As I wrote on the Personal and Family page, I come from a family of migrants. My work has brought me into contact with another set of migrants – children with sickle cell anaemia from central Africa. Their parents and relatives, the ones who bring them to the hospital, are mostly Francophones. My dusty schoolboy French is not up to helping these families negotiate the complexities of a genetic blood disease with its myriad unpleasant complications, and the complexities of our health system.

I put out a request for a volunteer interpreter via the Alliance Francaise. Ten days later Yves phoned. Yves, whom I fetched from the station the next day, is an asylum seeker (he has his papers) from the multiple coups of Congo Brazzaville. He was a high school English and French teacher there, but here in South Africa he has eked out a living as a private Frecnh tutor for three years. Why did he respond to our request for an unpaid interpreter? ‘I am a Salvationist. I want to give to people in need’, he said. He hopes that perhaps an opportunity will arise from this placement. He also needs something to do. It does seem strange that South Africa does not snap up a well-educated man like this to strengthen our struggling education system. I hope that the needs of our little migrants will assist this migrant (me) to help that migrant (Yves) to become as settled as I have.

My parents, bringing almost nothing with them from Zimbabwe, have been welcomed; Yves, bringing an education and a sincere willingness to contribute, has not.