The Mission

What are we doing

• Challenging ourselves as a well-off white middle family to survive on the average black household income of R3000 per month

Why are we doing this?

• For our family to have a direct experience into a daily South African existence so that we can create a broader conversation of the role that empathy plays in underpinning a healthy democracy

How  are we doing this?

• Living in a 9m2 one room shack with outside communal tap and ablutions with no electricity for cooking and lighting

When are we doing this?

•August 2013


Where are we doing this?


  1. Piet Matipa says:

    Please send me your contact details I’m from Beeld-newspaper. I’d love to do a story

  2. Elaine Swanepoel says:

    Please will you also send me your contact details? Kind regards, Elaine Swanepoel, The Citizen

  3. Zubeida says:

    How are the children coping?
    Wish my kids can experience life in a shack!!!They will be so appreciative !!!TMy son moans and groans for all the luxuries I provide him him with.

    • Robin says:

      Perhaps you should stop spoiling your child and instead reward him for good efforts. You don’t need to live in a shack to teach empathy, or to teach your child how to appreciate things. Simply start taking them away, say no, and put in a reward system in place. You’ll be surprised at how fast that kid turns around.

  4. Siyabonga says:

    My number is 0732128588

  5. Tshepe Mokoena says:

    I think this is a great step in the right direction to reconciliation. When you have to say “I am sorry for apartheid that took your dignity away, and you say it after going through this experience, it will be meaningful to me”. Of-course one month isn’t sufficient to experience the beast of poverty, but the attempt is just humbling. If you are also doing it for your kids, you may have to do it again for at this juncture, they really dont know whats happening. Thumbs up!!

  6. Kayise Meyiwa says:

    What a humbling act of humanity the Hewitts are doing? My only wish is there could be more white people ‘who get out of their comfort zones’ and go experience how life is for the ordinary South African masses! I’ve always been baffled by the fact a lot of ‘black’ (excuse the term) have raised so many white people’s children, cooked for them, etc… and done much more but a lot of those white bosses have never even ventured out an inch closer to where their maids live (and just to see how difficult life is for them & their families) in the townships, shack dwellings and some in the bundus.
    Thumbs up to the Hewitt family!!!

  7. John says:

    A great idea.
    However I think you’re making it hard for yourselves.
    According to Stats SA the “average black household income” is R5,802.

  8. mzamo mkhize says:

    Thumbs up this is good

  9. nontando says:

    I admire the Hewitt family. You have all respect from me guys.

  10. lasman says:

    Wow! R u doing this from u heart or to achieche fame, plz dont get me other wise lets b honest it u r doing it from u heart y do u want madia to entertain u story, with my experince in all kids of class is good to test both the poor and the rich life as i did stay in Phomolong myself then move to Cape Town “Park Land” if all SA ppl can test this life we will meet each other half way one thing being in mamelodi 4 me is not the bottom of it just visit Mozambique then there u can feel what surfaring s.

    anyway enjoy

  11. Its very humbling for the Hewitts to do this. And I believe it will give them an idea of what many black South Africans go through. It can get worse than R3000 a month as some people would be unemployed and make a living from the child support grant. However I think it doesn’t feel the same because the Hewitts know that after this 1 tough month they have complete heaven waiting for them at their house and all the pampering they will go to after all this. I hope the kids learn from their experience and give them a sense of Ubuntu. Now if you can live that life township life knowing that no miracle is coming your way anytime soon. Then I believe black people have a strong spirit. I wish all white people would feel the pain, share in it and do good to their black employees.

  12. I appreciate the Hewitts for taking the step. I honestly hope its from the bottom of their hearts and not for free publicity and fame. Big ups to them the thought really counts.

  13. Bongani says:

    Highest respect to you guys. You are the reason why people shouldnt generalise that all white people don’t like black people. It would really be nice if we could see different races embracing each other’s spaces than judging from a distance. It makes me happy when I see white people living in Soweto but sadly they are mostly foreigners, it would be nice to also see our fellow white South Africans in places like that, socialising, walking freely and naturally without assuming that black people are out to kill them. Much respect indeed

  14. Sphiwe says:

    Hi Hewitt, i just read the article on The Mercury. I am certainly inspired by your life changing experience. While you there please strengthen the benefits of recycling to those in reach…………..God Bless

  15. Mohlalefi says:

    I so wish Tata Mandela could see this as this is what he went to jail for. Im very touched that you took the effort including putting your kids at such risk. I hope fellow white South African would learn from this. A single visit to your Domestic Workers house wont hurt you. May Allah grant you whatever it is that you are hoping to achieve.

