On the 15th of November, an anonymous donor paid R120,000 towards a crowdfund raising money for the forgotten Freedom Fighters.
South Africa – Sandy Lewis and Alice Banze have done something beautiful. Alice, a nurse navigator in the oncology department, met a freedom fighter who has had a very tough life. Mr Bangry Harold Matsidid, a 72-year-old man, was receiving treatment for prostate cancer when he met nurse Alice.
Nurse Alice spent many hours keeping Harold company while he sat through his radiation therapy. They spoke in depth about his life and she learned a great deal. Harold was one of the many Freedom Fighters imprisoned on Robben Island, he was released in 1990.
His mother died when he was a baby and Harold was sent to live with family. He spent his formative years bouncing from home to home, never knowing where he fit in. When he started high school, he was forced to relocate from the Alexandra township to Soweto. It was in Soweto he became exposed to the political climate of South Africa during the apartheid years.
He joined the liberation struggle and was eventually arrested, mercilessly tortured and imprisoned on Robben Island.
After the first ten-years of his release, Harold developed prostate problems. He underwent surgery to remove his prostate gland and life continued. In 2016, his symptoms returned and Harold was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
His world came crashing down, his lifelong hardship, along with what he saw as a death sentence, led him into a deep depression. Nurse Alice approached Sandy, who is the head of psychosocial and therapeutic services for the psychiatric division at the hospital where they work, for help.
Nurse Alice hoped to do something that would lift the spirits of Harold. Sandy encouraged Alice to ask Harold about what would help and he came up with the perfect idea.
“Harold gave this thought, and he has decided that what he would like is for us to help him set up a support group for twelve of his fellow Robben Islanders, all of whom are in the same situation that he is in – traumatised, marginalised, poor, with failing health and little access to medical care, but with a strong sense of loyalty, camaraderie and friendship.” – Alice Banze
The women set up the ‘Forgotten Freedom Fighters Fund’ which will be used to financially support the twelve Freedom Fighters. They created a BackaBuddy crowdfund and hoped for the best.
“I was most impressed with this wish, instead of asking for something selfish, Harold, in the true spirit of ubuntu, asked for something to benefit his fellows.”
“And so it came to pass that we set up our group of twelve. A more delightful group of men it would be hard to find. Despite their past suffering and difficult circumstances, they are dignified, resilient, well-informed, highly principled and full of humour. Our meetings are filled with fun and laughter, despite the sadness inherent in each man’s story. Their commitment to helping each other is humbling. They worry not for themselves, but for their families and for their comrades who have fallen onto such hard times that some have to live under bridges like hoboes.
The fund we are wanting to set up is for medical care, trauma counselling, food, transport to the group meetings as well as hospital or other medical appointments, and for shelter if one of their comrades has become totally indigent or substance dependent (very common among war veterans). It might include stretching to a treat like lunch or an outing, delights that many of these men have never experienced.” – Sandy Lewis
On the 15th of November, the fund received a very generous donation, a total of R120,000.00. The amount is enough to help each of the Freedom Fighters with many of their needs. It is unclear who made the donation, all the donor said was “The prize of our freedom”.
“When last I saw Harold a few weeks ago he was looking so much better. I complimented him on how good he looked and he responded by saying, “well, I have my support group and two ladies in my life now who have given me hope and a second chance at life.” – Sandy Lewis
If you would like to support the group’s fund, you can do so here. You can hear their stories below.