Monday, 7 December 2015

Just another sad story - but can we help to change its ending?

I enjoy reading the newspaper. It is one of the little old-fashioned indulgences that I grant myself in this ever-whizzing, beeping, flashing modern world. I like the coarse texture of the paper, the smell of ink, the rustling sound of printed words telling so many stories. As I was flying back to Cape Town from a visit to Port Elizabeth (PE) recently, sipping some lukewarm aeroplane tea with my head buried deep in the crammed columns of The Herald, a particular story caught my eye.

It was a truly sad story indeed.

Make no mistake, sad stories are hardly a surprising feature in any newspaper – one cannot really pick up a sheaf of newsprint without expressly agreeing to being subjected to a broad array of suffering, violence and despair. Newspapers should come with printed disclaimers on their front pages: ‘Warning: Contents May Cause You To Sink Into An Irrevocable and Impenetrably Gloomy State of Depression, Read At Own Risk’. But this tragic story, in the midst of so many others, wounded something within me; its account of pointless devastation and irrational damage caused me to feel acute pain.

The story goes as follows. At the cowardly hour of 3am on the 26th of November, nameless vandals set ablaze a small primary school situated in one of the most impoverished areas of PE. Did their faces light up with laughter in the reflected red glow of the blaze? Did it give them a sense of triumph to know that they had the power to reduce four classrooms, including a science laboratory, to a blackened, smouldering shell?

Some of the books that were destroyed in the blaze
In the wake of this senseless destruction, textbooks, exercise books and stationery to the value of R200,000 (over $13,000) were reduced to a smouldering wreckage; where before desks stood, blackboards gleamed and books were stacked neatly on shelves, only smoke-tinged emptiness remains. Even the tools of a volunteer, who had been diligently and generously giving of his time to build a library for the school, were burnt beyond repair.

The cruel irony is that the new textbooks had only been delivered the previous day. Undoubtedly, each volume had been carefully unpacked and stored with pride, awaiting the year to come, awaiting a future that was so abruptly turned to ash. All of the lessons that these books could have imparted went up in flames, all of the knowledge and learning that they could have provided are lost now. The power of these textbooks to educate, to uplift and to inspire is now just the soot of what could have been.

It was this particular paragraph in the newspaper article that devastated me the most:
Shattered principal Tyrone Johannes, who was still in the pyjama pants he had been wearing when he rushed to the school at about 5am, said the school had no funds to replace the books or repair the damage.
He said Bayview Primary relied solely on the Department of Education for its funding.
“I feel like I have lost a child. That is truly how it feels,” he said.
“I have been here for 17 years now. Other principals have been visiting me and some have been sending messages of support, but it really feels like someone has died.
“Right now my main concern is the children. I must prepare to tell them that there are no books. Nothing is left.”
The world is full of catastrophes. The world is full of stories that are much ‘worse’, of horrors that are far ‘greater’ than a few burning classrooms, annihilated books and a lone man’s aching sense of loss.

Look at Paris, some will cry. Look at Syria, look at Mali, look at Lebanon, look at Kenya, look at Afghanistan, look at Iraq. They will wag their fingers and suggest that this is not a sad story worth caring about, it is not horrendous enough to warrant notice.

There is an unending string of places that are hurting, places where the pain has become too much to bear, places where the suffering seems to know no end. But why should the scale and gravity of our planet’s innumerable crises numb us to the smaller losses, the seemingly ‘normal’ acts of destruction and anger? Is the extent of human madness so great that we can afford to meet lesser acts of insanity with a casual shrug of the shoulder and a turning of the page?

As ordinary individuals, we lack the capacity to heal each place where there is a wound, we cannot even pretend to know every scar that blights the flesh of this planet. But we need not become paralysed by the vastness of the agony – we can still bring relief to the immediate injuries that cross our paths. We can make the deliberate choice to not become so anaesthetised by all the suffering that we fail to recognise heartache that we have the power to soothe, even if only by a single word or tiny act of generousity.

We should, however, guard against helping others merely to feel better about ourselves, in the hope that in doing so we may dim from view our many failings. We should not waste our time embarking on a superficial charade of ‘charitable deeds’ with the sole aim of achieving the hallowed status of the ‘good’ and the ‘kindhearted’. Above all, we should not pretend to care, as this is the gravest form of disrespect.

Should our caring actions only aim to glorify our own self-image, perhaps we should rather do nothing and be sincere in our apathy. There can be no dishonour in apathetic sincerity but there is deceit in false kindness.

If we choose to act, we should do so because we have taken responsibility. We should only do so once we have come to terms with this uncomfortable truth: the change that we are so desperate to witness on a vast scale can only occur when there is a change at the level of our individual hearts and minds.

We cannot control the infinite calamities that fill our newspapers every day, but we have absolute power to alter our perceptions individually and to make conscious choices about the manner in which we interact with every person we encounter.

The opportunity to help and to make a difference is not in found only in Paris, Syria, Iraq, the Middle East or any other war-ravaged, disease-stricken, impoverished part of the globe. The opportunity to be a force for good is in your home, it is in your family, your office, your neighbourhood, your town, your country. The good that you can do every day need not be grand for it to be great.

