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The Story of Michelle

michelleThousands of commuters pass her every day in Tokai and some might pause to wonder what drives a young lady to beg at the traffic lights, come rain, come shine.

I stopped and spoke to her today, this is her story:

A will to survive against the bad luck sent her way, a will to provide for her children and disabled husband who have come to rely on her for their everything, is what drives her there. Some people will give generously and some will buy the packets of biscuits she sells for a meagre profit, but most will not look her in the eye and rather drive away.  Understandable, it’s too hard to engage with such a sad scenario and one that represents everyone’s worst fears.

A few years ago Michelle’s husband became ill and is now confined to a wheelchair – unable to do much and certainly not able to work.  They gambled everything on a move from the Free State to an easier life in the Western Cape.  Responding to an ad on Gumtree for a house to rent, they were scammed of their life savings and ended up living in a car in Sea Point – Michelle, Clive and their five children – born when times were happier and more optimistic.

People complained and of course they had to move.  From one cheap rented accommodation to another, in parts of the city that exposed them and their children to addicts, gangsters and prejudice.

With help from the community Clive applied for and now receives a disability grant and there are also benefits paid for the children, but it’s only just enough to keep a roof over their heads in yet another poor part of the city where Michelle fears daily for the safety of her children.  Whatever Michelle makes from selling her biscuits goes towards extras like food on the table, nappies and school supplies.  Some days are better than others but Michelle has also now been robbed of her cellphone – a simple luxury she cannot afford to replace.

She doesn’t want much more than to be able to provide for her children, keep them safe and ensure they finish their schooling, and feels that by selling biscuits she has raised herself above the status of ‘beggar’.  So please, if you can bring yourself to do it – engage with her, say “Hi” and give her a smile – she will thrive knowing you’ve noticed her.  Of course if you have anything to donate then please do.  But don’t ignore her – she says that’s almost the worst thing she has to endure.

35 thoughts on “The Story of Michelle”

  1. Thank you for writing this article. I’ve always tried to support Michelle but will make an even greater effort now that I know the full story. Such a sad story.

  2. I see this women everyday, I don’t support her and after reading this story it validates my choice.

    She is well and able, every single day she is out there at that robots, rain or sun shine. That shows that she has a strong will.

    I will not support laziness as she would rather stand on the corner and beg for money than go out there and work. She is a mother of 5 Children and She has a husband, her situation should be more motivation to go and work, this article to encourage people to give more is exactly what she does not need, as the giving might be good enough for her to support her family day to day but it won’t take them forward.

    So many people have stories like here and they make a choice to not be a victim of their circumstance, let’s not promote and encourage people who are not willing to get out of their situation.

    1. Jeremy McLaughlin

      Rebecca Ross, what do you consider begging? This lady buys biscuits, repackages them, and resells at a small profit. Is that begging? Is a corner grocer, who buys a pocket of potatoes and repacks them into smaller bags for resale a beggar too, given your logic? Pray you are never in the same position that sanctimonious people judge without empathy. Pray hard.

      1. I actually agree with Rebecca, I myself see this women very often and I have never seen her sell anything and besides that, we really need to change our mindsets, because when the for government increases the annual budget for social welfare, we the first to complain, yet we encouraging hand out? I’ll make a point to stop their one day and ask if she would like to work for me in my home and see if she would be willing to do that, which I highly doubt.

    2. did u try anything to help her u right she needs to work did u try and talk to her of getting her a cv looking for work

    3. It is not easy to find work. I take my hat off to her that she is trying to make a living. I am sure if someone offered her work, she would take it.

    4. Rebecca Ross have you asked Michelle if she went to look for work.why dont you ask her.I have asked and she will tell you her story.Michelle does not have Matric.She has been to lots of companies and was refuse.1.because of her age
      2.because she does not have Matric
      3.because the posituons are BEE.
      So I am not sure what she needs to do now.Maybe you can offer her a job Rebecca and oh yes she done domestic work and the people told her not to return.

