20 Things I’ve learnt in my first year of changing the world

  1. You are not alone. There are a whole bunch of other crazies who believe they can change the world too (Most of them work at SECTION27)
  2. Where lives are at risk, it is okay to be impossibly impatient
  3. When there’s a knock on your door at 3AM to tell you that you need to drive to lord knows where because 115 people need to be fed by 6am. You get in the car and drive. No questions asked.
  4. You can’t do it all in one day, but you can try a little bit every day.
  5. There will be cases that shake you, but you must NEVER let them break you.
  6. You better learn to speak Tsonga and Venda. Or at least fake it till you make it.
  7. You don’t go to conferences to “discuss change”- you only demand it or create it.
  8. You will wear HIV+ Tshirts all the time and people will stare.
  9. You must never give up.
  10. You must learn to speak up, and every day you must speak a little louder
  11. It’s okay to disagree about HOW we change the world.
  12. Not everyone is going to get it. It’s not your job to make them.
  13. Sekuyoze kube nini sizabalaza?  
  14. Always answer your phone.
  15.  Believe,that will always be enough to get you through the day.
  16. Turns out you can get nominated for awards just by doing the thing you love the most.
  17. Deal with your cons, before they deal with you. There will be many marches.
  18. Dont leave the banners to the last minute
  19. Most people will view you as an inconvience, forget them. You’ve got a world to change
  20. My mother was wrong- Not all lawyers are the scum of the earth.

There are many experiences  that have touched my heart during this past year. But there are two that come to my mind when this very world that I am trying to change chews me up and spits me out. These are the stories that I have told, but they are also the stories have that made me.

Mamma Yvonne- Bloemfontein

Last year during the People’s commission in Bloemfontein, we received a frantic text message from one of my colleagues in the late evening, saying there was a woman who had just arrived with an injured leg, and there was no way she would be able to get up the stairs to her room.

We rushed to the scene and found a woman rocking back and forth on the couch in excruciating pain. She had an abscess in her leg for 17 years, and none of the hospital facilities she had been to, had been able to help her. When we left Bloemfontein, TAC assigned a community health care worker to the woman to help her wash and dress her wound everyday.

A few months later, I was sitting in my office and the phone rang.

“Nomatter- Its Mama Yvonne I wanted to say thank you. My leg is healed, I can walk again, I can do anything and there’s no more pain”

I had not changed the world- but we changed her’s and that was enough. That was enough to get up the next day and do it all over again.

William Thamagana- Limpopo

In September last year I went into Limpopo with Photographer Thom Pierce to interview learners who had no access to their Textbooks. One of these students was Grade 12 learner- William Thamagana, he had started his final exams two weeks before and was walking at least 45 minutes every day to try and share textbooks with fellow classmates. But still, he was optimistic about passing his Matric and going to law school. But things didn’t work out that way. William stayed up all night looking for his results online, but they weren’t there. He had not passed. So what did he do? He went back to school and redid the subjects he had failed.

A few weeks ago, My phone rang.

“Nomatter, Its William Thamagana, I wanted to tell you that I wrote again and now I have a Diploma, and it’s all because of you”

I didn’t change the world- but I helped change his.

And  that is why when Vuwani started burning, I didn’t have to think about anything. I knew that was where I had to be.

It’s been a tough year, sometimes we don’t always get it right. Sometimes the wheels of justice move too slowly, sometimes people just don’t care. And I won’t lie, those moments are difficult, but nomatter (haha) how hard it gets, there is still work to be done. Because if not me, then who? And if not now? When.

I don’t have much to give the people that I meet everyday, and often when I show up on their door step I don’t even have solutions, but still they let me in. Both into their homes and their hearts. My only hope is that the people we work with , be it for an hour or even a year ,are moved somehow. I hope they see our passion, persistence and drive and that for a moment they understand what it means to love. I hope that even if we never see them again, they will find us in their hearts and know that they were loved and that we never stopped fighting for them.

And for you,

I hope you see that tattoo and that it reminds you every day that you are alive, and that you can start again. You will always be my person, and there are parts of you that will stay with me forever.

Bae. Always!

For the rest of you! I’m sorry in advance for the birthday’s I will miss, the dinners and the picnics. It doesn’t mean I love you any less- it just means I love you enough to make this world a better place for you.

Here’s to SECTION27, here’s to changing the world!

“Dont you know,  their talking about a revolution, it sounds like a whisper”

– Tracy Chapman


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