  16. moemedi says:

    a lot of black people who now live in the suburbs wouldn’t even try this, this includes myself. This has been an eye opener even for black folks I would think. Thanks for showing SA the other side…

  17. Candy Pops says:

    I really applaude you guys. You are really soooo brave !!! I grew up in “western” as it was known and the whites lived just opposite us in Westdene in huge houses. We lived by candle light, with outside water and ablution facilities, but yet those were the best years of my life. I would give whatever I could to go back there, but only with the same people I grew up with. I guess that all the whites should take a step in that direction to experience how poor, mostly black south africans have to survive on the least. I can guarantee you, the thing that you will miss most about this month is the spirit of togetherness and “UBUNTHU” in such communities.That is also the reason why robbers do not do housebreaking in such areas, they go to the big, nice houses to steal, so that is one of the main reasons for me loving such areas.

  18. fazel says:

    What you and your family are doing is outstanding. Keep up that good work.May God richly bless you and your family

  19. Mphekeleli says:

    Big ups to you guys…these is such a noble act and a lesson especially to the kids. They will not really understands what the folks are doing while on these journey, but remember that kids have good memories though! They will recall at some stage in their lifes!
    Much respect to the family! Not an easy journey away from your showers, dstv’s,etc.
    God Bless!

  20. Z'nakile says:

    Highly appreciated, kindly join EFF

  21. livhu says:

    Wow… I am black and have never stayed in a township and dont think I would be able to do what you guys are doing. I am so inspired!!!!

  22. Madii says:

    Am a Black South African, grew up in the situation you gyz are Simulating/(Experiencing).”I AM PROUD OF YOU GYZ” Irrespective of the reason(s) why you are doing this, at least you have the guts to enter & leave into the shack(y) part of the township, while ignoring all your fears.

    One day I decided to take a Gautrain From Pretoria to Marlboro Station and back(Return Business Trip)when I got off in Marlboro Station, I was surprised to see a lot of Big cars. (In my mind)I taught “Wow”!!! people from Alexandra Township can afford, then In seconds I realised that a lot of Whites, Indians, Rich black ppl were getting into the cars and leaving the Township, to Sandton & Surroundings, then as a regular user of the Gautrain, I realised that, the station is easily accessible, less traffic, Interchange area for Airport & the likes, so that’s why it was used by these users.
    While waiting for my friend to pick me up, I looked across the road on the small RDP Houses, saw a small boy, playing on the stoop, mother busy breastfeeding another one, while looking straight at the station. Then the following visions came across my mind.
    1) That Small boy will “only dream about taking that Gautrain”, for the next 20 odd years, If he is lucky enough as I was to get the opportunity to go to school, meet the right people, up to a point of finishing his degree, get a good Job/(entrepreneur) etc.
    Or he might not be lucky and never take it for the rest of his life. It(Gautrain) will always be “Dilo tsa magoa-White peoples things” the sad part is, “Gautrain Station is just a GAZE away from his home”.

    P O V E R T Y
    Our Government/(Fat Cats) Have become so smart about it, that they will Literally Subway you(Tourist, Those who can afford) from Marlboro Station, right through to Johannesburg when using a Gautrain, so that you don’t see the Dirty side of Alexandra Township, Hillbrow etc


  23. imraan says:

    Keep it up …. let this be an example for all of SA. And please go out to the business world and tell the CEO’s to pay their staff better. Its disgraceful to pay R3000 to anyone. Btw.. in durban I know of wealthy shop owners who pay R60 a day. Thats R360 per week. Absolutely disgraceful wages … yet the boss lives in absolute luxury.

  24. Sonwabile Ngcezu says:

    Well done!!!
    In my book, you are doing a lot more than most South Africans (including myself) to highlight social ills facing million (or whatever you set out to do). I do think some difference would be made (small or big), in your life and hopefully in the life of many watching and witnessing your mission. I think you motives are good, and that is good enough. God Bless!!

  25. Otto Twala says:

    What is important is WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO AFTER THE EXPERIENCE. The most important is to encourage other white people to change their attitude when it comes to black people.

    I have been living in the shack for the past 21 years until now. I earn 3500 a month which is not enough, because I have to buy groceries, wood and other expenses. I cant even be able to build 1 room (by bricks)for my mother because I cant afford.

    its better for us because we have some money to spend, some don’t even have a R2.50 to buy a candle every day.



  26. Andronica says:

    Hi guys, your story is inspiring and i wish my kids can appreciate what they get from home and realise the best i have been giving them. It is very humbling to see people leaving their safe house for a shack that one is not sure whether the criminals will break in any time of the day or what. With the crime rate in South Africa, it takes guts and faith to stay in a shack for a month and still manage to smile the following day.

  27. Bulelwa says:

    Big up to you guys. You must really love your domestic worker that you were willing to change your life for a whole month and take up a this big challenge. I wish my white colleagues can take a lesson from you especially those who live in a glass world.

    May God richly bless you.

  28. megan says:

    Well done guys, truly an inspiration! Good to make us once again aware of the plight of others.Hopefully this will motivate more to help.