Is it not possible that we aid the spread of humanity’s disease with every thought of blame, attack, hatred, judgment, fear or anger that we harbour? By taking ownership of the unhealed aspects of our own lives, surely we can bring about a gradual cure to the pandemic of hatred we bear witness to every day? By simply treating others with kindness and respect, you are choosing to be a part of the antidote, instead of simply trying to ignore the sickness.

Unlike international conflicts that we cannot alter or battles that we have no ways of ending, the commitment that we can make to regaining control over our own thoughts is a victory that is ours to be won. By examining our own capacity to judge or to condemn and thereby turning our gaze inwards as opposed to merely finding someone else to blame, we can seek to ensure that what we find within ourselves promotes the peace and tolerance that we claim to be seeking in our world.

I have no doubt that the vandals who torched that school and set those books on fire had never had the joy of an education. I am certain that they do not know the quiet pride of learning, the humble satisfaction of expanding one’s mind. One cannot destroy with such heartlessness that which one has truly loved – had they been taught to cherish and value the gift of learning, they would have been incapable of their arsonist’s attack.

We cannot undo the damage of their ignorance completely; we cannot put out the destruction wrought by their flames. But we can show support to this school, its Principal and its children, children who need to be taught a lesson far greater than anything written in a textbook: compassion, empathy and courage can and will outshine even the darkest of circumstances. We have the opportunity to remind them that hope can still burn bright, instead of relegating their loss to suffer the fate of every other newspaper story that briefly captures our attention before subsiding from our thoughts.

By choosing to assist in the alleviation of ‘just another sad story’, perhaps we can replace the devastation with empathy, the loss with new hope and take a small step towards rewriting the endings of the stories that fill our newspapers.

If you would like to assist in some manner, please contact The Herald in Port Elizabeth (+27 41 504 7324), they are leading the initiative help Bayview Primary find a way to emerge from these ashes stronger than ever before. Here are the articles about the incident,,
I will be delivering 200 copies of Miranda The Polkadot Panda to the school and have pledged to donate 100% of the proceeds of any books that I sell to PE residents as part of a campaign I’m calling #burnbright. I have broadened this pledge to include all book sales for the month of December, until I reach my goal of donating the proceeds of 500 books. If you are looking for a Christmas present that will in turn be a gift to the children of this school, please contact Miranda The Polkadot Panda retails at R150.00 and is a dotty adventure for the young and the young at heart! Order your copy today and help the children of Bayview Primary to #burnbright.

Burn Bright
Believe with your heart
Believe with all your might
Whatever you do, you have to burn bright 

People may try to put your flame out
Life might cause you to flicker with doubt
But never, never dim your light
Keep it shining, let it burn bright

If sly shadows come creeping dangerously near
Don't let them turn your joy into fear
Keep your heart burning bravely  
Keep your heart burning bright
For there is no darkness dark enough
To ever put out your light

When it seems as though only sadness and smouldering defeat remain -
Wait, look more closely. Wait, look again.
Even when all seems to have burnt to the ground
With nothing left and nothing to be found 
Your courage can kindle an inferno most great
An inferno that consumes all sorrow and hate
For buried in the choking gloom of despair
Tiny embers of hope still linger there
Despite that what remains like dead smoke and ashes seems
Let these coals catch alight, breathe life with your dreams 
Set the sky ablaze with boldness that  burns deep within
Let it burn proudly 
Let that fire win

That is the fire of all that you can be 
It's radiance everyone shall someday see
For although you may now carry it quietly inside
It blazes with a brilliance that is too powerful to hide 
For this fire within you is fire that shines
It is fire more precious than all the gold in the mines
It is fire that burns with what is good and what is true
It is your fire and it makes you YOU

Your spark is unique and the world needs your glow
So don't ever be afraid to let your light show
For when you believe with your heart
When you believe with all your might
You are at your greatest, you are burning bright 
 - Ani Mallover

Monday, 21 September 2015

Not just another brick in the wall: A story of Hope

“I am not just learning the skills of building. I am learning about myself, I am learning about what it means to create.”

How does one rebuild a broken community? How does one restore a sense of pride, when all hope has been eroded? Is it possible to regain a sense of purpose, in the midst of destruction? In the Imizamo Yethu informal settlement located in Hout Bay, Cape Town, six unemployed men are discovering that the answer to these complex questions is surprisingly simple: rebuilding begins brick by brick.

After widely publicised violence ( and an alarming degree of lawlessness shook the foundation of this community, the HBCCA (Hout Bay Christian Community Association), with the help of its loyal sponsor Gartner Africa, answered the call for restoration to be made to the broken spirits of the Imizamo Yethu people. Hope had crumbled, but there remained an undaunted conviction that it could be rebuilt.

In consultation with the community elders, the HBCCA came to learn that much of the aggression stemmed from an underlying sense of worthlessness and desperation; that the perpetrators of the violence were not by nature violent men, but they were men who could no longer suppress the darkest aspects of their struggle to survive.

These were men with little or no education, few or non-existent skills – men who were gasping for breath in a place where everyone seemed trapped in the stranglehold of unemployment, poverty and despair. Futility and hatred appeared to be all that the world offered them, so they could find no reason not to offer the same in return.

