South Africa’s “Family Day” was this month and I got the chance to work with Families South Africa (FAMSA) to organize a special event for some of the guys at Thusong.
For the event I took 14 of the boys who do not go to mainstream school to the prison in Kimberley. Along with FAMSA, the inmates organized an program just for the boys. It was a unique experience, which drew up a whole lot of different emotions within me. I sat back and watched, trying to see it all through the eyes of my young friends who are unfortunately part of the percentage of young males in South Africa most vulnerable to a future stay in prison.
The inmates were eager to share their stories and directed their words forwards the boys. We heard from men who had come from a life on the street similar to the current situation of many of our guys. We heard from men who have learned consequences of drugs and violence and we heard from men who haven’t been able to see their families or hold their children for over 10 years. The conversations flowed as if these men were talking to their teenage selves, giving them a glimpse into a future that could possibly be avoided.
In between these stories the inmates entertained us with their band and worship team. We also watched several skits on negative street life scenarios acted out by the inmate drama team. And, of course, they stood before us clapping, stomping and dancing while singing traditional African songs-, which by the way, and I don’t care how lame this sounds, is the most beautiful thing that I have ever heard in my entire life. It seriously brings tears to my eyes, whether sung by someone doing their wash on the other side of the fence, a traditionally dressed choir or a group of men in orange prison jumpsuits.
It wasn’t the most traditional way to celebrate ones family, but at Thusong we just aren’t that traditional. On our way home I looked back at 14 unrelated brothers promising each other that they’d keep each other in check so that they may never be back in that place.
Here are some of the guys back at Thusong after a day at the prison.