  29. Luvo Guzana says:

    I have just read your story and it is very touching. It’s stories like this that make me proud to be a South African, and re-attars the notion “YOU DON’T KNOW ME, TILL YOU HAVE WALKED A MILE IN MY BARE CRACKED FEET”. Now you have planted a seed within the nation, those with fertile brains shall harvest a GREAT LESSON out of this. We live in a beautiful country with beautiful people and sometimes we forget how blessed we are to be South africans. I know exactly what you went through so i take my hat of for you guys… THANK YOU …THANK YOU…

  30. Phillip Dexter says:

    I think this has been a wonderful example of activism, solidarity and courage. I salute the Hewitts. If more people shared their life experiences in a similar fashion we could really build a stronger nation.

  31. Jasmine says:

    I don’t really understand those with negative opinions of what you have tried to do here. Most seem upset and offended because you are not truly poor. Not sure what people expect. I myself have lived in similar poverty conditions at a season of my life and while I live better now due to hard work and the Lord’s help, I am still living week to week on a minimal income…I am considered poor and I am not offended at all but touched by your effort to better understand the problem of poverty. Your children may be young now and may not understand to the full extent..but it is still a good thing. People these days are ready to attack and ridicule anything and everything. God bless your family. Be encouraged to continue. Do not feel guilty because you are not actually poor and stuck in poverty, that is not a bad thing. The bad is when we refuse to try to help out our fellow man.

  32. American in NYC says:

    OMG! I just did the currency conversion and it’s a bit over $300 US Dollars. That is really scary! Homeless people in NYC make more than that. I’m very interested in following your blog. I was raised in a bi-racial household (parents happily married for well over 40 years and still going strong). Although we were “poor” as young children — meaning we had welfare benefits, we never lacked for anything (that I recall). At that time, my parents were doing their graduate/post-graduate degrees. When we were young kids, our vacations were camping in tents with outhouses, but as we got older we demanded camping sites with flush toilets, electricity, etc. I’ve read the blog so far and more power to you!

    On another note, I’ve seen a lot of information about micro loans. I wonder how much they actually help people to further their opportunities. I’d really appreciate information on the good ones! After reading some charge 50% interest, I’m wary – why are they charging interest?

  33. CB says:

    Not sure what the point of this whole ordeal was for unless you are going to do something about it. It seems it was done just to say you did it. Would you be so open to letting them experience your life for a month? Would your community embrace them with open arms as they did? I’m just not figuring out what the point of you doing this for expect purely for self gratification.

  34. Jurga says:

    I found out about your project on yahoo and the reason I decided to write is that one of the professors was saying that you won’t understand the true effects and extend of the poverty in a month and that your daughter’s don’t understand the purpose of this experiment, that they are “just lagging behind”. These smart people have their opinions and we can respect that. However, I think they are missing the true meaning of this project – building bridges between people that were separated by hate, mistrust, humiliation etc. I think your children will grow up to be ambassadors for change, democracy and equality because their parents were brave enough to teach them empathy. Your daughters will become blind to color of a skin. That’s a start.

    • Jane says:

      I agree, but I think it shouldn’t be a once off experience. Kids need to be reminded constantly. I am sure this family will do just fine though. I do hope they will do another project some time! 🙂

  35. xotchil flores says:

    Vivir la experiencia de la pobreza como experiencia es no vivirla. Ser pobre no debe ser un experimento, ayudar a no experimentar mas la pobreza seria una manera mas hermosa de usar esa inteligencia y ventaja que tenemos sobre otros,

  36. Candice says:

    Ena and Julian, I am so deeply struck by what you have done, and your motivation to empathise and build bridges. When we meet people from across cultural/financial divides, we realise that they are wonderful humans that enrich our lives.
    In 2004, Madiba gave a speech on how white people must do more. I was initially angry, thinking WHAT? Then through a series of circumstances my husband and I invited a “shack-dweller” friend to live in our home. He initially refused, but we prayed together and God gave me a vision that he would be a bridge. I didn’t understand the extent of this at the time. He has become one of our closest friends, a dear brother and an enormous blessing to our whole family.
    Then we started a house-church and within weeks were feeding, clothing and giving homework help to 40+ boys from the local township. It was an exuberant time but I didn’t feel we were really making a difference in their lives. It was also taking its toll on my two young sons, who were being bullied by the boys. God steered us in a new direction which led us to giving a home to a 14 year old orphan from the group. I home-schooled him for a year, giving him a better foundation in maths and English, and he is now a 21 year old UNISA student, getting distinctions in IT (he was getting 12% for maths at school). Initially the journey was hard culturally, particularly for him, but he is an astonishing young man; brave, sensitive and wise. He has brought so much richness to our family.
    I have often been challenged to live as his extended family does – in a RDP house with one tap and one room. I run a small business from home, employing, and receiving clients, and so this has been impractical. But I am so terribly inspired by what you have done. I applaud your bravery and listening to your heart. I am challenged to do more. Cross more divides. Open my home more. And to be a bridge. This country and it’s people are too precious and beautiful to not make the effort.
    Better together!

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