Hennie Jacobs, HBCCA treasurer, longstanding servant of the community and active participant in the daily functioning of Iziko Lobomi (the HBCCA’s church-cum-adult training centre), proposed a simple answer to this cry for purpose, this plea for hope. A bricklaying course.

As a young man, he had experienced first-hand the joy and satisfaction that there is to be derived from the simple act of laying bricks and building something that lasts – joy that ultimately motivated his career as a quantity surveyor. His passion for making something from nothing enabled him to play an instrumental role in the construction of Iziko Lobomi some twenty years ago, an ambitious project that took over three years from conception to completion.

Hennie Jacobs sharing his love for building

This community centre was built during a pivotal time in South Africa’s history, as its construction echoed a national time of rebuilding. As Iziko Lobomi’s foundations were being laid, so too this young democracy sought to construct its identity from the rubble and ruin of a divided past. Under Hennie’s supervision and with the help of countless others, this open plot soon bore testimony to a new era of unity and collaboration. On the 19th of October, 1996, the “Iziko Lobomi - Centre of Life” stood proudly where before there had been only vacant land and forsaken dreams.

In light of the recent spate of problems experienced by the people of Imizamo Yethu, Hennie approached Gartner Africa with a novel proposal: the community elders would be consulted to propose a list of men most in need of help, whereafter six individuals would be drawn at random from this list to participate in an intensive, two-week bricklaying course under his watchful eye and expert tuition.

It was Hennie’s aim for these men to not merely learn how to lay bricks or build walls, but to learn lessons that no future hardship could destroy – he hoped to equip them with the knowledge that they are capable, that they are strong, that they have something lasting to contribute.

With Gartner Africa’s sponsorship of over R25,000.00 secured, it was possible for each participant to be equipped with the best tools, the best construction wear and training of the utmost professionalism. Yet the true value of this sponsorship cannot be calculated in monetary terms, for the worth of renewed self-esteem defies all conventional measurement.

The training commenced on the 14th of September and is currently being conducted on a makeshift platform at the Iziko Lobomi centre, a place that remains the throbbing heart of the Imizamo Yethu community some two decades into its existence. The HBCCA wanted the training to take place in a visible location, so that passers-by and visitors to the centre could witness the commitment of these men to learn, to grow, to heal.

The course is presently in its second week and there is already a visible difference in the stance of these men – they are walking taller, they are standing their ground with conviction and pride. As one of them remarked with a smile, “I am not just learning the skills of building. I am learning about myself, I am learning about what it means to create.”

Bricklaying is perhaps a humble trade, but don’t let its lack of fanfare fool you. Those who practice its precise skills and disciplined processes cherish the knowledge that without their handiwork, an architect’s plans would remain worthless blueprints, houses would never provide shelter and early morning sunlight would not gleam upon the windows of magnificent skyscrapers.

Behind each of these feats is the bricklayer that we have taken for granted, the bricklayer whose quiet, unseen precision is there for us to behold should we simply take the time to do so. With spirit levels, trowels, stooped heads and deft hands, bricklayers are the invisible creators of far more than we imagine. There is no doubt that they have often been instrumental in giving form to the places that we call home.

Those who are participating in this training are men who had so little left to believe in, men who had been walled in by the limitations of their circumstances. What these two weeks aims to instil in each person is an appreciation of their own worth, an understanding that dignity and self-respect are vital tools that will empower them to chisel away at their hopelessness.

Bricklaying takes a physical toll and requires physical strength, yet by the end of this course, it is hoped that these men will have learnt how to hone and strengthen their innermost musculature, the musculature of their minds. Such strength may help them to face future challenges with a strong-willed determination to succeed, instead of resorting to the weakness and cowardice of violence.

Training these men to harness the timeless skill of bricklaying certainly serves a purpose; yet concurrently evoking within them an awareness of their ability to surmount obstacles, is training for life.

The mainstream media has frequently depicted Imizamo Yethu as a violent, unstable, unsafe place – many perceive it to blight the otherwise pristine serenity of Hout Bay.

Whilst there may indeed be elements of truth in these negative portrayals, it must be acknowledged that Imizamo Yethu is a cultural kaleidoscope teeming with dynamic, complex and vibrant facets. To depict only its darkness is to suppress the beauty of its light.

Brick by brick, many of the structures that surround us were built – brick by brick, these six men of Imizamo Yethu are being given a chance to be the architects of their futures, the builders of their dreams.

My interest in this project is purely personal - I can't claim any involvement with the wonderful work that is being done, apart from popping in with the occasional supply of sandwiches and other snacky rations for the hungry men. For more information, please consult the HBCCA's website (, they truly are a beacon of hope to countless people in this community and any support would be deeply appreciated.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Bedazzlement at the Baphumelele Community Project!

Khayelitsha is one of Cape Town’s largest informal settlements, a maze of corrugated iron and tangled telephone wires, and is the scene of my second outing in the name of HAHA (Help Another Human or Animal). As I navigated my dotty way to the Baphumelele Community Project and Children’s Home, I was able to take in a few of the sights, sounds and smells of this intriguingly vibrant place.

The streets are a writhing mass of enterprise and activity, as shopkeepers hope to sell anything from tired vegetables and scraggly chickens to defeated-looking sofas and battered kitchen sinks. The odd, bony cow lethargically chews its cud, observing the bustle it is surrounded by with bored and disinterested eyes, whilst dogs of every description and uncertain breed scratch, yowl and bark in general merriment. Children run, hop, skip and jump everywhere you look, their clothes dusty with play and their eyes bright with mischief.

