The Starfish Story

Many of you may have already heard about The Starfish Story?
A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,

“Well, I made a difference to that one!”

The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved. (adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley)

I love that story. I think of it often when presenting to an audience and someone brings up yet another pressing issue which needs to be dealt with in our country and my response is always, ‘Yes! Absoloutely –  what are you going to do about it?’

Yesterday, I drove to the amazing new Khayelitsha Hospital where the ThuThuzela Rape Crisis Centre has now been moved. I had received a desperate plea from one of the Dr’s who work at the ThuThuzela Care Centre for more Handbags for their patients – Rape Survivors. In response to this plea, and thanks to the help of the Gauteng based ‘Handbag Project’, I was able to deliver another 50 Handbags to them, each containing various items needed by Rape Survivors following the distressing experience of forensic evidence being collected from them following a rape. Whilst not a core function of the DNA Project, it is always something we facilitate in Cape Town because there is not yet a dedicated resource to do it in this region.

The beautiful new Khayelitsha Hospital

The beautiful new Khayelitsha Hospital

This is a little bit like the Starfish Story. Providing a handbag to a Rape Survivor shows that person dignity, care and respect at a time when it is needed the most. Whilst this in no way stops rape from happening or ensures the perpetrators are brought to book, it is a small gesture within all of our reach to  show humanity and care. And this is not something just for the ‘girls’ to be part of. All of us, men and women, boys and girls, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers can find a handbag in our mother, grandmother or sister’s cupboard, fill it with a few items and take a few minutes to sit down and draft a handwritten note to be placed in each bag (the notes are probably the most important item for the survivor – a few words of encouragement to restore some hope during this traumatic time.)

Each bag is a starfish. It makes a difference to that one person.

For more information email Maya Moodley


The Khayelitsha ThuThuzela Care Centre require between 30 and 50 bags per month!

If you live in the Gauteng Region,  the bags are collected by The EPIC Foundation which is run by, Alta McMaster (cell: 082 940 6230 ) and delivered to Rape Crisis Centres and Victim Empowerment Centres  (VEC) who deal with the police stations.   The handbags are not given directly to the police stations to keep.  The handbags are monitored very carefully (i.e. they are  numbered and a register kept). In the Durban area, the bags are collected by The Jes Foord Foundation.

Unpacking the bags at the Khayelitsha ThuThuzela Care Centre

Unpacking the bags at the Khayelitsha ThuThuzela Care Centre


Handbag – in which to place the following items (please, no dirty or broken handbags)

Face Cloth
Panties (med or large)- no g-strings
Sanitary Towels
Tooth Paste
Tooth Brush
Body lotion (small)
Comb or brush
Hair clips/Bands
Note – words of comfort/care

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