Today, different ethnic groups aren’t forced to continue to live in townships based on race, but many people choose to continue this lifestyle, or can’t afford to break the pattern. Our first experience in a township was in Cape Town, South Africa. My group of 18 women piled into a van to “tour” a township. As we turned a corner, I got my first glimpse of township. I felt shocked that people lived in these tiny, mulit-colored shacks made of a slab of wood, and a sheet of aluminum. The majority of these homes have no running water, electricity, or a roof that would be reliable in any sort of rain or wind.
As we continued to drive through the area, I saw little kids running around barefoot staring at our van shouting “Lungu,” white people. Some of the children looked sick, with runny noses and glossy eyes, but most looked hungry, their ribs visible underneath their torn shirts. Near the end of the tour, I saw cows heads roasting outside, being skinned to be served as a “delicacy of the area. ” We toured on a Wednesday, yet adults sat outside almost every home, staring blankly into the distance. “The people here are so lazy,” our tour guide remarked, “They don’t try to make a better life for themselves. After we finished our tour and returned to our hostel, the feeling of sadness and anger overtook me. There wasn’t a glimpse of hope that I saw that day, and I felt terribly for the children that are forced to follow on their parents footsteps. I wondered how these people felt who lived in the township. Do they feel as badly for themselves as I felt for them or are they happy with their lifestyle? Recently, we toured a smaller township in Knysna, South Africa, and my pervious perceptions of townships changed completely. We turned a corner, and at the first glance, everything was the same.
The same shacks made of unreliable material, the same barefoot children gawking at our truck, but as we stepped into the village, everything changed for me. We were greeted with open arm. The children smiled and hugged us as we approached them. We walked into a church service and the priest stopped his service momentarily to greet our group, and welcome us to their community. The people in the church sang loudly with soul and passion. They sang of their faithfulness to the Lord, and how thankful they were that God continues to watch over their families.