      1. Michelle’s situation is no different to other south Africans living in poverty. The reason she makes the news is because she is white. The reason she stands at the robots and beggs is she has an underlying sense of entitlement and expects handouts. Michelle could go out and look for employment that doeasnot require matric eg.domestic worker. Our mothers raised us with wages
        earned as domestic workers, we grew up poor but our
        parents had dignity, which Michelle clearly lacks. With 5
        children that should give her the drive to want to see them
        succeed. Michelle made bad
        choices in her life and now because she is a white female
        at the traffic lights we need to engage her and listen to her sobb story and assist her. What
        about All the poor South Africans who push everyday to

        survive , who continue no
        matter what. PLEASE! I personally dont care for Michelle or her story.

        1. This is exactly my thoughts, her story is not significant at all, only thing is because she is white. Those guys that stand at the robot with her all have their own stories of poverty and hardship, why is there no story about them. And all I’m reading is people attacking Rebecca and asking her to ask Michelle if she wants to work. Like are you guys even serious? michelle should be the one asking for. Job. Like what world are we living in. She is a mother of 5, she needs to get a job. This empathy towards her is just inane.

        2. So wait let me get this straight? She gets social welfare for her husband which is about R1500 and for her children at about R900 a pop which equates to about R6000 and we still meant to fell sorry for her? C’om on guys. So much people are way worse off and make their ends meet.

          1. Hi

            I’ve read Michelle’s story and most of everyone’s comments. How sad that they majority of people who commented seem to feel the need to judge this woman. No where in God’s word does it state that you should first scrutinise before you give with a free heart. I hope that God doesn’t scrutinise you one day when you stand before him. I work in Sun Valley and after reading this story will be making an effort to find out exactly what corner she is on and support her. Not only by buying her biscuits but will be buying things for her family. I will be doing this as I believe in giving back. What ever Michelle decides to do with what I give her is her choice and she alone will have to stand before God and give answers. Stand back people and have a look at what you all have become! That’s the sad part of this story beside a family that might just need a lending hand.

            Editor: There are comments that judge however the vast majority of comments reflect empathy

    5. Rebecca Ross, I’m afraid to say it but you are quite possibly the most delusional person I have come across, there aren’t jobs out there, I was retrenched in December of 2014 and have been unable to find work since despite having an extensive and wide spread amount of experience in sales, marketing and management retail and corporate. So If I can’t find work then what chance does this lady have? Being unemployed is very rarely a choice.

    6. michelle richards

      Shame on all who choose to say because she gets a government grant she is well off or better than most. Incidently if you do proper research its not R900 per child for welfare. More like R150 to R300 if she is lucky. We all know the cost of living and life is tough.. We live in very different difficult times. If you havent got anything decent to say or don’t want to feel for someone less fortunate despite your own circumstances or whatever, rather just shut up and move on. I have 3 kids. I have a wonderful job. My husband has a wonderful job and we all live in abundance. Its hard to survive in these trying times even with a house and employment. How many of you would stay with your husband if he became disabled? I will ask her if she would like to work for me. Maybe I could even train her , pay for a course or even help her set up a business in a small shop of her own. Its so easy to judge when you not in someone else’s shoes. So nice to have that power isn’t it. We judge everyday. People are too fat too thin etc etc. We are always being judged because we are not the same as everyone else. Get real people. I will always donate, always help purely because God’s grace is the real reason I am here today and I have been given a second chance. Oh and I know that there are those who will con you out of money etc and there are bad apples out there. I am not in a position to judge anyone. I get that there is drug and alchohol abuse etc etc. I just know how fortunate I am to have what I have. And I will always help where I can. Is there anyone who can get in in touch with her. I am happy to arrange clothes for her children and provide meals so they can have less of a struggle. I am also happy to provide biscuits of all kinds for her to sell and make more money.

    7. I read Michelle’s story and all the comments and all I always ask myself when people step over my doorstep is Whwould Jesus do. I dont give money but I never refuse food. I dont want to hear stories because sometimes they are made up, but I’ll gladly give you something to eat. Just yesterday I took my kids to Retreat shelter to drop of the leftover rolls from Fridays take..-aways. The gratitude on those peoples faces tell another story. I enquired how many people there are and will from time to time cook a meal for them. I have been blessed and is merely sharing the blessings. So before you judge. Count your blessings and ask yourself. WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? Everybody has their own pool of tears, even you. Be blessed.

