The rich red tie, neatly knotted and ready to add to its owner a sense of purpose – and maybe even importance, was contrasted starkly against the cobalt blue locker. Under this bold red tie hung a few more ties that also seemed to be waiting eagerly and expectantly for their owner to bestow upon them the honour of picking them for the day. There was a sense of promise about these ties.

It may seem strange to attribute all of these characteristics to a relatively insignificant object. However, the context of the situation allows for almost no other conclusion. Let me explain. The ties found themselves looped around the foot end of a standard issue metal bunk bed, in a room with mostly grey walls and fluorescent lighting overhead. The room with mostly grey walls, and mostly grey passages beyond it, smelt, at best, of industrial-strength disinfectant. In this setting, the ties seemed almost exotic, alluding to a world of success and importance. A world which, given that this particular room was located in a shelter for the homeless in Hillbrow, seemed almost impossible to fathom. Yet, the owner of these ties – several of them – lived in this shelter, refusing to let his less-than-ideal circumstances (as most may perceive them to be) rob him of the satisfaction of dressing as he wanted to dress.

The ties spoke of a hope in the future, of a change in circumstance and a will to make that change happen. They signified the opposite of surrendering to circumstances. In many ways, those ties help illustrate how important the work of MES, and their GROW Hillbrow Project, is. MES, short for Mould Empower Serve, is an organisation serving, amongst others, the destitute in Hillbrow. They provide a variety of services aimed at empowering and restoring dignity. One of these is the GROW Hillbrow Project, which is a job rehabilitation programme to help participants re-enter (or in some cases, enter) the job market. Quite a few of the programme participants live in one of the MES-run homeless shelters at some point. For them, and the other programme participants, the GROW Hillbrow Project restores hope in the possibility of a better future.

Go here to find out more about the MES GROW Hillbrow Project, and how you can help restore hope.