Helping Dogs in Randfontein Dump: "Not for the Fainthearted"
IFAW South Africa staff member Lisa Cant-Haylett reports on her third visit to the Randfontein Dump with Cora Bailey and the CLAW team as they visit regular owners and their dogs.
"Randfontein Dump...Not for the fainthearted", would be an apt description for someone who wants to know what it is like. A truly sad, sad view into the lives of the people and animals living adjacent to a dump, not even a stone’s throw away, in conditions which leave a person's mind numb in trying to ascertain how anyone could survive from day to day.
It is my third visit to Randfontein Dump with Cora and the CLAW team and although I have seen it all before, it strikes a cord every time. Unless all thread of compassion is missing in one’s self, a person cannot help but feel so very sorry that human beings and animals have to live under these conditions. It is almost as if a person is hesitant to make eye contact with those living there, knowing how better off one is, but that is the last thing a person should do. I can imagine how many of them may feel…as if they do not exist, so eye contact, a smile and a "Hallo, hoe gaan dit" (Hallo, how are you) is the least I felt I could do to make them feel as if they are not part of the "rubbish" living adjacent to the dump.
Cora and the team have come to give the Eco-Life volunteers a glimpse into the reality of life for some South Africans. Cora knows most of the residents and their animals at the dump and receives many greetings and smiles as she leads the way into the heart of the informal settlement. She is careful to remind everyone to stay in a group as she visits a few regular clients to check on them and their dogs. I follow Cora's lead like a puppy and keep an eagle’s eye on the back of her IFAW shirt, respecting the seriousness of her warning, but being the kind of person she is, she displays no outward sign of fear and treats everyone whom we meet along the way with respect and kindness.
Everyone in the group grabbed a handful of lollipops before leaving the mobile and as we pass by disshevelled tin and wooden shacks, curious little faces pop out from behind them. Lollipops are discreetly handed out to bring something sweet into the lives of these children and to brighten up their day. CLAW also provides food parcels to many of these families as far as possible.
We head on back to the vehicles and sticky hands are extended as we pass by a group of children who have gathered near the vehicles in the hope that a second lollipop may be in order. Most of us relent, and dig deep into our pockets to retrieve the last one or two lollipops for them.
The mobile van starts up and we start heading towards the exit as an elderly owner with his two dogs comes into view in the pick up’s rear view mirror. The man and his dogs move closer as Cora patiently stops the van. Tired, hot, sweaty and dusty is not enough of an excuse not to stop and give this man and his dogs ten minutes of our time. The bigger dog looks to be in fairly good condition, his coat shines and his tail wags back and forth as he waits patiently by his owner, with the smaller dog looking very forlorn and scared. Vet nurse Jen prepares the vaccinations and Saskia administers them and gives them a quick check to see if all is in order.
I ask the man if he minds if I take a photo of him and his dogs and he says no, that it would be fine. The cap on his head seems to add an air of pride in himself despite his surroundings. With all the dirt, discarded rubbish, scavenging pigs and everything else that goes with the dump…to this man, these two dogs are far more than just pets, they are companions, giving unconditional love and hope to him. With the hope that one day no one will have to live like this, people or animals alike, its reassuring that IFAW and CLAW's presence and regular visits to these owners and their animals will continue to give them hope and something better to look forward to.
For more information on IFAW efforts to help animals in Africa, visit http://www.ifaw.org