But then I got a letter from the Lottery Board ordering me to end my raffle. They said it was illegal. I tried to explain that I was raising money for my education, but they didn’t care. I was so disappointed. I’d have to sit out another year of flight school. But when I called everyone to explain the situation, nobody would accept their money back. They told me to keep it! It was enough to keep me in the air for months. Then around Christmas that year, one of my mentors invited me to eat lunch at the airport. When I stepped out of the car, everyone who had ever helped me was there. They all started clapping. And somebody handed me the phone. A person on the other end said: ‘You’re live on 94.7, and we’re going to pay for your entire education!’ That was nearly four years ago. I just got my license last week. My plan is to fly for South African Airlines, but first I want to do some teaching. I want to visit schools in black neighborhoods. I want all the kids to see what an African female pilot looks like.” (Johannesburg, South Africa)

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READ MORE: Caster Semenya's viral Nike ad gives us goosebumps and reminded us of these other tearjerkers featuring groundbreaking female moments 

Ubuntu is not dead

South Africans coined the term Ubuntu, and it's good to see that the compassion and kindness still exists. This man, after leading a difficult life, was taken in by a social worker who gave him hope for a better life.

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“I hung out in the streets a lot as a child. But when I was seventeen, my parents died in a minibus crash. It forced me to wake up and work for myself. I got my first job as a cleaner. The boss ordered me around for months. But when it was time to pay me, he refused. It left me in a desperate situation. I was hungry. I needed shelter. So I got frustrated. Some of my friends were stealing cars at the time. They had a special key that could open doors. At first I didn’t want to get involved, but they were living the life I wanted. They had nice cars. They could afford to buy drinks. So when they asked me to come along one night, I agreed. I told myself: ‘If I just go along once, I’ll be alright.’ We stole three cars that night. Everyone got away but me. When I saw the police lights in my rearview mirror, I started crying immediately. I knew my life was over. I spent a few years in prison. That’s where I met a social worker named Ms. Palesa. She was near retirement. And when she heard my story, she invited me to come work at her house when I got released. I painted for her. I cleaned. I worked in the garden. Not only did she pay me, but she treated me like her child. She bought me clothes. She encouraged me to learn a trade. Ms. Palesa only lived for a few more years, but she set me on the right path. Every friend that I stole cars with that night is either dead or in jail. But I work every day, and I never committed another crime.” (Johannesburg, South Africa)

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We hope to hear and see more stories like this from our people. We'll have tissues ready, and our hearts will be softer for every new story that reminds us that we are a diverse, compassionate, and driven people. 

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