As one drives along the incoherent tangle of streets, one sees sights such as the proprietor of the ‘God Bless Customers Barber Shop’ standing languidly in the doorway of his establishment, waving occasionally to a friend walking by, comb and scissors in hand. On almost every corner there skulks an illegal drinking tavern or Shebeen, spilling recklessly onto the sidewalk, its flimsy walls seemingly alive and throbbing with the pulse of the music and alcohol that courses through its veins.

The impression that struck me most powerfully was that, despite its rampant poverty, Khayelitsha somehow manages to retain an air of optimism; whilst being fully aware of the squalour and hardship that characterises it, this place and the people who live there somehow seem to remain incomprehensibly upbeat. It is unquestionable that the suffering and impoverishment of Khayelitsha’s inhabitants is very real, yet it is as though they still manage to find some essence of hope and joy in the midst of their desperate struggle to survive.

As much as I was enjoying marveling at everyday Khayelitsha life and being continually astonished by the baffling assortment of canine species on display, I was in fact attempting to reach Baphumelele. This was rendered somewhat difficult, due to my GPS’ evil delight in directing me into solid and impassable obstacles, resulting in a heated battle of wills between an automated female voice and myself.

After being steered into an assortment of walls/ditches/informal cattle pens, a friendly passer-by saw my despair and kindly directed me onto the correct route. At long last I was nearing the Baphumelele Children’s home, a remarkable place that was established over twenty years ago by the extraordinary kindness of one very special lady.

At last! BAPHUMELELE! Victory!

You will probably not have heard of Rosie (or Rosalia Mashale, to be precise) before. You may not know her story of sacrifice or her tale of compassion. A trained primary school teacher, she moved from the Eastern Cape to Khayelitsha in 1989, and upon her arrival she quickly became aware of the plight of her new community. Instead of briskly looking the other way, she chose to face the harrowing problem of child abuse, abandonment and destitution squarely in the eye.

Sleeping on the floor of her own house, Rosie took in children who had nowhere to call their home. Her vision was not grand, it was simple: where there was pain, she sought to relieve it, where there was no hope, she would provide.

Today, Baphumele is an iconic symbol of her selfless dedication to protect children for no reason other than that was what her heart compelled her to do. 

Starting within the four walls of Rosie’s home, her vision has expanded to a sprawling, interlinked complex of structures, each serving a specific function and addressing a particular area of need. A brick-and-mortar tribute to the enormity of her compassion, these buildings now provide a place of safety to some 106 children, aged 0 – 18. 

Here, they can play, live, learn and revel in the ultimate luxury of childhood – being free and being unafraid. Within the walls of Baphumelele and under the watchful eye of Rosie's team, these children are secure in the knowledge that they have not been forgotten, they are important and have a future that is worth fighting for.

I had the privilege of being given an in-depth, guided tour of Baphumelele by the charming and eloquent Sisi Noni. Bustling with the authoritative pride of a beaming Mother Hen, she took me to see the houses where the children are accommodated and explained to me the core philosophies that underscore the manner in which these vulnerable little humans are cared for within Baphumelele, in accordance with the wishes of their prima-matriarch, Rosie.

Sisi Noni waves a cheerful HELLO!

Ani and the wonderful Sisi Noni

The emphasis is at all times to recreate the feeling of home – no more than 8 children per “cluster house” of which there are eleven in total, boys and girls looked after in separate buildings. 

Each house has a dedicated roster of caregivers who take shifts to ensure that there is always someone on site to look after the children, whether it be to make breakfast in the cold mornings before schooltime or to read stories in the evenings when another day is done. Baphumelele employs a total of 45 caregivers in order to be able to give the children focused attention and dedicated care, having recently taken on an extra 15 personnel so as to lighten the load somewhat.

The buildings each have their own character, which is often influenced by the donor that had made its existence a possibility; for example, the Holland House proudly represents its heritage with its fluttering flag and bold Netherlands-orange walls.

The American Consulate of Cape Town sponsored the Infant and Toddler facility (the 12th house, accommodating 16 tiny humans), and this cheerful, Jungle Book themed building is alive with murals of Baloo, Mowgli and friends. The infants who are now lovingly watched over and cared for in the safety of their painted jungle did not always have the luxury of warmth or the promise of comfort. They may in fact have had nowhere to go, after being found huddled in plastic bags in litter-strewn alleys or swaddled in blankets on train station benches, had the community not known that there was at least one place where these babies would be welcome, one place that would take them in - Baphumelele.

A sense of warmth and innocence pervaded each of the houses I visited, elements that are so essential for the growth and development of any child. Teddy bears sit happily on sofas, seemingly content and looking forward to watching their favourite TV programme later on in the day; the comforting aromas of a homecooked meal linger in the kitchen; the bright crayon scribbles of drawings adorn the walls; a scuffed table and rickety chairs stand ready and waiting for young minds to arrive from school and huddle over their homework. Beds are neatly made, soccer boots stand dutifully at the door – these aren’t the cold, neglected quarters of orphans or abandoned children; these really are homes, lit from within by the enormous empathy of people who work there.

