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  • Gemma Fottles

Amazing humans: Meeting Flora Modiba in South Africa

Updated: Aug 29, 2020

Travel inevitably involves meeting an abundance of people. You’ll probably make good memories with most, but few people leave an impression that will not fade. This isn’t necessarily a reflection upon a bland character. It’s just one of those things… an enduring impression is a unique thing to stumble across. 

So from the moment I met Flora Modiba, I knew that she was one of those unique souls. I was absolutely struck by her.

Pushing 70 years old, Flora is more mentally and physically active than most 21-year-olds I know. She wears a big smile and a big heart proudly on her sleeve and was kind enough to show me around her hospice project in Johannesberg: the Arebaokeng Hospice.

The hospice currently houses around 160 children, many of whom are orphans. Arebaokeng feeds them, gives them books and toys to play with, and contributes to the foundation of stability in the early stages of their life.

The women who run the hospice have got big plans for the future, and despite a few stumbling blocks, are confident they will get to where they need to be.

This hospice was founded by Flora and has grown substantially through nothing but hard work and perseverance. To meet someone so dedicated to the service of others for no reason other than that she cares was… I don’t know. It was something that’s certainly hard to put into words – at least words that escape tired cliches and a sense of pretentiousness. 

I’m not a fan of going into disadvantaged people’s lives and taking a look around whilst I’m travelling. I've heard the term 'poverty porn' knocking around and truly, that idea sickens me. It feels a bit too much like ‘Rich Westerner in ‘Is this really your life?!‘ When SPAR International informed me this would be our schedule for the day, this is where my mind ran to. I was uneasy about this whole experience. What good were we going to bring to these poor children? Or are we just there to look at them?

But with my visit to Arebaokeng, it felt different. I walked in and was blown away by the reality of many people’s situations in Johannesburg. Not just the reality of suffering that is so often portrayed of third world country’s in the Western media, but the reality of people who sacrifice everything in their lives to help others.

Meeting people like Flora, and all the people that work and volunteer at the hospice for that matter really is a rarity. To find this level of selflessness maybe it is necessary to remove yourself from the same old tired travel routes and backpacker hostels and go and experience a part of a country, culture or community that really makes a difference. After all, there’s more to exploring the world than a string of blurry faces and hazy memories – no matter how fun they were at the time. 

Travelling the world as a See the World with SPAR travel reporter over the past three months has been a wild adventure: but a selfish one. Entirely. And that's okay.

Not every single thing in your life has to be selfless, or contributing to the movement of a big cause, or helping people who are not as privileged as you. But meeting Flora Modiba and all of the amazing people who work for the Arebaokeng Hospice in South Africa also inspired me to start caring more. To take the time to listen to people's stories, and make a concerted effort to see all sides of the culture and society I am exploring, and not just see countries as bucket-list travel destinations with highlights to tick off along the way.

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