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If you saw a child drowning, would you try to save it?

If you saw a child drowning, would you try to save it? Even if you could not swim, would you try? We believe that most people asked that question would honestly reply “Yes I would”.

But what if it was a million children drowning – and just you to help? What would you do? This is what we feel like. We know there are millions out there in desperate circumstances yet there are limits to the help we can offer to children around the world. We cannot help more than a handful – but we try. We are a business not a charity – we are very much a secular group of people and by no means religious or political, but it is very hard to be able to help so few when there are so very many that need help.

We found two children recently to add to our small adopted family. Vitalis and Tendake – aged 6 and 8 respectively. They came, we think, from Binga some 500 miles from Harare in Zimbabwe. We have no direct means of doing anything for anyone in Zimbabwe. We would like to but such is the political situation there, it is next to impossible. However, we did not have to go there because some three million Zimbabwean’s have migrated to South Africa and many other neighbouring countries. They live in squatter camps or hide in the bush and as most are illegal, they try to find some illicit work to make some money to feed themselves and send back to their families, many now starving, in once prosperous Zimbabwe.

Vee and Tee, as Vitalis and Tendake have been nicknamed by us, came across the dangerous Limpopo River into South Africa illegally with their father. We do not know how, only that they did. Rudyard Kipling described the Limpopo as “the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees,” where the “Bi-Coloured Python Rock-Snake” dwells. It is massive and sluggish and the masses around it face starvation in both flood and drought. The Limpopo is no-one’s friend and crossing at any time is a dangerous undertaking.

They made it. Once across, they moved through the regularly repaired wire fences, cut daily by the desperate masses from Zimbabwe, and across the veldt to a squatter camp. A rough collection of cardboard, scraps of wood, corrugated metal, filth and squalor houses hundreds, maybe thousands of lost souls trying to survive together, in spite of each other. Here exists unimaginable filth and violence. Huts made of nothing leaning against one another, roasting in the summer heat and freezing in the winter nights. No running water, no power, only fires in tins for heat, for light and to cook anything scavenged or occasionally earned. Gangs roam the camps and rob, and worst. Vee and Tee’s father simply disappeared. Who knows why or where? We do not know his name or even if these children have a last name – if they do, they do not know it. Did their father go back to Zimbabwe? Was he a victim of the camp or merely a victim of the hopelessness that sometimes makes people walk away from the responsibilities they can no longer shoulder?

Tee took on his burden. She begged for food all day around the camp keeping Vee with her at all times. They come from the Binga district some 500 miles or so from Harare but with the millions migrating in search of survival how do we ever expect to know where precisely are they from and to whom, if anyone, do these children belong? At night they slept near the hut of an old woman who had many children with her – her grandchildren probably. So many parents have died in the HIV/Aids epidemic that many aged grandmothers are left with many grandchildren to try and save. Because of what they tell us of the changing temperatures we know they may have lived like this for more than a month. Then they decided to go home.

Somehow they made it back to the wrong side of the fence meant to keep them out of South Africa. They were found by one of the farmer’s militia that patrols the border fence trying to capture the illegals to return them to Zimbabwe and stop them scavenging the farms. The very people intent on keeping the illegals out, took pity on the two filthy, ragged hungry children who would not be parted. Someone rang a church charity looking for a temporary home for them. There are no longer orphanages in Southern Africa – too many looking for a home mean that the charities, churches and NGO’s simply cannot cope. Where do you send children who have no-one? What point is served by sending them back to Zimbabwe? Who will look after them? The Pastor rang someone, who rang someone, that rang someone, and on until they found us. At five o’clock one morning one of the UKV staff took a call at home asking if we would do anything. These two are now safe in a children’s charitable school in Mamelodi near Pretoria. They are sponsored by UKV staff and will remain so until they matriculate and leave school or even longer if they extend their education. When you think about it, it isn’t much is it? Care, shelter and safety traded for their identity, their family and their nationality.

One of our people visited the Zimbabwe Embassy on the Strand, in London looking for temporary papers for the children. Total lack of cooperation from the embassy means these kids are stateless – or are they? There is actually no evidence other than their story of crossing the Limpopo that says these children are from anywhere but where they now are. These children have legal re[presentation if necessary because we arranged it, but it seems they may just be absorbed into South Africa because no-one can prove who they are or where they came from.

We do not care either – there really is nothing we can do other than be there for these two little ones as we have been for the past nine years for those that came before.

We have no way of saving the drowning millions. Perhaps one day the world will look after its own – but while we wait, we can and do dip in and save those we able to.

 UK Vending Ltd

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