Dignity Regained


James is a pensioner. His home is in rural North West Province. James is blind.   Kidibone is teaching him. She is teaching him how to use a white cane. This is how she tells it.

“When I landed at James’s place two weeks ago, he already knew about me from my previous clients and he told me ‘I am in desperate need of the training.’”

Kidi tells of how she began by explaining to James the COVID-19 protocol and the strict rules she would follow every time she came to train him. She explained about taking his temperature, her giving him a mask for every lesson and hand sanitizing etc.  But James could barely contain his impatience.  He wanted to begin his training right away.

“I can’t wait any longer,” he urged. “My training,” he told Kidi, “has been delayed since May because of the lockdown.”

The first thing James wanted to learn was how to get from his house to the outside toilet on his own.

But at first sight, the area outside James’s home was a real problem for Kidi. Between his house and the toilet was a big open space, with the swept earth of a rural North West homestead. It was just too large for James to find his way across to the toilet on the other end without getting lost.

But then, Kidi saw a pile of unused bricks in the yard. This reminded her of a previous client in Sharpeville. There, our monitoring expert: Moira had strung up a rope as a guide to that client’s outside toilet. Seeing those bricks gave Kidi an idea. She started laying out a path between James’ home and the toilet…. one brick at a time.

See the beautiful path that Kidi laid out. “Lining up the bricks: that was the easiest way for me to help James to find his way to the toilet.”

Kidi, the brick layer, had solved the problem. But that’s not where it ends.

James is now learning to find his own way to his local tuckshop and to the clinic.  And he is relishing it.  No more will he have to hang onto someone’s arm to get him there – a dangerous thing in this time of COVID-19, especially at his age. And Kidi has more in store for him.

Soon, he will be cooking himself a meal with what he has bought at the tuckshop or pouring himself a cup of tea.  He will also know that he has got the right change at the tuckshop because he has learned which banknote is which, and the same with the different coins.

What Kidi is teaching James is called Independence Training. That is his right.  But James also has a right to life.  That is what this training is giving him too. Dignity, though, is what gives life meaning.  For James, this began with getting to his outside toilet by himself.