Deeply touching letters between deon pretorius in Cape town and katie stafford in scotland
UPDATE 19/06/19 ( SEE ORIGINAL STORY BELOW IN THE FORM OF LETTERS TO AND FROM DEON )
in the last2 weeks Deon was able to to fortuitously find accomodation at around half the average price (R2000 vs R4000 in the area he needs to work. And even more fortuitously find meaningful solid full time employmentas a TAXIFY driver. A very generous landlord in fact collected Deon from his shelter to help him move and insisted there would no room accomodation deposit ( in cape town deposits are very high and can be 2 or 3 months ) Deon had carefully managed to save a good sum of about R8000 toward such deposit (though it would not cover food ) over almost year of working whilst in shelter , but in end this fortuitous set of circumstances precluded that neccessity ) .
So in fact Everyting that has brought Deons insecurity to an end did in fact not need others financial support though we had no way of knowing this would happen . This is really a testimony to how communication and deep honestly and lack of judgement, and especially LISTENING to people in vulnerable positions can have such a powerful effect.
The GO FUND me link below however will give Deon the chance to catch up with basic neccessetities and put some money perhaps in savings . One sees over and over vividly how without savings, and by suddenly losing employment anyone is one day away from possible homelessness.
Thank you Katie and Deon for your permission to publish. We hope the extraordinary content humanises that much more our perspective on the deeply challenging factors of homelessness and shelter life in cape town south africa
The result of this was partly Katies wonderful GO FUND Me for Deon can see here
I was raised in the 1970s and 1980s in a Christian household, with a good education for the time. My parents were divorced during a very young age, and my mother and grandmother were my role-models during my upbringing, equipping me with required life-skills since a very young age, that (what I believe) have been instrumental in the building of my personality and perseverance to be the best person I can be, guided by the Almighty. Unfortunately my mother was diagnosed with cancer at age 53, and sadly passed away when I was in my pre-final year at school at age 16 in 1986. But by the Grace of the Almighty with my grandmother then taking the role of my mother, I finished school successfully with a matric in 1987.
After school I did national service in the SA Airforce band for two years, prior to commencement of my studies in Science at Stellenbosch University since 1990. I was fortunate to succeed through my tertiary education in Science without fail - through faith, perseverance and hard work.
Upon completion of a Master of Medicine in Medical Biochemistry in 1995, I pursued a doctorate study in molecular biology in Zürich, Switzerland. However, I realised it was too soon after completion of a Masters' dissertation, and decided to return to Cape Town to pursue a career in sales and marketing.
After more than four and a half years in the various industries I worked in sales and marketing (from industrial chemicals to pharmaceuticals), the "academic bug" started nibbling on me again, and I was fortunate enough to be able to enrol full-time for a PhD study in Medical Science (Human Genetics) during 2000 at Stellenbosch University, with a stipend and grants that enabled me to complete my doctoral studies in under four years in 2003. The PhD dissertation was on the investigation of genetic susceptibility of HIV and disease progression to AIDS in African populations in South Africa. Results from this study awarded me the very fortunate opportunity to present the majority of my PhD work at major prestigious scientific conferences on HIV/AIDS in Barcelona, Spain (2002) and Bangkok, Thailand (2004).
After I qualified as human geneticist (PhD) I completed my initial postdoctoral fellowship in HIV Immunology at the University of KwaZulu Natal (2004) followed by a second postdoctoral fellowship in Cardiovascular Physiology at the University if Cape Town (2003-2004).
It was during this time that I realised my passion was more in the commercial field in sales & marketing, and I pursued working in sales & marketing in biotechnology products. I have mainly been working in the Forensics and Biotechnology industries (biological, agricultural and medical sciences). After some time as sales consultant in this industry, I was approached by another company to become national sales manager for this company, followed by becoming brand manager (for sub-equatorial Africa) for a major international company, which is the last position I held until 2014.
During this time and being in a long-term partnership of close to 15 years, I was fortunate to build a successful life, with property and moveable assets as well as a prosperous financial portfolio.
I have walked a very difficult path over the past 5 years since 2014, to the point where I'm at currently - being homeless and basically penniless... but fortunately, only just, not on the streets as I have been staying in homeless shelters since December 2017.
I am trying to get back on my feet - but it is not easy to get a reliable income source - especially as I have experienced and realised as a Caucasian male over 45 years in South Africa - regardless of education level or experience.
