It’s Good Friday. I am sitting in a coffee shop. In Manenberg. A community that is often perceived as hopeless, as a being a part of the cycle of violence and structures and things that will not change. Yet, as I sit in this coffee shop hope prevails. Part of the reason for this is that there are hope bringers in this community as much as there are gangs and drugs and violence.

One of these HOPE givers and hope bringing people in this community is PATRICK NEL. Patrick is the chef at Jou Ma Se Kombuis and a member of the FUSION team. For more about what and who FUSION is visit this page, or find them on Facebook.

So yes, the work that Fusion does is amazing but what is that inspires hope in me when I engage with Patrick is simply this: Love motivates him. In chatting with Patrick, the thing that strucks me is that he knows what it means and lives what it means to BE WITH people. Patrick grew up in Manenberg, and ended up working in different organisations along the way – always with the dream of being a chef. Patrick knows what it means to have challenges, to grow up with challenges & seeing your dreams shattered, but also redeemed through the awareness that knowing that you are seen and loved can change the way that you deal with challenges.

Despite having to move to Darling for family commitments, Patrick still is passionate about being and working in Manenberg. The 2 hour bus commute to work is something that has been done by men and women for years before, according to him, and Patrick isn’t deterred by this. It has become part of his rhythm.

Anyway, as Patrick says ‘to be a part of speaking hope and identity to people and to see them exploring and achieving hope-filled identities; WHY would I not want to do this?’

Sitting at Jou Ma se Kombuis (which has become my Friday habit), I get to see Patrick engage with some of the men and women who are exploring and achieving new identities. I witnessed an older woman who Patrick taught to cook and bake come and collect crockery for a function. She now has her own catering business. There is hope in that.

There is so much more going on that what the world says or sees about our communities and the question that Patrick sits with is how to access people’s hearts and remind them of who they are and what they have to give.

It would be easy for Patrick to get a corporate job – he has been there and done that but knows that there is more. There is hope and he is an active part of being it. Of seeing it. Of giving it.

Patrick gives me hope.

[For other stories of people who give us hope in South Africa, click here]