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Some of you would know that Andre Viljoen and I are preparing to run the Comrades Marathon in a week or so. Our run is tied in with a fundraising drive for Lungisa Indlela Village (LIV). Our physical preparation is going well except for the disturbing news of a violent protest that was directed against LIV. This protest was staged by members of the Cottonlands community, next to LIV, because they allege that the village employs people outside their community.
As you might know, LIV Village is a non-profit organisation that offers holistic care for orphans and vulnerable children in Durban. Funding for them is a big challenge but especially so that they also play a strategic role in helping to alleviate the persistent poverty in the area where they operate. They have started a culinary school, welding school and clothing factory where they train people from the surrounding community with the aim of either helping them get jobs elsewhere or absolving them within the village.
Already they employ over 150 people and with their self-sustaining projects they are looking at employing more. But people within their surrounding community are impatient. So on Monday May 22 at 4.15am a group of them made their way to the village to stage a protest. They blocked the main and side entrance to the village with burning tyres. By 7am they forced their way onto the village property. And from there they broke into all the factories, training centres, clinic and hydroponic tunnel offices. They proceeded to loot and vandalise whatever they could lay their hands on.
This is obviously a major setback for LIV. But Tich Smith, the founder, and his team remains upbeat. He continues to soldier on and is not dissuaded from pursuing the work of the village. He is also positive regarding the future relationship with the community surrounding LIV. He expressed this very sentiment on Facebook recently, saying: “We have heard the genuine cries of our community of Cottonlands and God has filled us with even more love for them.”
Since this incident Tich has received thousands of messages, calls, emails from people all over the world offering support and words of encouragement. I must confess that I also have been encouraged by what has transpired from this unfortunate situation. And I hope that for our daunting run next Sunday we can draw strength from this amazing outpouring of love and concern.