On a recent trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, I had the privilege of meeting some incredible people, known around town as 'Hugo’s guys'. These men are some of the most dedicated, hardworking and reliable human beings I have ever met, and I have immense gratitude to Hugo, who is tragically no longer with us for opening the eyes of thousands of people to 'see the unseen'.
Hugo Paluch OBM was 14 years old when he tragically died from injuries sustained in a freak accident last June. About a year before the accident, Hugo started to notice the African recyclers working in the area. He noticed how hard they worked going through rubbish, taking anything recyclable out and putting it into their huge trolleys, sometimes weighing up to 600 Kilos, to be taken to the tip at the end of the week. Hugo was intrigued and he thought that with some guidance these guys could work more efficiently and might be able to make a little bit more money each week to bring home to their families in the townships. So first he got to know them. He spent hours talking to them, learning about their lives and families and what collecting recycling meant to them. He learnt that these guys never miss a day of work, no matter the weather or if they are extremely ill. He was inspired by their determination and drive and made it his mission to help them. After learning that these men survive on food scraps scavenged from the rubbish bins they worked through, Hugo started to collect money by giving his own tuck shop and pocket money as well as asking the other kids at school to contribute their change, so he could go buy some food for his new friends. Every Wednesday Hugo would come meet the guys with lunch where he would sit and discuss ways to maximise their efforts, sorting their findings into categories, and getting residents to separate recyclables into separate bags for collection. He also spoke to them about their dreams of proper jobs and connected these men with people who might be able to help employ them.
In time, Hugo began to form an organisation that would encourage everyone to get on board to help these men in whichever way they could, be it a loaf of bread, a pair of warm socks or a potential job interview. Hugo arranged and was looking forward to his first corporate fundraising meeting, sadly he never made it.
Hugo’s parents, Dov and Nicole Paluch together with their community in Johannesburg realised Hugo’s dream and launched ‘Hugo’s Greenhood’ in October last year.
Hugo’s Greenhood has changed the lives of these 26 men, but they need our help. In a crumbling economy, with 6 million people without jobs, these men work tirelessly under challenging conditions and with empty stomachs. The cost of living and especially food has soared in the last few years. Their meagre earnings go towards buying school books, uniforms and food for their families.
A couple of times on our trip, my husband, Schneier, and I had the privilege of feeding these wonderful people. This included shopping for the ingredients, borrowing the biggest pots we could find, spending hours in the kitchen cooking a simple yet nutritious meal and then of course delivering and serving the food. Whilst serving we were amazed at how patient, respectful and well-mannered these men were. While I brought my children along to open their eyes to a world very different to theirs, I didn’t count on them having the opportunity to learn so much from these people. Hearing these men talk about Hugo was especially touching for me as I vividly remember not long before Hugo’s passing, when he was visiting his family in Australia, I had the privilege of meeting and talking to him. So I really felt that I could picture him in my mind doing everything the men were telling me.
After discussing with Hugo’s mum, Nicole, what we could do to help Hugo’s Greenhood, we decided to try raise money to feed the guys every Wednesday evening for 1 year. As the recyclers work their way through the city, Wednesday is the last day for them in the area. This one proper meal needs to get them through to Friday when they get to go home and be with their families.
There are 26 men in Hugo’s Greenhood. It costs approximately $60 to feed the men a decent hot meal. This works out at $2.30 per person. I ask you to consider donating to this worthy cause in Hugo’s memory and to also open your eyes and ‘see the unseen’ and ‘notice the unnoticed’.
A donation of
$2.30 will feed one man a meal that will need to last him up to 2 days
$9.20 will feed one man, every Wednesday for a month
$23.00 will feed 10 of Hugo’s boys for one meal
$60.00 will feed all 26 men in Hugo’s Greenhood for one meal
$115.00 will feed one man, every Wednesday for a year
Thank you for opening your hearts and honouring Hugo and the work he put his heart into. May our good deeds create a ripple effect, spreading love and kindness and may Hugo’s men find the right opportunities to live better and fulfilled lives as they so deserve.
- Menuchareuvi Cooper
- Michelle Blutman
- Ari Bergman
- Deanna Cohen
- Joel & Amanda BB
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