In order to maintain its reputation as a place whose doors are always open to destitute children in need of shelter, Baphumelele relies very heavily on the contributions made by donors. Baphumelele receives a woefully meager allowance from the South African government, as is the case with many such organisations, with the Department of Social Welfare only providing an estimated 30 - 35% of each child’s costs. Baphumelele is entirely reliant upon donations to make up for the remainder of the expenses associated with caring for its children, and their excellent website ( details ways in which one can contribute to the various projects they run and specifies exactly where there greatest areas of need are.

When I asked Sisi Noni what ‘Baphumelele’ means, she hesitated for a moment, until a glint of defiance flickered across her eyes. “We have won!” she said, beaming with joy, “It means we have won!” A simple statement, powerful in its intensity, resonant with victory and pride.

What a fitting name for a place that represents triumph over despair and the overcoming of insurmountable odds; a place that in its 24th year may stand proudly, head aloft and declare that the abandonment and vulnerability of children will continue to be challenged and defeated by the power of one woman’s love.

I really had such a wonderful time at Baphumelele, thank you to Sisi Noni for being such an enthusiastic guide and hostess, she made me feel very welcome and gave me such an in-depth tour of the facilities! I will still post some excerpts of the tour, but for now here is a video of the talk I did for the children, which includes MAGIC, yes, MAGIC! (

The feathers obtained from Fred were all gathered with his consent, in fact he keeps a few of them for occasions such as these and only permits VERY SPECIAL humans to have them, because they are so powerful and shouldn't end up in the hands of rascals or scallywags. I would therefore like to clarify that no Golden Pheasants were harmed in the making of this video!

A few photos of my visit to Baphumelele:

Lots of Love and HAHA xxxxx Ani

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

HAHA Project: Jolly Times at James House

On a day as crisp and wonderful as a perfectly ripe Golden Delicious, I had the opportunity to spread some polkadotty love at the James House Child and Youth Care Centre. As a part of my recently launched and tremendously exciting HAHA Project, I’m endeavouring to visit various charities so as to raise awareness of the incredible work that they do, whilst also generally amusing/scaring everyone with my somewhat dotty sense of style.

James House, affectionately termed 'The Home That Love Built', was established in 1986 in Hout Bay, an intriguing and beautiful seaside village situated in a quiet corner of the Cape peninsula. Hout Bay is a unique microcosm of the problems and opportunities that South Africa faces as a country, given the glaringly disparate states of the living conditions that its residents either enjoy or endure.

A geographically compact place, Hout Bay is encircled by mountains except where it greets the sea, and within this confined space, prosperity and hardship dance an uneasy dance. Gleaming mansions, iridescent with wealth and material abundance, stand quite literally alongside crudely constructed informal structures that seem to sag under the weight of poverty and desperation, a paradox that inevitably leads to conflict and disharmony.

The bay of beauty

Thankfully, however, organisations such as James House exist to encourage a bridging of this divide, by caring for some of the most vulnerable members of this community, namely its abandoned, abused and neglected children. Named after the first child who benefited from its care, James House has gradually evolved from primarily serving as a place of safety for these destitute children, to developing various programmes that seek to address the broad range of challenges that face modern Hout Bay, including the devastating impact that HIV/AIDS has had on the village’s ever-growing informal settlement, Imizamo Yethu.

I was fortunate enough to speak to the lovely Pamela, who is instrumental in James Houses’ Isibindi programme, about the nature of the work that she is involved in. Isibindi is primarily focused upon protecting the rights of children in the Imizamo Yethu community, particularly those who have become tasked with being solely responsible for looking after their families due to the death of their parents. These so-called ‘Child Headed Households’ are a debilitating side-effect of the scourge that is HIV/AIDS, with an approximate 122 000 children in South Africa being said to have lived in such households in 2006 ( is an informative article on this problem).

Pamela explained to me that Isibindi is responsible for the care of thirteen such families in Imizamo Yethu, and provides crucial help to these young ‘surrogate parents’ by educating them as to their rights in respect of social grants, ensuring that there is adequate food for the family and following up on their progress at school. Perhaps most importantly, Pamela and her Isibindi team provide much-needed kindness and attention to the plight of these vulnerable young people who were flung into an abyss of heartache, poverty and desperation when they lost everything that was dear to them.

In a place where abundance and lack chafe awkwardly against one another, James House is a symbol of hope and love offered to children who had no say in where they were born. The jarring inequality that underscores Hout Bay’s identity is by no means unique to this small South African town. On the contrary, in every corner of this planet an unavoidable fact exists: some individuals will be lucky enough to enter a world of comfort and opportunity from the day of their birth, whilst the lives of others will predominantly constitute a grim struggle for basic survival, from their first day to their last.

Whilst this may seem to be a crushingly unfair inevitability, I believe that we retain the power to choose how to deal with this truth. We may elect to meet it with guilt, despair, despondence, apathy or an unconcerned shrug of our shoulders. Alternatively, we are free to interpret the imbalance that characterises our world as an opportunity for radical change and growth. We can challenge this status quo with empathy, resourcefulness, care and action - James House is just one example that bears testimony to the lives that are altered and the dreams that are re-awakened when the latter course is taken.

