This is part two of my interview with Confidence. If you missed part one you can read it here.
"Sometimes it was hard to listen in class but I always called my crying tummy to order."
- Confidence TshivhulaConfidence answers my questions thoughtfully, slowly and carefully pausing to contemplate each answer before replying. I can tell that certain topics are difficult for her to talk about. Here is more of her story.
Eventually Confidence got an electrician to reconnect the lights in her shack but she still had to endure the dirt floor, the holes in the walls, the door that she couldn't lock, the rats and the faulty roof. Because she couldn't lock the door and was afraid, Confidence stopped sleeping at the shack, using it only as a place to store her belongings, and began sleeping in the lecture halls at school. After studying at the library until late at night, she'd go to her hiding spot for a few hours sleep. Other students sometimes noticed that she hadn't changed her clothes from one day to the next but when they commented she told them she "didn't like washing clothes."
Confidence had no money to buy food and went days without eating. At night she would visit a nearby market after closing and search the bins for discarded food. Sometimes she'd find carrots and tomatoes still fresh enough to eat. Sunday was her favorite day as lunch was served following the church service she attended. She volunteered for the task of washing lunch dishes so she could eat the leftover food from people's plates.
I asked Confidence how she was able to concentrate in class and sleep at night when she was so hungry. She said it was difficult at first, but after a while her body adjusted, "I wasn't used to food anymore." Although now her situation has improved she says she cares little about eating and doesn't have the same appetite that she used to.
One night Confidence returned to her shack to retrieve some clothes and her landlord was there waiting for her. He was tired of her late rent payments and he chased her away. Confidence begged him to allow her wait until morning to move out but he would not and so in the middle of the night she went to stay at the home of her church pastor and his family.
Confidence loved and admired the pastor and his wife and she was happy for the chance to live with them and be a part of their family. But instead of treating her like family she says that they treated her like a servant. While she was allowed to live in their house rent free, she was expected to do all of the cleaning and housework. The family had a washing machine but Confidence was not allowed to use it and had to wash her own clothes by hand. They also did not share any of their food with her. When she talks about this time I get the feeling that living with the pastor was a more difficult experience for her than living in the shack as she was so hurt and disappointed by people she thought were nice but proved not to be genuine. After three months Confidence moved out of the pastor's home and she no longer attends that church.
She was also disappointed and surprised by behavior displayed by some of her fellow classmates. She witnessed students dressed in fancy clothes and shoes that she describes as "breathtaking" being dropped off at school in expensive cars. At first she thought these students were being dropped off by their parents but later she realized that some of them had much older boyfriends who were paying for a high end lifestyle in exchange for sex and younger companionship.
Since her first year at varsity (she is now in her third year) Confidence's financial situation has improved a bit thanks in part to a monthly stipend of R500 (approximately $35) that she she receives from the Edu Fun Further Education Program (FEP.) Edu Fun is the same organization that I volunteer with at the Diepsloot Combined School (DCS) helping younger children with their English. Through the FEP arm, Edu Fun supports approximately twenty varsity students all graduates of DCS. The students receive a stipend to help them with food, transport and living expenses while they are at university. Confidence didn't learn about FEP until she was in her second year of varsity. Edu Fun's website seems to be under construction currently but here is a link to the Facebook page.