A Community within Walls

A Community within Walls

Posted by Bronwyn Newnham on

This choir is a group of young people who live inside a slum in a South African city. Many of them have lost both parents and look after younger siblings. They do not have access to running water or electricity or have the opportunity to isolate themselves. I love their joy and courage and I hope they are ok.

These days of staying home have brought me memories of myself growing up.

I was born in South Korea. My dad was an Australian doctor working in a small field hospital in a small rural town of Ch'ong Ju. 

We lived within a big Mission Compound with high walls, a gate and gatekeeper. This was a strange life, but as a child I loved it, I felt safe. There was a heap of kids and we could roam anywhere within those walls and we had so much fun doing so. I remember playing in the bamboo forest and riding my bike everywhere with freedom. 

It was so different when we ventured outside the walls of the compound.

Both North and South Korea had suffered deeply through a three-year civil war. The UN, China and Russia became involved to fight on opposite sides.  At the end of the war, more than 3 million Korean people had died and no city on the Korean Peninsular was left standing.  When peace was declared the south Korean leader was not signatory to the treaty.

There was a justified and deep resentment at the manner in which the UN soldiers had treated the Korean people during the conflict, and the division of the Korean Peninsula into two distinct nations without South Korean consent.

We lived a safe and privileged life inside the mission compound, outside the walls the disparity was very real and the colour of my skin marked me as having more.

I remember once riding my bike across town. I was in the care of the night watchman, he was just ahead of me on his big bike. The street was very crowded, not with cars but with people and oxen and carts and market stalls. In this crowded and noisy street, I was the only blonde, white freckled person. A man near me used his hand cart to push me off my bike and into the sewer running next to the road. It was a Korean man who pushed me into the sewer and another Korean man who kindly pulled me out of the sewer and took me home.

There is kindness to be found within every community.

I have always cringed when I see anyone treat a different group of people as a collective 'They' or talked with anyone who felt that another group of people were somehow less worthy of respect and inclusion. I think we have an ingrained feeling that a community with more wealth has somehow evolved into a better society. 

We are all just trying to find our way through this complicated life. Our colour and language may be different but our DNA is the same. We are all connected whether we are aware of it or not. 

I think the Corona Virus may have taught us that the walls we build or the lines we have on a map are all man made and illusionary. We are all deeply connected despite our differing recipes and language and religions. The only way we are going to be safe is if we learn to cooperate and respect each other, despite our differences, neighbour to neighbour, community with community and nation with nation.

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  • So so true, my friend!!
    I didn’t know you grew up in Sth Korea?? You’ve probably told me, and I don’t remember!!
    An interesting life, for sure!!

    Bev S on
  • Beautiful Bron. Thanks for sharing. Xo

    Debbie Brewster on

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