Tag Archive: Hope in South Africa

When I was in hotel school they used to drill the phrase “exceed the guest’s expectations” into us all the time. It was never enough to do what the guest asked; we were pushed to always go “above and beyond” the call of duty. As a believer I have found that this lesson also applies in how we live our lives because let’s be honest, doing the bare minimum of what Christ has asked us to do, only really benefits, well no one. Over the past 9 years I have met many extraordinary believers who have done what I’d say is going above and beyond but is really just obeying God and loving and serving people. Two such people are my wonderful friends, mentors and managers – the Harrell’s and I would love to introduce you to them.

megan and richard 3

I chose the Harrell’s as people who inspire me in South Africa because they really and truly are and it’s kind of crazy because they are not South African. Megan and Richard started their missionary journey many years before they ever even left America but God didn’t open a door until 2012. They moved to Lesotho to work in the mountains, with Richard flying people in and out of the area. 90% of his flights were medically related and many people dying on his flights. He became heavily burdened to share the message of Christ with them but opportunities to do so were few. He then realised that reaching an older person is harder as their minds and hearts are already made up but intervening and sharing Christ with younger people had the potential to change not only their lives but the lives of the community.

So an idea formed and the Harrell’s kicked into action. Taking their 4 boys (yes 4!) onto a rocky field in the middle of Lesotho and kicking a ball around. One boy came and then more and then Saturdays and their house was filled with young boys to mentor and help fulfil their potential. What started as a Saturday soccer club soon turned into a club of 350 young boys. They knew that this was a God thing. So they dreamed up a place for all these boys to come hang out, do homework and be mentored but again God asked them to wait and showed them a different place instead.

Fast track to a meeting with Trevor Downham and then a move to Genesis and the beautiful South Coast. Here was a youth centre for them to work in. since they started working at Genesis Youth I have seen many things that have inspired me to try making a difference in my own community. Too many people tend to just talk the talk but these people walk it as well. With their heart for children and young adults they work every day to see each person they meet come to find and fulfil their God given potential. To intervene in young people’s lives so that they can make great choices that will affect their future and their community for the better.

Richard works as the Operational Manger for the youth centre (which mind you is a really hard job) but also instructs a Crossfit gym, tends to all his employees and makes sure each of us works to be who God created us to be and Megan does a lot of media and writing work for Genesis. They came into a situation and instead of trying to figure it out first, they just plugged straight into the work. But although there is no way to describe the work they do, I can only say that they make a difference. Francis Chan is quoted as saying that sometimes we need to go until God tells us to stop. This perfectly describes this couple for me. I asked them what they hope to achieve whilst here and their answer displays their heart for people and their love for God.

“As missionaries our hope and dream is to empower local people to do the work that we are doing, because we believe they can do it so much better than we can. Also that what we have done here will continue even after we have left.”

Yes there is a lot wrong with South Africa but there is also a lot that is right about it and sometimes it’s the very people who want to see it succeed that inspire us the most. People like the Harrell’s who go above and beyond.




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

My good friend Sammi Taylor has written for my blog a number of times, the most popular being a glimpse into her story of Singleness and one of my favourites being how she wrote her ‘What I’d like my married friends to know’ piece. But today she is sharing about someone she knows in South Africa, who she has seen doing things that give her hope:

I was a teenager in the 80’s. I was a teenager when apartheid was in effect. I was in Matric when we had our first referendum vote. And I was ignorant of most politics. Life was mostly good and happy. I danced, listened to hair metal and spent many hours practicing for plays and shows with my friends. I was mostly ignorant and oblivious. This was true for most of my friends as we grew up in middle class white families and went to white schools with white teachers and most media did not show what was happening in our country. During this time and while being involved with a high school play that included our brother school Selbourne College, I met and became friends with a group of young guys. One of these friends was a boy named James. James was not ignorant or oblivious even though he came from a white middle class family, went to a white school and had white teachers.


I got to know that James was interested in politics. That James’s family was politically active and that he had a passion for justice and the future of our country.

Being kids, this was just something I was aware of. I didn’t ask questions or have deep conversations. My memories of this time are of parties and laughing backstage at concerts and being very confused about the math homework they were doing which looked like nothing we were being taught at the time.

So many years later after meeting another group of young people through a dance and drama ministry team in 1994 and becoming a lot less ignorant and oblivious to what was happening in our country and of course the invention of the world wide web and Facebook, I reconnected with my young friend James.

There is so much negativity amongst our generation regarding SA at the moment and where we are going that it was refreshing to see that someone I knew as a young boy had not lost his passion for our country. After obtaining a law degree and working and travelling abroad, he had returned to SA and is actively involved in community based projects that benefit from funds raised by conducting responsible tours of these previously disadvantaged areas.

