When traveling to South Africa for the “Culture, Conflict & Community in South Africa” MILA (a short-term study abroad trip offered by the College), I had the privilege of meeting this wonderful woman, Karen Maarman, who has founded an NGO with co-director Denise Crowster in Cape Town called The Bethel Projects. The Bethel Projects’ Facebook states: “We are an NGO focused on providing support & self-empowerment to the abused, unemployed & disadvantaged.” The Bethel Projects is so very impactful as it runs workshops for people who are survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, those affected by gang violence, men struggling with their identities and so many other crucial things. This NGO also helps those with HIV/AIDS, those suffering from homelessness, and people who just need to be supported. The Bethel Projects is truly committed to helping their community thrive and grow to its full potential, blossoming all of the seeds that were planted in its members.
Many of the challenges listed that The Bethel Projects helps with are directly related to colonization, but more recently, specifically to Apartheid. Even though Apartheid ended in 1994, Black, Coloured (a term used for mixed race people in South Africa,) and brown South Africans still struggle greatly due to the residual effects of it. Non-white South Africans were not granted rights and were treated as subhuman. They were subjected to slavery, sexual assault/rape, displacement, starvation and murder under the Apartheid government that ran from 1990-1994. To this day many indigenous South Africans lack the resources they need to survive because of the racist systems that continue to work as they were meant to, keeping all non-white people down.
With that being said, The Bethel Projects is trying to combat these challenges actively, especially right now since it’s “back-to-school season” for students. One of the Projects’ core beliefs is that education helps people advance socio-economically, mentally, spiritually, intellectually and socially. School is something that helps to fight against poverty and uplift communities in all areas. Currently, The Bethel Projects is doing a fundraiser to raise enough money for 1000 pairs of school shoes for students in the Cape Town area. They have raised enough money to purchase 820 pairs of shoes so far, now they just need 180 pairs left to complete their goal!
Now, it’s very important that this goal is accomplished because supporting students is essential to preventing the continuance of modern-day Apartheid. As a now friend of Karen’s, I told her that I and a few other students would do our very best to bring awareness to The Bethel Projects and to successfully reach their goal with support from Muhlenberg organizations such as BSA (Black Students Association), QTPOCC (Queer Trans People of Color Collective) and VOS (Voices of Strength). As you all know, it is Black History Month, so it is an ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC time to donate your money to this lovely NGO that brings out the best in people. Each pair of shoes are R350, which is about $20 USD. Please donate what you can, preferably in increments of five or ten.
Black communities are often overlooked and are not seen, this is a great opportunity to support an all-Black-run NGO! To donate, please use the QR codes attached! The QR code is linked to my PayPal and Venmo, which Karen has approved. As soon as someone sends money to my account, it’ll be sent directly to Karen’s. You can also go to my Instagram account @kidgio23 and click the link in my bio or repost my post to spread the word around campus, to other campuses, to your family and friends and everyone you know! The goal is to reach 180 shoes raised by the end of February. Let’s do it!