Aberdeenshire UNISON

31st May 2013
Kate Ramsden with Denis GoldbergDenis Goldberg and Community H.E.A.R.T - overcoming the legacy of apartheid. Still active, passionate and inspirational at 80

by Kate Ramsden, Branch Chair

I was once again honoured to be able to attend, on behalf of the Branch, an event held in Glasgow on 31st May, to celebrate the 80th Birthday of Denis Goldberg, social campaigner and founder of the charity Community H.E.A.R.T.

Community H.E.A.R.T. (Health Education And Reconstruction Training) was set up in 1995 to support the people of South Africa, in their struggle to overcome the awful legacy of apartheid.

I had met Denis several times before but it is always wonderful to meet up with him again, to experience his warmth and his humanity, and to hear his commitment to South Africa and his passion for the work that Community H.E.A.R.T does in the townships, with women and children and with local communities.

As it says on the Community H.E.A.R.T website, "The first democratic elections in South Africa ended apartheid, but apartheid left a legacy of poverty and deprivation for the majority population who had little or no access to proper health, education, housing and utilities. Reconstruction and development to eradicate the causes of inequality, discrimination and poverty started in 1994 but due to the enormity of the task support for this will be required for the foreseeable future."

In his presentation to those gathered at the event, Denis reminded us that, "Political transformation takes time. Changes have been made but there is a long way to go."

However, he left us in no doubt that all the sacrifices that he and others made during the fight against the evils of apartheid had been worth it. Speaking of his 22 years of imprisonment, he said, "If you ask, was 22 years in prison worth it? Yes. Of course it was.

"Our people now make laws instead of being excluded by laws."

He went on to talk of the work that Community H.E.A.R.T is doing in South Africa. The book and 10p Appeal, which sets up school libraries in South Africa so children will have access to books they enjoy reading story books, novels, information books, "the sort of book you would give a child or young person for their birthday or their Christmas."

The Ububele psychotherapy resource and training centre based in Alexandra Township, just outside Johannesburg which "provides practical ways of responding to the emotional bruising that lies at the heart of so many of the profound human problems that affect our country".

And the music project which has enabled school children in the townships to learn a musical instrument and which has recently taken them on a concert tour of 10 cities in Germany, "children," said Denis, "many of whom had never been out of their townships before far less out of South Africa."

His description of the impact on these children of this experience, of the world that music had opened up to them, of the growth in their self confidence and self belief, was truly inspirational.

Our Branch has long supported the work of Community H.E.A.R.T and Denis's vision for South Africa and I hope that we will continue to do this in the future.