Depression, bad decisions and negative influences caused me to end in the very unfortunate situation that I currently find myself in being homeless, primarily after basically losing everything... with hardly anything to live from, and staying in a shelter for homeless people. Fortunately I maintained my dignity and self-worth throughout, and I believe my situation is primarily as a result of losing my long-term relationship of almost 15 years in 2013, and subsequently my prosperous career a year later.
But I'm surviving - by the Grace of The Almighty...
The current situation that I am trying to deal with after staying in a shelter for an extended period has put me in a position which forced me to reach out for assistance, as shelters are temporary and I need to move on.
I need to go for a medical operation on the 22nd May, and that I would need a place to stay to recover fully, and it would be almost impossible to find a suitable option before the time or shortly after the operation because of limited available time, and also affordability of a suitable place to move to.
From a job-perspective, after several months of continuously searching for positions in anything related to the biotechnology and sales industry which I have several years' experience in, and even also to some extent in the academic environment from where I qualified, I have not been successful in landing a suitable position. However, I was fortunate - and very grateful - to have had a short 6 month EPWP (extended public works project) contract at the City of Cape Town as access controller / cashier at the Muizenberg pool. This enabled me to make some savings - although this is not enough for me to move from the situation which I am in, and being able to move out of the general shelter environment - which has had its benefits of an affordable place of safety, and where food was included in the relatively low "rental" rate.
I therefore just need a "new lease" on life and support from people that care - and help where possible to get back on track and into main-line society.
A possible future....
In addition to finding an affordable place to move from where I am at present in the shelter, my vision in terms of career possibilities are as follows:
My immediate aspirations to try make a difference to my situation, is as follows...
- to get involved in community projects where I can be of help to youth and people that find themselves in similar positions that I have experienced;
- to get involved in education of youth and young adults in drug education, and using my own recovery and sobriety over the past two years, after being afflicted by this unfortunate "demon" for almost 3 years - which was ultimately the cause of my downfall as a result of wrong choices and negative influences;
- to perhaps do a TEFL course to become a English foreign language instructor which could assist me in possibly relocating to the Asian continent to be a language tutor;
- to perhaps do a tourism course to utilise my PrDP drivers license as driver in the Western Cape tourism.
Therefore, any assistance from outside positive people and influences would be appreciated to help me to make an improvement to the situation which I find myself in at present.
My contact Nr is 0812611638 (Whatsapp and telephone)
Thank you in advance for caring and understanding the predicament which I find myself in.
My name is Katie and I am a friend of Mike Irwin.
Mike shared with me today, the letter your wrote: “The Rise and Fall of Deon Pretorius” - firstly I would like to thank you for putting your story into words.
What can I say?
Will they be helpful to you?
I hope so...but may be not.
I wish though, that the least I might be able to do, is to help you feel that it was worth writing your letter.
I’ve had experience personally with addiction...as Mike said to me, who hasn’t? All of us are addicted in some way to some thing...perhaps not always obvious things, drugs and alcohol, but addicted none the less, to whatever it is that fills the void.
For me the void is the space between my heart and mind. It doesn’t seem to matter what I poured into that space, it could never be filled.
Letting go of and healing from addiction was a process of recognition. Seeing that I needed to build a bridge between those two places, my heart and mind and that only by connecting the two could I be free of the vacuum.
Back to you.
Your mind is marvellous.
Your academic career is truly amazing...such success and with such a clear and acute brilliance in one subject. My mother would have been so interested to speak with you about your career.
My mother had a fierce intelligence. Beyond anyone I have met since.
She valued education as it was her means of escape from an oppressive life and she managed to leave the UK and work in Tanzania when she was only 18 years old. A trail blazer.
I’ve taken a detour...kind of. But speaking about my mother, who passed away at 57 years old, brings me to something I felt in your words.
I’m so sorry you lost your mother, at 16 years old. I am so happy too, that your grandmother did such a good job, but that doesn’t make the loss of a mother any easier for a young boy. And that’s what you were....sure, growing up into a fine man, but not fully grown.
Grief is a pain that leaves us only when it is ready and the process is different for us all.
Oftentimes, we are shocked and perhaps the pain is too great to process at the time.
We can busy ourselves or pour our attention into other activities.
Our bodies too, are compassionate and will hold the grief for us...but not forever. At some point the pain comes knocking on the door and asks to be recognised.
Drugs can be the thing, in those moments, which quite literally numb the pain.
The pain can be old and therefore beyond our ability to perceive where it comes from...we just know that it hurts and we’d like it to stop.
The self-destruct button kicks in and then suddenly we find ourselves standing in a life we don’t recognise and wondering how the hell we got there.
