Fixing broken things

Over the last few weeks, my colleagues and I have been working on the This Is Home campaign, documenting young people who are stateless or at risk of becoming stateless. 

One of these young people is stateless. He came to South Africa from the Democratic Republic of Congo as a child, after his mother passed away, to meet his father living in South Africa. Instead, because he was estranged from his father, he was placed in the Child and Youth Care Centre (CYCC). He has no documentation and has no connections to any other country. The only document he has with his name on it is his matric certificate.

A partner organization, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), applied for permanent residence by exemption for him in 2018. To date, there has been no response from the Department of Home Affairs. This is the only legal pathway towards documentation available to this young person. Having passed matric well but not having an identity document, his prospects for tertiary education and stable employment are limited.

In a recent focus group, we were discussing our interests and hopes. This young person shared that he loves fixing broken things. He has developed skills for fixing electronics and gadgets to cover his rent. He explained that people are broken too and that he hopes he can pursue medicine or psychology one day to help fix the broken things within us all.

Things seem to be particularly broken at the moment. The health system is collapsing in the rise of the third wave of Covid. There is rising unemployment and limitations on social security, with the R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant coming to an end. The Department of Home Affairs system is failing to renew temporary permits for asylum seekers and refugees in South Africa. I could continue. Instead, I turn quietly to what has touched me this week. What is broken and can be fixed? Are there gifts in what we are feeling right now?

This young person, not recognized as belonging to any country, has been systemically marginalized. Yet, he continues to live out his hope of fixing things even in broken times. 

John O Donahue’s words, A Blessing Prayer in Difficult Times, ring out to me: 

And though the darkness is now deep,

You will soon see approaching light.

May this give you confidence and trust

May a window of light always surprise you.

May the grace of transfiguration heal your wounds.

How is the grace of transfiguration bringing healing to your/our societal wounds? Can you see a window of light?

*In commemorating Youth Month and World Refugee Day, The Jesuit Institute, in collaboration with Jesuit Refugee Service and Lawyers for Human Rights, will be hosting a five-week campaign called This Is Home – documenting the lives of young people who are stateless or at risk of becoming stateless. Follow # ThisIsHome for more information.

Facebook: Jesuit Refugee Service Southern Africa           Twitter: @JRSSouthAfrica

Abigail Dawson

Abigail Dawson holds a Masters in Development Studies, Sociology, from the University of Witwatersrand. Her activist and academic interests have focused on migration in a South African context. She is a qualified social worker and has provided counselling for migrant women and children. She hopes to bring change to the current public and global narrative on migration through effective and creative communication, networking and advocacy to ensure equitable communities for all people living in South Africa.
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