05 October, 2011

A car guard named Gideon

A lot of people I know, find the car guards in South Africa an irritation. For those not from here...a quick explanation...due to the high levels of unemployment here, a lot of people have resorted to 'guarding your car' while you go shopping or what ever. When you return you give them a few rand, but it's up too you really.

Now me, I've always had a soft spot for these guys...at least they are trying something and not sitting at home doing nothing.

Over the past two years, I have gotten to know, the group of car guards at our local little suburban mall. They are super friendly, always willing to help...even when you have 'not a cent' on you. But there was one gentleman, named Gideon, who I landed up speaking to the most...it was mainly about the weather, and the general 'how are you's'. But every now and again...this would happen...

Last year, one of the stores , in the mall,  employee's were all striking in the parking lot....and as Gideon was walking me too my car...he just shook his head, and said to me "Look at those people ma'am, they don't know how lucky they are...I would do anything for their jobs."

A few months ago...Gideon had helped me pack my bags into my car...and as I was getting in, he called after me, and said "Ma'am...you work in marketing don't you?" Completely shocked at the question, and frantically looking down at my chest to see if maybe I had had a name tag on or something..." I nodded back. He just laughed and said, "I thought so, all marketing people are forgetful "...and he handed me a magazine that I left behind in the trolley. He walked away, laughing and saying "It's okay you have had a busy day"

Ever since then, Gideon has fascinated me...and we continue to chat every time I see him.

Then about two weeks ago...I wasn't in my usual rush, so I got talking to him properly. I always thought he was South African, but in fact he is from the Congo. Him and his new bride...they got married just three months ago....moved to SA two years ago, as he couldn't finish his studies, and the situation there was becoming worse. So they decided to come to SA (on an asylum basis) and to see if he can earn some money so that he can return home to complete his degree.

Yip, his degree...and not just any degree...his degree in Medicine. Can you believe it? He has completed three years, and has three to go. Wel slaan my dood!

The man that helps me every day, that stands in the sun and rain...with the biggest smile on his face....should in fact be saving lives, helping people. He should be a Doctor.

It left me feeling, so helpless, so shocked, so ashamed, so impressed, so...I don't even know what.

Since then, I have had numerous chats with him. He has tried to approach the Universities for assistance. He learnt English in three months. His new wife is a nurse. They have no family here. He wants nothing more than to be a doctor, here or back home.

I don't know what I can do, but I am going to do something...I need to help this man. Even if it is getting him a better job, so that he can earn more money. I have no idea where to start...but I am going to try. And I'll keep you all updated.

This whole story got me thinking, how many other 'Gideons' are out there, guarding our cars, handing our pamphlets at the robots, just doing what they can to survive...it makes me sad...very sad.



PS. If any of you have any suggestions on what I can do, or who I can contact, to help Gideon out....please let me know.

Edited to add: Thank you all so, so, so much for your awesome comments and feedback...I will be replying to those of you that offered advice etc...thank you, thank you, thank you.

20 comments:

Gina said...

I have a 'Gideon', his name is Arthur, he is also from the DRC. He and his brother are car guards at a small Woolies near me. He is a qualified nurse, his brother is a lawyer! Neither of them are able to practice here because they cannot afford the cost of the conversion exams. It really is heart breaking.

Shayne said...

Get hold of meriel - she has a plan for everything!

But you are so right - there are so many Gideon's out there. Right under our noses.

I'll help you in anyway i can so just shout see?

Tamara said...

I knew so many Congolese carguards in CT. I did French at school and varsity and they so appreciated the chanceto chat to someone in their home language.

We have a Gideon in our church. He studied a Masters in economics in the DRC. He fled. His mom and siblings were in a refugee camp. He tried to visit them two years ago and spent time in jail because he was considered a spy. He now works for our church while they help him to study economics again in English. He lives in a tiny room on the church property.

Gideon has lost more than almost anyone I know,but he is the kindest most generous person I've met.

I hope you find a way to help your Gideon. Let us know if we can help.

Lea White said...

Wow! What a story. From my side I will keep him and his family in my prayers. Unfortunately I don't have any contacts and if I had lots of money I would have paid for him to come here to study to see if there could be better opportunities.

Sharon said...

Wow! Thanks Hayley. I needed to read this. I'm one of those people who has very mixed feelings about car guards.
But I will look at them all in a different light from now on.

blackhuff said...

