ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What to do to make a better life for a beggar in Africa

Updated on March 21, 2011
Just another beggar on the street corner? Read on to find out why this man could be a symbol of hope...
Just another beggar on the street corner? Read on to find out why this man could be a symbol of hope...

A life-changing encounter

Hark, hark, the dogs do bark,
The
beggars are coming to town:
Some in rags, and some in tags,
And some in velvet gown.
- old Nursery Rhyme

Beggars are a common sight all over the world, and South Africa is no exception. Almost every intersection in every city in the country has its population of people begging.

Most motorists make sure their windows are up and their doors locked when they see the advancing beggars, and sometimes with good reason.

There are the women with babies, the elderly with tattered clothes, the sick and the lame, all hoping for someone to notice them, someone to give them a handout. And sometimes they are lucky and a hand emerges from the car window to deposit a few coins into their usually calloused and dirty palms.

But for one woman in Pretoria one beggar somehow looked different, looked unique. She made eye contact with him and something shifted in her, something made her look more deeply at this man, and that has made all the difference, both to her and to him.

The woman, Isabel Wagner, says she doesn't know what exactly it was that made her look a second time at the man standing in the intersection, but very soon she was embarked on a journey of discovery, the discovery of the man Amos Sibanda and the story of how he had to become a beggar at the intersection of General Louis Botha Avenue and Atterbury Road in Pretoria East.

Logo of the Amost Better Life Foundation
Logo of the Amost Better Life Foundation
Amos Sibanda
Amos Sibanda
Isabel Wagner
Isabel Wagner
Amos ion the doorway of his house in Mamelodi
Amos ion the doorway of his house in Mamelodi
Gracious and Amos inside their home
Gracious and Amos inside their home
The busy intersection that is Amos's "workplace"
The busy intersection that is Amos's "workplace"
Amos in the intersection
Amos in the intersection
Amos showing his placard
Amos showing his placard

Amos's Story

It turns out that Amos was not mentally deficient, as many who saw his deformed face assumed, nor was he unwilling to work. He was deformed and rendered unable to work through a dreadful accident which cut short his life as a farm foreman and turned him into a really needy person who had to pocket his pride and beg for a living.

Amos was born in Musina (formerly Messina) in Limpopo Province in 1978. In common with many, indeed far too many, people in South Africa, his father was unknown to him and his mother died when Amos was just 10 years old. As a result he only managed to get a Grade 4 education, but in spite of this he found work as a labourer on farms in Limpopo Province and eventually he was employed as a foreman on a farm in the Brits district of the North West Province.

In October 2005 the accident that changed his life irrevocably happened. His skull was severely fractured and his palate punctured. He was airlifted to hospital where he had to have a tracheotomy, was ventilated and intravenously fed. Most of his lower jaw was destroyed in the accident which left him unable to speak or eat or drink properly.

After being discharged from hospital Amos could no longer do the kind of work he had been doing on farms and so had to find other ways of making a living. He started by handing out advertising leaflets at intersections, but this work was intermittent and had to start begging to make ends meet.

Three years almost to the day Isabel came into his life and things started to change for the better. As she tells the story on the website of the foundation that has been started to help Amos, she and her family had been going through very bad times and she had started to see a therapist weekly.

“Then one morning on my way to my appointment I came to a stop right next to him. I had time to look at him, staring shamelessly. And with my medical background it was obvious that he must have had enormous problems even trying to function at the most basic level. By the time I reached home I knew that I had to help him,” says Isabel on the website.

Isabel managed to get a surgeon to operate on Amos, paid for by the foundation she had set up called Amost Better Life Foundation (ABLF). As a result of the operation Amos is able to eat and drink more easily and his speaking has also improved, though it is still rather difficult to understand him.

The next operation Amos needs is to rebuild his lower jaw, which was almost entirely destroyed in the accident. This operation will need some highly specialised equipment which will have to be imported.

Meanwhile Amos's wife Gracious is pregnant with their second child, due at the end of April. Their first child is a three-year-old boy called Tinos. They live in a rented home in the Pretoria suburb called Mamelodi.

Amos continues to stand at the same intersection where Isabel first encountered him, but now he holds a printed, laminated poster advertising the ABLF's website and carrying the message: “Thank you everyone for your contributions. First operation a success!!” instead of  the hand-written cardboard one he previously held.

Isabel, who does not want to be regarded as a saviour or heroine, would like to see Amos become independent and able to care for his family again, able to feel like a competent human being.

Amos himself wants to expand the modest photography business he has started, taking photos of people around Mamelodi and selling them. He has been given an old film camera and so is dependent on processing outlets but hopes to get a digital camera and a computer with a colour printer so that he can become more self-sufficient.

Slowly but surely his self-esteem and self-worth are coming back to Amos, though he still has a long way to go.

Grameen Bank logo
Grameen Bank logo
Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Bank
Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Bank

The end of the story?

Amos's story though, should not end there. At least it should help people to see that beggars don't always beg because they are workshy, or have a drinking or drug problem. There are beggars who have genuinely got a problem and the only way they can keep body and soul together is by asking for help in public.

And not all beggars are going to spend the money they do get on drugs or alcohol. The difficulty of course is in knowing the genuine from the chancer.

The Nobel Prize winning founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, Muhammad Yunus has made it a policy that every person in the Bank must lend to one beggar. It was a challenge he issued to the employees of the Bank. At first only a few lent to beggars, but after a while all 27 000 people working for the Bank lent to beggars – lent, not gave. There were no freebies, no handouts.

The Bank's policy is to expect the beggars to repay the loans in their own time, at their own convenience, but they have to repay.

Grameen Bank now has 100 000 beggars on its books, people who, because of their access to funds, have begun to turn their lives around, to regain lost pride and sense of self-worth. Surely a great way for people to be helped.

Beggars don't have to stay beggars, and maybe the story of Amos can be a start of something for the hundreds of thousands of beggars in South Africa.

Amos earlier this week
Amos earlier this week

Update on Amos: 19 June 2009

Amos went for another operation about two weeks ago, this time to rectify his tongue and give it more movement. The operation was a success and he is already speaking rather better, though he says his mouth is still very sore.

Another operation is due in December, when the bones of his lower jaw will be replaced.

The publicity and awareness of Amos' situation, including this Hub, has generated an unusual interest and most generous offers of various types of assistance.

The first offer is of a comprehensive computer course being offered by a company called Academy of Learning. This course, together with the digital camera and computer he has also been given, will enable Amos to get his budding photography business going in a more professional and profitable way.

He hopes that all these things will help him get off the street: "I'm really looking forward to not standing on the street corner any more," he says.

In addition to all this he has been offered some reconstructive surgery to get his face back to what it used to look like, though no date has been set for this yet. It will have to wait until the bone replacement operation has been done in December.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://corp.maven.io/privacy-policy

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)