    8. I read your reply……. i have gone to bed hungry many nights as a child. She will earn minimum wage….not enough to support a family on…… then you employ her and pay her a decent salary…. but dont think you are better then her …she tries to make a difference. She is a mother who gives her all…mine didn’t. Unless you have ever been in her shoes ….do not throw stones!!!!

    9. And where do you suppose she can ‘just find a job’? Far easier said than done these days! Good for those of you who have accepted this message from whence it comes – and there by the grace of the Universe go we!

  3. Thanks so much for posting this article,I chat to Michelle often and ask my clients if anything just buy a bag of biscuits,she’s not begging she just trying to survive,she used to sit at the robots by Medi- cross but those guy’s have been giving hrr a hard time. Come rain or shine most of the time she’s there.Thank you

  4. Thee is a huge drive towards giving responsibly. With this in mind-i would ask for her to go receive help from an organization that can assist for example, the Carpenters Shop no 14 Roeland Street, she will receive help from social workers and have access to the resources to assist them in getting out of this situation. Best of luck to her and her family.

  5. I will most certainly support her and buy some biscuits. Thank you for sharing this. I saw her last week for the 1st time and I wondered what happened to her, to land up there. Sad reality for many.
    Bless her.

  6. Just a little food for thought people…. EVERYONE is one “incident” away from being unemployed, homeless / destitute. It happens very quickly, so instead of being judgemental how about a bit of compassion because who knows..that could very well be you….

  7. The old adage , never judge a (wo)man till you have walked a mile in their shoes comes to mind…
    Thanks for sharing , and Andre for reposting…
    Most of us have not been given knocks from life at this ladies level…
    I almost got there once – now I am super careful with my minute income , but still try and share when I can…

  8. Thanks Lisa for sharing her story. I, like you, have wondered about her…maybe its because she is white and a woman that it seems odd to us that she is begging…but this is the reality for so many women and men sadly. I always engage street beggars if they look friendly as it must be so diminishing being ignored. I notice other motorists who ignore and it saddens me that they can’t even give a smile…but I think you are right that it is actually a sign that we are fearful of admitting the truth that we could all be that vulnerable…or maybe it’s just guilt because we all could do something/anything to uplift another person, be it with a smile, a packet of biscuits or a kind word…but we pretend we have problems and busy lives and kids etc etc too and are justified to not get involved…what is the truth…only each person knows. Same for Michelle. Thanks for highlighting one of these people that should be given respect and dignity with a smile or a nod at least. xxx

  9. That woman with the negative judemental comment should be ashamed. Of herself or offer michell a job instead•be carefull that you don’t land up there oneday. !

  10. Such sad story….If I were nearer to her I would help her..If anybody stays near my area plattekloof works near her pls let me know. I would support her..And Rebecca u never know what lays ahead in your life…trust me …I know from experience…..

  11. Generosity creates happiness! It’s nice to give a gift to someone who appreciates it; to give back feels good!
    Your donation gifts go a long way to improving communities across the board. Please visit our South African non-profit to find out more and to help.

  12. We all need to count our blessings and live in a place of gratitude .
    We should show compassion, love and live in harmony…knowing that people are fighting battles we know nothing about. Therefore, it doesn’t cost a penny to be kind…. does it????

  13. I would like to add that during the school holidays last week I witnessed a very moving scene. A young lad who was with Michelle (presumably her son), after prompting from his mom, took a packet of the biscuits and offered them to 2 street children who were passing by…. what a truly humbling lesson for me to witness. Michelle, despite her circumstances, was feeding the hungry and teaching her son a lesson in compassion.

  14. Thank you for posting this story. Can you imagine how humiliating this is to stand at a robot? People this could happen to you at any given time. Do not judge people who have hit rock bottom. I wish I was close by , and yes I would help her and her family. Never look down on someone, unless you are helping them up. I cannot believe that there are people out there who ridicule Michelle. I salute you Michelle, God Bless you and your family always.

  15. My faith in humanity has been compromised completely. To the Rebecca’s of this world I pray that you never have to experience what this lady is going through. Or maybe that’s a lie…maybe I wish that it happens to you people that think it’s so easy for her to get a job. Maybe then you won’t be as ignorant as you all clearly are. Shame on you.

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