South Africa has been in the international limelight for the last two decades for various reasons, not the least of which was the end of “Apartheid” and the coming into being of the first truly democratic state in 1994.The whole country now looked forward to a new era – one in which all its citizens would enjoy those fundamental human rights enshrined in the constitution – and denied them in the past.
But the process has not been without its problems, which one can easily understand, because of the years of exploitation and repression, and the widespread inequality.
Despite its vast resources , and its first world image, a large section of the population nevertheless live in appalling conditions, in a third world environment. This was the legacy of the past!
Kwa Zulu Natal , on the east coast, is the most densely populated of the country’s nine provinces, and Durban is recognised as an international destination ,for various reasons.
Just 80 kilometres north is Pietermaritzburg, which is in fact the legislative capital of the province. A few kilometres to the west lies Edendale, a sprawling township of some 300,000 black residents, shunted there by an oppressive government that believed in dividing people into ‘group areas’, with all its ills.
It is in this area that GEMS – the Greater Edendale Muslim Society – has tried to play a meaningful role in assisting the previously disadvantaged, as best it can. In particular, some 300 black Muslims, found themselves in an even more difficult position, being cut off from their Muslim brethren. Across the spectrum, irrespective of race or creed, GEMS saw the need to step in and make a contribution to improving the lot of the people in the country.
Basically GEMS identifies homes which are constructed of Mud and are in the most appalling condition due to poverty which is used to house children for the better part of the day whilst their parents are at work, or looking for work or they are left orphaned. GEMS will adopt these houses and form crèches where they feed these children a daily balance diet and educate the teachers so they can teach these children. Over the years GEMS have replaced these Mud Huts with solid brick structures of world class standard so that these crèches create an environment conducive to a healthy way of life and favourable for learning. Other forms of activities take place in these crèches such as Adult learning (ABET) etc. In this way GEMS is assisting in educating a nation and providing nourishment for the disadvantage.
In the greater picture of South Africa, despite whatever progress has been made, there is still gross unemployment, lack of basic services, poor educational structures and serious health and social problems. South Africa has one of the highest rates of Tuberculosis in the world. In addition, the ravages of AIDS are recognised worldwide. Many thousands of children are without parents, live with their grandparents, or even run households themselves. As a result, children in the early years of their lives, – not ready for school, and having nowhere to go, or nothing to do – are particularly vulnerable, with the most to lose! These, after all, are the most vital formative years of their lives!
It is in this situation that all the efforts of GEMS have been directed at improving the lives of people in any way, however small, and in every possible aspect. Particular attention has been given to children – but the approach has been holistic, in looking at all the community’s needs.
This report is but one aspect of the multi faceted effort to improve the quality of life of as many in the community that GEMS can possibly assist. The extent and quality of the intervention that GEMS could initiate depends largely on the support of many outside, and inside, the country –donors and sponsors, and the moral support, combined with its own dedicated and committed teams of volunteers.
WE AT G.E.M.S FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT IF WE CAN PROGRAM OUR
YOUTH TOWARDS EDUCATION AND ISLAM, THEN WE WILL ASSEMBLE A
HEALTHY SOCIETY AND THIS IN TURN WILL BUILD A
NATION AND ULTIMATELY ‘HEAL THE WORLD’. IT IS A SMALL
START BUT IT WILL MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE INSHA ALLAH !!