Here are a few very wonderful videos from my visit to James House. The first one is a general introduction (I unveil my theory that the world's troubles is the same as a giant muffin - a MUST WATCH revelation), the second video is of my  interview with the Very Lovely Pamela (there are some unscripted but very cute interruptions to proceedings) and the third is the brief talk I did for the children. 

A huge thank you to the very lovely cameraman (known only as 'Mr. Tom') for his patience, expertise and steady camera-hand. He endured all the madness that is inevitably present at an Ani Mallover gathering and somehow managed to still be smiling/alive/smiling-and-alive at the end of it all! A legend! A true legend he is!

If you would like to get involved with James House or find out more about ‘The Home that Love Built’, their contact details are as follows:
+27 21 790 5616

(All photos that include adorable kiddies were sourced from the James House facebook page and are not my own. Due to privacy concerns for the children, James House does not encourage photos of their little ones being taken and publicly distributed. At least, that's what I was told. Maybe they were like "Whoaaaah she's a crazy panda lady - no photos for her!", I'll never know....)

xxxx Lots of Love and HAHAING to you, Ani

Friday, 2 August 2013

What the HAHA is Ani on about?

HAHA is a universally recognised symbol of laughter. We’ve all enjoyed the benefits of a good, spontaneous HAHA, as our eyes crinkle at the corners, our mouths stretch into gleeful smiles and our ribs jerk in an uncontrollable fit of mirth. Yes, it is unquestionable – HAHA is good for you!

If you look anything like the pictures above - high five! You, my friend,  are a HAHA natural!

Admit it – you love a good HAHA. Cast your mind back. When was your last, good, hearty HAHA? Was it this morning, when you looked outside your window and happened to see the yellow-black-blur of motion that is a giant banana being chased by a gorilla (Yes - that has happened

Perhaps you could't muffle a HAHA when your great-uncle shared one of his favourite, cringe-inducing jokes at the last family gathering you attended (What goes HAHA bonk? A man laughing his head off!)?

Ladies (perhaps the odd gentleman too), do you HAHA in mild agony when you recall THAT time when a rogue gust of wind caused you to experience a wardrobe malfunction a-la-Marilyn Monroe, resulting in your lacy underwear being revealed to a larger audience than you had originally planned? It seems safe to conclude that, irrespective of its source or cause - a HAHA moment, is a happy moment. 

This is why I have chosen ‘HAHA’ as the name for the very lovely new project I’m launching. HAHA is a cunning acronym for ‘Help Another Human or Animal’ – genius, I know. 

HAHA - Help Another Human or Animal! GENIUS, no? Applause welcome!
The concept is simple – laughter, being the best medicine, is an effortless way of helping others, so when next you see a human/animal in need, be a Dr. Do-Good and administer a large dose of tickles/spontaneous tap-dancing and/or knock-knock jokes immediately. If you are able to accomplish all three at once, you will certainly have earned your black belt in HAHA.

It is my sincere belief that we all get too disheartened and too despondent about the enormity of the challenges facing our world, and consequently fail to recognise the opportunities that arise every day to make a difference in the lives of the people we come into contact with. This difference may not be an earth-shattering, ground-trembling, foundation-shaking alteration in the course of someone’s life, but if it adds one more smile to one person’s day, it is still a positive contribution. I completely agree with that most incredible of ladies, Mother Theresa, when she said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you”. Phrased slightly differently by a wise warthog – “Hakuna Matata and HAHA.” I'm sure he said that. 

We may not singlehandedly be able to eradicate world poverty, starvation, disease, illiteracy, cruelty or suffering, but we can pick a humble little flower for someone we care about and give it to them as a surprise at the end of a long day. We can smile at the waitress who serves us our breakfast and we can take the time to thank the lady who cleans the public bathroom we use. We can choose to slow down in the never-ceasing whir we call daily life to greet the elderly gentleman walking past us in the street, stooped and wise and longing for some acknowledgement that he is still alive, that he is still valued.

When in doubt, be like this sloth. This sloth is the business.
I will be giving you ideas of somewhat bizarre but splendid ways in which you can be a HAHA ambassador, ranging from making money grow on trees (YES you CAN!), leaving love notes on strangers’ car windscreens (not creepy love notes, LOVELY love notes to inspire, motivate and enthuse), as well as teaching you the secret to making magical smiling chocolates that you can distribute like a modern-day Willy Wonka of wonderment (Oompa Loompas are not essential for the completion of this task, but if you have some handy, that’s fantastic and please let me know where I can recruit a few).

I will also be visiting as many charities and NGO’s as I can to give you an insight into the amazing work being done by people who take HAHA to the next level and do so on a permanent basis. These persons radiate the spirit of HAHA with such dazzling intensity that their halos practically light up the sky. They are the glowworms of our world, shining love out of their illuminated bottoms (metaphorically speaking) to remind us of the potential in each of us to bring light to even the darkest of our problems. I will be focused predominantly on organisations that care for children or promote literacy, as well as conservation iniatives that aim to lend a helping paw to our fuzzier brethren.

My aim in visiting these charities and writing about their work is simply to remind you that although humanity is faced with great challenges, there is also a great commitment to overcoming them. When we are reminded of the good that people are doing, we inevitably feel empowered to make a HAHA contribution of our own, no matter how small. All of our little chuckles can join to form a great roar of laughter that ripples across the world. 