Uthando is the name of the organization he created to explore unique and innovative methods of linking tourism and community development projects. As a result of these initiatives, Uthando has won numerous local and international awards, most notably the 2012 Winner of the Skal International Sustainable Development in Tourism Award – category Cities-Villages, the 2013 Cape Town Tourism Responsible Tourism Award as voted by local and international companies in the tourism industry and The Best Charitable Organisation in Africa by the Good Safari Guide in 2014 and 2015. In addition, The Philanthropic Travel Experiences offered by Uthando have been recognized by Trip Advisor with a Certificate of Excellence in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Uthando South Africa is a unique model for traveller’s philanthropy, providing local and international tourism businesses (e.g. tour operators) with a reliable and trustworthy mechanism to implement their social investment programmes. This newly FFTSA (Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa) certified initiative showcases beneficiary projects to travellers in an authentic and sustainable way, further increasing prospects for fundraising and other forms of assistance for these projects. Uthando South Africa currently supports and/or is developing a programme of support for over 25 community projects in Cape Town (with additional projects identified in the KwaZulu Natal midlands); these are focused on a diverse range of social issues ranging from female prisoner rehabilitation and refugee education to urban agriculture, youth development, care for the elderly, care for children and orphans, HIV/AIDS, care and education for disabled people, arts and culture and rural development, to mention a few.

According to Katie Goldstein who listed Uthando as the no.6 of the top 10 things to do in Cape Town: To experience the Townships created as living areas for non-whites during Apartheid, but are still home to a vast amount of the population today, do a half-day experience with Uthando whose tours are authentic, uplifting, and non-invasive. Uthando’s profits go to help raise funds for community development projects in South Africa. In addition to learning about the country’s tumultuous past, you’ll be inspired by the incredible work being done to move forward.

James has a deep sense of compassion and a firm belief in the urgency of profound and dramatic change in the paradigm of our human society and this hasn’t changed from the young boy I knew.

I love Facebook…when I see James’s updates on his projects and his joy and pride in the communities he serves I am given hope that South Africa has a bright future when people like James are involved.

To find out more, visit:



Responsible Travellers’ Oct-Nov issue

[For the next story of someone giving hope in South Africa, click here]

Who is someone that you see doing something positive in South Africa that gives you hope? Drop me a line at brettfish@hotmail.com ad let’s talk about how you can get there story on here

Hopeful Socks

By Trevor Black

One person who gives me hope in South Africa is John McInroy.


There is a lot of noise in the world. The more you care, the harder it is to filter things out and focus on things that are important in your immediate circle of concern. It is hard to filter these things out because if you are an empathetic person, you know that you focussing just removes that pain from your awareness, not from the world. One person who gives me hope in South Africa is John McInroy. John will always emphasize that he likes the story of the work being done to be the focus. John’s story is not about John. John’s story may focus on South Africa, but it is not even about South Africa. It is about the fact that we exist beyond our circles of focus. Even when we have to focus on other things because we have limits, we can remember what is going on elsewhere. We can take steps to help. We can allow people to help us. We can help ourselves.

The story of Red Sock Friday began with two South African friends living in Ireland with one due to move home. John and buddy Ian Symons had heard the story of war veteran Sidney Feinson who got captured in the Battle of Tobruk during World War 2. He and two friends made a pact that should any of them make it back alive, they would wear reads socks to always be together no matter what. John and Ian decided to wear red socks every Friday to do the same. John has been spreading this idea through http://www.shooops.com/ and trying to ‘connect the world’ with passion and positive energy.

His journey also led him to start the Unogwaja challenge (http://www.unogwajachallenge.com/). Participants in this event cycle from Cape Town to the start of the Comrades Marathon, which they then run. But the story isn’t about a joy ride and a plod. It is about changing the world and connecting people through passion and the pushing of boundaries. It is about having fun. Bringing people together. Thriving. Inspiring others. Positive Energy. Participants raise money for charities focussing on helping people help themselves.

I do think there are individuals who are able to act as sparks, but they release the passion that is already there. It just needs a push. I meet lots of South Africans and lots of people from around the rest of the world who are bursting with energy to move forward. You can’t solve problems if you don’t hear about them and communicate about them. We shouldn’t be upset by some of the noise. It means we know about it and are doing things about it. Tribes united individuals. Religions united tribes. Countries united religions. We can go further than that. We can share stories and recognise bits of ourselves in others. If hope is a belief that people will learn, and overcome difficulties then I haven’t met many people you don’t give me hope. John is providing the red socks to help them remember each other while they get on with it.

[For more from Trevor Black, who wrote this piece, go and take a look at his blog over here: www.swartdonkey.blogspot.com]

Also who is someone that YOU think is doing something positive in South Africa that gives you hope. Drop me a line at brettfish@hotmail.com and let’s talk about how you can get their story up here…

[To read another story of hope, this time from a mom who lost her young daughter, click here]

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