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30 September 2020 | Story Nitha Ramnath | Photo Supplied
SWSA represented by Mariné du Toit (left) and Lyshea Mapaike(right) at the handover of the funds raised

Sunflower Children’s Hospice, situated on the ground floor of the National District Hospital, is a non-profit organisation that provides care and compassion for all children with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions. As far as possible, the hospice aims to keep children within their families and communities, with relevant supervision and support.  However, the hospice is also a permanent residence to many children.

At Sunflower Children’s Hospice, children and their families are provided with:
• palliative care, including pain and symptom management;
• quality of life;
• relief of suffering;
• support for child and family/guardians;
• developmental stimulation;
• support during the bereavement period;
• dignity in death;
• community participation; and
• relevant training.

Due to limited funds, the hospice experiences many financial challenges, which motivated the Social Work Student Association (SWSA) to become involved. Their involvement led to the establishment of the ‘#Adoptaflower’ project by raising funds for the organisation and getting more Social Work students to spend time with the children, as they do not have enough caregivers at the house to give them the special personal attention that they need.  This project was spearheaded by Mariné du Toit, Portfolio Head: Community Upliftment of the SWSA. 

The fundraising initiative collected R1 300 from selling raffle tickets to the university community.  Due to COVID-19 and the lockdown period, it became impossible to proceed with the intention of the Social Work students to spend more time with the children.  

Besides Social Work students not being able to proceed with their intention of interacting more closely with the children concerned, the lockdown unfortunately also affected it negatively in other areas.  The hospice needs assistance with clothes, toiletries, and groceries. Sunflower House therefore needs funds and sponsors to continue providing services to so many children in need of care and support. For more information regarding public involvement, 051 448 3813 is the number to call. 

News Archive

“To forgive is not an obligation. It’s a choice.” – Prof Minow during Reconciliation Lecture
2014-03-05

“To forgive is not an obligation. It’s a choice.” – Prof Minow during the Third Annual Reconciliation Lecture entitled Forgiveness, Law and Justice.
Photo: Johan Roux

No one could have anticipated the atmosphere in which Prof Martha Minow would visit the Bloemfontein Campus. And no one could have predicted how apt the timing of her message would be. As this formidable Dean of Harvard University’s Law School stepped behind the podium, a latent tension edged through the crowded audience.

“The issue of getting along after conflict is urgent.”

With these few words, Prof Minow exposed the essence of not only her lecture, but also the central concern of the entire university community.

As an expert on issues surrounding racial justice, Prof Minow has worked across the globe in post-conflict societies. How can we prevent atrocities from happening? she asked. Her answer was an honest, “I don’t know.” What she is certain of, on the other hand, is that the usual practice of either silence or retribution does not work. “I think that silence produces rage – understandably – and retribution produces the cycle of violence. Rather than ignoring what happens, rather than retribution, it would be good to reach for something more.” This is where reconciliation comes in.

Prof Minow put forward the idea that forgiveness should accompany reconciliation efforts. She defined forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to forego rightful grounds of resentment towards those who have committed a wrong. “To forgive then, in this definition, is not an obligation. It’s a choice. And it’s held by the one who was harmed,” she explained.

Letting go of resentment cannot be forced – not even by the law. What the law can do, though, is either to encourage or discourage forgiveness. Prof Minow showed how the law can construct adversarial processes that render forgiveness less likely, when indeed its intention was the opposite. “Or, law can give people chances to meet together in spaces where they may apologise and they may forgive,” she continued. This point introduced some surprising revelations about our Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Indeed, studies do report ambivalence, disappointment and mixed views about the TRC. Whatever our views are on its success, Prof Minow reported that people across the world wonder how South African did it. “It may not work entirely inside the country; outside the country it’s had a huge effect. It’s a touchstone for transitional justice.”

The TRC “seems to have coincided with, and maybe contributed to, the relatively peaceful political transition to democracy that is, frankly, an absolute miracle.” What came as a surprise to many is this: the fact that the TRC has affected transitional justice efforts in forty jurisdictions, including Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Liberia. It has even inspired the creation of a TRC in Greensborough, North Carolina, in the United States.

There are no blueprints for solving conflict, though. “But the possibility of something other than criminal trials, something other than war, something other than silence – that’s why the TRC, I think, has been such an exemplar to the world,” she commended.

Court decision cannot rebuild a society, though. Only individuals can forgive. Only individuals can start with purposeful, daily decisions to forgive and forge a common future. Forgiveness is rather like kindness, she suggested. It’s a resource without limits. It’s not scarce like water or money. It’s within our reach. But if it’s forced, it’s not forgiveness.

“It is good,” Prof Minow warned, “to be cautious about the use of law to deliberately shape or manipulate the feelings of any individual. But it is no less important to admit that law does affect human beings, not just in its results, but in its process.” And then we must take responsibility for how we use that law.

“A government can judge, but only people can forgive.” As Prof Minow’s words lingered, the air suddenly seemed a bit more buoyant.

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