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What colour is hope?

25 June 2008

South Africa


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What colour is hope?

On June 16 2008 this question was answered.  It was a glorious mild winter’s day, the sky was blue and a large exuberant group of young people descended on the lawn of St Teresa’s Mercy School, resplendent in the multi coloured stripes of their respective schools. 

Head students from high schools in Johannesburg and Springs saw the need for an outreach organisation and a group, entitled 'Phoenix', was duly formed.  Led by the drive and vision of Tsepiso Foka, head girl of St Teresa’s Mercy School, it was decided that students at the respective schools would be encouraged to donate cans of food, for distribution to those in need. 

Representatives from the schools gathered on June 16th  at  St Teresa’s  to remember the youth who had essentially, through marching through the streets of Soweto, heralded the end of Apartheid. They laid out the cans (which totalled in excess of 15,000) in such a way that they formed the word 'HOPE'.

And what a brilliant sight the finished product made. For those of us fortunate enough to be present, this HOPE entered our hearts and souls, the hope that this indeed can be a different world and this different world is being created by the students of St Teresa’s in collaboration with the students from neighbouring schools.

Father Harry Wilkinson, the school chaplain, used the text from Matthew 25 and spoke about the generosity of giving to the poor and the hungry. He bestowed blessings on the cans of food, those who had brought them and those who would receive them. He spoke of Jesus’ promise to those who gave even a cup of cold water in His name.

Sr Therese Tangney, Provincial Leader of the South African Province, addressed the students in these words:

"On 16th June 1976, I was living in Soweto and teaching at our school there. That afternoon, after the students had gone home, some of us teachers remained behind to correct mid-year examination papers. At about three o’clock , one of the Sisters came rushing into the school and told us to climb into the car quickly so that we could get home. Our house was a few kilometres from the school and the police were preventing anyone from travelling in Soweto. The students from Morris Isaacson School had started marching – that was the beginning of the end of apartheid!

I remember that evening very clearly: looking out of the window, seeing the tear gas, hearing the shooting and listening to the students shouting, ‘Power, power!’ We prayed so hard that night for the safety of our students in particular.

And today, here in Rosebank, we have a very different scene. You have come together, the leaders from a number of schools, to bring us a message of HOPE.

I thank you for this message which you, the youth, give us today; we all really need to hear this message of HOPE now, especially in South Africa where the rate of unemployment and the rate of crime are both so high.

We need to hear this message of HOPE in the whole world as we face the problem of globalisation – the gap between the rich and the poor is widening and the poor are suffering more than ever from unemployment, poverty and hunger. There is the whole issue of global warming and climate change and all this brings … So thank you for the message of HOPE.

And the tins! – 17 000 tins – it is so good to know that you have such care and compassion for all those people who are less fortunate and who are homeless, poor and hungry. Today you really have shown a true expression of ‘ubuntu’ – of sharing.

On behalf of the Sisters of Mercy, I thank you; on behalf of all of South Africans I say Thank you!’’

After Therese‘s address photographs were taken from all angles including one from the sky and the task of dismantling HOPE and the distribution of the food began. A number of vans had arrived, “Meals on Wheels”, to deliver the food to various projects serving those people suffering from extreme poverty. A special word of congratulations to Sister Barbara, who in her usual gracious and efficient manner, oversaw and facilitated the whole effort.

What colour is hope? It is as multi coloured and multifaceted as the food cans collected and distributed on June 16th 2008.

Report from St Teresa’s Mercy School
Rosebank, Johannesburg.

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