Change the world, one chuckle at a time.

What I hope to convey to you is that HAHA should essentially be perceived as a personal matter – what makes you HAHA, and how do you enjoy spreading the HAHA magic? We cannot all work for a charity, we cannot all dedicate our lives solely to helping other humans or animals – yet this does not preclude us from being able to add a dash of delightfulness to the world we are immediately surrounded by. 

This is what HAHA sets out to do. Simply, and cheerfully, to make the lives of other humans (and animals) just that LITTLE bit better. 

xxxx Ani

Here is a very HAHA video where I explain things a little further, hopefully it will show you the wildly wonderful world that awaits you once you make HAHA a part of your daily life! Let me tell you a secret. Spreading a HAHA a day will make you shine like a sun ray! Do it and see for yourself!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Born With a Horn to Die For: The Rhino's Dilemma

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children's children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” 
– Theodore Roosevelt 

The Rhinoceros is an odd-looking beast, a seemingly pre-historic phenomenon that lumbers contentedly through life in its leathery suit of wrinkled armour. It seems entirely plausible that these incredible animals have time-travelled from eons ago, walking the earth today as mere visitors from an ancient era. 

There is a placid air of relaxed confidence about the Rhino, a contented beauty in the way that their creased skin is mottled by the shadows of thorn trees, their heavy legs kicking up clouds of cinnamon-coloured dust. It as though they feel utterly comfortable within their bulky mass of grey, assured that their sheer enormity and imposing horns are protection enough from all manner of predators. How misplaced that confidence has proven to be. 

Man, that super-predator of incomparable cruelty, has proven the Rhino wrong. They are not infallible. The statuesque horns that the Rhinoceros employs as a means of protection against the threats occurring in nature are the very cause of its current vulnerability and exploitation – a grotesque irony.

Ruthlessly pursued and brutally slayed due to the insatiable greed that underscores modern society, the Rhino is but another victim on a staggering list of creatures teetering on the brink of obliteration. Our short-sighted, ravenous lust for wealth is causing us to rapidly and irreversibly bankrupt our planet of its beauty.

The statistics stand before us, shivering nakedly, exposed in their black and white revelation of a stark reality: Rhino poaching is on the rise, and rapidly so. In 2010, 333 Rhinos were killed. In 2011, 448. By the end of 2012, a total of 668 of these majestic symbols of Africa were slaughtered, at an average loss of nearly two Rhinos a day. We are but midway through the first month of 2013, and yet 5 Rhinos have already been deprived of the opportunity to live. An estimated 1654 Rhinos have been permanently removed from this earth since 2008, leaving only bloodied carcasses behind to remind us of our callous disregard for life.

Worryingly, it is widely held that these statistics may be an inaccurate representation of the true scale of the carnage, and similarly, population estimations are woefully out of date. As of 2010, South Africa had the privilege of offering a refuge to 18, 700 White Rhinos and 1900 Black Rhinos, yet the depths to which these numbers may have plummeted subsequently remains an uncomfortable unknown.

Despite its seemingly Jurassic appearance, all known facts would indicate that the Rhino is not a time-travelling dinosaur – it is a permanent resident of the here and now, and does not have the luxury of venturing back to a past where it was safe. It is our responsibility to ensure that the future which awaits it, and us, is a significant improvement on the present, lest it becomes as extinct as the ancient creatures it resembles.

And yet, why should we care? You may ask.
Does it really matter? You may wonder.
Will the world stop revolving, will the sun cease shining, will the stars plummet from the heavens should every last rhino vanish forever?

Of course not. You, your life, will continue unscathed. You will still have bills to pay, dogs to walk, jobs to do, children to feed, whether the Rhino lives to see another decade or not. So, why should you care?

You should care because you are a custodian and citizen of a planet that is like a shimmering ball of iridescent lights. Each plant, each animal, every organism that exists upon this earth is one of these lights, a glorious twinkle in a collective twinkling. Slowly but surely we are extinguishing these glowing embodiments of life, one by one, spark by spark, thereby dimming our world and robbing it of its lustre. At some point, we will be plunged into a darkness from which we cannot recover, dulled into a lifeless shadow from which we will never emerge.

You should care, because it is on your conscience – you know, you are empowered to make a choice. In this age of information, your complacence is a wilful decision, an informed apathy, you can no longer cling to the excuse that your inaction is an innocent oversight. Will you turn a blind eye as one more light is snuffed forever, or will you do what you can to ensure that it glows brightly and beautifully for many years to come? The Rhino awaits your answer. 

There are numerous websites that may be consulted in order to better understand the cause of the inordinate rise in poaching of the Rhino in recent times, and to engage in repetition of these facts here seems redundant. There are arguments and counter-arguments as to what would be the most feasible way to ensure their protection, all of which make for thought-provoking reading. I will post a list below of good resources to consult.
So what can you do now that your conscience has been stirred? There are numerous organisations desperate for support and there various means by which you can help. I have endeavoured to compile a list of reputable and effectual groups, given the slew of ‘conservation initiatives’ that may or may not actually do anything, and the following are well-respected protectors of the Rhino:
For the thrill-seeking among us, you can show your support for this horned beauty by leaping out of an aeroplane ( and South African residents may festoon their cars with a jaunty, bright red rhinose ( I am also currently working on a range of gift cards that will raise funds for all of the aforementioned charities, so keep your peepers peeled.

