My Escape from Poverty – Part 1

I think the worst part of growing up poor was called “arm” or poor.  But then poverty always sounded better in Afrikaans. In English, poverty sounded terrible. It sounded like a disease, and it also felt that way. Society made sure they treated you that way.

Growing up, I never thought that I would escape poverty. I was raised by my grandparents, and every time I looked at them, I felt hopeless, and I often wondered if I would escape it. Poverty was a prison that I had to escape. A prison that kills the dreams and souls of kids at a very young age. A prison that feeds on hopelessness.

So how did I escape?

Let me start at the beginning. Success as an idea or an ideal never ignited a burning desire to escape poverty. It was not even the indignifying manner in which the poor were treated that inspired me to escape poverty. Hunger did. I was always hungry and looking for something to eat. It was always a hustle to get to the next meal and have somewhere safe to sleep.

Alcoholism was the main reason we were poor. My grandfather, grandmother, my mom and her siblings grew up on a farm during apartheid. During apartheid, farmworkers were in part paid with alcohol. They never received the full worth of their labour. This system of payment was called the “dopstelsel.” And this system normalised alcohol abuse among farmworkers.

I was the second born, and my mom started to drink after I was born. So I was lucky to be born with a healthy brain. All my other siblings born after me most probably suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).  None of them completed school, and two of my brother ended up in prison. These are the system-wide symptoms of FAS.

My mom was a single mother and found it difficult to raise us. My grandfather and grandmother decided to raise me, my eldest sister and my younger brother. This was before my other two siblings were born. And my grandparents tried their best. But everything was not rosy. My grandfather and uncle had an alcohol problem, which systematically pulled us deeper and deeper into poverty. There was always more money for alcohol than there were for food and clothes.

And as we slipped deeper and deeper into poverty, the abuse started. My grandfather treated as vermin. My grandfather called us “Grietjie se gemors”, which means “the rubbish of Gretel.” My mother’s name was Gretel. Since my mother abandoned us and the responsibility solely rest on my grandparents, I could see how alcoholism affected my grandmother and the pain it caused her. It was then that I wowed to never become a drinker.

To be continued.

2 thoughts on “My Escape from Poverty – Part 1

  1. The financial aspect of alcoholism isn’t always talked about. I know someone right now who spends $200 to 300 a month just on alcohol and then complains about not having money. When I point this out there are always excuses or anger… alcoholism can be so frustrating on many levels!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes my Brother it is true, alcohol destroys the moral fibre of our society and who takes responsibility for this situation and we had no choice but to grow up and make a difference amongst our peers. I can make a difference in me.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: