Today we have yet another busy day. It starts out with a quick stop at the Italian Sporting Club, one of the meeting places for Johannesburg’s dynamic Italian community. There’s only time enough to honor the memory of Antonio Bianco, a Para trooper from the Tuscania regiment who died in a tragic accident in Pretoria in 2015, and we have to move on. Our second rendezvous takes us to a township just out of Pretoria, accompanied once again by Riccardo Bianchi. It’s a tiny orphanage housed in very basic premises where two sisters, both of them volunteers, started taking in orphaned and abandoned children, often HIV-positive, abused and mistreated kids not even the usually outreaching black community would take care of. Today the Give them Hope Foundation assists over eighty children ranging from a few months old to teen-agers, actually looking after them until they can support themselves, as black youth unemployment is unfortunately very high. Since state funding only covers about a quarter of living expenses, donations from private benefactors and NGOs like Riccardo’s are of paramount importance. We bring along pizza for lunch, soccer balls and T-shirts donated by BKT, coloring books, crayons and small gadgets donated by the Carabinieri , and the children are ecstatic. It doesn’t take much. We spend a happy couple of hours playing with them before it’s time to go. The next stop is at a private game reserve a short distance away, where rhinos are free to roam and peacefully graze against the unlikely backdrop of Pretoria’s skyline, at least temporarily safe from the scourge of poachers who are a real plague in South Africa. Rhino horns are worth more than their weight in gold in Asia, as a valued ingredient in Chinese traditional medicine. Drones are anti-poaching’s next frontier.
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