I had given up on life, says beggar as he starts his first job
06 July 2015, 13:14
Johannesburg - A few days ago, Joseph Phukubje was one of scores of South Africans who beg at street corners in Johannesburg, but on Monday the bright young man starts his first job.
It is all thanks to Pamela Green, a Good Samaritan who decided to give her time and attention to Joseph.
"I am excited. I am over excited," Phukubje said on Friday.
"There's been a lot of changes since I met her. She has shown me a different point of life, a meaning to life and what I can live for. Actually I had given up on life, but she made me see it's still too early and I am still young. I can have a second chance."
Dressed in a grey sweater and blue plants, Phukubje sways back and forth on the bench where he sits next to Green. His lips are dry. He admits he has been addicted to crystal meth for a long time.
"I have been trying to stay clean... I have been having withdrawals from not using," Phukubje says.
Green, who often does volunteer work, says when she met Phukubje two weeks ago, it felt as though their paths were destined to cross.
Phukubje, from KwaNdebele in Mpumalanga, had been standing at a corner in Sandton with his matric certificate and CV in hand, begging for a job.
‘There was something about him
"After I drove away from the robot that he was standing at, I actually kept my eyes on the rear view mirror. There was just something about him," Green says.
"A few negative events in my life [that] week had brought me to that robot and I was trying to figure out why all these events had taken place, and when I saw Joseph I kind of knew that that's why I needed to be at the robot at the time and go and speak to him."
She turned around and went to speak to Phukubje. He told her how he left his grandmother, mother, sister, and older brother to come to Johannesburg in search of a job after completing matric. His father was hardly ever present in his life.
Things did not work out as planned and Joseph ended up living on the street.
"When I woke up, I would go get something to eat, then hustle and also try to feed my addiction," Phukubje says.
On many days, he would return empty-handed to the bridge where he slept.
"Most of the days are like that. There is nothing... You just survive. You just hope that the next day, maybe you will meet someone [who will help]."
‘Like you’re not human’
Life on the streets was never easy.
"Most of the people think you want to steal from them. Some of them would just hide their bag while you are trying to talk to them. It makes me feel angry and frustrated and sometimes you end up saying something which is not right to the person because he treats you like something else... Like you are not human and that's not okay."
Green reassured him that he does matter.
"You are human. We are all human. Some of us are just struggling while some of us are fortunate, and even some of the fortunate ones are struggling, but we are all human. It doesn't matter where you stay. You are human," she tells Phukubje, looking into his eyes.
Green shared his story on her Facebook page and asked her friends to get him a job. Within hours, the post had gone viral and job offers began pouring in. Days later, Joseph landed a job as a call centre consultant for a company in Centurion.
Pamela Green and Joseph Phukubje (Naledi Shange, News24)
Offers to study
The bright, well-spoken 22-year-old plans to study sales and marketing next year.
Another Good Samaritan has offered to pay his tuition.
Since meeting Green, Phukubje has moved from the bridge to a dilapidated building he shares with other homeless people, most of whom use drugs. He plans to stay there until he receives his first salary and can move into his own place.
In the meantime, Green collects clothing and blankets for him and provides what she can financially.
Asked how his friends feel about his change of fortune, Phukubje says he has not shared the news with many, but some of those who know him have been inspired to make something of themselves.
While the offers of help continue to pour in for Phukubje, Green says there have been a few negative remarks.
"There have been quite a few negative people on the original [Facebook] post, that have brought to light Joseph's addiction and other people living on the streets' addiction and untoward behaviour... stealing etc and to all those people and all those negative comments, I do understand it," she says.
Basic human right
"It is very easy for us to stand from a higher place and look down on people living on the streets, people who are using and people who are stealing and living lives of crime. But I think it's so important to realise that we don't understand what it's like to have to lower our own dignity to a point where we are begging to survive. These guys are not begging for luxuries. They are begging for a blanket, they are begging for food, they are begging for a roof over their heads, for basic human rights that they are being robbed of by circumstance.
"If the roles were reversed and I was on the street, I would probably be using and on the street as well," she says.
Green has been involved in several projects, helping those less fortunate than herself. While she may not always be able to give money, she tries to give of her time.
Phukubje says what has happened shows that "with God, anything is possible".
After not having had any contact with his family for months, Phukubje is trying to get back in touch with them.