The post-pandemic reality has hit almost all families, with many still reeling after their incomes have been reduced and others have even lost their income altogether.
The pandemic seems almost forgotten, but some are still trying to make up for the losses – their attempt to repay outstanding debts that increased during the time when industries, such as the hospitality industry, had to close its operations and staff were stranded without an income. Recently, it was reported that thousands of matriculants are queuing and applying for the emergency grant of R350 per month.
Rising food and petrol prices and inflationary increases are constantly adding to the overall burden – not to mention load shedding. Overall, things are unlikely to improve in the short term. Those at the bottom of the bread line suffer, as always, more than the more affluent groups.
“Economic problems have directly affected families, and our social workers are still dealing with the consequences across the spectrum,” says Henda van der Merwe, director of Christian Social Council (CMR) Gauteng East.
“How to alleviate the effects of poverty is a challenging issue. It is no longer enough to tell a child that having an education will protect him from poverty. Grant applications and unemployment figures confirm this. A child’s material needs, i.e. food, housing, health care and clothing, must be addressed along with all other considerations.
“Our goal is not to make people dependent on the help we provide, but to assist them with actions aimed at getting back on their feet, but more than that; to give input on possibilities that can change people’s lives over the long term. We believe that people on the bottom rung of the poverty level can lose their self-worth. This is why our approach is not to hand out a food parcel and walk away, but the proverbial ‘teach a man to fish’ concept of helping someone to help himself. Our communities and churches support us and our communities in different, creative ways as the CMR alone cannot help on their own.
In Pretoria, CMR Gauteng East serves areas ranging from Cullinan and Bronkhorstspruit in the north to Lyttelton and Midrand in the south, with 13 satellite offices. More than 26,000 people are assisted annually, of which about 65% is in the area of poverty alleviation.
“Economic poverty underlies relationship problems. Stress ultimately means that parents are unable to be loving parents to their children. The harsh reality is that hunger divides. It always has, and it always will. The fact is that poverty contributes to a variety of other social evils, such as crime, gender violence and white-collar crime such as fraud, and cannot be ignored.
“How we tackle poverty alleviation and empower communities is a crucial societal issue,” concludes Van der Merwe.
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