Finding Heroes

The greater Knysna area has borne the brunt of extremely difficult years brought on by the Knysna fires and the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not easy for residents and businesses in the area – lives changed, jobs were lost, and many people had no idea how to get back on their feet.

Looking back, we are not the first and won’t be the last to fall on hard times. There have been wars, famine, and multiple disasters before. What has made the difference every single time was the initiatives by individuals that brought relief, saved lives, and gave hope.

America television host, author, producer and a Presbyterian minister said “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say it’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem. Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

A thread of “shared responsibility” can be found in many civilizations. In Africa we have a wonderful word, “ubuntu” – humanity towards others. The concept was a cornerstone of our newly found nation in 1994 – late President Nelson Mandela and his team often spoke about it. They knew that with a population as diverse as ours we would need it to build a new South Africa where people could prosper.

Maya Angelou said, “I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.” In greater Knysna our heroes are emerging. They have uplifted, fed, and helped many of our residents.

The non-profit organization Masithandane in Sedgefield was started 16 years ago. They are known for their magical mosaic works, but they do so much more. Through partnerships and collaboration with the public and private sector, as well as local organisations they are creating work, running food schemes, and assisting residents in Smutsville, Sizamile, Fairview, Karatara, Elandskraal, Barrington and Farleigh.

Growing Upwards created 12 sustainable food gardens in the greater Knysna area that contribute to about 1800-2000 meals a day. They also run workshops and training on how to start your own business by establishing a garden and selling your produce.

The Knysna Homeless Network is not only working with the municipality to establish a permanent shelter for Knysna’s homeless people. They are also looking at initiatives that can improve their lives, and if they can be introduced back to society. Lukhanyiso Safe House is a refuge for women and children when they are in danger.

It is no secret that our moods can be affected by our environment and a group of “green heroes” – the “Enviro Fixers” – Revive Knysna and Revive Sedgefield – are working their green finger magic and transforming the towns’ gardens. Public and pavement gardens have been transformed and the best part – their actions are contagious. Businesses got involved to change the pavement gardens around them, and one garden at a time they are creating a transformation that is noticeable and uplifting in every way.

Also transforming our environment, the Knysna Arts Society and artists from the greater Knysna area have been working on creating an interactive art route by adding inspirational and interactive art pieces to landscapes. The murals, mosaics and sculptures transformed the areas around them. Their latest addition, the “Kringe in die Bos” installation at the Knysna Town Hall has done wonders to uplift this section of central Knysna.

“Little people” heroes KILT, the Knysna initiative for learning and teaching, is making a tremendous difference in the learning and teaching environment in schools in the Knysna area. They are running 18 projects tailor-made to enhance the love of teaching and learning, as well as address the well-being and psycho-social needs of everyone involved. Working with 17 schools, about 13 300 children and 450 teachers, their goal is to ensure every child in Knysna is equipped for work success, able to read with understanding and analyze critically.

There are many other heroes working effortlessly in our communities. Churches running outreach programmes, individuals helping where they can and other organisations. All you need to change the world for the better is an intention and the will to help – you need ubuntu.

Imagine a society and a town that we would like to see and live in, and rather than waiting for someone else to make it happen, take the next step into making it a reality. Find out who the “transformers” are in your area and join them, get involved. And if there are none, what an opportunity!