I am not an advocate for guilt or negativity, which is why you will not find a single photo of a grotesquely hacked rhino in this post. I feel we each have a choice, and can elect to appease our own sense of justice accordingly, without the aid of appalling visuals to spur us on.

I believe in cherishing and protecting this species, and all creatures, purely because it is a privilege to live alongside them on this spectacular earth. That is reason enough for me. I will honour their beauty, not exploit their suffering by eliciting shock-responses by photos of their abuse – there are ample places where these images can be viewed, I do not feel the need to do so here.

I have consciously elected to depict the Rhino as they should be, now and for all time to come, to remind us of what exquisite wildness we are trying to retain
. As Helen Keller said so many years ago, although the world is full of suffering, it also full of the overcoming thereof – it is this belief that I share, and this optimism that I seek to promote.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

You'll NEVER want to wake up from this Icedream!

Nestled in a quaint little corner of Hout Bay is a 'Gelateria' that will delight you with its charm and mesmerise you with its authentic Italian ice cream. This may well be the most delicious place where ‘Miranda the Polkadot Panda’ has made a habitat for herself, despite bamboo gelato sadly not being a flavour currently on offer. As the name of this well-loved establishment suggests, a visit to 'Icedream' will whisk you away to a flavour destination seemingly too wonderful to be occurring in waking life.

Even the Cappucinos are smiling at Icedream

Icedream is not merely an ice cream shop - it is a hallowed place where many tastebuds have come to rejoice in the glory of homemade gelato for nearly twenty years. A not-so-secret-best-kept-secret, worshipers from far and wide frequently make the pilgimmage to Mama Liana, Luigi and Fabrizio's cosy sanctuary for the senses.

Upon arrival outside, one is greeted by fluttering umbrellas, colourful tables and pots bursting with smiling petunias, welcoming one and hinting at the splendours that await within. Once inside Icedream, one is drawn impulsively closer by the magnetic allure of the gleaming ice cream counter in the centre of the shop, brightly illuminated and filled with a glorious rainbow of frozen delights. It is here that casual visitors are transformed into lifelong devotees, as they realise they have stumbled upon a holy gelato grail, waiting to be savoured scoop by delicious scoop.

Please be warned: The Ice Cream counter has a certain MAGNETIC POWER MERE MORTALS CANNOT RESIST
In this dark age of artificial colourants, synthetic flavours, hidden fats and sneaky sugars, Icedream proudly upholds the tradition of authenticity and natural goodness. Handcrafted with love, all of their gelato is made on the premises in a cherished Italian tradition and consists solely of organic, natural ingredients. With recipes handed down from generation to generation, Luigi and Fabrizio whip and whisk, churn and chill until sheer frozen perfection is achieved. Never again will you approach the humble ice cream in the same way again - your status as a Connoisseur of the Cone will make it impossible for you to so much as LOOK at any industrially manufactured frozen horrors.

An addiction you will never wish to be cured of 
All of the fruit used to make the sorbets is juiced freshly on the premises and converted into an icy tribute to nature. These delicate taste-sensations linger lightly on one’s tongue with a crisp, invigorating freshness and are the perfect accompaniment to a sunny day. Unforgettably, one is tantalised by the silky swirls of mango, the zesty vibrance of orange or the heady thrill of ginger.

The eggs used for the milk-based ice cream are laid by plump, free-range hens and all of the flavours – pistachio, hazelnut, chocolate, tiramisu to name but a few – are made from carefully sourced, pure ingredients. For example, Icedream’s voluptuous vanilla is dotted with specks of vanilla pod imported from Zanzibar, whilst the sensational Stracciatella contains splinters of the finest chocolate. Upon your first encounter with the melting miracles you encounter at Icedream, you may well be urged to pinch yourself to confirm that you are indeed awake, but there is no need for alarm – this is a perfectly normal response.

Perhaps what makes this gelateria truly special is that in contrast to the cold, icy delights that make them famous, each visitor to Icedream is treated to a warm, hearty welcome. Scarcely inside, the enthusiastic shouts of “Ciao! Bonjourno! Come stai?” will greet your ears, as ‘Mama Liana’, brother Luigi or son Fabrizio beckon you to enter this shrine of sweet delights. Whole generations have come regularly for their double scoops of heaven and generous portions of Italian hugs, and Liana has watched with fondness as little faces, scarcely able to see into the counter, inevitably return many years later to bring little faces of their own to press their noses eagerly against the glass and point excitedly at "the pink one! The PINK one, mommy, I want the PINK one!"

 Liana and Luigi - it's a wonder that the warmth of their smiles doesn't melt all the ice cream!

So, to sum up, to encapsulate, to conclude: if you wish to take your taste-buds to a dreamland they will never wish to emerge from – there is only one destination: Icedream, Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa, The World.

IceDream is situated in the Main Road of Hout Bay, next to the Luigi's Italian restaurant in a part of town locals refer to as "Little Italy". They are open seven days a week, so your craving can be satisfied on a daily basis. Call +27 21 790 2496 for any enquiries.