You are so right about this. I realised this when I look at the garden service people each week. They come to tidy up the garden each and every week. They work in the hot sun - but they rather work than steal. They rather work than striking for bigger wages. They work, just like we all work each and every day.

The Running Golfer said...

Amazing post....

Andre Dorfling said...

brilliant post Hayley! Makes one think.. Im in a tight spot due to retrenchment but this man has nothing and yet he is still putting on a brave face and smiling every day.. It must be amazing to have a soul like this man... Hope you can help him.. I wish I could do something too...

KeenyKeenz said...

What a brilliant post... Really hit home! I'm also struggling to finish a degree, but in NO way is my situation as dire. Perhaps we (yes, we!) need to contact LeadSA? Perhaps they can help... I have some contact at Primedia who may be able to point us in the right direction.

Also, as a short term solution to help him get a paying job, if there are stores near where he works - approach them to make them aware they have a (nearly) degreed academic helping people carry their packets to the car. Although this may be a problem if he doesn't have the correct documentation.

Serious reality check...

MacLeod House said...

I've always had enormous respect for carguards. Whenever someone in my vicinity used to *moan* about them, I always used to say, "Well he's here in the hot sun/pouring rain/hot/cold etc trying to work, he's not sitting at home/scaling my fence/resorting to crime etc". I always used to pay them. Always. If I didn't have any cash on me - and was doing grocery shopping - and paying by card, then I always got them something, bottle of water, kitkat, bar one, can of coke etc. Just something small so that I could say thank you. I've met many a car guard from Rawanda, Burundi, even Tanzania. It's why when there are Xenophobic attacks it really does my head in. We should be allowing the people who are willing to GET OFF THEIR ARSES and WORK, to do just that.

Fiona said...

I actually don't know what to say. I'm a bit speechless!

I would love to help him out in anyway too. Which area are you based in Joburg?

This story is definitely worthy of the 94.7 Christmas Wishlist too. He definitely deserves to live his dream...wow.

Jenty said...

I have all the time in the world for these men. They take a lot of flack and the majority of them are such good guys.
Their stories are really heartbreaking

Fi said...

You're doing a great thing Hayley :)

(Hi from NZ!)

Kirsty said...

Awesome story! The 94.7 wish list sounds like a plan! Use your marketing skills and get writing girl :).
Just from a medical insider - he is better off finishing his studies here if he wants to stay and work in SA. If he qualifies overseas, the Medical registration board is a NIGHTMARE to navigate and get registered here! I know lots of very well qualified physios (from European countries, not Africa) who have had to pack their bags and head back to Europe cos they could not get registered here.
It may also be worth contacting netcare or ER and see if they offer some sort of scholarship/bursary/ financial aid for him.
Good luck x x

tania said...

or what about jacaranda's good morning angels on wednesday mornings:)you should send your story as you blogged it!
Beautiful post hayley:)

Marcia (123 blog) said...

I would first

1) contact Primedia

2) then Jacaranda

3) work my way through all the media - someone has GOT to be able to do something.

check that he's here legally, has all his papers first though...

Meriel said...

Hi Hayley, I'm Shayne's friend. Please mail me merielb@searescue.org.za and let me know the name of the shopping centre. I have some contacts I can try. Meriel

V-n-J said...

wow Hayley ... what an amazing story. there are so many Gideons around and I love how you told his story. I definitely agree that you need to put this in every angle of the media as possible.

also make sure he is in SA legally. it could complicate matters if he isnt.

he should work on getting his transcripts from his medical college in Congo.

you could also try contacting several universities and sending them his story. there might be a chance for a scholarship somehow.

please post any updates on this. i pray everything works out for him. i love his positive attitude. he definitely sounds like someone worthy of helping.

Lynette said...

This is really becoming part of our SA statistics. We have a number of refugees at the Mission. One of them was a professor in the Congo...here he cannot even find a job, never mind follow his passion. It is sad that these people have lost so much and then they are reduced to doing a menial task. I hope that something can be done to help Gideon...but he is still just one of many.

cat said...

I have met so many wonderful car guards - my favorite was a professor in philosophy from Sudan - kid you not! Such a funny and wise guy. I have met doctors, pharmacists and lots of teachers.