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Poverty and Hardship

Yesterday I got a phone call from a Zimbabwean man who works in a wine cellar in Rawsonville. His parents live in Zimbabwe, about 90 kilometres away from the nearest town on the border of Zambia. His father is 90 years old and being taken care of by his mother. The story that unfolds breaks my heart. The only child, he had to come to SA to work. He barely makes enough money to support his own needs. He is desperate to learn more about what he thinks is wrong with his father – Alzheimer’s disease. He has been searching everywhere for support or advice. A telephone call to Hester Louw Visagie brought him to me.

Not having enough money to pay for airtime to phone his parents for long enough to have a decent conversation, he wants to and answers to help his Mother understand. He is willing to hitchhike to Cape Town to attend a course. Anything to make sense of what is happening to his father…

I have no answers. Chances are that it is not Alzheimer’s, but the result of a long life of hardship, poverty, malnutrition and dehydration. I promise to send him some reading material, but the sadness in his voice tells me that nothing he will learn will make him feel better about the fact that he had to abandon his parents in the hope of finding a job that could support him and them.

Dementia affects so many people across the globe. It is indeed a pandemic when one looks at statistics. What I nd so deeply disturbing though is how the world has lost its humanity on so many levels. I dread to think what this man is being paid. I cannot imagine his anxiety around his parents – he knows that most days they do not have food to eat. His feelings of guilt and helplessness are eating away at his soul. He will do anything to understand and to pass on some comfort to his mother. I can give him nothing.

I am seeing my parents for lunch today.

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