Hazel reflects on 17 years of reporting

Sedrico, Hazel, Sethe and Zacharie Husselman enjoy a family dinner together.

Bonds of trust, friendship and even a lifelong commitment are what I have gained over the years as a reporter for the Athlone News.

I am in awe of how the community open their hearts, their lives, and even their homes for me. When I started working for the Athlone News back in 1999, I did not have a driver’s licence, and often had to take public transport to get to my stories, and when I explained this to the people I was about to meet, many offered to come pick me up themselves.

There was never a short supply of lifts, and I am extremely grateful that the community went out of their way to accommodate me like that.

But it also showed me the great lengths people would go to, to let their voices be heard. Even though I grew up almost right next door to Manenberg (in Bonteheuwel), I only set foot in the former when I took up this position.

My first taxi ride into Manenberg was a heart-palpitating experience.

My perception of the area at the time was so skewed, and I was so scared to be there.

But then I met beautiful people with hearts of gold in this community, and, looking back, I cannot imagine being scared of Manenberg.

There are still so many people working selflessly in the area, who often have to sacrifice much, because they refuse to give up on the dream of a flourishing Manenberg.

My husband is among those who have a great love for this community, as it is his hometown.

So, yes, I even found love in Manenberg.

Residents, community workers and members of organisations from across our distribution area, share this same passion and commitment to their respective communities.

And just as passionate as they are about their communities, so are they passionate about their Athlone News. People are upset if they don’t get their paper delivered, and would not think twice about giving me an earful on this.

As a pensioner, my late mother, Catherine Allies, made it her “unofficial duty” to see that our neighbours received their paper.

After 30 years, you cannot separate the Athlone News from the communities it serves.

It belongs to the people. And it is the stories of hope – the inspirational ones – I believe, that keep this fire burning.

Working on this souvenir edition made me realise afresh how the work that we do is so appreciated. I won’t lie, it makes me feel good. But it also makes me feel good that the community trusts us so much to share their stories with us.

Please accept my huge gratitude to you – the community – whose stories make the Athlone News great.