WHY SOUTH AFRICA?
Side by Side has chosen to focus on South Africa for three basic reasons:
1. South Africa’s history: like the United States, South Africa’s history is a painful legacy of colonialism, injustice, and racism. This culminated with 50 years of Apartheid, the brutal, systematic stripping of black South Africans of their economic, political, social, religious and educational rights and benefits. Miraculously, conditions have changed since the hard fought elimination of Apartheid in 1994. The black majority now runs the government, and festering injustices have been partly cauterised by the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
2. Economic and social challenges: South Africa is representative of the world itself: growing numbers of people in poverty, a small percentage of the very rich, and a rapidly declining middle-class. Nationwide, unemployment is 38%, while in many black settlements it reaches 90%. A large percentage of blacks live in crowded shanty towns without electricity, water, or sanitation facilities. HIV/AIDS has now infected over 6,000,000 people, the largest number of any country in the world. The gap between rich and poor is at the top of the chart. Millions suffer malnutrition; crime has become a horrendous problem. With drug abuse and AIDS rampant, life expectancy for those born today is 43.3 years: death is omnipresent.
3. South Africa is an inspiration: It has experienced the miracles of confession by many who have been in error, and forgiveness by many of the formerly oppressed. A majority of South Africans, black and white, want to press forward to healing and an improved life for their people. We would like to encourage and help them where we can. With this in mind, the mission of Side by Side is to come alongside South African community champions in partnership to provide critical services such as food, early childhood education, and humanitarian aid for the people they serve.