The simple answer is that we need to be loved. The long answer is that we must learn how to do that for ourselves and then it will flow sincerely from others.
I think your story is a beautiful example of the truth of love; That no matter what class or religion or culture we belong to, we can all fall into the same addiction trap.
Your story can touch many, because you describe it so honestly and it shatters society’s misconceptions that only the “poor and uneducated” use drugs.
To my mind’s eye...it is those who are hurting who use drugs. It is those people who feel overwhelmed or suffocated by feelings they can’t express. Perhaps a grief that can’t be located, because it is buried so deeply in the body and mind that we don’t even know it is there.
Drugs kill the pain or fill the void that is created by the absence of love, the loss of it, the lack of it - usually, right at the bottom...at the root of all of that, it is ourselves that we don’t love.
This is human nature.
This is a basic human right, I feel.
At least I make the wish daily, that all beings have sufficient.
This list is what all beings need to remain healthy and make good decisions.
I am so impressed that you have managed to maintain sobriety whilst moving between hostels and living without basic security.
This speaks volumes about your character Deon.
It speaks to me of a man who has a determination and a purpose which can inspire others and although it may not be exactly clear to you right now, how this purpose might play out....I would urge you not to stop dreaming of ways to build a new life.
Have faith in yourself.
I wish you so well on this part of your journey.
Also, I will be thinking of you during your surgery and I hope that it goes well and you heal quickly.
Lots of love and many blessings to you Deon Pretorias.
May you rise again!
Wow... Thank you so much for the awesome mail - and words of inspiration! I truly appreciate your sincere words - and honesty - about my life and situation which I find myself in!!
However, the void about where I am heading into the future is unavoidable, and kind words (whomever express them, as I've experienced from so many...) unfortunately do not change the immediate situation that I am finding myself in.
Therein lies the problem in moving out of the situation with so many factors one faces on a daily basis...
- Constant judgement;
- Suppressed love... and a lack of love received from ones I care for so dearly;
- Uncertainty about a safe space to move to in a very short space of time - and the affordability thereof;
- No clarity about any career in the foreseeable future;
- A lack of support - and very limited finances
And the list continues...
Anyhow, I believe through faith and perseverance - and maybe prayer? - things will work out the way the Almighty planned it for each one of us... It is just the uncertainty (and of course, a lack of patience...) which are probably the most challenging obstacles to contend with.
Again, thank you for your very welcome words - and I wish you a happy week ahead.
Best regards and light
Good morning Deon,
Thanks for replying to me so swiftly.
To be honest, I feel a bit embarrassed, because as you so rightly point out, no amount of platitudes about voids that need filling, is going to change your situation.
It is luck, chance, good fortune, magic and in the Buddhist sense, karma, that can create an opening for you.
I get the feeling, for what it's worth, that your solidity and honesty ca create those conditions.
Can you tell me, what the simplest and most basic way forward would be for you right now? For example: how much is a TEFL course? Is there any means of receiving a scholarship or some form of sponsorship for it? What basic tools are you lacking that might open doors?
I'm asking because I have planned, a bit of a crazy mission.
On June the 21st, I plan to run 44 miles, over night - the length of peninsula that I live on. I've spent the last few months trying to figure out what I should raise money for.
I haven't yet committed to anything.
I have no idea how much I could raise.
I live in a very small community in the Scottish Highlands but people can be surprisingly generous- one never knows.
I do have a few global-friends whom would support me too.
So I wonder. The TEFL course. Is there a centre that you could attend? How much would it cost? Could we aim to raise the money? Is that realistic? Would gaining the certificate be something that could offer you a genuine step back into the world of employment?
Sincerely, I would be happy to do this - to raise money with the run and put it towards your plan. I only have four weeks to promote it though. This is fine but to do it I would need you and Mike to put together some kind of brief testimony. Who you are and what you wish to do. I have a "gofundme" page that I have filled in but not activated because for whatever reason, I didn't know what or whom I wanted to help - there are so many different people and causes that it seems like a drop in the ocean.
It feels right though...that helping one person meaningfully, is a way of helping more. I don't want to give money to a faceless charity.
If this is helpful to you, please discuss with Mike and let me know how to proceed. I would need a photograph of you and the bio as we mentioned.
I can't promise that I can raise a vast fortune or even meet the fees, but in your case then I think that something is better than nothing....we can aim to keep going until we reach the required amount.
Think to about what the best thing is, for you to invest in right now and let me know.
Looking forward to hearing from you,